African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus)

Seeing wild African Grey Parrots is a holy grail for many people.  They are not only popular as pets worldwide but famous for their intelligence due to Dr Irene Pepperberg’s work with Alex.  I had such high hopes for Kakum as they are commonly reported being seen there and Ghana is a very easy country to get to and travel in.  Many people see them from the Canopy Walkway but we didn’t.  I was really disappointed as they were the main reason to visit Ghana.  In the evening, back at the lodge, I spoke with the guide of the organized group who were staying there and he said they saw them around 7am-ish from the car park at Kakum.

The next day, we went back and staked out the car park.  At first we saw lots of hornbills flying past but no Grey Parrots.  Our guides from the previous day showed up for work and sat with us while waiting for their clients to arrive.  Around 7:30, I was ready to give up and go back to the lodge when one of the guys said “There”!   He was pointing at a clearing through the trees over the park.  Two Grey Parrots in flight!  I grabbed my camera, said a quick Hail Mary and took aim.

IMG_6090I missed!  They were flying towards the left side of the photo and had cleared the tall tree in the middle and were heading behind the thick clump of trees on the left.  A blink of an eye, they were gone!  That was all I was going to get for African Grey Parrots after traveling all this way.  That’s how birding is, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.  In a way I was lucky, at least I DID see them for a split second, but I had wanted more time to enjoy watching them and their behaviour.

The best I can do are these photos I took at Birds of Eden, South Africa.    Many more African Grey photos can be found in the links below.

IMG_3526 IMG_3193

For birders, seeing wild African Grey Parrots has the same problem as most African birds.  A potentially large range but many areas difficult to get to or unsafe to travel in.  Independent birders should try Kakum but expect the sighting to be brief and far away.  Uganda has better possibilities now that World Parrot Trust has released some Grey Parrots who were rescued from a poacher, rehabilitated and released at Ngamba Island, a chimpanzee sanctuary located in Lake Victoria.  Kibale National Forest in Uganda is also a good place to see them.

AG RangeLEARN MORE ABOUT AFRICAN GREY PARROTS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Rainforest Alliance

African Geographic Magazine – This is a must read article about the tragedy of wild African Grey Parrots being captured by poachers and the horrible fate they suffer.  Eco-tourism encourages locals to leave the birds in the wild!

VIDEOS

There is no shortage of videos showing wild African Grey Parrots!  Many are filmed by researchers who can access areas that independent travelers would have trouble with.

These first two are what I was hoping to see in Kakum.  The videographer doesn’t say where he filmed them but this may be because he is protecting them from poachers.

World Parrot Trust Documentary – shows actual poaching technique which is horrible to see!

The journey to freedom of rescued African Grey Parrots.  They start out in such heartbreaking condition, the trapping methods and transportation by poachers is extremely cruel.

  • John Uscian

    I very much wanted to see African Grey Parrots on my first trip to Uganda in 2007. I remember hiring a guide for my time on the Sesse (sp?… I can’t remember how to spell Sesse) Islands in northwestern Lake Victoria. I did see them flying well overhead and I did get one rather unremarkable photograph of one in flight (you can tell it;s and African Grey Parrot), but they were difficult to get. Had to settle for Black and White Pied Hornbills and Pied Kingfishers. The guide was a nice guy but, looking back on it, he was not very good. We did get kind of close to them while they occasionally roosted in trees on the island during the day. But most of the Grey Parrots were seen in the morning flying well overhead from the islands to the mainland, where, presumably, they foraged for the day. They returned in the evening and that was when I also saw them coming back to the islands.

    I also went to Birds of Eden in South Africa in 2008. Great place, no? Thanks for sharing all of your adventures.

    Cheers,

    John