Senegal Parrot

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Is the Senegal Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Yellow-bellied Senegal Parrot (P.s. senegalus); Yellow-vented Senegal Parrot (P.s. mesotypus); Orange-breasted Senegal Parrot; Orange-bellied Senegal Parrot; Red-vented Senegal Parrot; Scarlet-bellied Senegal Parrot

Scientific name: Poicephalus senegalus

The basics:
Working pet owners like the fact that Senegal Parrots can amuse themselves with their toys during the day, yet be ready to come out and play in the evening. They have a talent for mimicry, although they can mimic sounds like whistles and alarm beeps better than human voices. Oh, they'll try to talk, but they may sound a bit like a toy robot.

There are three natural subspecies of the colorful Senegal Parrot, so check with an expert if you decide to breed your bird, in order to avoid a mismatch. This widespread bird of central-western Africa can use a variety of habitats, with the nominate subspecies P.s. senegalus said to prefer the west African dry zone, while the Scarlet-bellied P. s. versteri appears to prefer the wet zone. According to the Wild Parrot Trust, this beloved species is one of the most heavily trapped wild parrots on the planet, with over three quarters of a million birds collected since 1981.

The Senegal Parrot is a popular African green parrot that looks like it's wearing a colorful orange V-neck sweater to show off its gray head.At first glance, it may be possible to confuse the Senegal Parrot with the male Red-bellied Parrot, (P. rufiventris), because of the pattern of gray head, green body, and orange V-neck “sweater.” However, the gray on the head of the Red-bellied extends past the back of the neck and also down in front to form a gray bib. The gray head of the Senegal is just that – a gray head. The breast and the back of the neck are green.

155 grams (5.5 oz.)

Average size:
23 centimeters (9 in.)

20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
There is huge variation in the personality of Senegal Parrots. In general, the hand-raised, domestic-bred birds are sassy pets that don't know their own size. They take to independent play naturally, and they are not terribly noisy, so they can make great pets for working apartment dwellers. As somewhat solitary birds, they aren't interested in sharing you with another bird, and they may try to dominate any other pets, such as the family dog. They can become one-person pets, so it's best to try to have everyone in the family work with the bird from the very beginning. At a minimum, each person should know how to confidently ask the Senegal to step on and step off a perch.

The bolder Senegal Parrots may try to dominate the unwary pet owner. They are capable of giving a hard bite and not letting go, so you need to be good at reading parrot body language, so that you can step away from the overloaded parrot or fill that busy beak with something to chew as a distraction. If you have any doubt about your ability to handle your parrot with kindness and respect, consult with a parrot behaviorist for the best techniques.

Some owners have reported a problem with fear or phobia. Oddly, a Senegal Parrot that isn't afraid to tell the family dog where to go, can be terrified by a hat or a balloon. If your pet is suddenly afraid of you, or if your pet has suddenly attacked you, look around and see what's different in your bird's eyes. Don't lose your pet's trust over some silly balloons. No one really knows why, but this species has a reputation for taking an irrational dislike to some inanimate objects. Give the bird a safe place to go where it doesn't have to see the hated object.

Since the Senegal Parrot often plays independently for part of the day, many 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. Here's where you need to observe your own pet. Some Senegals are timid, shy, or even phobic, and these birds sometimes become more confident in a smaller space that they can control. It's also 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. Senegal 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. Don't hold back, because Senegals that don't chew enough have developed problems with overgrown beaks. Some individuals apply their big brains to figuring out how to open doors and windows, so you may also need to invest in padlocks to secure the cage.

The Senegal Parrot 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.

There's some controversy about the best diet for Senegal Parrots. 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. While it's true that wild Senegals would eat plenty of seed, 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 Senegal 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 Senegal Parrot.

Written by Elaine Radford


Entertaining, wonderful companions, amazing tricks, great mimics


biting, attention seeking behaviors, aggressive, messiest parrot, loudest screeches, worst bite


frequent toy changes, active birds, fair talker, great second parrots, positive reinforcement training

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