Posted: June 13, 2013, 3:15 p.m. PDT
Poicephalus parrot owners say that their birds are easy going and affectionate.
Wendy Thwaite shares her Ontario, Canada, home with six birds, including four Poicephalus — a red-belly, Jardine’s, Senegal and Meyer’s. "They all love to be loved — lots of cuddling, tickling and head rubs,” Thwaite said. "They’d take hours of head rubs if I wanted to give them that kind of attention, but they are also very good at being in or on their cage and entertaining themselves.” Her 2 1/2-year-old Senegal Tia Maria is "putty in your hands. If she is pressed up against my chest with me rubbing her head she often becomes so relaxed that she relaxes her grip and tumbles down my chest.”
Red belly Dyna came to Linda Coppedge of Florida from another home and had a biting problem that was solved with plenty of attention from her human. Now, Dyna loves to be held by her owner. "She bows her head for me to scratch it, wanting long periods of this activity,” Coppedge said.
Many Poicephalus owners remarked on how easily their pets adapt to new situations and people, though as any pet, this attitude can change. Deborah Sletten said her Senegal Kiwi lived at a pet store for eight months before she came home to Minnesota. "When we brought her home and put her in her new cage she wasn’t upset; she was more interested in everything around her,” Sletten said. "For about the first week, she let everyone in the family hold her and touch her.” Kiwi has since moved into a bigger cage and her owner says she has adapted well to this move, too. "We figured it would take her at least a week for her to even go in it, but after three days she was in the cage and happy,” Sletten said.
Although she is usually laidback, Kiwi has become a "one-person bird” and only lets Sletten hold her, she said. "Kiwi only likes me so it is hard when I have to leave for a couple of days and someone else has to take care of her.”
Lisa McMillan of California said her Meyer’s parrot enjoys meeting new people. "Smitty is always looking to have a great time and see new things,” she said. "He knows exactly what he wants to do and what he doesn’t.”
Solutions to Poicephalus behavior
Beth Bottom of Virginia agreed with many Poicephalus owners and said her parrot is usually easygoing. "Sam never fears a new toy, but wants to immediately inspect and play,” she said.
However, as with any bird, a Poicephalus may exhibit behavioral problems or become crabby when faced with sudden change or scary situations. With a little creative thinking, though, owners can turn such behavior around. Bottom taught Sam to howl along with her three dachshunds so he would enjoy joining in instead of being afraid of the loud noises. Now, Sam is just one of the pack. "He even helps me herd them outside by loudly vocalizing to any stragglers in the bunch,” Bottom said.
Florida bird owner Eva Dochstader’s birdie buddy, Albert, misses her when she goes out of town. The first time, he responded to her disappearance by nipping her husband when he tried to put him back in his cage. Since then, they have reached a solution: a telephone call from Mom when she is away. "Albert perks up, runs over to the phone, hears my voice and asks, ‘What doin’?’ Then, after the call, he will look at his daddy asking, ‘Where’s Mom?’” Dochstader said. Her voice seems to make Albert feel as if she is there with him.
Hannah Grischke of Wisconsin said her 1-year-old Jardine’s, Bird, is very territorial, causing trouble when the cleaning ladies come into his room. "Bird figured out how to open his cage door, jump to the ground and bite and chase the poor women’s feet around until they left the room!” This aggressive behavior from a usually sweet-natured parrot confused Grischke until she realized the cleaning ladies’ mistake: wearing white socks.
Thwaite also has had trouble with her feisty Jardine’s, Griffin, and said she must use a firm hand with him. "I have learned to read him — to get to know his personality, and he is best handled using soft tones when he attempts to boss me with his beak,” she said. A few gentle words, and Griffin forgets all about his desire to bite.
Katherine Bafkas of Maryland adopted her Senegal, Louie, from his third home, where he had not been out of his cage for more than a year because his owner was frightened of him. At Bafkas’ house, Louie spends most of his time outside his cage, and the two have become good friends. Bafkas said she has made mistakes of her own with Louie but has learned from them. "It took a few really good bites from him before I realized that he does not like it when I wear my hair down. I have very long, curly hair and he does not recognize me with it down,” she said. "I learned to always put my hair up when interacting with Louie.”
Every Poicephalus parrot loves a foot toy to chew on.
As with any situation, sometimes it just takes time and patience. Juhos said Fritzi went through a nippy stage when he was 2 years old, but, "Now I understand him and his body language better, and he now knows I’m his best friend.” Fritzi also had problems with Juhos’ other bird, cockatiel Figaro; Fritzi tried to bite the other bird when they first met. After getting to know each other better, though, the two are now good friends and sing and converse with each other between neighboring cages.
Chew On This
Though they seem like the perfect pet, Poicephalus parrots do have their faults, owners said. One of their potential problem behaviors is a tendency to chew everything. Providing them with options other than your personal belongings could save you the pain of witnessing their destruction.
Jane Rockley of California said she looks for new and interesting objects for Rachel to chew on so she won’t turn to the furniture. "She has never bothered anything except the vertical blinds where her window is. She bit chunks out of them!” Rockley said. Pinegar also understands her pet’s need for chewable objects and said Ariel requires "tons of toys,” while Grischke warned, "My Jardine’s likes to destroy everything! If you have a pencil or pen in your hand, he will take it away from you by any means possible.” And 8-year-old Louie keeps his human busy finding replacements for his old playthings. "He plays hard and does his best to demolish every toy I buy for him,” Bafkas said.
Jason and Catherine Conley of Maryland said their Senegal Sisco hates boredom and needs plenty of toys to play with. "That can get expensive at times,” Conley said. "Sisco has many toys on and in his cage and playgym, and he alternates between them so we don’t have to spend too much — but he gets bored with toys so easily.” One of Sisco’s favorite games is soccer with a miniature wiffle ball.
Despite their common traits, every Poicephalus is different and requires different levels of attention and exhibits different behaviors. The best way to ensure yours will be comfortable and happy in your home is to show it lots of affection right from the start, owners advise.
Thwaite said she has met some Senegal parrots that are standoffish and have a tendency to bite. The secret, she said, is to choose one as a baby that appears easygoing, and then work from there. "I can pretty much do anything with my birds and I think it is because I touched them and handled them frequently as babies and adolescents,” Thwaite said.
Hand-raising your pet not only creates a trusting relationship between the two of you, it also allows you to enjoy seeing it change as it matures. "The greatest thing about owning a baby parrot is watching them grow and explore and learn,” said Michelle Pinegar of Kansas of her brown-headed parrot, Ariel. "It is almost like watching a human child. She changes daily and is always a source of wonderment and amusement.”
Learn more about Poicephalus parrots:
Perfect Poicephalus Parrots
Poicephalus Parrot Behavior