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Maximilian Pionus

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Is the Maximilian Pionus right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Maxi Pi; Maximilian's Pionus; Scaly-headed Parrot; Scaly-headed Pionus; Maximilian Parrot; Maximilian's Parrot; Tucuman Parrot (P. m. lacerus)

Scientific name: Pionus maximiliani

The basics:
For those in the know, the quietly feathered Maximilian Pionus is one of the best mid-sized parrots. They are social, intelligent, and confident enough to go to anyone, but they aren't particularly chewy, beaky, or noisy. While no Pionus is famous for having a human-like speaking voice, many Maximilian Pionus pets have learned a relatively large vocabulary, even if no one except the devoted owner can make out everything they're saying. A bird handled from an early age, who gets regular playtime with a devoted owner, can become a very loving pet that's easy to keep in an apartment setting.

The Maximilian Pionus is a common, wide-ranging parrot throughout South America, with four subspecies found as high up as 2,000 meters. They're adaptable and resourceful, and they seem to do well as long as they're allowed to forage in trees, even if those trees might be in somebody's garden or an urban park.

An old name for the Pionus genus is Red-Vented Parrot. The Maximilian's Pionus forage high in the trees, creating an illusion from underneath that you have a tree with some red flowers in it, rather than a tree full of tasty little parrots. When flying in small flocks, they can be noisy, yet when they suddenly land and fall silent, they seem to fade out of sight – an impressive feat of camouflage.

Appearance:
A mid-sized greenish parrot with a blue chest and a bold white eye-ring.

Weight:
233 - 293 grams (8 - 10 oz.)

Average size:
29 centimeters (11.5 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Maximilian Pionus should be socialized and handled young, and you may as well start the voice lessons early too, although your pet might just listen for a surprisingly long time before it actually tries to speak. This highly regarded pet tends to be confident and social, willing to go to anyone if you keep them used to meeting strangers, yet not so beaky and quick to bite as many confident parrots. They are not cuddle birds and don't particularly care about constant touching or petting,

Warning: A Maximilian Pionus, especially a young one who is not used to you, can start wheezing in a way that looks for all the world like a full-blown asthma attack. When you get your new bird, make sure you get a health check from the vet. If the bird is simply wheezing to express its stress in the new home, the thing to do is to back away and give your Pionus some time to calm down – not to fuss over it with unneeded medicines. It's better for you to get to know the baby Maximilian Pionus, by visiting it at its aviary while it's being weaned by the breeder. Give the bird time to get to know you before you take it home.

Housing:
A single Maximilian Pionus needs a powder-coated metal cage of a minimum size of around 36”w x 24”d x 36”h with no more than ¾” bar spacing. They are not particularly chewy birds, but they do need to have some toys that they are welcome to chew to destruction. You should also have a playpen and perhaps some perches outside the cage, to give your pet a place to hang out around the house with you. Have some toy ladders to encourage climbing.

While the Maximilian Pionus is not known for being fiercely territorial, even during the breeding season, never let them become cage-bound. Don't let your pet become a chubby perch potato when you can easily encourage the bird to come out and play. Also, even though some individuals do remain friendly and non-territorial when in season, some birds do become hormonal. Know your bird, and train all Pionus to step onto a hand-held perch so you can move your pet to neutral territory for playtime – even during a hormonal surge.

Diet:
The Maximilian Pionus, like the other Pionus, is a sturdy little bird with a tendency to gain weight. Wild birds forage heavily for fruit and green vegetation, including seeding plants and sprouts. There seem to be several diets that will work for this species, as long as you are careful to avoid over-reliance on dry, fatty seed. Some people may opt for a pellet-based diet, while others may opt for a soak and cook diet that includes plenty of well-cooked or well-sprouted legumes. The classic diet developed by John Stoodley included half sprouting beans and seeds, and half fresh fruits and vegetables.

Whichever diet you choose, you will clearly need to learn to make a high quality “chop” salad that includes lots of fresh fruits and greens for your pet. Like other colorful parrots, the Maximilian Pionus may have an elevated need for natural sources of vitamin A. Make sure that you include deep orange (carrot, well-cooked yam) or deep red (pomegranate) produce in the daily salad.

While some people do offer seed mix or at least seed sprouts in the daily diet, it's best to make these seeds the low-fat varieties, such as millet and canary seed. Hold back fatty seed like sunflower or safflower to offer as treats, either hidden in foraging toys or else for trick training. If your Maximilian Pionus likes to indulge in high-fat seed, the bird will definitely need to be encouraged to exercise. Never offer avocado or chocolate.

Written by Elaine Radford

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