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Play For Poicephalus Parrots

Poicephalus parrots have a passion for play, but each parrot species has different play needs. Find out how Senegal parrots, Meyer's parrots, Jardine's parrots and the other Pois like to play.

By Nikki Moustaki

Subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine The rough translation of Poicephalus means "different head" and refers to the fact that none of the heads on the nine members of this genus look the same. But to me, “different head” refers less to how these little guys look and more to how they think. If Poicephalus parrots were people they’d be like the kid Mikey in the Life cereal commercial — the picky toddler gobbles down the unfamiliar cereal without hesitation, moments after his older brothers claim that Mikey hates everything. This is Poicephalus — thoughtful, sometimes wary, but always interested in the new, especially when it comes to playtime. They like it! Hey Mikey!

Red-Bellied Parrot
Psittacosis was once known as parrot fever.

I’ve had various Poicephalus over the years, I even bred them for a while. But my closest Poicephalus friend is Jesse, my 18-year-old Meyer’s. I think I know him about as well as a long-time married couple knows each other. I know what makes Jesse tick: destruction and food, preferably at the same time.

On the surface, Jesse seems reserved and dignified, but under that cool exterior he’s about as picky as a dump truck. He’s probably also the most consistently loving and affectionate of all of my birds. From day to day and year to year, I always know what I’m going to get.

Favorite Pastimes For Poicephalus Parrots
If a Poicephalus parrot is bonded to a special human friend, regardless of its species, then the pet bird’s favorite activity is going to be hanging out with its owner. But beyond one-on-one time with a pal, here are some of the Poicephalus parrot amusing play activities:

Slam Dunk: No, Poicephalus parrot aren’t incredibly adept at basketball, but they should be “All Stars” for all of the practice they get tossing things into their water dishes. Anything that isn’t tied down gets dunked. Sure, dunking food makes it nice and soft — like Oreos into milk — but what does dunking toys do?

Chew-bacca: Poicephalus parrots love to chew, across the board. It’s the rare Poicephalus parrot that can resist the pages of a magazine or an ill-placed cereal box. These birds love to tear apart their wooden and woven-grass toys, so toys built for destruction, such as piñata toys, are great for them.

Over the years, Jesse has ruined more cookbooks than I care to mention. I like to think that he’s not making a statement on my cooking, but rather just finding the closest pile of books to “edit.”

Susan Dobrowolsky of Calif., who owns a Senegal parrot named Ozzie, knows a thing or two about the Poicephalus parrot penchant for chewing and shredding. “She loves to attack and shred palm ribbon, fiji ribbon, untreated leather, grapevine rings, albaca rope, balsa wood, soft pine wood, cajeput wood, and many sorts of available natural fibers. She leaves huge piles of debris around most days.”

You can get creative in your offerings. “I go to Goodwill and buy wooden spoons then bleach and sun dry them,” said Kim Bodary of Ariz., owner of three Senegals and one Meyer’s. “I make toys with whiffle balls attached to the spoons, tie rope to them and then hang the from their cage or hang them from the aviary ceiling near their perch. They love it!”

Interior Designers: Many Poicephalus delight in moving their stuff around. It seems that they have better aesthetics than their humans. So, along with hanging toys, offer them a lot of foot toys and other safe items that they can place where they choose.

The Poicephalus Toss: Another favorite pastime of these birds is the Poicephalus toss. A bird toy or other item that does not appear to belong in the cage or near the play area must be expelled immediately; it is usually dragged to the edge of the cage and then tossed onto the floor. This is another version of “interior design.”

How Pois Like To Play
There are three types of play for any captive bird — direct, indirect and absentee. Your bird should get some time with each type of play every day.

1) Direct play is when you handle your bird and interact with it. This includes everything from having your bird ride around on your shoulder or hand, scratching it on the neck, talking to it and encouraging play with toys, and anything else you do together that entertains your bird (nail trimming does not count!). Your bird should get a minimum of an hour of direct play a day.

If your bird isn’t the type that appreciates cuddling or handling, direct play for this bird would be sitting near the cage and talking or singing to your bird, offering it food and toys, and otherwise directly entertaining it.

