Poicephalus Size and Color

© Jean Pattison — The African Queen

There is a size and color for just about everyone when considering Poicephalus parrots as pets.

On the low end there is 80 grams for a pretty Meyers's hen, with trimmings of blue, turquoise or green accented with yellow. On the high side there is the un-cape parrot at 200-400 grams with its green, grey and coral, and a wash of soft wine color over the head or neck. The diminutive Meyer's is about 5 inches tall, while the un-cape parrot is 13 inches. All the other Poicephalus fall between these two, with Jardine's being around 200 to 300 grams and 10 to 11 inches tall. Much of course depends on the subspecies, which can be quite variable within the species.

The word Poicephalus, derived from Greek, means variable colored head, which is very appropriate for this Genus of parrots. The Senegal parrot is green and orange with a grey head and yellow flashing eyes. The second most common, the Meyer's parrot, is grey to soft dark brown with a blue, turquoise or green chest and splashes of yellow on the wings and head, and pumpkin orange eyes. The red-bellied parrot is fawn brown to soft grey and has a red chest on the male, while the hen is muted orange or green on the chest and they have "stop-sign" red eyes. The brown-headed parrot is quite a plain green, with a greyish head and hazel eyes, but their personality more than makes up for their lack of color.

The larger two Poicephalus, the Jardine's and un-capes, make up the last two of the pet birds. The Jardine's body color is emerald to a dirty lime green with black wing feathers. The mostly black wing feathers will have green scalloping on the wings, and high contrast melon thru every shade of orange and red-orange splashes on the head, wing and socks. The eye color is a soft brownish red. The sharp edged green scalloping on the wing feathers helps to determine the subspecies. The un-cape is olive green with a more or less grey or wine colored head, depending on subspecies. The hens when mature will have coral colored splashes on the crown, and both sexes have splashes of red on the wing and red socks. The eye color of the un-cape is so dark brown it looks black.

It is often thought eye color is a good indication of age in parrots, but this is definitely not the case with the Poicephalus. We have found, since breeding them in captivity, parent-raised youngsters will have adult eye color just a few weeks after leaving the nest.

As with any parrot, age can be quite old and we have breeding Senegal parrots well up into their late 30s still producing normal clutch sizes of healthy chicks. It is estimated most small Poicephalus could live into their 50s. Because of the rareness of the Jardine's and un-cape parrots in captivity, age is not as well documented and we assume they could live as long as African greys, perhaps even into their 70s and 80s.

Although we constantly read and hear, the bigger the cage the better, with the small Poicephalus, this may not hold true. I have found some will do well in a rather large cage, while the majority seems to feel more secure and comfortable in a smaller cage. An 18" X 18' X 20-24" tall cage works well for the small guys. With Jardine's and un-capes a larger cage will be required of course. With un-cape parrots a small macaw cage is ideal. One should always consider out of cage time, as well as how many toys occupy the cage, when considering cage size. There should be room to exercise, flap wings, and play hard. Small sleep cages are very convenient and seem to be beneficial to a birds sleep time. These cages will also serve as a carrying or travel cage and an excellent emergency evacuation cage, since it is familiar to the parrot.

Perches should be natural branches, or manufactured perches of varying sizes. If one cannot find safe wood, and wooden tree limbs that have not been sprayed with any type of chemicals, then dowel rods can be used. For small Poicephalus 1/2" up to one inch should be placed at different areas in the cage. The un-cape parrot of course will need perches that vary from one to two inches in diameter.

Feeding the Poicephalus is relatively easy. A pelleted diet used as a base seems to do these guys very well. The un-cape will need a small amount of nuts added daily, while the brown headed should not be fed high fat or protein due to fatty liver syndrome, and the Jardine's should be fed higher quantities of dark orange and green vegetables, to enhance vitamin A. Along with the pellets some clean seed and a few vegetables as treats will complete the diet for the Poicephalus.

As has been stated many times previously in other articles and publications, Poicephalus are ideal for the single parrot lover or an apartment dweller. The noise level of the Poicephalus is very mild which makes them an ideal bird when there are close neighbors.