Poicephalus FAQ

Brown Head Cape Jardine

Meyers Red Bellied Senegal

This is the beginning of a FAQ collected by the Poicephalus List. Currently this FAQ consists of only one question, but is perhaps the most important:

Question: Are there differences in personality or pet quality between the different Poicephalus species?

As answered by:

The Jardine FAQ which was also complied by many of the same people, has a complete list of questions and answers. For feeding, health, caging, etc. it is recommended that you also consult it.


From Jean:

The Senegal parrot: Senegals love you loving them.

Senegals as pets are very charming, endearing birds. They are affectionate and funny. Some can learn large vocabularies and are willing to be handled by anyone. Others will, if coaxed, learn only a few words. Intense is a word a lot of people use in describing them. They love you loving them; the world revolves around them. A senegal is a "me" bird. They definitely have a good time playing, but they want their adoration from you too. Senegals adore their person and demand the same in return. They find mischievous ways of getting into things, almost as if to get your attention. You can almost see the little mind working. I love them because of the intenseness they have.

Senegals can all of a sudden freak out and become very fearful. These are being referred to as the "phobic" Senegals. No one seems to know why they just all of a sudden do this, and many behaviorists are searching for the answer. With time and understanding they do seem to overcome it. Finding the cause can be very difficult.

I recommend them as a great first bird. I do not recommend them for young children.

The Meyer's: They love loving you.

The Meyer's to me are soft birds. Some people call them shy, but I think soft is a better word. They do not seem to be as athletic or play as hard as some of the others - more to the refined, easy going, roll with the flow type of bird. They are just waiting for the moment to be allowed to love you. They love loving you. They like toys along the lines of puzzles and things to work and study. Meyer's seem to enjoy working on knots in rawhide for endless amounts of time or trying to see why the little bell stays in the plastic cage. Meyer's are not the best talkers of the bunch, although some have been known to be outstanding. They seem better at sharing their person than the Senegals. Meyer's radiate love; they are the happiest when they can be loving you. They don't talk as well as the Senegals, but some do talk well. I love them for the love they radiate.

I recommend them for young adults about 10 years old and up and also for families with small children and common sense.

Red Bellieds: The clowns of the group

They are happiest playing and acting silly. Red Bellieds are show offs, including in front of company. They are one of the only parrots that don't just clam up and will talk (even jabber) in front of strangers. Of the poicephalus, I think they are one of the best talkers. Red Bellieds have gotten a reputation of being on the nippy side. I believe early on we had a lot of insecure breeding birds, and their nervousness became apparent in the babies. I do not see as much nippiness as I once did. I recommend them for adult families, not small children.

The Brown Headed: The blind date - not much on looks but what a great personality.

Brown Heads are very close to the Meyer's in personality. If you are happy with a plain looking bird and don't have to have all the flash and color, you can't go wrong with a Brown Headed parrot. I have heard reports they can be similar to the Senegal in their possessiveness, but I have not found this to be the case. Their talking ability is somewhere between a Meyer's and a Senegal. I recommend them for young adults and families with small children and common sense.

The Jardine's: The Amazon of the poicephalus.

Js are the Amazons of the Africans, without the screaming and mating aggression. Plain and simple, they just love being alive. They live for life. They play constantly and hard, just for the sheer joy of doing it. They can entertain themselves for endless hours. They love being cuddled and scritched, hopping around, chasing things and swinging. When they know they have been bad they have this little John Wayne walk, kind of sideways, and look at you with a cocked head. One of their big drawbacks is that they play dead - takes years off of me. Most seem to enjoy being on their backs, on the bottom of cage, in food cup, and on their perch while holding onto the cage with one foot. (Ed.: for a picture, see http://www.wingscc.com/aps/images/pj-jp1.jpg) They can be fairly good talkers - the voice quality can be almost as good as a grey, but they usually don't use the good voice, but a more birdlike one. They love you, just for the pleasure of it. Jardine's are just happy to be alive birds - no purpose, just here and enjoying it. They love just hanging out too. I love them for their love of life.

