Posted: April 18, 2008, 12:00 a.m. PST
Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, April 2004 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
White-capped Pionus are the smallest of the Pionus species. As their name implies, they have a patch of white feathers above their cere. They have the characteristics that distinguish Pionus from other parrot species: a triangle of red vent feathers under their tail and a wide, fleshy eye ring.
Their colors are muted and much less brilliant as youngsters than they are later in life. In good light, mature white caps are a riot of iridescent blue, gold and green. Much about them is subdued and quiet, except their personalities. Among Pionus, these small birds are the most feisty.
I asked white-capped Pionus owners what set these birds apart? Pionus owners found these 10 traits in common:
Pionus wheeze when frightened. The sound is like an attack of asthma, which may startle those unfamiliar with this behavior. Some Pionus owners have never heard the sound, as it is a rare occurrence among pet Pionus that are exposed to a wide variety of things in their daily lives. Allison’s female Pionus, Sophie, wheezed, most memorably, when someone moved a lamp and its cord wriggled on the ground.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc
White-capped Pionus are the smallest Pionus.
Expect feisty behavior. As Barbara reports about her 18-month-old white-capped Pionus, “His name is Spunky, and it fits him very well. He is sometimes cautious but rarely is frightened of things.”
White-capped Pionus look for trouble and are willing to take control if you relinquish it. When you’re raising a white cap, establish rules and set boundaries. Make an effort to socialize your bird. When Pionus are given up by their owners, it’s often for aggressive behavior they’ve developed from a lack of play, love and discipline.
Helen has three such birds that she adopted into her home. She explains what happened in their first homes: “I have a 2-year-old male whose previous owner had a baby, and the bird was ignored and she lost control. The bird became quite territorial and possessive, he started biting and attacking.” In his new home, he tussles with two other Pionus and gets flight time and play time.
Helen said of her three white-capped Pionus, “I’ve often thought of them as crows — they will steal and hide anything! All of mine are quite aggressive most of the time, that is why they were given up. I have chosen to leave them to their own personalities and not try to ‘rehab’ them. Well, initially I tried, but they drew blood one too many times, so I told them to just go ahead and ‘be birds’ and I would enjoy them from a distance. I wish you could see them in full flight in the house. The colors are just beautiful.”
Shy around others. You can’t expect your white-capped Pionus to be the life of the party when you have guests visiting. Most owners reported that their birds were shy at first when meeting new people. They do warm up, if properly introduced.
According to Kim, Twinkie is shy around new people but will step up for most of them without aggression. It makes a difference to socialize your white cap so that it is used to being around people. Allison’s Sophie talks to their cat and makes occasional trips to Sunday school to visit with children. Many white cap owners remark that their bird has a favorite person and dislikes some people.
Sleep is important. Your Pionus will appreciate the opportunity to get a good 11 or 12 hours sleep every night. Barbara’s Spunky “sometimes climbs in his cage and closes the door to let us know he’s ready to sleep.” You know how you feel without enough sleep – grouchy and irritable. The same is true of your bird.
Showering is fun! Pionus appreciate showering with their people or being misted regularly to take good care of their gorgeous feathers. Sometimes a light mist is enough shower, while at other times they like to get soaked to the skin. Gayle, who has a 10 to 15-year-old female white-capped Pionus, stated, “She loves to hang upside down on her cage and spread her wings out as far as she can. She will do sort of a dance until I get tired of spraying her.”
Barbara’s Spunky likes to as well and, as she says, “The only thing he doesn’t like is getting out. He loves for us to blow him dry, and he vocalizes very loudly when we do it.”
Veggies can be treats and toys. Pionus love to eat, and they have to watch their waistline. They love nuts, eggs and other high-fat foods, but these are best served as occasional treats.
Fortunately, white-capped Pionus also love to eat vegetables and some fruit. Gayle’s Tommy Girl eats most things. Barbara has a long list of the veggies and fruits her Pionus Spunky enjoys: veggies: kale, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, snow pea pods, carrots, celery, black-eyed peas and Granny Smith apples. For entertainment, white cap owners reported that skewering veggies on a kabob was a favorite toy.
White-capped Pionus are not champion talkers, but they do often talk. Their voice is described as garbled, soft or robotic. Both males and females talk, according to their owners.
Helen said of her talking male white cap, “He sings ‘Bogie, Bogie Boo, I love you.’ The ‘I love you’ part is hard to understand, but the ‘Bogie, Bogie Boo’ is outstanding.” Allison’s 4-year-old female white cap uses language appropriately and has a special name for her mom, whom she calls “Chili pepper.”
Dangle those toys! Provide your Pionus with toys to hang on, wooden toys to chew on and baskets or boxes of toys to pick up and drop, a favorite Pionus activity. When asked about toys, Helen remarked, “If it dangles and swings in the air, it is theirs!” Gayle said that Tommy Girl actually likes cockatiel-size toys. Spunky has a toy box, “He can perch on the side of the toy box. He picks out his favorite toy and climbs up to the back of the couch and chews on the toy. When he drops it, he comes back down, gets another and starts the process all over again.”
Many white-capped Pionus owners reported that their birds’ vocalizations were clicks and clucks, with rare screaming activity. That’s a plus, and makes it possible to keep these parrots in apartment-living situations.
White-capped Pionus are independent by nature. They can play quietly on their own. Favorite activities are sitting on or in their cages and watching activities around them. A white-capped Pionus can be very happy just being in a room with you, as you go about other activities.
The type of physical touching they enjoy most is having their head and neck scratched. When they’re molting, a pet owner is likely to be solicited to provide quite a bit of this activity.
Among Pionus species, these white-capped Pionus are the most feisty.