African Grey Parrot mating behaviour

Updated November 21, 2016

The African Grey Parrot is a medium-sized parrot with a body length of up to 30 cm (1 foot) and a wingspan of up to 60 cm (2 feet). Covered in dust-coloured grey feathers, the only exception to the grey is a bit of white masking around the eyes and a vibrant red-feathered tail. The African Grey hails from wooded areas and rainforests throughout Africa, but are often tamed and kept as pets or bred directly into captivity. Captive African Grey Parrots often display specific behaviours when they wish to or are preparing to breed.


The African Grey, 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 behaviour is the birds pairing up. Once they begin trying to form male/female "couples," they often begin displaying other mating behaviours.


All parrots, including the African Grey, often display physical postures when they feel the urge to mate. Physical mating behaviours 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 behaviour. The birds may actually become aggressive during breeding season, but this is not usually the case with African Greys. It is more likely that the bird simply wants to warn intruders not to make trouble in its nesting area.


Sometimes an African Grey makes certain vocalisation as a mating behaviour. 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 Greys instinctively make a cosy nest for their chicks. In the wild, African Greys often create burrows in old, rotten trees for laying eggs and raising chicks. In captivity, African Greys 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 Greys retreat to these boxes often during mating season.

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