A Grey Area

Written By: B.D. Butler - May• 16•14

emailI got another email from someone asking me what I thought about the difference of African Grey subspecies and if I had a favorite.  This is not the first time I have been asked this question.  I also got asked what I thought about the advice from online African Grey social media groups…. so I figured I would not just write about one topic, but two and chuck one big stone into the pond instead of two.

Dexter, my Timneh African Grey has been with me for almost five years and it has been a learning curve for me.  When I did my countless hours and months of research on African Greys in general I thought everything was going to be text book, or what everyone in an online group had told me.  Well that actually is rather a half truth.  There were parts that fit nicely into the square peg that people had informed me of and then there were the circular or triangular pegs that no way in hell were going in that square hole.

I got Grey map here.

I got Grey map here.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted a Congo or a Timneh to begin with, I had a friend who owned a Timneh when I fell in love with birds some twenty years ago, but I loves the size and color variation of the Congo.  I was told that Timnehs aren’t as neurotic or as shy as Congos.  I was also told that Congos are much better talkers than Timnehs, which again forms that square opening of opinion and then there comes the variation of truths that aren’t square pegs.

dexter 08-03-10 008Dexter was definitely not shy once I got him, in fact I believe that he was very happy to get the hell out of the situation that he was in  I felt as if we bonded almost immediately.  Now you have to keep in mind, I was expecting this sensitive bird that was going to require time to bond with me and time to get used to his environment.  According to the online advice I got, I was also expecting him to cower in the back of his cage for days, praying that nothing was going to eat him.  That could not be any further from what happened.  He was very anxious to explore his new environment and wanted nothing more than to spend time with me in whatever activity I happened to be doing.  So what happened to all the advice that I had gotten in my dozens of online groups.  Am I aware that every bird is different and just like people they have their own personalities?  Yep, I sure am…. however no one told me that.

PE1 003Cooper was a totally different bird of a feather.  You have to know that Cooper is a very large Congo, many people are intrigued by his size and his beauty, but even though he looks indestructible he is very sensitive.   Fear generally is his downfall, fear turns into excitement and apprehension which always leads to aggressive behavior.  Trust me, it took me a few pints of blood, several scars and years of feeling like a failure to piece that whole puzzle together.

So, does Cooper fit into the sensitive category that was preached to me?  Yes, but he is also not the talker that Dexter is.  Granted, he talks like a champ and can imitate just about any whistle or siren that he has ever heard but Dexter can out talk him with one wing tied behind his back.  I have to be very very careful about what I say around Dex, because he will generally pick up just about anything that I say that has any emotion behind it.  Let’s just say I learned the hard way after I stubbed my toe one evening.  I’ll let your imagination do the rest.

Iphone.7.30.2012 034I have several friends that own both Timneh and Congos and they live in perfect harmony with one another, even going as far as playing, preening and just hanging out doing their everyday activities.  However that is NOT the case in my house, I can get Dex and Coop on a perch together and one goes to one side and the other ends up at the opposite end.  Backs to one another and that’s it.  Reminds me of a homecoming dance in middle school.  They have beaked a few times, of course that is usually in the spring time, but otherwise it’s the Hatfields and McCoys, “you stay on your side of the line and I will stay on mine”.

When it comes to anything online, as I have written many times, you have to be careful.  Not everything you see on the internet is true, I know hard to believe isn’t it?  Not everyone has the education to back up their information, or they may be regurgitating something that someone has told them.  When I began doing research into my birds, I immediately started asking people who the public figures of the bird world were.  Who had been published and where I could get my hands on their stuff.  I read everything I could get my hands on and eventually started dreaming about parrot food, proper nutrition, behavior and foraging.  I was hooked and to my non bird friends, becoming an “obsessive bird dude”.  Eh, I didn’t really care…. I figured I would have my bird a lot longer than I would have some of those friends.

My rule of thumb when getting into anything new is “Ask questions”.  Ask until you are blue in the face and not just from one person.  Get several points of view, and read read read read read.  Did I mention read?  Yes, owning a parrot requires piles of books, hours of sifting through points of view online and putting those things that you learn into action.  It’s trial by fire sometimes and you will most likely feel like the greatest bird owner at times and then feel like someone kicked you in the stomach and ran over your foot because you made a mistake.  As much as some opinions about parrots want to make them seem that they are made of glass, parrots are actually quite resilient and have survived a long time on this planet.  As long as you don’t make one of the major critical errors, you will figure it out.  I promise.

birdsNow, do I prefer a Congo to a Timneh?  Well, I have to say that’s like asking a parent what child you like better.  However I will say that I get the diplomatic answer for that question…. but for me, I like both of my Greys for different reasons.   I love Dexter’s resilient spirit and quest for knowledge.  I love Coopers beauty and sense of grace.  I admire Dexters sense of unconditional love and forgiving attitude towards this world of ours.  I adore Cooper’s love for music and sense of rhythm when he thinks no one is watching.  I can’t get enough of the marvel I receive whilst watching them just climb atop a cage or play-stand, because it’s so calculated well thought and yet it’s nothing to them.

So, I guess my answer does sound like a parent’s response when asking which child they like better.  But then again, maybe it’s all just a Grey area.

Copyright – 2014 – Parrot Earth – A Grey Area

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  1. Your two greys sound very much like mine. Mariah my Congo is more fearful and gets nippy and bites when nervous. My Timneh is more easy going. They also don’t care foreach other, although I think Mica my timneh would like to be friends only in neutral territory. Both of mine are good talkers. They learn each others phrases. But even though they learn each others they have very different preferences in what they like to learn. Enjoyed your article. Thank you.

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