2) Indirect play is when you are in the room with your bird and it is contentedly playing with its toys by itself. Perhaps you’ve just put a cup full of popcorn and bottle caps in the cage, or provided the bird with a new toy. The bird can communicate with you by its vocalizations or just be comfortable in the knowledge that you’re nearby. This way it can play contentedly and safely under your watchful eye in case you’re not sure of the safety of a new toy.

3) Absentee play: Your bird has to learn to play when you’re not around. Fortunately, most Poicephalus don’t have the least bit of problem playing up a storm when alone.

“I know my Senegal plays a lot while I’m gone because the toy box is empty each day when I come home — there’s a lot of playing that goes on when I’m home too, so I determined that Senegals just like to play!” said Vicki Johnson of Ariz., host of www.caiquecapersandmews.com.

You’ll know that your Poicephalus is playing when you’re not home if you notice a lot of wear and tear on your bird’s toys. If you’re not sure whether or not your bird is playing while you are away, get a toy that includes a roll of calculator paper, or fill a plastic food container with clean bottle caps, foot toys, sisal knots and popcorn, and see what the state of the tub is when you return home. Most likely it will be dumped out, and all of the goodies will be rearranged.

Favorite Bird Toys For Pois
A good rule of thumb in the parrot world is that you should change your bird’s toys weekly, or at least monthly, to keep it freshly interested in all of them.

“I have learned to pay attention to Ozzie’s interest level in any given toy over time,” said Dobrowolsky. “Some toys maintain her interest for months, while she is bored with others in a matter of days. I have certain toys I don’t change for quite some time to give her a sense of security, but I also continually rotate many others to keep her stimulated and engaged.”

Poicephalus love all sorts of toys, but they seem particularly interested in toys that are easy to destroy, puzzle toys and foot toys. These birds also love to climb and are quite acrobatic, so complex rope or woven vine toys usually maintain the bird’s interest.

Poicephalus Parrot Play Area
Your Poicephalus should have a play area away from its cage, especially if it is a tame family bird. Some cages are equipped with a play top, but if yours isn’t, you can place a play gym in an area where you can observe your bird while it’s out of the cage.

Most Poicephalus love their play areas and won’t wander, but there are always those individuals that feel that it’s a lot more fun climbing up the curtains or hopping down to the floor to follow you. If this is the case with your bird, make the play area fun — include more toys and more things to destroy. Feed your bird its favorite things only on the play area, too.

If your bird is a wanderer, it’s very difficult to quell that behavior. Picking the bird up positively reinforces it, but you have to pick him up if he’s wandering! You can pick him up using a stick, make no eye contact, don’t speak to him, and then return him to his cage. Repeat as necessary. This takes a lot of patience and may not work for every wanderer.

A bird as smart and sensitive as the Poicephalus will languish without something to do. Remember, you don’t have to get elaborate with your bird’s toys — sometimes even a sheet of paper provides an hour of fun!

Poicephalus Parrot Play Personalities
Senegal Parrots: The Senegal is very active at playtime and loves to move things around its play area — it’s the interior decorator of the Poicephalus. If this species doesn’t have anything to play with, it will find something, so be careful to keep valuables away from its play area! Most of all, the Senegal is happiest playing with its favorite humans.

Meyer’s Parrots: Sweet and sometimes shy, the Meyer’s loves to shred and annihilate toys and some off-limit items if they’re within its reach. Snuggling with a beloved human is this bird’s favorite pastime.

Jardine’s Parrots: The Jardine’s is hardy in its play and needs lots of toys to keep it entertained. The Jardine’s should have plenty of foot toys and things it can move around the cage. It’s also fond of toys that make noise.

UnCape Parrots: The unCape parrot is affectionate and happiest when playing with its humans. Like its Poicephalus cousins, its toys take a beating.

Brown-Headed Parrots: Young brown heads are sweet and accepting of new things, but can become shy and more reserved when they get older. They are sweet and loving to their humans.

Red-Bellied Parrots: The red-bellied parrot isn’t quite as clownish as a caique, but it’s very close. It needs a lot of toys and activity to remain happy.

For monlthy information about pet birds and parrots, subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine by clicking here.


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