Congo African Grey / Grey Parrot Species (Psittacus Erithacus)

Congo / Kongo Grey Parrots / Description:

Plumage is pale to dark grey. The facial area is whitish. The head feathers have a pale edging, and the abdomen feathers have a dark grey edging.

Lower back is light grey; primaries (longest wing feathers) are grey-blackish; tail and adjacent tail-coverts are red.

The bill is black. Iris pale yellow in adult birds, and black / dark brown in juveniles.

Adults usually have bright-red tail, while youngsters have dark grey / maroon tails, which usually turn red within a year or so. The feet are dark grey.

Greys from Nigeria usually have darker wing-coverts. Congo Greys are on average larger.

Occasionally birds occur with some or many salmon-pink feathers, which is within color variation of this species.

Races / Subspecies

  • Congo African Grey Parrot or CAG (Psittacus erithacus erithacusLinnaeus, 1758) – nominate
    • Identification: Light grey feathers, bright red tails, and all-black beaks. Larger in size than Timnehs averaging about 13 inches (33 cm) in length. Their length ranges from 12 – 14 inches (30.5 – 36 cm) from beak to tail. Their weight ranges from 14 up to 23 oz (400 – 650 g).More detailed description / Congo African Greys
    • Range: Distributed from south-eastern Ivory Coast to Western Kenya, Northwest Tanzania, south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and northern Angola (Cabinda). There may possibly be an isolated population in the Kilimanjaro area, Tanzania.
  • Sierra Leone Grey Parrot / Timneh African Grey Parrot, or TAG (Psittacus timneh, previously Psittacus erithacus timneh – Fraser, 1844)
  • Ghana African Grey, Princeps, West African or Fernando Po Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus princeps) -Note: by some authorities considered an invalid subspecies – may be included with the above)
    • Identification: Similar to the Congo Greys, but darker and slightly smaller
    • Range: Naturally occurs on Bioko (formerly Fernando Po) and Principé Islands in the Gulf of Guinea. Probably introduced to São Tomé. Range also stretches from Ghana or the more western regions of Africa, such as the Ivory Coast and Guinea.
  • Cameroon African Grey – also known as “the Big Silvers” -Note: by many authorities considered an invalid subspecies – may be included with nominate race above)
    • The Cameroon Grey is not officially recognized. The general opinion is that there is little difference between the Cameroon and the Congo / Kongo Greys. Some importers / bird sellers try to label their regional origin according to their size and color variation.
    • Identification: Larger than other African Grey species and the plumage is lighter / more silvery.
    • Range: The general perception is that this species came from the Cameroon Region of Africa and Central Africa — but it is now generally believed that it originated in today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. (More info below)

Oftentimes parrots from different regions were all “pooled” into one container during shipment, and then afterwards separated and “categorized” as Cameroon or Congo depending on their coloration.

One speculates that diet is a large factor in why some greys are larger and lighter in color than others; and indeed some areas contain more or less minerals in the parrots’ food items causing size / color differences.

Still, it seems that the color / size is not a reliable identifyer. Color and size differences also occur in the different regions.

Congo Grey

Ghana Grey Parrots aka Ghana Grey aka Princeps Grey:

The Ghana Grey is believed to be a subspecies of the Congo Grey (not officially recognized).

The Ghana Grey is very similar to the Congo Grey in appearance, the only difference being a a slightly darker plumage, and it might be somewhat smaller than the Congo.

The existence of the Ghana Grey has been questioned by many expert. The debate centers on its distinction from the Congo Grey. Many claim that it may have at one time been a distinct breed, but interbreeding with the Congo Grey has wiped away any genetic variation between the two.

Others feel that there has always been much migration between the islands and the mainland that there was probably never any distinction to begin with. Whichever the case, most claim that if the Ghana Grey was ever a distinct species, it probably is no longer today.

Red Factor African Greys
Photo of author

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