I recommend them for families and young adults.

The Cape parrot: The gentle giant

Cape parrots are very gentle, affectionate birds. Some liken it to a cockatoo, without the demands of the cockatoo. They are fairly quiet and unobtrusive when kept as a pet; breeders on the other hand can be very vocal and almost obnoxious. They are capable of entertaining themselves with the simplest of things, much the same as a Meyer's, and also swing and play like the Senegals. I have found their talking ability to be limited to a few words and phrases. Perhaps because of their bigger size they seem to be very deliberate and purposeful in their movements and mannerisms. Although I do sell a few of my males as pets, at this time in aviculture, I believe they should be put in other breeding situations.

I personally can't praise one Poicephalus species over the others. It really depends on what YOU want or like in a bird.

Jean "The African Queen" Pattison (FL)
Click to email Jean Pattison

From Gladys:

My husband and I have a small aviary, and we specialize in African birds only. We raise Timneh grays, Senegals, Brownheaded, Redbellied, Meyers, Jardines, and Cape Parrots. I handfeed all the babies, so I am well versed in the tempermental quirks and foibles in all of them. (no capes yet, darn it !)

I'll begin by stating that there are exceptions to any and all of the generalities that I offer from my observations. African parrots in general tend to be less raucous than your South Americans, or Aussies, which I truly appreciate, having known, and loved many birds of both continental groupings. The noise level in our house is quite tolerable, really.

Our most popular poicephalus is the Senegal. I find senegals to be very personable little creatures. They are very active and acrobatic, and are inclined to be little clowns. They can be a trifle bossy, but it can be overcome with a bit of common sense. As far as speaking goes, some of them speak very well indeed. Of all the people to whom I have sold Senegal babies who keep touch, all of their birds have learned to talk. Some of the birds have bonded to one person to the exclusion of all others, but I'd have to say that most of them will be friendly to other people than their "special person." I have never heard of a Poicephalus actually attacking a spouse or boy\girlfriend to fend them off of their person. I know Amazons do it, but I've never heard of a Poicephalus doing so.

Brownheaded are the sweetest, most adorable little babies, but I find them to be very sensitive and high strung in comparison to the senegals. I don't recommend them to families with small noisy children. They are nowhere near as flashy as the rest of the poicephalus gang, but they can make up for a lot with their sweet natures. I find that some Brownheaded have a tendency to hold grudges. If you hurt or offend your little buddy you can be a long time getting over it. I would consider the Brownheaded to be especially good talkers. In fact, one of our daddy Brownheaded fooled me into thinking that a strange woman was in our house calling out to my youngest son. I ran full tilt about half way down the hall before I realized that not only was my child at school, but the voice I was hearing was a good imitation of my own. Brownheaded are great in the child and female voice tones.

Meyers parrots are another bird that does best with adults without little kids. They are rather high strung, but, oh so sweet! My own personal pet is an adorable little five year old Meyers. She can't say a word, but is fluent in cockatiel and conure. (only not so loud.) She is a real cuddle bug, and a glutton for attention. I do know a few Meyers parrots who talk, but they tend to have small vocabularies, and tend to be difficult to understand. They are mostly green, with a gray head, but have yellow on their shoulders, and also on their foreheads after their first molt, and their backs are blue, under their wings.

Redbellied are interesting little characters. They are spunky, and very active. Their personalities are perky and playful. They tend to try and dominate other birds, and demonstrate this by chewing off the tails of their rivals, be they other redbellies or other poicephalus. We have had this happen time and again. On the other hand, they are extremely clever with their toys, and talk nearly as well as the brownheads. We have two little female redbellies in our dining room who actually carry on short conversations with one another. One day Jazzy said (with indignation) "It's not funny" to which Rusty replied "Ha, ha, ha!" They obviously get their scripts from our kids. They are a lovely dove gray, that has the slightest hint of light brown to it, and they have ruby colored eyes. The chest of a male is a shade darker than pumpkin. A female will start out as orange as a male, but will lose all but a faint ghost of orange over a gray chest. They both are a springy green from just before their legs, and down past the vent.

