When I was a boy my dad had budgies and finches and let me help hand rear the young.
He always told me a tale about an African Grey Parrot.
He said to me, “Son if you ever get a parrot get an African Grey, they’re the best”.
Well, 6o years later, and after a lot of research, we collected our 12 week old Grey in July 2018.
She was born 17th April, and on the way to see her for the first time we came up with her name – Bella Blackburn.
We had a lovely drive back to our static van in North Yorkshire, and Bella settled in really well.
With love, care and monitoring, we slowly introduced her to our family and pets, taking her on holiday for a week and giving her plenty of attention.
The Grey have black eyes from when they’re born until about six months when they change to cream outer and a black pupil.
The breeder told me when I collected her that I had a good talker – it is not true that they all talk for Britain.
People have asked the difference between the male and the female and whether one talks more than the other.
Both sexes talk but the only way you can prove the sex is to have a DNA test done. I looked into it but it meant plucking feathers out of her stomach that had blood on so they could test it properly. I was not prepared to put Bella through that ordeal, so to me and Ruth she is Bella.
They say that the Grey will start to speak at 12 months old, but some start earlier. The reason for this is the vocal cord in her neck has to form.
It was a shock when she said her first word four days before her 1st birthday.
From that day, I started a book to record what she said.
Between April 2018 to January 2019 she spoke 135 separate sentences, nursery songs, whistles and noises.
They have their first molting around 12 months, but Bella was late and it lasted about four months.
Molting is a very special time.
The feathers fall out all the time, and when it comes to the flight feathers they lose one either side each day so that they can still fly.
They also can mimic any animal and it is believed they are that clever they can ward off a potential threat by doing the sound of a predator.
They are a flock bird so when Bella came to us we became her flock.
The first week we had her we were getting ready for our tea. Bella was sitting on her perch when Ruth passed me my tea, and as Ruth sat down Bella climbed down from her perch and started to eat hers too, just as it had said she would in my research.
On Sunday of each week I would get her book out with her words in and start new ones for that week. For a sentence or song of about six to eight words, it would take her about five days to say the first part then she would join it together and a day later would say the whole thing perfectly.
Today she is on 230-ish different phrases, sentences or rhymes. SHe can mimic animals from an owl, cat, dog, and a bee – she will do them all one after each other. When Ruth says “What do you want for tea?” Bella replies “Omelette, pasta, sweetcorn, peas, cabbage, beans, and pea pods” plus more.
She is still a baby so what she will be like in a few years I can only wonder.