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Meet The Hawk-Headed Parrot

Find out what owners and breeders have to say about hawk-headed parrots.

By Jessica Pineda
Posted: September 17, 2012, 2:45 p.m. PST

Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, June 2011 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc.

The hawk-headed parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) has a life span of 30 years and is around 14 inches in length. These parrots are uncommon in U.S. aviculture, as they are difficult to breed in captivity. As a result, few of these parrots are being bred or sold as pets.

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"The more you breed a particular species, the less wild instincts they have,” said Debbie Perrin of Feathered Playpen Playbabies of Ohio. "Hawk heads aren’t like that. They have more of their instincts. A hawk head parrot owner needs a lot of bird experience so they can understand the hormonal changes and wild behavior. When females become sexually mature, they fly at your face and charge. Even an adult hand-fed hawk head will do this because their wild instincts are so strong.”

Hawk-headed parrot
Hawk-headed parrots are native to South America.

Cheryl Brown, a hawk-headed parrot owner, said that hawk heads are not for first-time bird owners. "Even with experience, you should still do your homework about the hawk head before getting one.”

In the wild, hawk-headed parrots live in pairs or small groups of three or four birds. In a home, this can translate to a hawk-headed parrot forming a bond with only one person in the household. Georgia Fletcher said that although her hawk-headed parrot, Joseph, is wonderful around her, he can’t be trusted with others. "He will do whatever he can to attack any other human who comes into my home,” Fletcher said. "Fortunately, he is fine with other birds, just not people.”

Hawk-headed parrots are sometimes considered skittish, stand-offish birds. "I have raised hawk heads that are the most loving, nonscreaming, nonbiting, cuddly birds there are,” said Kay Mormon of Nebraska’s Exotic Birds in Fremont, Nebraska. "But any excuse, any noise, and their crest goes up. They can be a bit of a drama queen sometimes. It depends on how they were raised by their owner.”

Mormon said that young hawk-headed parrots need to be introduced to many people at a young age. "Right after they’re weaned, hawk heads need someone who’s not afraid to make them step up, or pet them and scratch their face and around their head. They need to be handled a lot by a lot of calm people, so they don’t get standoffish or scared.”

Hawk-headed parrots are not quiet birds, according to Perrin. "They have a call that sounds a lot like golden conure’s. When they get upset, they can get very loud,” she said.

But despite their wild instincts and standoffish personalities, hawk-headed owners say their parrots are great talkers and very playful. "They’re as playful as a lory. If I had to have two or three birds, they’d be on the list,” Mormon said.

"I just got a hawk head,” said Carrie Jacob Gonzalez, via the BIRD TALK Facebook page. "Her name is Rio. We got her from a rescue that was closing and we had wanted her since we first met her. She is a very intelligent bird. She is very snugly and vocal. She is equally comfortable with my husband and me. They are beautiful birds.”

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Posted: September 17, 2012, 2:45 p.m. PST

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