Jaco parrot

The Jaco parrot is a favorite poultry for many. He has unique abilities that distinguish him from most of his relatives. The modest coloring of feathers is compensated by skillful imitation of human speech and the sounds produced by many birds.

Jaco learns more than a hundred words and phrases. However, even the healthiest and happiest pet creates a fair amount of clutter and noise. There is evidence that jacos were kept as pets by the ancient Greeks, wealthy Romans, and even King Henry VIII and Portuguese sailors.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Zhao Parrot

Photo: Zhkao Parrot

Gray Parrot or Jaco (Psittacus) — genus of African parrots in the subfamily Psittacinae. It contains two species: the red-tailed parrot (P. erithacus) and the brown-tailed parrot (P. timneh).

Interesting fact: For many years, two species of gray parrot were classified as subspecies of the same species. However, in 2012 BirdLife International recognized the taxa as separate species based on genetic, morphological and vocal differences.

The gray parrot is found in primary and secondary tropical forests of West and Central Africa. This is one of the most intelligent bird species in the world. The tendency to imitate speech and other sounds has made Jacos popular pets. The Jaco parrot is important to the African Yoruba people. Its feathers and tail are used to make the masks worn during the religious and social festival in Geled.

Video: Jaco parrot

The first recorded mention of the African Jaco parrot by Westerners occurred in 1402, when France occupied the Canary Islands, where this species was introduced from Africa. As Portugal's trade relations with West Africa developed, more birds were captured and kept as pets. Figures of the gray parrot appear in paintings by Peter Rubens in 1629/30, Jan Davidsz de Heem in 1640-50 and Jan Steen 1663-65.

Appearance and features

Photo: Jaco talking parrot

Photo: Jaco talking parrot

There are two kinds:

  • red-tailed parrot (P. erithacus): this is a dominant species, larger than the brown-tailed, its length is about 33 cm. Bird with light gray feathers, a completely black beak and a cherry-red tail. Young birds have darker, duller tails at the end until the first molt, which occurs at 18 months of age. These birds also initially have a gray iris that changes color to pale yellow by the time the bird is a year old;
  • the brown-tailed parrot (P. timneh) is slightly smaller than the red-tailed parrot, but intelligence and conversational ability remain comparable. They can range from 22 to 28 cm in total length and are considered medium sized parakeets. The browntail has a darker charcoal coloration, a darker burgundy tail, and a lighter horn-like area towards part of the upper jaw. It is endemic to its range.

The brown-tailed jaco usually begins to learn to speak earlier than the red-tailed, as the maturation period is faster. These parrots have a reputation for being less nervous and receptive than the Redtail.

Jacos may learn to speak within the first year, but many do not speak their first word until 12–18 months of age. Both subspecies seem to have the same ability and tendency to produce human speech, but vocal ability and inclination can vary widely among individual birds. Gray parrots tend to use more specific calls for different species. The most famous Jaco parrot — this is Nkisi, who had a vocabulary of over 950 words, and was also known for his creative use of language.

Fun fact: Some ornithologists recognize a third and fourth species, but they are difficult to distinguish under scientific DNA research.

Where does the gray parrot live?

Photo: Gray parrot

Photo: Gray parrot

African habitats gray parrots cover the forest belt of Central and West Africa, including the oceanic islands of Principe and Bioko (Gulf of Guinea), where they settle in mountain forests at an altitude of up to 1900 m. In West Africa, they are found in coastal countries.

The Jaco habitat includes the following countries:

  • Gabon;
  • Angola;
  • Ghana;
  • Cameroon;
  • Ivory Coast;
  • Congo;
  • Sierra Leone;
  • Kenya;
  • Uganda.

The two known subspecies of African gray parrots have different ranges. Psittacus Erithacus erithicus (Red-tailed Jaco) inhabits a range extending from Kenya to the eastern border of the Ivory Coast, including island populations. Psittacus Erithacus Timneh (Brown-tailed Gray) has a range from the eastern border of Kot — d’Ivoire to Guinea-Bissau.

