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Meet The Poicephalus Parrots

Check out the birds that make up the Poicephalus parrots: Senegal parrots, Meyer’s parrots, the red-bellied parrots, the brown-headed parrots, the Jardine’s parrots and brown-necked parrots.

Sally Blanchard

Senegal parrot

There are six species in the Poicephalus genus that are kept as pet companions: the Senegal, Meyer’s, red-bellied, brown-headed, Jardine’s and brown-necked parrot (commonly referred to as the Cape or UnCape parrot). The Senegal parrot is the best-known.

Four Poicephalus parrot species are about the same size: the Senegal, Meyer’s, brown-headed and red-bellied parrot. While they may have some of the same personality traits, they are quite different in many ways. Some have that little dog complex and are full of themselves, while others within the different species can be quite sensitive.

Owners describe their Poicephalus companions as cuddly and curious, often adding that they have a lot of spunk. Most of these parrots are generally quiet, but there are certainly exceptions. In order to stay tame and happy, Poicephalus parrots need to be handled in a structured and consistent, gentle, nurturing manner. Parrots that have been left without attention for long periods of time may need to be patiently re-tamed.

Some Poicephalus have a tendency to be one-person birds, so each person in a Poicephalus’ life should spend one-on-one time handling the parrot in a gentle, playful manner. 

I have worked with phobic birds of all four of these species. I would say that the red-bellied parrot has the greatest potential to develop fearful behavior. I believe that whether or not a Poicephalus develops phobic behavior has a lot to do with the way the bird is raised.

If one of these little guys shows excessive fearfulness, the best way to deal with it is to be relaxed around the bird and make no demands on it. If you are not assertive with a Poicephalus parrot, it usually comes back on its own and gets over its fearful behavior.

Generally speaking, the Poicephalus family members are pretty quiet, and excessive screaming is an unusual problem with them.

I have met quite a few Poicephalus that are good talkers, but they usually  have a funny, little, possessed-sounding voice.

Jardine’s parrots became popular after people were already familiar with the Senegal, Meyer’s and red-bellied parrot, but they became popular very quickly. The first Jardine’s parrots that I met were personality-plus, and both of them talked in the cutest voices.

The newcomer to the popularity of Poicephalus is what is commonly called the Cape parrot. The true Cape parrot is severely endangered in the wild. The parrot that is actually the most common as a pet is now called the brown-necked parrot (also known as the UnCape parrot). I have never heard anyone say anything negative about these birds.

Although they are still quite rare and expensive, I have met a dozen or so brown-necked parrots and have been delighted with each one. The ones I have met have been friendly to strangers, love to be handled and can be excellent talkers.

Although I have met a Senegal that is close to 40 years old, the average life span for the smaller Poicephalus is closer to 30 years, with the larger birds in the genus living a bit longer. It depends a great deal on a healthy immune system developed through a varied diet that includes nutritious fresh foods and quality care.    

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Posted: February 5, 2014, 6:30 p.m. PDT

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