Last, but certainly not least, are the Jardines. Jardines are just a little smaller than a timneh gray, and are the embodiment of psitticine charm. I am just reaching the weaning stage of my very first Jardines baby, so I know less about them than the others. However, we have owned two mature pairs for nearly two years. I find them delightful, even though I can't handle them. They are playful and very talkative, and very bright. Everyone in our family is head over heels in love with Tesla, the baby Jardines. He is the biggest cuddle bug I have ever seen. He "courts" anyone who takes him out to play, and seems to love everyone. He's still a little clumsy, which is actually pretty cute, and is trying to verbalize already. It's still very garbled, but he's trying. It is unusual for a parrot to speak much before they are six months to a year old, which is when most parrots develop their speech ability. He's the most fetching little chap I've ever known, and that is saying alot, indeed, since I feel that all of our babies are fabulous! Jardines parrots are one of the most strikingly beautiful of all the Africans. Their wingbacks are sort of checkered bright green and black. They have a ridge of red emerging from under the wing along the edge of the wing. The rest is bright green with red "garters" around the bottoms of their leg feathers, and their foreheadshave splashes of red, and or orange, and or yellow on a mature bird. Babies have just a suggestion of red above the beak where the head feathers begin. They have their eyes outlined by a ring of white skin. Gorgeous!

While biting can be a problem with any species of bird, I have found it to be far less so with the African species. Adult African parrots do not discipline their young by biting, nor does biting have a role in courtship, as with South American birds . Biting is purely for purposes of aggression in Africans. While every baby parrot I have ever known goes through a biting stage, (just as people, dogs, and cats do) it need not be a long drawn out process. Make your response as undramatic as you can, and avoid flinching away if at all possible. Just extricate yourself as smoothly as possible, and blow a sharp blast of air in their face, and say "No." in as normal, but definite way as you can. Then time out in the cage. Ignore them for a while at least. If you flinch violently or shout, they could get to enjoy pushing the button that gives them such a dramatic payoff. You can also distract them with toys, or food to get their minds on better things, but not as bribery. The bottom line is that you do not want biting to work for them.

Gladys Prouty

From Stan:

I get people asking me about Poicephalus parrots a lot. As with any pet there ARE things that people need to ask themselves:

How much time do I have to spend with a pet bird?

How much space do I have?

How big a cage can I afford? ( This one can be a little misleading if the cage is only some place the bird spends it's night time.)

(FORGIVE the generalizations below. Birds are all unique and there are exceptions to every rule. My response is also tainted by the experiences I have had. Others may not share those experiences. I guess this is my disclaimer notice!)

The answers to the questions help determine the type of bird one chooses. If you live in an apartment where space is at a premium and the neighbors are picky, I'd recommend a Lesser Jardines. They love to play and are quiet birds - relatively speaking - and can handle increased alone times if you are away a lot during the day. Senegals are a lot like that as well and are even smaller.

Meyers parrots can be extremely charming and good birds for apartment dwellers as well. They are small and unassuming, but, in my opinion, require a significant amount of daily attention to maintain their sweetness.

If you have a little more space and want to spend more time with the bird, it's hard to beat a Greater Jardines.

I think all birds tend to have a favorite person. Everyone else is tolerated. Some do a whole lot better job at that than others. African Greys are notorious for being one person birds. I think the Poicephalus tend to be more accepting but again, it is an individual thing.

For my money, the best thing to do is to not be too hung up on a particular genus, but instead look for a bird whos personality is one you can live with and grow close to.

