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What's The Difference Between Congo African Greys & Timneh African Greys?

Find out the differences between these two popular African grey subspecies.

By Lisa A. Bono

Congo African grey parrot 
A Congo African grey (Psittacus erithacus erithacus).

Timneh African grey parrot
The Timneh African grey (Psittacus erithacus timneh).

In the genus Psittacus, there is only one species, which is erithacus, and there are two recognized subspecies. The first is the Congo African grey, Psittacus erithacus erithacus, the second is the Timneh African grey, Psittacus erithacus timneh. The grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is one of the most popular parrots in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Congo African Grey
The Congo African grey (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) is the nominate and more popular grey of the subspecies that we see in the pet trade. Perhaps it is due to the lure of its bright red tail. The Congo grey is the larger of the two subspecies. Other common names include: Ghana, Togo, Cameroon and Angola greys; however, they are all the same subspecies. The nominate Psittacus erithacus erithacus originates from different regions or countries of Africa. Regional origin accounts for variations in coloration and size.

The Congo African grey parrot has shades of grey covering the body. The feathers appear darker on the head and gradually lighten to a light silvery grey toward the chest and leg area. Darker feathers appear to have a white-scalloped edging, but if you look closely, many of the silver feathers have the same white tips. The wings are darker, and the primary coverts are a very dark grey to almost black. The eye area is void of feathers and is actually a bright white patch of skin. When you hear of a grey parrot "blushing" this describes that white patch of skin turning pink. The toe nails and beak are a solid black, and the most magnificent finale on the Congo grey parrot is its bright red tail.

Overall body length of a Congo grey is approximately 14 to 16 inches with a wingspan of 18 to 20 inches. Weight can vary from 350 to 650 grams, again depending on region of origin.

Timneh African Grey
The Timneh African Grey (Psittacus erithacus timneh) is the smaller of the two sub species of African grey parrots. Popularity for the tinier cousin of the Congo has grown over the past few years. The Timneh African grey originate from a smaller area in Africa that includes Liberia and the Ivory Coast region. Timneh greys are a noticeably deeper shade of grey then the Congo. The feathers on its head, back and upper chest are a darker grey, and a distinct "V" shape of dark feathers lay over a lighter shade of grey on the abdomen. White scalloping of head feathers are also more distinct on the Timneh. In certain lighting, its dark grey feathers have a bluish cast. The under tail-coverts are tinged with dark red or maroon, and the tail feathers are dark red to brown or maroon. The Timneh African grey's beak is a pink-horn color with blackish sides on the maxilla, where as the mandible is black.

Overall body length of the Timneh is smaller in size compared to the Congo African grey; it ranges from 9 to 11 inches from beak to tail with an approximate wingspan of 13 to 15 inches. The Timneh's weight can vary in from 250 to 375 grams.

Congo African Grey vs. Timneh African Grey
Both Congo and Timneh African greys have the intellectual capacity of a 5-year-old child and the emotional level of a perpetual 2 year old. Timneh African greys are known to have a more stable personality than their larger cousins, because they have a faster maturation rate. Congo's can be just as stable with the right encouragement, commitment and nurturing. Sociability varies from bird to bird. Generally speaking, both subspecies are cautious birds. African greys have a tendency to sit back and observe the environment before becoming an active part of it. 

Congo African grey's and Timneh African grey's appear to have the same talking ability, and gender does not appear to play a role in determining if they learn to talk. Timneh African greys can form simple sentences around 6 months of age, where as Congo African greys usually begin to talk sometime after they are a year old. Both can become masters at mimicking daily household sounds to the point where they often fool owners to false knocks on the door and phantom phone ringing.

Both the Congo and Timneh African greys make wonderful companions. From my first wild-caught, rehomed Timneh African nearly 20 years ago, to my special-abled incubated egg, Emma Lynn, what a long, grey't trip it's been.

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What's The Difference Between Congo African Greys & Timneh African Greys?

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Reader Comments
I got my first parrot at age 8. He was so cute and affectionate. We were always worried about him though, he loves being out of his cage, we want to cut his wings, but dad wants him to be trained not to fly away when we take him outside. He started to become less affectinate, and started to bite, He immitated my whole family's name, Hello, Rocko (His name,) the fire alarm, hey boy, you know you know, and many other stuff like dad coughing or sneezing! There's this funny story that my grandpa told me, a bird was in a shop. This one customer always came in to buy stuff. The bird always insults him, so he finally complained to the owner. The owner said he would discipline the bird if he does it again. Next time he came in the shop, the bird said "You, know you know" We taught our bird to say you know you know. It's better speaking it, than typing it, it's more funny then. I loved this article, it taught me a lot.
Rocko, International
Posted: 1/30/2016 9:47:19 AM
A. Grey parrot with a bright red beak came to our bird tray today . It is aggressive towards the lorikeets. I do not think it is an Australian parrot as I have not seen one before. Is this an African grey parrot. From your description the African parrot has a very dark black beak. Please identify if possible.
Nell, International
Posted: 10/7/2015 8:56:47 PM
@Tommy - I've had several types of birds, and while African Greys top the list for smarts, Green Cheeked Conures certainly do show love and attention.
J Price, International
Posted: 3/2/2015 5:01:14 AM
I've had owned my first bird which were bugies at the age of 5 and learn how to handle and the whole 9 ! And when I got a little older I end up stepping up my bird game to my very first parrot A baby green Quaker, made me fall in love with it, and a year of so later my brother left the window open and there goes my first love then I bought myself another Quaker ! Wasn't the same it was a little older but still lovable , and then end up having 3 birds at onces, 1 Quaker , 1 conure , and 1 cocktail, and I was only 12 at that time , wasn't a good ideal ! While I end up ,moving and couldn't handle it , so I free them all! ??, but as I got older I always had love for parrots ! So I end up with a conure from petsmart ! Wrong choice ! Stupid me should've of known they didn't show love and attention , and end up with a bitter, and I go rid of that lil guy, and please don't get me wrong I felt so bad for giving these guys up , and freeing them, but at that time I was young and stupid ! But one thing I got to admit is conure and Quaker are loud as f**k ! I guess that's why they so cheap, but anyways 16 years later I finally decided I'm going to buy me a parrot again plus I have 3 kids now and they love parrot as will , so with all my years of learning from my mistakes , ??, i did the unthinkable and finally got the parrot I always wish for a CONGO AFRICAN GREY Parrot ! He's was hand fed and was from my local pet store I always when too and onces again I fell in love ! My 14 month African grey ! What a beauty ! I mean I knew so much about them because I've been researching them since day one and I knew I was ready and able to spend all my time and of course a sh*t load of $$$$$$ lol, $1600 baby ! Plus his mansion =$500 awesome cage ! Play pen and the whole 9! Got him home and first day he bit me so hard I bleed so many times , think I had 5 wounds from his beaks , so I put him on 72 hours locked Down, and believe it or not by the 3rd day he came out his cage and let me pet him and even step up , and he let me rap him In a towel for fun .... Unbelievable now he's talks a lot , says hello to me everyday and calls my kids by name , loves to be outside while I'm home from work , and on top of that he's not loud at all only when he see his daddy which is me he will start to chatter and say Out , and once he's out on his perch/play stand he's a happy camper ! Sorry for the long story but just wanted people to learn from mistakes and how much I regret but I'm so happy to have a Congo African grey own me !
Tommy, International
Posted: 8/29/2014 1:54:36 AM
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