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Dr. Laurie: Perhaps the smartest species of bird that we treat is the African Grey Parrot. They’re very familiar birds, we see them all over the place. They’re grey and most of them have some red trimming underneath their feathers on their tail and they’re brilliant birds. They are very interactive. They talk probably more than any other species we see, and because they are so socially needy and they really crave attention from their owners, sometimes we get into problems as well, with picking at their feathers and mutilating their skin.
Realize again these birds live in flocks, of thousands of birds in the wild. They’re used to being around other birds all day long. They have jobs. They look for nest sites and mates and food and when we put them in a cage, they’re really left there pretty bored. So if you’re going to have an African Grey Parrot there are some special considerations you need to make. You want to talk about that, Sarah?
Sarah: Sure. One of the biggest recommendations we have for African Grey Parrots is foraging and starting early, giving them things to rip up, giving them ways to look for their food, giving them ways to work for their food. Training, teaching them things, keeping their minds busy. African Grey’s are so very smart and I think a lot of times we don’t supply enough mental stimulation for them and that’s where we go into behavioral problems.
Especially with feather picking, where they’ll start to pull out their feathers. Unfortunately, once that starts it’s very difficult to stop, because oftentimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the problem started. If your bird does start feather picking it’s always a good idea to have them checked out by your veterinarian anyway, because aside from behavioral issues, other problems can cause feather picking. Internal illnesses and other things like that. So it’s always a good idea to bring them to the veterinarian, if they do start that behavior.
Dr. Laurie: Absolutely. I mean if you’re going to have an African Grey Parrot, African Grey’s can live 34 years, sometimes even longer and they do have some special needs. They require an adequate amount of calcium in their diet. We used to see years ago when we saw fewer birds eating pellets; which are actually what we recommend they’re nutritionally complete; years ago when they were eating seed, we would see quite a few problems with African Grey’s in particular, where they actually tremor and seizure.
Fortunately, we don’t see that anymore, but it so important to provide them with proper nutrition. With stimulation, the television, the ability to rip and shred and tear, since that’s really a part of their natural behavior in the wild. Then again, you just need to make sure that before you get an African Grey, you think about planning ahead for these birds. Good nutrition, good foraging, lots of attention.