African Grey Parrot: Congo vs. Timneh Which Makes the Better Pet

Pet Type


October 20, 2020

There are many parrots species, but the African grey is considered one of the most intelligent species of parrots. They come from Africa, where they have made their home in West and Central Africa’s rainforest, and even as far south as some islands in the Gulf of Guinea.

African grey numbers are in decline due to the destruction of their habitat and the over-capturing of parrot for the pet trade. They are a much sought after bird because of their human-like ability to mimic what they hear and their gentle nature.

Because of their unmatched ability to mimic and their incredible intelligence, the African grey parrot is one of the most recognized species to bird enthusiasts and novices. 

African grey parrots are not cheap—the price for a baby parrot that will require hand-feeding goes from $400 to $3,600. For an adolescent or adult parrot, you are looking at $4,000. An older parrot might cost around $1,200. But there are downsides to owning an older parrot, which we’ll touch on later.

Crucial Differences Between Timneh and Congo African Grey Parrots

It’s a little known fact that there are two different subspecies of African grey parrots. They share some similarities. Both are from Africa, both are grey, and they are both endangered. But they have unique physical characteristics that set them apart for the astute observer.

Though the African greys look almost identical, Congo African Grays are larger than the Timneh. The Timneh generally grows to 10 inches tall while the Congo grows to 14 inches. Congos weigh approximately one pound, with Timneh’s weight being around 10 oz.

Both birds are grey, but there is a slight difference in the shade. The Congo ranges in color from a light grey to dark, with a solid black beak and bright red tail feathers. In contrast, the Timneh’s feathers are a dark, charcoal grey with a pink upper beak and dark maroon tail feathers.

The Personality of the African Greys

One of the African greys’ key features is that they are among the most talented mimicking birds. This fact is evidenced by African grey owners who claim their parrots can speak in context. The African grey is known for its intelligence, which has earned it the moniker “the Einstein of the bird world.”

Dr. Irene Pepperberg from the University of Arizona did a study of parrots in 1995. She estimated that African greys have the intelligence of a 5-year-old and the temperament of a 2-year-old. It is essential to realize that each parrot will possess a unique personality and characteristics.

African greys are great family pets because they are generally affectionate and docile while being goofy and a fantastic entertainer. These birds build strong bonds with their owners, and these connections can last for years.

African Grey Congo

Congo African greys can be found in the Southeastern part of the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Tanzania. Their average lifespan is between 40-50 years. They are energetic, intelligent, and a favorite of longtime bird handlers and owners. A Congo grey may become a “one-person bird” even if various members of your family spend time socializing with them.

These parrots begin mimicking words at around six months, but they should be able to string together several words by the time they turn one. A unique trait of the Congo African grey is that they can mimic voices in addition to mimicking other sounds.

Timneh African Grey

The Timneh is considered the top choice for a first-time parrot owner over the Congo African grey because of their more docile manner. The Timneh has a similar lifespan to that of the Congo African grey. They also tend to be more laid back and are more capable of developing multiple human bonds simultaneously.

The Congo grey may only like one person at a time, and it is not uncommon for them to switch their affection to another person around the age of 2-3. This trait is not typical of the Timneh, making them even more suitable for a family environment.

What do African Greys Eat

In the wild, African greys feed mostly on fruits and seeds, with some leafy substances thrown in occasionally. But the diet is different for captive-bred grey parrots. In this situation, they tend to eat seeds, grain, fruits, and vegetables, but sadly, many are afflicted with calcium deficiency, so they may require a calcium supplement.

African greys are also prone to deficiency in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and Vitamin D. Parrots can eat fresh foods such as raw and steamed vegetables and cooked grains to get these vitamins naturally. If they are not getting enough vitamins, consider buying a pelleted diet that contains the vitamins your parrot needs or ask your vet for advice to prevent vitamin deficiency.

There are some foods you should never feed your feathered friends, such as alcohol, avocado, dairy products, meat, chocolate, peanuts, fruit seeds, and things high in salt, fat, or sugar. It is crucial to find the right foods to keep your parrot happy and healthy.

Common Health issues

One of the critical factors for keeping your parrot happy and healthy is making sure they’re not lonesome or feeling neglected. These birds are social, affectionate creatures that are dependent on you, their owner, for companionship. Spending time playing games and talking with them helps to stimulate them. 

Grooming is an integral part of a parrots day, but if grooming turns to feather picking, there may be a problem. Feather picking is when a bird plucks out or damages its feathers. This action can be caused by a medical, environmental, or behavioral problem. Most commonly, it is a sign that a parrot is bored, jealous, or fearful. 

Parrots need to have something to chew on, ropes to climb on, and perches to rest on. African grey particularly needs puzzle and foraging toys that challenge their intelligence. All of these will help your parrot remain entertained and stimulated. There are many parrot toy options online; it is up to you to pick the right ones for your bird. 

The Pros of Owning a Parrot

Before you head to the pet store to pick out your parrot, consider the pros and cons of owning a parrot. A big plus of parrot ownership is that parrots live for a long time. While dogs’ and cats’ average lifespan is only 15 years, small parrots can live between 30 to 40 years, with large parrots living to be over 80.

Parrots come in a variety of colors and sizes. The largest parrot is the Hyacinth macaw, which measures 3.3 feet long from head to tail and weighs between 2.6-3.7 pounds. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Buff-faced pygmy parrot, which is the smallest parrot at roughly 2 inches from beak to tail.

Additionally, parrots are exceptionally social. They enjoy playing, cuddling, and being sweet. They do not need to go for walks, and they enjoy spending time with their person. Their social nature must contribute in some part to their eagerness to mimic what the humans around them are saying.

The Cons of Owning a Parrot

On the opposite end of bird ownership, we must acknowledge that birds are one of the messiest pets you could own. From feathers flying to birdseed sprouting in your carpet, there is little you can do to keep your feathered friend from displacing their food all around the cage and your home.

While parrots are social creatures, they can also be quite demanding. Generally, birds are confined to one part of the house to keep the mess they make to a minimum. But they won’t always like it when you leave the room and may put up quite a commotion until you return. 

As mentioned earlier, parrots can live for a long time. You must consider this fact if you plan to go away to college, start a family, or move to a new area. By buying a bird, you are making a long-term commitment to their care. It might be wise to have a plan in place to care for the parrot if something unexpected happens.

Final Thoughts

We can’t stress enough that African greys need social interaction. As a flocking bird, it would not be unusual for 1,000 birds to roost together at night in their natural habitat. Their highly social personalities make them a fantastic addition to your household, but only if you have the time and willingness to give them the care they need. They do not require walks, but they might need some talks.

Whether you choose to invite a Congo or Timneh African grey into your home, make sure you do your research. Find a parrot at a pet store or through a breeder to observe and ask some questions. Seeing how a grown parrot acts, how they interact with their owner, and what their environment is like can help you decide if an African grey parrot is the right choice for you.