Blue-headed Pionus

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Is the Blue-headed Pionus right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Blue-headed Parrot; Blue-hooded Parrot

Scientific name: Pionus menstruus

The basics:
To those in the know, the Blue-headed Pionus is one of the most highly regarded pet parrots available. They are social and intelligent, and a well-socialized bird can learn to go confidently to anyone. While not particularly noisy or vocal, some individuals can even learn to talk if you are patient. They may be a tad lazy, but encourage them to play and to exercise every day, and you may be surprised at how much fun you have with this chunky little parrot.

The Blue-headed Pionus is a wide-ranging species with three subspecies that range from southern Costa Rica and much of northern and central South America, including Amazonian Brazil. It is even found on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. It can be found in the lowland forest or partly open areas, all the way to 1,100 meters in elevation, and it can tolerate some clearing, as long as there are trees where the birds can forage.

An old name for the Pionus genus is Red-Vented Parrot. The Blue-headed 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 chunky 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.

A stocky little parrot with a red vent and a bright blue hood that contrasts nicely with its mostly green wings and body.

234 - 295 grams (8.25 - 10.4 oz.)

Average size:
28 centimeters (11 in.)

35 - 45 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Blue-headed Pionus is considered a good pet, especially if it is handled and well-socialized from an early age. These birds tend 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, but they do expect you to devote some time to them. They can play on a nearby playpen for hours, secure in your presence. Some Blue-headed Pionus do become possessive, so you have to keep working with them, introducing them regularly to new people or encouraging other family members to play with them, or your bird may become a one-person pet mostly bonded to you.

Warning: A Blue-headed 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 Blue-headed 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.

A single Blue-headed 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 Blue-headed 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.

The Blue-headed 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 Blue-headed 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 Blue-headed 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


best kept secret, Pionus love people, wonderful pets, mellow guy, sweet personality, stunning, quiet



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