Gatter (1997) estimated two breeding pairs/ km2 of P. timneh in logged forest north of Zwedru, Liberia. McGowan (2001) provided similar estimates of nest densities in Nigeria of 0.5-2.1/km2, believing the higher end to be more accurate. This would indicate 4.2 breeding birds/km2 plus non-breeding birds (the remaining 70-85% of the population, as estimated by Fotso (1998b), giving estimates of 4.9-6.0 birds/km2. These estimates are substantially higher than those of 0.3-0.5 birds/km2 in good habitat in Guinea (timneh) and 0.9-2.2 birds/km2 (in evergreen forests) or 0.15-0.45 birds/km2 (in semi-deciduous forests) in Ghana. Using these density estimates, the overall P. timneh population was estimated at 120,100-259,000 birds, and the West African population of P. erithacus at 40,000-100,000 birds, although central African populations of this subspecies are much larger. Using a global land cover classification, a digitised map of the species's range from Benson et al. (1988), and estimates of density 0.15-0.45 birds/km2 in semi-deciduous forest (including deciduous forest) and 0.3-6.0 birds/km2 in evergreen forest (including swamp forest and mangrove), supplemented by post-1995 published national estimates where available, an initial coarse assessment of the global population of this species (subtracting estimates for the now-split P. timneh) is 0.56-12.7 million individuals.
Population declines have been noted in Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda and parts of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In all of these declines, trapping for the wild bird trade has been implicated, with habitat loss also having significant impacts throughout West and East Africa. Data suggest that c.21 % of the wild population is being harvested annually, and in addition forest loss during 1990-2000 was estimated to be particularly high in Côte d'Ivoire (31%) and Nigeria (26%). The total number birds extracted from the wild during the period 1982 to 2001 may well have been over 1 million (A. Michels in litt. 2012), with perhaps some 100,000 birds per year being captured in Cameroon during the late 1990s and early 2000s (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2012). The rate of decline is hard to quantify, but given the massive level of capture for trade and the high levels of forest loss in parts of the range a decline of 30-49% in three generations (47 years) may be a conservative estimate.
Although typically inhabiting dense forest, they are commonly observed at forest edges, clearings, gallery forest, mangroves, wooded savannah, cultivated areas, and even gardens (Juniper and Parr 1998), but it is not clear whether these are self-sustaining populations. At least in West Africa, the species makes seasonal movements out of the driest parts of the range in the dry season. It is highly gregarious, forming large roosts at least historically containing up to 10,000 individuals (Juniper and Parr 1998). Feeding takes place in smaller groups of up to 30 birds and the diet consists of a variety of fruits and seeds, while the nest is in a tree cavity 10-30 m above ground (Juniper and Parr 1998). Nesting is usually solitary, but can take place in loose colonies, for example in Principe, while the breeding season varies across the range (Juniper and Parr 1998).
It is one of the most popular avian pets in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East due to its longevity and unparalleled ability to mimic human speech and other sounds. Demand for wild birds is also increasing in China, and increased presence of Chinese businesses in central Africa (particularly for mining, oil and logging) may increase illegal exports of this species (F. Maisels in litt. 2006, H. Rainey in litt. 2006). From 1982 to 2001, over 657,000 wild-caught individuals of both erithacus and timneh (the vast majority erithacus) entered international trade (UNEP-WCMC 2005). Considering estimates for pre-export mortality, the number of birds extracted from the wild during this period may well have numbered over 1 million (A. Michels in litt. 2012). In the late 1990s and early 2000s Cameroon exported an annual quota of 10,000 birds; estimates that c90% of trapped birds died before reaching Douala airport suggest that some 100,000 birds per year were being captured in Cameroon during that period (F. Dowsett-Lemaire in litt. 2012). Official statistics give exports of 367,166 individuals from Cameroon in the period 1981-2005, and the country accounted for 48% of exports between 1990-1996 (Waugh 2010). Up to 10,000 wild-caught birds from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are apparently imported into South Africa each year (S. Boyes in litt. 2011). Because it concentrates in traditional roosting, drinking and mineral lick sites, it is especially vulnerable to trapping pressure. Habitat loss is undoubtedly having significant impacts, particularly throughout West and East Africa. In addition to capture for international trade, there is an active internal trade in live birds for pets and exhibition (McGowan 2001, Clemmons 2003, A. Michels in litt. 2012). The species is also hunted in parts of the range as bushmeat and to supply heads, legs and tail feathers for use as medicine or in black magic (Fotso 1998, McGowan 2001, Clemmons 2003, A. Michels in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Underway
As a result of concerns about international trade, P. e. princeps was put on CITES Appendix I in 1975, and the remainder of the species was put on CITES Appendix II with all Psittaciformes in 1981 at the request of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In 1994, the P. e. princeps CITES listing was removed due to lack of evidence that it is a valid subspecies. Due to concern about the effects of the large numbers of this species traded, it was the subject of a CITES significant trade review, in which it was listed as of "possible concern" (Inskipp et al. 1988). The Animals Committee of CITES recommended a two-year ban from January 2007 in Cameroon. For a further two countries - Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo - the Committee has recommended that quotas should be halved to 4,000 and 5,000 birds respectively. The species occurs in a number of protected areas. Conservation Actions Proposed
Ensure that proposed trade restrictions are implemented. Monitor wild populations to determine ongoing trends. Consider banning trade in Congo and DRC, as both countries are lacking the necessary capacity to manage it (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Extend captive breeding efforts to both meet avicultural demands and assist with reintroduction and supplementation efforts.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Collar, N. J. 1997. Psittacidae (Parrots). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 280-477. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.
DÃ¤ndliker, G. 1992. The Grey Parrot in Ghana: a population survey, a contribution to the biology of the species, a study of its commercial exploitation and management recommendations.
Dandliker, G. 1992. Le Perroquet Gris (Psittacus erithacus) en GuinÃ©e: evaluation des populations, contribution Ã la biologie, Ã©tude de l'exploitation commerciale et recommendations pour la gestion. Report sur le projet CITES S-30. CITES Secretariat, Geneva.
Fotso, R. 1998. Survey status of the distribution and utilization of the Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) in Cameroon.
Fry, C. H.; Keith, S.; Urban, E. K. 1988. The birds of Africa vol III. Academic Press, London.
Gatter, W. 1997. Birds of Liberia. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.
Inskipp, T.; Broad, S.; Luxmoore, R. 1988. Significant trade in wildlife: a review of selected species in CITES Appendix II, 3: Birds. IUCN & CITES Secretariat, Cambridge, U.K.
Juniper, T.; Parr, M. 1998. Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.
McGowan, P. 2001. Status, management and conservation of the African Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus in Nigeria. CITES Secretariat, Geneva.
Steve Boyes. 2013. Unsustainable Grey Parrot Trade in South Africa. National Geographic Explorer"s Journal.
UNEP-WCMC. 2005. CITES trade database.
Waugh, D. 2010. Recent trade, capture of wild African Grey Parrots. AFA Watchbird 37(1): 43-45.
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Text account compilers
Bellamy, D., Boyes, S., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Gilardi, J., Hall, P., Hart, J., Hart, T., Lindsell, J., Michels, A., Phalan, B., Pomeroy, D. & Rainey, H.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Psittacus erithacus. Downloaded from
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This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
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