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A member of the Psittacidae family of Old World parrots, the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is sometimes referred to as the Congo grey parrot, Congo African grey parrot, or the African grey parrot. Previously classified as a subspecies of the grey parrot, the Timneh parrot (Psittacus timneh) has been upgraded to a complete species.
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The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus published the official description of the grey parrot in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae in 1758. He gave it the scientific name Psittacus erithacus and grouped it in the genus Psittacus with all the other parrots. The type locality, which Linnaeus incorrectly identified as “Guinea,” was later identified as Ghana in West Africa.
The genus name means “parrot” in Latin. The specific epithet “erithacus” is Latin and comes from the Ancient Greek “o” (erithakos) for an unidentified bird, maybe the black redstart, that was reported to imitate human sounds. The species is monotypic, and no recognized subspecies exist.
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Prior to a genetic and morphological study that was released in 2007, the Timneh parrot was thought to be a subspecies of the grey parrot; however, this view has now changed. Linnaeus classified every parrot he was aware of under the genus Psittacus, although only the grey parrot and the Timneh parrot are still included in this classification.
The grey parrot is a black-billed, medium-sized parrot that is mostly grey in color. Its usual size is 33 cm (13 in), weight is 400 g (14 oz), and its wingspan is 46–52 cm (18–20+12 in). The grey color on its head and wings is often darker than that on its body. The edges of the body and head feathers are slightly white. Red feathers make up the tail.
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Equatorial Africa, comprising Angola, Cameroon, the Congo, Gabon, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, is home to the grey parrot. The species can be found in a region stretching from Kenya to the eastern Ivory Coast. The current range of estimates for the world’s bird population is 630,000 to 13 million. All around the world, populations are declining. The species appears to prefer deep woods, but it is also common in gallery and savanna forests, as well as along forest borders and in more open vegetation types.
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According to a population analysis from 2015, the species has been “essentially eradicated” from Ghana, with a decline in population of 90–99% since 1992. Only 10 of the 42 forested areas included them, and three roosts that had earlier housed 700–1200 birds each had just 18 in total. Locals primarily attributed the decline to the pet trade and timber harvesting.
In Cameroon, populations are believed to remain stable. Although the annual quota is reported to be 5,000, it is estimated that 15,000 animals are kidnapped from the eastern portion of the Congo each year for the pet trade.