The habitat of African Jaco parrots is moist lowland forests, although they are also found at altitudes up to 2200 m in the eastern part of the range. They are commonly seen in forest edges, clearings, gallery forests, mangroves, wooded savannas, crop fields and gardens.

Gray parrots often visit open lands adjacent to forest areas, they live in trees above water and prefer to spend the night on the islands of rivers. They nest in hollows of trees, sometimes choosing places left by birds. In West Africa, this species makes seasonal movements during the dry season.

What does the gray parrot eat?

Photo: Jaco Parrot from the Red Book

Photo: Red Book Jaco Parrot

African gray parrots are herbivorous birds. In the wild, they master a complex set of skills. Jacos learn to separate the right food plants from the toxic ones, how to find safe water, and how to reunite with their families when they are separated. They eat mainly different fruits, preferring oil palm (Elaeis guinensis).

In the wild, grays can eat the following foods:

  • nuts;
  • fruit;
  • leaf greens;
  • snails;
  • insects;
  • succulent shoots;
  • seeds;
  • grains;
  • bark;
  • flowers.

Feeding places are usually located at a considerable distance and are located on elevated plains. Birds often raid fields with immature corn, which causes anger among the owners of the field. They fly from tree to tree looking for more ripe fruits and nuts. Jacos prefer to climb branches rather than fly.

Fun fact: In captivity, a bird can eat bird pellets, various fruits such as pear, orange, pomegranate, apple and banana, and vegetables such as carrots, boiled sweet potatoes, celery, cucumbers, fresh cabbage, peas, and green beans. In addition, the Jaco needs a source of calcium.

Gray parrots partially feed on the ground, so there are a number of behavioral skills that birds do before landing and eating food safely. Groups of parrots gather around a barren tree until it is completely filled with hundreds of birds that preen feathers, climb branches, make sounds and communicate. Then the birds descend to the ground in waves. The whole group is never on the ground at the same time. Once on the ground, they are extremely alert, reacting to any movement or sound.

Now you know what the Jaco parrot eats, let's see how it lives in its natural environment.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Jaco pet parrot

Photo: Jaco pet parrot

Wild African Jaco parrots are very shy and rarely allow people to approach them. They are social birds and nest in large groups. They are often seen in noisy flocks, calling loudly in the mornings, evenings and in flight. Flocks consist of only gray parrots, unlike other types of parrots that are found in mixed flocks. During the day, they break into small groups and fly long distances to forage.

Jacos live in trees above water and prefer to spend the night on river islands. Young birds remain in their family groups for a long period of time, up to several years. They socialize with other individuals of their own age in nursery trees, but stick to their family flock. Young parrots are cared for by older birds until they are educated and old enough to start living on their own.

Interesting fact: Young Grays show respectful behavior towards older members of the pack. They learn how to behave in different situations, such as competition and protecting nest sites and raising offspring. Competition for nests during the mating season makes the species extremely aggressive.

Birds roost at dusk and even in darkness. They overcome their path along the laid routes, carrying out a fast and direct flight, often flapping their wings. Previously, roosting flocks were huge, often numbering up to 10,000 parrots. Early in the morning, before sunrise, small flocks leave the roosting place and start feeding screaming.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Gray Parrot

Photo: Gray Parrot

African Jaco parrots are very social birds. Reproduction occurs in free colonies, each pair occupies its own tree. Individuals carefully select spouses and have a lifelong monogamous relationship that begins at puberty, at the age of three to five years. Little is known about courtship in the wild, but sighting flights around nests have been seen and recorded.

Interesting fact: Males feed a companion (nuptial feeding) and both produce soft monotonous sounds. During this time, the female will sleep in the nest, while the male guards it. In captivity, the males feed the females after copulation, and both sexes engage in a courtship dance in which they lower their wings.

