African gray parrots are not the most colorful of parrots in the world, as their name implies. Whether your African gray is of the Congo or Timneh subspecies, the bird will be predominantly gray in color. The Congo African Gray will have a bright cherry red tail, while the Timneh African Gray’s tail will be maroon.
African gray parrots are very intelligent. They have been said to have an intellect similar to that of dolphins and chimpanzees. African gray parrots have the ability to imitate up to 2,000 different sounds. They can understand the use of many words that they learn and are known to be the best talking parrots.
Einstein, a talking African gray, is living proof of this. Einstein has been talking like a storm at a zoo in Knoxville, Tennessee. Einstein’s trainer, Stephanie White, says it’s natural for African gray parrots to enjoy imitating sounds. However, Einstein seems exceptionally good at imitating. White believes that Einstein can produce more than 200 different sounds, many of which are English words.
“If he hears a sound that he likes, he’ll start repeating it over and over again. Then we’ll play it at the right time,” says White.
Is Einstein a man or a woman?
African gray parrots of both sexes look the same, so no one knows whether Einstein is male or female. Zoo vets could tell from a blood test, but the zoo has decided not to. Einstein lives happily with the name of a great male scientist and a female pronoun.
Einstein: The Biography of a Talking African Gray
Einstein, the talking African gray parrot, was born in California in 1987. At first he did not live in a zoo. He lived with a couple from California. Not for sale, the Congo African Gray was donated to the zoo in 1992 at age 5.
When Einstein arrived at the Knoxville Zoo, he went from an unknown African gray parrot to star status. Einstein was an immediate hit at the zoo’s new bird show. Visitors loved the show, which features the natural free-flying behavior of some 14 birds and a few other animals. However, the African gray quickly became the star.
Einstein doesn’t stay at the zoo every day. You also don’t limit your vocabulary to words and sounds that your coaches want you to learn. One day the African gray was riding in a car on the way to a school to show and tell. Suddenly, he started singing “Happy Birthday” to his shocked coaches. No one knew when and how she learned the song, but she did.
Einstein isn’t just the star of the Knoxville Zoo bird show. She is also a popular “spokesperson” for the Knoxville Zoo and Tourism.
Although Einstein is about 22 years old when I write this (early 2007), he will never behave or understand like a 22-year-old human. African gray parrots have the brainpower of a 5-year-old. Emotionally, they are more like a 2-year-old human being. Those who live with African gray parrots are constantly reminded of this.
African gray: the right pet for you?
Einstein, the talking African gray is amazing. However, you should be aware that not all African Grays are like Einstein. The Knoxville Zoo has another African gray parrot named Allie. Allie has learned only a handful of words. Maybe Allie is embarrassed to talk because Einstein is so good. Maybe Allie just isn’t motivated.
Certainly many African gray parrots learn to speak. A privately owned 10-year-old African gray in Texas, also named Einstein, is credited with knowing 122 words, 94 phrases and 21 sounds.
If you buy an African gray parrot and work patiently with it, you can probably teach it to talk.