Hawk-headed Parrot

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Is the Hawk-headed Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red-fan parrot; Hawk-headed Caique

Scientific name: Deroptyus accipitrinus

The basics:
The Hawk-headed Parrot is one of the most expensive of the smaller parrots, and one look at this bird with its fan of feathers erected like a chief's headdress around its face will tell you why. This species is a true WOW bird. However, as they are costly, challenging to work with, and somewhat rare, this unusual hookbill should be reserved for experts and experienced parrot owners who know what they're doing. You will want to bring all of your knowledge of parrot psychology and hormonal mood changes.

Prior experience with some of the more challenging Amazons could be a good prerequisite before trying a Hawk-headed Parrot. Keep in mind that the crest is naturally raised as an aggressive display when the bird is excited or angry, so when you have your pet on an even keel, you don't always see the entire fan of feathers. Some people have trained their Hawk-headed Parrots to raise their fan on request, but it's a fine line between getting the bird pleasantly excited and getting it too overloaded to handle safely.

There are two subspecies of this remarkable parrot with the fancy ruff. The nominate species of Hawk-headed Parrot, D. a. accipitrinus is found north of the Amazon River, while. D. a. fuscifrons is found south of the river, where there is substantial deforestation, causing habitat loss and a probable decline in their population. Both subspecies like lowland rainforest or foothills up to 400 meters.

An impressive mid-sized parrot with a large fan or ruff of red feathers. The nominate species of Hawk-headed Parrot, D. a. accipitrinus, has a light buffy-white forehead and crown, in contrast to D. a. fuscifrons, which has a dusky brown forehead and crown, You are more likely to see the nominate species in captivity.

190 - 277 grams (6.7 - 9.8 oz.)

Average size:
35 centimeters (14 in.)

30 - 40 years

Behavior / temperament:
Even a hand-fed Hawk-headed Parrot can be nervous, and most people strongly recommend this species only to the experienced parrot owner. Bring all of your best parrot handling skills, and consider consulting with a good parrot behaviorist to make sure you know how to manage these beautiful but temperamental birds. They will give you warning signs that they are becoming angry and overloaded, so respect that warning, return them to their cage or playpen, and back away to give them some quiet.

They can be aggressive and territorial, especially in the cage and especially during breeding season. Select a well-designed cage that gives you access and allows you to clean without forcing you to stick your hand in the cage, which could make your pet angry or nervous. Supply lots of toys, understanding from the beginning that the Hawk-head will work off lots of energy by destroying those toys. That's what they're for. Never punish the bird for chewing its toys to matchsticks. That's healthy exercise for the Hawk-head.

A single Hawk-headed Parrot requires a powder-coated metal cage of about 24” w by 24 “ d by 24” high with no more than 3/4” bar spacing. Install high quality manzanita perches in areas where you don't want to have to change the perches often, such as places that are difficult to reach in a larger cage. But you should also provide plenty of toys and bird-safe branches that your pet can chew to destruction.

The bird will also require a play gym area where you can interact with your pet out of the cage. As they get older, they can become quite territorial and aggressive, and you will want to train your Hawk-head to step up onto a hand-held perch on command, so you can carry it easily away from the cage and over to neutral territory. Do not allow the bird to become cage-bound, or it could become very hard to handle. A walk-in enclosure or breeding pen is only recommended for expert breeders who are keen readers of parrot body language, because if you walk into a Hawk-headed Parrot's territory when it's hormonal, it could fly right at you and attack.

There are several diets that work for the Hawk-headed Parrot, but experts agree that you need to go very easy on the higher fat seeds, and many people do not offer sunflower seed at all. The backbone of one successful breeder's diet was 35% high quality pellets and 35% high quality, sunflower-free small hookbill mix. An alternate recommendation is for half pellets and half sprouted or cooked grains, beans, and seeds. Some people may even offer pellets, with no seeds whatsoever. Whichever you choose, be sure to provide a mix of fresh chopped fruits and healthy vegetables for the remaining 30% of the bird's diet. Hawk-heads demand lots of fruit.

Never allow your Hawk-headed Parrot to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat, poultry, or fish.

Written by Elaine Radford


unique, head feathers, unique physical appearance, favorite bird species


aggressive, unsuspecting spouse, plucker, hormonal highs, territoriality


positive reinforcement training

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