Recently I was researching African Grey parrots for a friend of mine that is interested in adopting one.
She had decided on an African Grey, but she was unsure what type would be the best fit.
African Greys are some of the most popular birds to keep as pets, but did you know that there are actually two sub-species within this broader breed of parrot?
The two types of African Grey parrot are the Timneh African Grey and the Congo African Grey.
In fact, the two sub-species were not even considered separate until 2012!
Both can make excellent pets as each sub-species is highly intelligent and social.
However, there are some key differences to know about these birds. Let’s dig in.
One key difference between Timneh and Congo African Greys is their size.
Timnehs are smaller birds, around 9 to 11 inches long. Congos are slightly larger, growing to around 14 to 16 inches long.
Timnehs also weigh less, around 9 to 13 ounces, while a healthy Congo will weigh in around 12 to 23 ounces.
Congo African Greys are known for their bright crimson tail, and this is a key distinguishing feature between the two.
On the other hand, the Timneh has a muted rust red or maroon-colored tail, often (though not always) with darker grey plumage.
Timneh African Greys can also be spotted by their pink upper beak.
Both sub-species have a similarly long lifespan. They can live up to 60 years in captivity, and in the wild they live around 20 years on average.
Geography and Habitat
Both Congos and Timnehs hail from Africa originally.
Congo African Greys can be found in central Africa, including Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.
Timneh African Greys have a smaller range and can be found along the coasts of western Africa.
Their habitats range from Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana and Guinea Bissau.
Both Timneh and Congo African Greys are highly intelligent birds, considered by many to be the most intelligent of all parrot species.
Both will bond closely with their owner and can make great pets with the right socialization.
Congo African Greys are more commonly kept as pets but the popularity of Timnehs is on the rise.
In terms of temperament, the Timneh African Grey tends to be the more relaxed and even keeled between the two.
This is because Timnehs mature more quickly.
They tend to settle in with their owners more quickly and exhibit fewer anxiety related behaviors such as feather plucking.
The Congo African Grey may take longer to mature, but once they have experienced their hormonal adolescent period they can become just as relaxed and easy going as the Timneh.
Congos are known for bonding more with one person at a time, while Timnehs may bond with more members of the family.
This is something to keep in mind when adopting one as a pet.
Timnehs may be slightly easier to work with and bond with more family members, while the Congo is more likely form a very close bond with one human.
Because both types of African Grey bond so closely to their humans they also both can become bored and depressed if left alone too much.
The Congo in particular, as it bonds to fewer people, could feel neglected if not provided enough attention.
This could lead to screeching, territorial behavior, or anxiety.
Timnehs and Congos both are well known talkers.
Studies have even shown that African Greys have the intelligence of a 5-year-old child!
The main difference between the two is that Timnehs mature more quickly than Congos.
This means that they will begin to talk at an earlier age, around 6 months old.
Congos will likely take a little longer, starting to talk around one year old.
Another difference is the nature of their speech.
Timnehs usually talk in their own voices, mimicking the words but not necessarily the tone of the speech.
Congos will mimic the precise voice of the person they are learning from, using different voices depending on how they learned a word or phrase.
Both types of African Grey parrot will be able to mimic human speech (though individual birds have different skill sets).
They can also learn number sequences, identify shapes and colors, and even chat and ask questions that they’ve learned!
As some of the smartest parrots out there, African Greys are set apart by their reasoning and logical ability.
Differences As Pets
Because Timnehs mature more quickly they may be better for a novice bird owner.
However, both birds will require ample socialization, dedicated training, and should be considered a long-term commitment.
In terms of general care, both Timneh and Congo African Greys require similar things.
Both will need a large cage, plenty of space to move around, and will eat a similar diet.
Both types of African Greys eat mostly seeds, grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you are looking for a bird that will be a “one person” type of companion, then the congo may be a better choice for you.
They will be less likely to become close to other family members.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a family bird then the Timneh could be a good choice.
Timnehs are less common as pets, so it is worth double checking with your breeder, store, or rescue.
If you are seeking to adopt one sub-species over the other, then make sure you know what type of bird you are getting.
It may be easier to find a Congo simply because they are more commonly bred in captivity.
Remember that each bird is an individual and will have their own personality and quirks.
No matter which variety of African Grey parrot you choose, you are sure to have a loving and incredibly smart companion for life!