The breeding season varies by location, but seems to overlap with dry season. African gray parrots breed once to twice a year. Females lay three to five rounded eggs, one at a time of 2 — 5 days. The females incubate the eggs and feed completely on the food brought by the male. Incubation takes about thirty days. The chicks leave the nest at the age of twelve weeks.

After the young chicks leave the nest, both parents continue to feed, raise and protect them. They take care of their offspring for several years until they become independent. Life expectancy is 40 to 50 years. In captivity, African Gray Parrots have an average lifespan of 45 years, but can live up to 60 years. In the wild – 22.7 years.

Natural enemies of gray parrots

Photo: Gray Parrot

Photo: Gray Parrot

In nature, gray parrots have few enemies. The main damage they receive from a person. Previously, local tribes killed birds for meat. The inhabitants of West Africa believed in the magical properties of red feathers, so the Jaco was also destroyed for the sake of feathers. In the future, parrots began to be caught for sale. Jacos are secretive, cautious birds, so it is difficult to catch an adult. Aborigines willingly caught fledgling chicks in the net, for the sake of income.

The Jaco's enemy is the palm eagle or vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). The diet of this predator is mainly made up of the fruits of the oil palm. Possibly, the aggressive behavior of the sea eagle in relation to the gray eagle is of competitive importance because of the food. You can watch the gray parrots panic flying in different directions, attacked by the eagle. It was probably the eagle protecting its prey.

Natural predators for this species include:

  • vultures;
  • palm eagle;
  • monkeys;
  • hawks.

Adult birds teach their offspring how to defend a territory, how to recognize and avoid predators. While feeding on the ground, African gray parrots are vulnerable to terrestrial predators. Monkeys hunt for eggs and young chicks in the nest. Several species of hawks also prey on chicks and adults. Gray parrots in captivity have been found to be susceptible to fungal infections, bacterial infections, malignant tumors, beak and feather diseases, and can be infected with tapeworms and worms.

Population and species status

Photo: Gray Parrot

Photo: Gray Parrot

Recent population analysis of the gray gray showed the bird's deplorable situation in the wild. Up to 21% of the world population is caught annually. Unfortunately, there is no law prohibiting the capture and trade of parrots. In addition, the number of these birds is affected by habitat destruction, indiscriminate use of pesticides and hunting by local residents. The wild bird trade trap is the main reason for the decline in the population of wild African gray parrots.

Fun Fact: Estimates of the total wild population of the Gray Gray in the early 21st century ranged up to 13 million, although accurate surveys were not possible because parrots live in isolated, often politically unstable regions.

Jaco species are endemic to the primary and secondary tropical forests of West and Central Africa. These parrots depend on large, old trees with natural holes, which are used by the Grays for nesting. Studies in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau have shown that the relationship between species status and primary forest status is commensurate where forests are declining, and so are gray parrot populations.

In addition, the Gray is one of the hyper-traded bird species registered with CITES. In response to continued declines, overfishing, and unsustainable and illegal trade, CITES included the gray parrot in Phase VI of the CITES Substantial Trade Review in 2004. This review resulted in recommended zero export quotas for some range countries and a decision to develop regional species management plans.

Grey Conservation

Photo : Red Book Jaco Parrot

Photo: Red Book Graybird

A 2003 study by the United Nations Environment Program found that between 1982 and 2001, about 660,000 Graybrown parrots were sold on the international market. Extrapolation showed that more than 300,000 birds died during capture or transport.

The import of wild-caught specimens into the United States was banned in 1992 under the Wild Bird Conservation Act. The European Union banned the import of wild-caught birds in 2007. However, there were significant markets for the African Grey's trade in the Middle East, East Asia, and Africa itself.

Fun fact: The Gray Parrot is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). It is required that the export be accompanied by a permit issued by the national authority and that it be concluded that the export does not harm species in the wild.

The gray parrot is rarer than was considered earlier. It has been moved from the list of Least Concern for Extinction to the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened List. A recent analysis suggests that up to 21% of the bird population is taken from the wild every year, mostly for the pet trade. In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) further upgraded the status of the Gray to Vulnerable.

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