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Positively Appealing Pionus Parrots

From easy going to feisty Pionus, learn everything you need to know about Pionus parrots.

By Jan Rubidge

It was in 1993 when I got my first Pionus parrot. My sister had given me a baby Maximilian’s Pionus that she had hand-fed. I now own six out of the eight Pionus species and can attest that the Pionus is full of personality and makes a great pet bird. 

The six species that are most commonly kept as pets are the Maximilian’s Pionus, blue-headed Pionus, white-capped Pionus, bronze-winged Pionusdusky Pionus and coral-billed Pionus. The coral-billed Pionus is less likely to be found in pet stores, as it is still a bit rarer. The plum-crowned and white-headed Pionus are harder to come by, and I don’t foresee them being readily available in the pet trade for several years to come.

Call Of The Pionus Parrot
The Pionus parrot is known for its quietness, which really means it is not as noisy as other parrots. This is one good trait for the Pionus. None of my Pionus are overly noisy, but I’ve had other people tell me their Pionus screams or yells more than it should. My Pionus usually vocalize in the mornings and evening before dusk and then stop. We never know what makes one parrot scream more than another; it could be personality, or something that agitates or makes the Pionus nervous or not happy for some unknown reason.

I am often asked which Pionus species is the best to have as a pet bird, and this is a very hard question to answer because they are all great. Many people are attracted to the blue-headed Pionus because of its vivid blue coloring on the head and chest. The blue-headed Pionus is my No.1 request from people who want a Pionus. The Maximilian’s Pionus is my all-time favorite, and my second favorite is the coral-billed Pionus. Both species are similar in appearance, and they have similar personalities as well.

Pionus Parrot Personality
Choose your Pionus by what fascinates you the most about them; it might be how they look or just their great, wholesome personality! Pionus personality is a huge plus in each of these beauties! You will learn how to read your Pionus like a book, because their body language is pretty evident. You can learn their moods if you pay close attention. I find this true in most parrot species, but over the years, I’ve learned that Pionus are pretty predictable on what’s coming up next if you are around them enough. 

While I have not kept the bronze-winged Pionus or the dusky Pionus as pets, I have had the other Pionus species as pets, and the Maximilian’s Pionus and coral-billed Pionus are similar in terms of personality. The coral-billed Pionus tends to be a bit less excitable than the Maximilian’s Pionus and is not quite as aggressive; or, should I say, not as unpredictable in regard to its moods.

Dusky Pionus and white-capped Pionus are like two peas in a pod when it comes to their reputation as feisty, and it’s true. Some say that their white-capped Pionus or dusky Pionus is not feisty, but chances are their pet bird has not come to full maturity yet. Again, personality can vary widely, so each is unique in every way. Pionus are good at playing by themselves and make great companions for apartment living.

The blue-headed Pionus usually has an easy-going personality, much like the bronze-winged Pionus. They love to play like the other Pionus species. I think most owners of bronze-winged Pionus will tell you that their bronze wing loves to hang upside down like a bat. I know my bronze-winged Pionus pairs do the same.

While I tend to classify the white-capped Pionus as “feisty,” I often think the Maximilian’s Pionus should be in this classification as well, because it is like the flip of a switch. Don’t get me wrong; these are all great parrots, and none should be left out for consideration. Many people choose one that reflects their own personality.

Pionus Parrots At Home
A Pionus's cage size is important. Always buy the largest that you can afford. Generally, a size of 30-inches wide by 24-inches deep by at least an inside height of 30 inches is sufficient for any of the Pionus species. Allow room in the cage for toys, perches and food areas (including an extra dish or two for treats). Be careful, however, not to over-crowd areas so your bird can move about freely. Offer a variety of perches of wood and also a pedicure perch or two to help keep nails blunt at the ends.

Toys are important for any parrot; never deprive your parrot of play time whether it’s in or out of cage time. Favorite toys for Pionus include wood and other bird-safe items that they can chew and destroy. Plastic items are fine, too, as they need variety and texture. Hanging gyms are always fun and offer great exercise opportunities and stimulation. Toys should be the right size for your Pionus parrot; not too large or too small. Mine love to hold things in their feet to chew on, which is not only offers entertainment but foot exercise as well.

Oh how Pionus love to eat! A varied and healthy diet includes fresh vegetables and fruit along with pellets and some seed. Each parrot will establish what it likes best when it comes to veggies or fruit. Offer your Pionus a healthy selection of food, even if it is not eating it at first, because persistence pays off in time. Pionus can easily turn into junk-food junkies, so be mindful of what you share with your bird, because it will start craving certain foods if it gets too much of it.

Water is something you change often when keeping Pionus parrots, because they tend to dunk their food a lot as they eat. Two or three water changes is warranted if your Pionus is a heavy dunker. I have some that always have food in their water, and some that keep their water fairly clean. 

The life span of the Pionus is not fully known. Many believe it can be up to 40 years, but often parrots are not always kept on the best diets or conditions. Breeding age is at about 3 years of age.

The choice is yours when deciding on a parrot. Always research and find out information on the species you are interested in. Visit a breeder who has Pionus or with an avian-speciality store to know if a Pionus parrot is right for you. With a well-informed mind, you will succeed beyond your expectations if you know what you want up front. 

Wheezing Pionus
One Pionus trait that you may have heard about is “wheezing.” They do this when they are excited, scared or nervous. It sounds like a breathing problem, but it usually stops after they have calmed down. The other trait that you hear about is their musky odor; some people love this smell while others do not care for it. I am not sure if it is more predominate if the bird is excitable or if it’s always present. I rarely notice the odor anymore because I am constantly around it.

Pionus are prone to gout and aspergillosis. Of course, not all Pionus will end up getting either one, but you should read up on these health issues to become familiar with the onset of these conditions. Pionus parrots are not perch potatoes like you might have been told. They are very active and entertaining.


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