17 - African Grey Subspecies Identification
African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) occupy the forests of central and West Africa. The two known subspecies of African grey parrots include P. e. erithacus, or the Congo African grey, and P. e. timneh, or the Timneh African grey, each with its own varying range. The Congo grey inhabits a range extending from Kenya to the eastern border of the Ivory Coast and the Timneh grey has a range from the eastern border of Ivory Coast to Guinea-Bissau. The habitat of African grey parrots is usually moist lowland forests, though they have been found up to 2200m in the eastern parts of the range. They are commonly observed at forest edges, clearings, mangroves, wooded savannahs, cultivated areas, and gardens. African grey parrots often visit open land adjacent to woodlands, where they roost in trees over water, sometimes roosting on islands in rivers. These parrots excavate their nests in tree hollows, sometimes choosing locations abandoned by birds like woodpeckers. In West Africa, the species makes seasonal movements out of the driest parts of the range in the dry season.
Analysis of DNA can be a useful tool when determining the subspecies to which an individual belongs. This includes identifying the source species for a resulting hybrid. In this activity, you will simulate a test that illustrates how differences in DNA sequence between two subspecies can help determine their identity.
ACTIVITY 17 – African Grey Parrot (pdf file)