Red-bellied Parrot

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Ruth Rogers

Is the Red-bellied Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: African Orange-bellied Parrot; Red Belly Parrot

Scientific name: Poicephalus rufiventris

The basics:
The Red-bellied Parrot is an interesting, intelligent small hookbill from Africa. They like to mimic, but they may have a funny, artificial-sounding voice that's hard to understand when they speak. They love to play, and they are not afraid to get on their backs, so they're good at learning tricks like “roll over” and “play dead.”

This parrot seems to have a stable population in its East African highland home, where it is found in dryer areas at elevations ranging from 800 to 2,000 meters. The wild birds are described as shy and cautious – they like to perch in the open, where they have good visibility, while they may avoid dense cover. Each nesting tree may be 100 to 200 meters apart, so that pairs can defend their own tree, while taking advantage of warning calls from other pairs.

It's easy to tell the boys from the girls with the Red-bellied Parrot, since the males have a deep orange or orange-red belly, while females lack the signature “red” belly and are instead green in that area. Occasionally, some people have confused a male Red-bellied Parrot with a Senegal Parrot, perhaps because Senegals are much better known. In the Senegal Parrot, the gray head meets a green neck and breast. In the Red-bellied Parrot, the gray extends further down the neck and also forms a bib over the breast in front.

113 - 142 grams (4 - 5 oz.)

Average size:
22 centimeters (8.5 in.)

20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Red-bellied Parrots have a lot going for them. They are capable of independent play and can amuse themselves quietly during the day when their owners are at work, so they can make great apartment pets. They do vocalize a lot, but their voices are not loud, and they are often trying to talk, which makes for a charming source of babble. They can learn tricks and delight in performing for their owners.

That said, like other small Poicephalus, it's important to train the Red-bellied Parrot when it's young. A bird needs to be tamed and exposed to different people and different situations from the beginning. An older bird may not be able to adapt or to learn nearly as well, and some birds may be timid or withdrawn, instead of outgoing and playful. Get your baby Red-belly at a time when you will be able to come home and work with your new pet every day, so that you can get it accustomed to plenty of human handling.

Be aware of the teething stage, and learn how to read your Red-bellied Parrot's body language so that you can avoid bites. Don't risk losing your bird's trust by ignoring the signals that it's becoming overloaded. They have the potential to be sweet, easy to handle pets, so if you start having problems, consult a parrot behaviorist to get back on track.

Since the Red-bellied Parrot often plays independently for part of the day, most people recommend a larger cage, such as a minimum size of 24”w x 24”d x 24”h with no more than ¾” bar spacing. It may be a good idea to have a hiding place in the cage, such as a nestbox with one wall left off, so that the bird can climb in and hide when in need of a security blanket. Whatever the cage you choose, it must be made of powder-coated metal.

Red-bellied Parrots love to chew. Equip the cage with sturdy manzanita perches in places where you don't want to replace the perches off. Have plenty of toys, both of the disposable chewable kind and the more long-lasting washable acrylic plastic. They will go through a lot of toys and bird-safe chewable tree branches.

Any small Poicephalus can become very territorial and aggressive if not properly managed. You don't want this bird to become cage-bound, so invest in a good play gym. Teach your pet to step up on a hand-held perch on command, so that you can easily move the bird from the cage, without provoking a territorial bite.

The Red-bellied Parrot, like all Poicephalus 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 the 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. A few seeds and nuts can be added for variety. However, if your Red-bellied Parrot is gaining too much weight, you could hold out the nuts or sunflower seed as part of bonding or trick training In that way, you know exactly how much seed or how many nuts your bird is eating – and the bird associates you with a tasty treat.

Caution: Never feed avocado or chocolate to your Red-bellied Parrot.

Written by Elaine Radford


apartments, great personality, quiet, mimics, cuddly, fairly large vocabulary


wonderful whistler, Poi family, consistent boundaries, Poicephalus, positive reinforcement

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