Pionus - Red-backed Parrots
The Pionus is endemic to Central and South America.
The most commonly available pionuses in the pet trade are:
- Blue-headed Parrot,
- Maximilian's Parrot,
- White-capped Parrot, Dusky Parrot, and
- Bronze-winged Parrot..
- For a more in-depth list, please click here.
Pionus is a medium-sized parrot with a chunky body, bare eye ring, (which can vary in color) and a short tail. They are similar to Amazon parrots, but smaller. Coloration is generally subdued yet complex; under bright lighting, their feathers shimmer with iridescent brilliance. All species share a bright red patch of feathers under the tail; the scientific name of one species, the Blue-headed Pionus, (P. menstruus), refers to this.
Males and females look alike, and surgical or DNA (blood) sexing is recommendef for all Pionus species if gender needs to be confirmed for breeding purposes.
Contributing author: CTE Partridge
Pionus parrots are not known to be cuddly birds and can be described as reserved. Once they are bonded, however, they like to be preened (their heads and necks scratched). They are not particularly playful, and do not enjoy being wrestled with or flipped on their backs, but they do provide noninvasive companionship and are fascinating companion animals. When excited or frightened, birds of this genus may make a characteristic wheezing or snorting sound that is sometimes mistaken for a sign of distress. Others freeze when scared. They also have a musky or sweet odor that some people find unpleasant, but others enjoy.
They are not the best talkers -- in fact some pionuses may never learn to talk. The clarity of Pionus "speech" ranges from rather clear to words only a mother could understand. This varies greatly with individuals. Most Pionus do love to learn new and interesting sounds. . (Image: Blue-headed Pionus on Wingdow Seat - Enjoying the View)
The Pionus as Pet
Pionus parrots are regarded as excellent pets, although some species are very rare in captivity. Most commonly kept species are the Blue-headed, Maximillian (Scaly-headed) and White-Capped. Others, such as the Dusky and the Bronze-winged have become more common due to captive breeding.
Pionus parrots are known for their quiet (compared to many other parrots) and reserved natures. Unlike some other companion parrots, aviculturists have noted that they are not particularly energetic, and do not generally enjoy hands-on play (for example, being flipped on their backs), but they do provide companionship and are described as gentle and charming pets.
When excited or frightened, birds of this genus emit a characteristic wheezing or snorting sound that is sometimes mistaken for a sign of distress, or a symptom of disease. They also give off a musky or sweet odor that some caretakers find unpleasant, but others enjoy.
Pionus parrots are susceptible to obesity, vitamin A deficiency, and aspergillosis in captivity.
- Vitamin A promotes appetite, digestion, and also increases resistance to infection and to some parasites.
Please refer to "Bird Nutrition" for food items rich in Vitamin A.
Biting: The pionus parrots are not known to be biters, but they can break your skin if they are scared or startled; or simply don't want to be handled for some reason (maybe not bonded). The experienced parrot owner will be able to read their parrot's body language to know when he or she does not want to be handled. This all being said, their bites are generally not nearly as fierce as the bites of other birds and, therefore, they do make a good choice for anyone who is intiimidated by parrot beaks.
Attention: The Pionus demand less time than the larger parrots. They can be left alone during the daytime as long as they get a little attention in the morning. In the evening full attention should be given to them, for at least one to two hours, but preferably more. Like other parrots, the Pionus should be allowed to get out of its cage and enjoy out-of-cage activities. If your parrot spends a lot of time confined, please provide a large cage, lots of toys and environmental enhancements, such as leaving the TV or radio on for entertainment.
Longevity: "You & Your Pet Bird" by David Alderton states that Pionus live an average of 25 years. Pionus can live to be over 40 and often they live only 3 or 10 years due to accidents and poor nutrition.
Class: Aves ... Order: Psittaciformes ... Family: Psittacidae ... Subfamily: Psittacinae ... Genus: Scientific: Pionus ... English: Red-backed Parrot ... Dutch:Roodstuitpapegaaien ... German: Rotsteipapageien ... French: Perroquets croupion rouge ... CITES II: Endangered Species
Plum-crowned Pionus (Tumultuosus)
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