Much of the grey’s appeal comes from its talking ability. It is among the best talkers in the parrot family, able to repeat words and phrases after hearing them just once or twice. This bird reaches full talking ability around a year of age, and most individuals become capable mimics much earlier.
Not only will a grey develop an outstanding vocabulary, research has shown that this species can come to understand what it’s saying. The most famous CAG, Alex, and his colleague, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, may be the reason for the popularity of this species, and certainly for its high profile. Alex and Dr. Pepperberg worked together for 30 years at Brandeis University until his unfortunate death in 2007, due to a catastrophic event associated to arteriosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). In their three decades of research, Dr. Pepperberg taught Alex to recognize and identify objects, colors, and shapes. Alex could also understand the concepts of same and different, category, and could even count objects. Though Alex was on his way to much more complex thought processes, including how to read, his fellow African greys Griffin and Arthur (AKA “Wart”) are continuing to work with Dr. Pepperberg trying to reach the point that Alex had reached and even further.
But just because greys are smart and may choose to talk rather than scream, it’s a mistake to believe that they aren’t noisy. They aren’t as loud or persistent as some of the South American species, but they will learn household sounds and use them tirelessly to the dismay of guardians. Imagine the microwave beeping incessantly, or a cellphone ringing madly without the luxury of turning it off.