Small African Parrots
The Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) is a Poicephalus parrot which is a resident breeder across a wide range of west Africa. There are three subspecies. They do not differ in behaviour, but only in the colour of the “vest”. In the pet trade, the nominate subspecies is the most common though all three are raised and sold as pets.
- Poicephalus senegalus senegalus (the nominate subspecies): this subspecies has a yellow vest; its native range includes southern Mauritania, southern Mali to Guinea and Lobos Island.
- Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus: this subspecies has an orange vest; its range is from eastern and northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon into southwest Chad.
- Poicephalus senegalus versteri: this subspecies has a red vest; its range is from the Ivory Coast and Ghana east to western Nigeria
Senegal Parrots are about 23 cm long, weigh about 125 to 170 gm. They have a relatively large head and beak for their overall size, and feathers form a short broad tail. Adults have a charcoal grey head, grey beak, yellow irises, green back and throat, and yellow underparts and rump. The yellow and green areas on a Senegal Parrot’s front form a V-shape resembling a yellow vest worn over green. Juveniles have dark grey, almost black, irises. Senegal Parrots are not sexually dimorphic.
Senegal Parrots live an average of approximately 25-30 years in the wild, and have been known to live for 50 years in captivity.
Hand reared Senegal Parrots are one of the most popular parrots to be kept as pets, and the most popular Poicephalus parrot. Their calls are generally high pitched whistles and squawks, but they are not as noisy as many other parrot species.
The Red-bellied Parrot (Poicephalus rufiventris) is an African parrot. It is a mostly greenish/grey bird with the green being more prominent over its lower surfaces and the grey more prominent over it upper surfaces. Adult birds have green feathers covering the upper portions of their legs, red irises and dark grey beaks. The species is sexually dimorphic; adult males have a bright orange lower chest and abdomen, whilst adult females are greenish over these lower areas. Red Bellied Parrots usually reach maturity at 12 months of age, when they will be about eight and a half inches in length.
Often considered to be the show-offs of the parrot world, the Red Bellied Parrot is often not as shy as other parrots, and some owners report that their birds will talk even more in the presence of company than they do when they are at home with people they know.
Although quieter than many parrots, Red Bellied Parrots are good talkers and can produce a variety of noises and sounds, both learned and instinctive. Although shy at times, Red Bellied Parrots are easily excited by new people and may talk excessively to attract attention! They are affectionate and loving with people they are familiar with and love attention. Once Red Bellied Parrots are acclimated, they become quite hardy. Before they are comfortable with their new handlers, they may be quite shy and some have even died flying into the mesh walls of their cages. After they settle in, Red Bellied Parrots become quite hardy and confiding.
The Brown-Headed Parrot
(Poicephalus cryptoxanthus) is a mostly green African parrot with a greyish-brown head and yellow under its wings. The adult birds have yellow eyes and juvenile birds have brown eyes.
The Brown Headed is a green bird with a brownish grey head similar to a Senegal but does not have the colored belly. It has yellow under the wings at the front which unfortunately can only be seen properly when in flight. The iris is a greyish yellow, not a bright yellow as the Senegal.
This species is also split into 3 sub species known as:
- Poicephalus cryptoxanthus cryptoxanthus: This is the nominate race ranging from eastern Zululand to southern Mozambique
- Poicephalus cryptoxanthus tanganyikae:
Comes from the east coast stretching from Kenya down through southern Mozambique
- Poicephalus cryptoxanthus zanzibaricus: This species is only found on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba
The differences between these sub species are very slight.
Hand reared birds make ideal pets and seem to be less liable to nip than the Senegal but obviously they are not as colorful. These birds tend to be a lot quieter than the other birds in the Poicephalus group. So if the slightest noise is a problem maybe this is the bird for you.
Jardine’s Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi) is also known as the Red-fronted Parrot. It is an African parrot. It is predominantly green with orange on the top of its head, top of its legs, and angle of its wings.
Jardine’s 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. 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.
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.
There are three subspecies:
- P.g. gulielmi, Black-wing Jardine’s, average between 245 and 280 grams.
- P.g. fantiensis, the Lesser Jardine’s is the most commonly available Jardine’s sub-species in the United States. Weights have been reported in a range starting at 180 grams with some nearing 230 grams. Again, hens tend to be smaller in size than males. P.g. fantiensis originates from West Africa.
- P.g. massaicus, Greater Jardine’s, weigh between 265 and 300 grams, with hens being on the low end of the scale. Some mature males have topped 310 grams. Babies have no red orange coloration on their head, and it may take up to five or six years to attain full color. Some individuals may only get a few red orange feathers, and a few will receive none. These birds originate from Eastern Africa in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) is a small (about 21 cm), stocky African parrot. Meyer’s parrots display a dull brown head, back and tail, green or blue-green abdomen, blue rump and yellow thighs.
Meyer’s parrots are native to the plateau woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. They are found in high densities in the Okavango Delta region of Botswana.
The average mature Meyer’s Parrot will measure eight inches (21 cm) and weigh between three and a half and four and a half ounces (100 – 135 grams). The wingspan of the mature Meyer’s Parrot will usually measure between five and a half and six inches (14.1 – 14.9 cm) in length. They are smaller in size than a Cockatiel.
They are relatively quiet and do not take up much space. These parrots are also sweet, fun-loving and can be taught to speak.
The Meyer’s parrot is reported to have a softer voice than many of the larger parrots, though they are still moderately noisy birds overall. In captivity they are reported to talk in some instances. There are never any guarantees your Meyer’s will speak, however, as is the case with all parrots, it is never recommended one be purchased with the expectation that it will speak. The Meyer’s Parrot is known to be more active when it does not think it is being watched. Like most parrots they love to chew, and wood is a favorite. The Meyer’s Parrot is quite popular among breeders and is second only to the widely kept Senegal Parrot. Its popularity will come as no surprise to those already familiar with the wonderful Meyer’s Parrot.