The African gray parrot is a medium-sized parrot with a body length of up to 1 foot and a wingspan of up to 2 feet. Covered in dust-colored gray feathers, the only exception to the gray is a bit of white masking around the eyes and a vibrant red-feathered tail. The African gray hails from wooded areas and rainforests throughout Africa, but are often tamed and kept as pets or bred directly into captivity. Captive African gray parrots often display specific behaviors when they wish to or are preparing to breed.
The African gray, unlike other species of birds, are monogamous. This means that they choose one mate to keep for life. Watch your parrots, if you have more than one. One sign of mating behavior is the birds pairing up. Once they begin trying to form male/female "couples," they often begin displaying other mating behaviors.
All parrots, including the African gray, often display physical postures when they feel the urge to mate. Physical mating behaviors include head bobbing, feather plucking and lowering the chest while fluttering the wings. Mock aggression, such as rushing at strangers, nipping at cage bars or aggressive posturing are also signs of mating behavior. The birds may actually become aggressive during breeding season, but this is not usually the case with African grays. It is more likely that the bird simply wants to warn intruders not to make trouble in its nesting area.
Sometimes an African gray makes certain vocalizations as a mating behavior. Listen for sounds such as clucking or whining, especially if these sounds are unusual to your parrot or if your parrot is making them at unusual times. Whistling, either to call to a mate or to determine if a stranger in the room is a danger to a nest site, is common. Screaming and hissing may occur, though these sounds are more common in other species of parrots such as Amazons. Listen for your parrot to begin calling. The calling may be to attract a mate, to locate his/her mate or to warn a mate of danger.
African grays instinctively make a cozy nest for their chicks. In the wild, African grays often create burrows in old, rotten trees for laying eggs and raising chicks. In captivity, African grays use nest boxes in their cages or aviaries. You can construct the boxes of wood with an opening on one side, or simply create a hole in one side of a soda can box or other similarly sized box. The parrots may create nesting material by shredding paper or fabrics, collecting wood shavings or plucking feathers and placing them in the box. African grays retreat to these boxes often during mating season.
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