African Greys are one of the most popular captive parrots. They’re highly intelligent and friendly and considered the best talking bird, with vocabularies consisting of hundreds of words. If you’re considering adding an African Grey to your flock, you’re probably wondering what to expect regarding its lifespan. African Grey can live for 40 to 50 years on average. Parrots generally live very long lives in captivity, so adopting one isn’t a decision you should take lightly.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the average African Grey lifespan.
What’s the Average Lifespan of an African Grey Parrot?
African Grey parrots have a long lifespan, between 40 and 50 years. However, several factors can influence the longevity of this beautiful bird, namely where they live.
How Long Do African Grey Parrots Live in the Wild?
Not much is known about how African Grey parrots live in the wild. Studying them in their natural habitat can be challenging as they are preyed upon and keep a secretive life. Unfortunately, many African Greys in the wild do not make it into adulthood due to threats from diseases and predators like raptors.
The average lifespan of a wild African Grey is just under 23 years.
How Long Do African Grey Parrots Live as Pets?
African Greys fare much better in captivity. They have a mean lifespan of 45 years but typically live between 40 and 60 years under the right conditions.
Why Do Some African Grey Parrots Live Longer Than Others?
Nutrition is likely the number one influence in the lifespan of your domestic parrot and where many well-meaning bird parents go wrong. Unfortunately, there is still much misinformation about the proper diet for African Greys. Many new bird owners believe their domesticated pets can thrive on seeds alone, but this is far from accurate.
While wild African Greys will eat seeds if they find them in their habitat, they’re primarily frugivorous as they prefer fruits. Fruits have a high sugar content, providing the wild birds with the energy they need to thrive in their natural habitat. Wild African Greys prefer fruits, but they’ll eat almost anything, including leaves, flowers, insects, and tree bark.
Your captive bird has different nutritional needs. The healthiest companion birds are fed a high-quality pellet diet to ensure they get the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need. Their diets also consist of colorful veggies and small amounts of fruit and seeds. Your African Grey shouldn’t have unlimited access to fruits or seeds as it does not have the same energy needs as its wild counterpart.
2. Environment and Conditions
African Greys have very sensitive respiratory systems and are highly intolerant to perfumes, aerosols, candles, cleaning products, and more. Many household items you use without giving it a second thought are incredibly toxic for birds.
Take Tetrafluoroethylene or Teflon, for example. This chemical coats cooking utensils and appliances for a non-stick effect. You can find Teflon in things like frying pans, self-cleaning ovens, pizza pans, coffee makers, irons, curling irons, portable heaters, and hair dryers. When these items are heated to a certain temperature, they release toxic particles and acidic gases that become toxic when inhaled. The gases are colorless and odorless and can cause sudden death in captive parrots.
3. Living Quarters
African Greys are highly social and can become stressed out if they are left alone for too long. This can take a sizable toll on your bird’s mental and physical health, potentially compromising its immune system function and making it more susceptible to infections or disease. Your job as a bird owner is to make sure your pet’s living quarters are enriching and that it gets plenty of social time with you.
Captive birds may be more prone to certain conditions than their wild counterparts. Obesity is a silent killer of domestic birds because it’s hard to see what’s under all their feathers. Your pet will need to spend a good part of its day outside its cage to ensure it gets the exercise it needs to prevent excess weight gain.
Hypocalcemia is a common health condition for African Greys, causing serious side effects like seizures. It is most prevalent in birds that have primarily been fed an all-seed diet, so it’s much more common in captive birds than in wild ones. A proper diet, cuttlebone, and calcium block can help reduce the likelihood of your bird developing hypocalcemia.
The 6 Life Stages of an African Grey Parrot
African Greys are born without the ability to see or hear and are void of feathers. They rely on their parents to regurgitate food for them.
Parrots become nestlings when they open their eyes and imprint on their parents (or humans if no other parrots are nearby).
African Greys learn to fly during this stage but rely heavily on their parts for food. They grow their first complete set of feathers.
Young Greys will start feeding themselves and experimenting with different solids. They forage independently and develop the skills they need to care for themselves.
They can now take care of themselves and function without help from their parents. Most breeders will begin selling their parrots at this age.
They have gone through numerous mating seasons and begin settling into their true personalities.
How to Tell Your African Grey Parrot’s Age
The only 100% accurate way to determine your pet’s age is to ask the breeder. Most breeders keep detailed records of the birds they’ve raised and can provide you with your bird’s hatch date.
An avian vet should be your next point of contact. Most vets specializing in exotic pet care can provide a ballpark estimate of age as they know the subtle signs to look for. They may suggest drawing blood to check the hormone levels to determine sexual maturity. This method works best for female African Greys as hormone levels can indicate if it is past her fertile period or not yet in those fertile years. However, since females have a long fertile period, from around age seven to 40, this may not be the most accurate way of guessing age.
Eye color can also provide an insight into age. Birds younger than six months have dark black or grey eyes, which begin lightening after a year. The iris will turn a yellow-orange color between three and five.
Feathers can give you an idea of your pet’s age. Juvenile African Greys have dark grey tail features, while adults are bright red or maroon.
Measurements and weight can also provide insight into its age. An average-sized African Grey is between 12 and 14 inches from its beak to its tail and weighs 400 to 600 grams. If your pet is significantly smaller, it’s likely younger than five.
African Greys can live up to 60 years in captivity if provided with the healthiest diet and enriching lifestyle. They are fantastic companions, but this species is a lifetime commitment as it may even outlive you. Don’t decide to adopt one on a whim. Give yourself time to weigh the pros and cons and then you can make an informed decision.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.