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The Under Rated Timneh African Grey

Rita Shimniok

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drawing When asked what my favorite parrot is, the Jardine's is my immediate response, however, I am always quick to add that the Timneh African Grey runs a very tight race in the contest for my affections. Because of their enchanting beauty and the challenge of locating individuals, my dedication to the Greater Jardine's Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus), will always be number one. But few babies that I raise can compare with the delightful exuberance displayed by my Timnehs.

Our young Timneh babies are always eager to play, eat, cuddle, and explore. Most greet strangers without fear, although there is always one baby that has to ponder a person's parrot worthiness before deciding they are okay to interact with. In fact, visitors are often taken by surprise when a clutch of babies vie for their attention and clamber for the best perch position on top their shoulder. This is not to say that we advocate parrots on shoulders, it is just that those unaware and unprepared can be "mauled" rather quickly by a "pack" of Timneh babies jockeying for attention. In fact, I often pluck the babies from shoulders as soon as I see what they are up to as this immediately creates a baby with an "I can do anything I want to do" attitude.

Are all Timneh babies as delightfully "obnoxious" as mine? Not necessarily so. I have met other Timneh babies that will be placed on a couch only to stand there with mild interest in that around them. When raising any type of African Grey, I feel it is important to allow them to explore, play with a variety of toys in an open atmosphere (uncaged), and test their wings. We do not clip our babies wings until they have acquired self-confidence in their flying skills. Confidence begets an extroverted personality, which is also true of human psychology.

African Greys seem to have a reputation for not enjoying their baths. We introduce our birds to a warm misting at fledgling age. Just a few drops of water is enough to rev-up our Timnehs for a bath as they raise their feathers, wings and stretch their necks out to catch the drops while making excited chortling noises. Again, introduction at an early age seems to be important. Donna Hefton of "A Fledgling Company", and inventor of the Showerbird, has been studying rainfall in various countries around the world in regards to exotic birds. According to Hefton, in their natural habitat African Greys receive annual precipitation ranging from 100-200 inches, and are often seen bathing in waterholes.

Often I receive phone calls from people wanting to buy Congo Greys. "Have you considered the Timneh Grey?" I ask them. Although I love Congos, too, I often wonder if people have even heard of a Timneh Grey - many have not. Those that have know they are smaller birds that don't talk as well you and I quickly set them straight.

If I am handfeeding Timneh babies at the time, I usually invite the person to visit and meet a Timneh first hand. Although some people have their heart set on "that bright red tail", many decide that they do not care whether or not they purchase a Congo or Timneh, and some decide they will wait as long as it takes for a Timneh to become available, since our babies are usually sold as soon as people find out we have had some hatch!

Although smaller in size than their larger, red-tailed cousin, the Timneh African Grey has many desireable qualities. First, I would like to emphasize that the Timnehs talk EQUALLY as well as the much sought after Congo Grey. Some of our babies have talked prior to weaning, and all of our Timneh babies have become talkers. I also have many friends with Timneh Greys, both imported and domestic hand-feds, and all report an impressive list of words that their birds can say. Just like the Congos, they also speak in context. I make certain to point out to people that there are Congo Greys that do not say one word, which can be true of any bird, and wanting a parrot for talking should not be the sole reason.

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