African Grey Parrot / Credit: Keith Allison (Creative Commons License)
African Grey Parrots

*** Update: Read about the outcome of our proposal.


CITES Proposal | Description | Habitat | Threats | Taxonomy | Additional Information

African Grey Parrots were historically distributed throughout west and central Africa. The species, however, has been eliminated from much of its west African range and the largest populations are now only found in central Africa.

Without question the most immediate threat to the species is collection of individuals from the wild for the international pet trade. Habitat loss is also a factor. Grey parrots have undergone a rapid population decline in the last 50 years. Inclusion of the species in Appendix I of CITES will help mitigate population threats associated with trade.

 

CITES Proposal


The African Grey Parrot is currently included in CITES Appendix II. A proposal has been submitted for consideration at CoP17 seeking to transfer the African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) from Appendix II to Appendix I due to over-harvest from the wild for international trade. Co-proponents of this proposal include: Angola, Chad, EU, Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and the United States. The species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Description

African Grey Parrot / Credit: Paul Balfe (Creative Commons License)


The African Grey Parrot is a mid-sized parrot with purple-grey feathering and a splashy red or maroon patch on the base of the tail. They have a large white patch around their eyes. They eat a variety of fruits and flowers such as figs, palm fruits, soapberries, and others. These parrots move around in large flocks, historically in the hundreds, from one area of fruiting trees to another. Today, flocks are much smaller.

Grey parrots have been popularized as pets because of their remarkable ability to mimic sounds. However, they don’t just mimic. Studies involving grey parrots show that they are able to put words and ideas into context and can express those thoughts using human speech. Cognitive psychologist Dr. Irene Pepperberg helped shed light on the intelligence of these remarkable parrots, working with her famous grey parrot research subject, Alex. Find out more by watching this short PBS profile (please note: this link will lead you to a third-party site).

Habitat


African Grey Parrots are found in lowland, moist primary forest, and may also be found in secondary forest, mangrove, gallery forest, savannah woodland and cultivated areas.

African Grey Parrots in the wild / Credit: Dirck Byler / USFWS

Threats


The most significant threats to the African Grey Parrot are:

• Legal and illegal harvest for domestic and, especially, international pet trade;

• Habitat loss.

Capture for the pet trade is currently the most significant threat to wild populations. Both legal and illegal trade is having a devastating effect on populations throughout the species’ entire range. Between 60-90% of parrots captured for trade die from poor handling prior to their being shipped for the international market. Over 1.5 million grey parrots were exported between 1984 and 1992 according to the CITES trade database. Assuming a conservative 40-60% mortality rate between capture and export, the total number of birds removed from the wild for the legal trade alone is likely on the order of 1.3 million for this time period.

Habitat loss is having a terrible impact as well. West Africa may have already lost up to 80% of its forests. Nigeria, for example, lost 48% of forested areas between 1990 and 2010 alone.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, high rates of deforestation for timber, fuelwood and agricultural expansion, are occurring in areas that hold some of the most significant numbers of grey parrots. As forests become more fragmented, the parrots have to travel larger distances to feed. Fragmentation also may disconnect populations, with a resultant impact on genetic diversity. Also, Grey Parrots, like other larger parrot species, rely on tree cavities to nest, usually in larger, more mature trees that are also targeted for timber harvest.

Taxonomy


Class:    Aves
Order:    Psittaciformes
Family:   Psittacidae
Genus:   Psittacus
Species: Psittacus erithacus – only species recognized by CITES. Outside of CITES it is generally accepted that there are two geographically and genetically distinct sub-species: P. e. erithacus and P. e. timneh.

Additional Information


Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology "African Grey Parrot: Species in Decline" Video

English
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Read the proposal to transfer the African Grey Parrot from Appendix II to Appendix I, for consideration at CoP17.

Read the IUCN Red List analysis for Psittacus erithacus, prepared by Birdlife International.