Stan Esther
Stan Esther's Feathers BabyBirdz@aol.com

From Cathy:

I never thought I'd ever be able to own another parrot. Years ago I tried two different times to have a Yellow Nape Amazon as a pet. I ended up having to get rid of them because to their screams. :-( I still think they are wonderful birds, but I've come to accept the fact I can never own one. Noise is a BIG factor for me.

About five years ago I bought my first Senegal. Little did I know how the Poicephalus Parrots would open a whole new world for me! The African Bird Bug bit and I finally found what I had been searching for. Starting with Senegals adding Meyers, Red Bellies, Jardines and African Greys.

Several of my paris I bought as unweaned babies so I could get to know them and they could get to know me. To me all babies are fun! To watch babies grow from something so small is truly a miracle.

The first chicks I raised were Senegals. Senegals to me have lots of energy. They seem to enjoy activity. Being in the den with kids bouncing balls or having five to six teenagers (all strangers) doesn't seem to bother them. With a Senegal there's never a dull moment. My first Senegal learned to climb and hang underneath his cage. The first time he did this, I must have spent forty five minutes searching and calling for him. In tears I went to sit down in a chair beside his cage when I heard "Spanky...Spanky.." I know he enjoyed watching me looking under chairs, curtains and pacing by his cage! They are very creative. Senegals to me enjoy playing with toys and hanging upside down. They love baths. Food is always favorite. Mine were always eager to try anything. Senegals seem to understand when things really get busy and they don't get their "one on one" time. Often they will come looking for you to remind you it's time for loving. I've had some that talked and some that never said a word. I do know of some who for no apparent reason hold a grudge, both towards "that special person" or a family member. It takes a long time to overcome and occasionally it never was resolved.

Meyers to me are more delicate than a Senegal, like comparing a ballerina to a tomboy. Meyers are snuggly and soft. They truly enjoy snuggling and having their heads rubbed. They just seem to love being loved. I feel they are more sensitive to what's going on arround them. They hang upside down and swing back and forth. They don't seem to get as involved playing with toys. I have had a couple that picked up a few words but they don't talk often. I don't think they are as understanding as Senegals when times really get busy. Mine love baths. Seldom is a new food refused but they might not want it the next time. They seem to prefer one or two people. They don't seem comfortable with a lot of strangers.

I have never hatched Red Bellies here. I have finished weaning some of mine. My males were pretty good talkers. They enjoy playing with toys. It's not unusual to see them rolling over in their cage. They are quite creative when playing with each other. I had one female who considered herself to be the welcoming committee. I do think they are sensitive to what is going on arround them. Mine were much more timid around strangers than my other Africans. My Red Bellies really didn't enjoy a bath. New foods were not easily accepted.

Jardines for me have been just plain "FUN". Some are more vocal than the other Africans I have. They pick up sounds and tunes quite easily. I have one that has picked up words very easily. Another one seems to talk with his mouth closed. Playing is a second nature for Jardines. It's not unusual for me to see them playing in their acrylic squares or lying on their backs. Strangers don't seem to bother them. I had one female that if there was someone she didn't like (my DAD) she'd fluff up and make it quite clear to stay clear! My Jardines seem to enjoy being where the action is. Kids with balls or roller blading through the den don't seem to bother them. When it comes to "one on one" Jardines are ready anytime! Mine love having their heads and necks rubbed. If I get distracted and stop rubbing mine will snuggle closer to my neck and rub their head against my face, as a reminder..."I'm still here"! (I know you're not supposed to allow any bird on your shoulder, but I do with a lot of mine). Jardines love to eat! Fruits seem to be their favorite - both dried or fresh fruit. Jardines seem to understand when things get really busy. One look into those beautiful eyes and I'm mush! I open the cage door, and it's time for kisses!

Choose one...I can't! They all are special and have something unique to offer. As for the pet quality, I believe the amount of time you spend and the way you handle your new bird really decides what kind of companion you will have.

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Last updated August 12, 1998