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Cape Parrot

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Is the Cape Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Levaillant's Parrot

Scientific name: Poicephalus robustus

The basics:
The critically endangered Cape Parrot is South Africa's only endemic parrot, and it is vanishing from its native land, with a current population of fewer than 1,200. If you live in the United States, and you were told that you have a Cape Parrot, you almost certainly own a different species, probably the Grey-headed Parrot (P. fuscicollis suahelicus). If you are a South African pet owner or breeder who holds the true Cape Parrot, then you need to comply with all regulations that concern the ownership, breeding, and transfer of these rare birds.

This critically endangered parrot is in crisis, with perhaps 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. This parrot seems to be highly dependent on Podacarpus or Yellow-wood trees, both for fruit and for nesting cavities. Unfortunately, these trees were also a valuable magnet to loggers, and there is very little natural forest remaining. Some of the stressed wild birds may be affected by Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. Finally, they were known in their native South Africa as an intelligent and interesting pet, causing them to be over-collected and sold, sometimes at excessively cheap prices, since people didn't realize that they were a different species from the much more common Grey-headed Parrot.

Appearance:
The true adult Cape Parrot (P. robustus) has a dull golden head, with a bright orange or reddish-pink forecrown in the females. (Sometime the male has a hint of this bright color as well.) The Grey-headed Parrot (P. fuscicollis), has a silvery-grey head instead of a brassy old-gold head. The females have a reddish-pink forecrown in both subspecies of the Grey-headed Parrot, although it is more prominent in P. fuscicollis fuscicollis, the Brown-necked Parrot.

Weight:
260 - 330 grams (9 - 11.6 oz.)

Average size:
34 centimeters (13.4 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
Because the Cape Parrot was lumped in with another species for many years, some of the reports we hear about Cape Parrots may actually apply to the Grey-headed Parrot. Based on South African reports, these birds can be sweet and engaging, but some individuals may be nervous or sensitive. However, because of the serious nature of the multiple problems facing this critically endangered species, you should probably only hold Cape Parrots if you are a serious breeder working to preserve them, or if you are holding a rescue bird.

Housing:
Most Cape Parrots should be housed in specialty breeding aviaries designed to contribute to the preservation of the species. If for some reason you are asked to care for an individual that can't be bred, then provide a large, comfortable flight with plenty of toys. A small macaw cage wouldn't be too much. Make sure that the material is a sturdy powder-coated metal. These birds may be considered gentle, but they still know how to chew. Good padlocks will prevent an escape artist from letting itself out – and padlocks plus a webcam monitoring set-up may deter thieves who believe that a rare bird must be a costly bird.

Diet:
All Poicephalus, including the Cape Parrot, may be at risk for calcium deficiencies, unless they are exposed to natural sunlight or full spectrum light, since the vitamin D created by light helps their bodies use calcium. A seed-based diet may not work for an indoor bird because it may not be able to properly digest dietary calcium without being exposed to the hours of sunlight it would get in Africa. Therefore, many experts strongly recommend a pellet-based diet formulated for the African parrots.

However, these intelligent birds should not be allowed to get bored on an all pellet diet. One good diet might be approximately half pellets and half a chopped salad with plenty of mixed fruits and vegetables. The Cape Parrot benefits from extra nuts in the diet, and many people recommend adding walnuts.

Caution: Never feed avocado or chocolate to your Cape Parrot.

Written by Elaine Radford

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