Brown-headed Parrot

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Is the Brown-headed Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names:

Scientific name: Poicephalus cyptoxanthus

The basics:
The Brown-headed Parrot is a mostly overlooked small and rather plain African parrot with the personality, intelligence, and ability to mimic shared by the better known species. Like other Poicephalus, because of their ability to entertain themselves, the Brown-headed Parrot often makes a good apartment pet for someone looking for a big bird's attitude in a small bird's body.

The two subspecies of Brown-headed Parrot originate in southeastern coastal Africa, where they may be found in habitat up to 1,200 meters. Observers have reported that the Brown-headed Parrot can hybridize with its relative, the Meyer's Parrot, where the two species overlap in the wild. However, it isn't recommended to create such mismatches in captive situations.

When a Brown-headed Parrot is sitting with its wings closed, all you see is a rather plain green bird with a grayish-brown head. You must teach the bird to open its wings, perhaps while playing “eagle,” and then you will see the flash of yellow underneath.

120 - 156 grams (4.2 - 5.5 oz.)

Average size:
22 centimeters (8.7 in.)

20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
Despite being overlooked and rated as quiet or shy, the Brown-headed Parrot seems to share the basic Poicephalus personality. These adaptable birds are capable of independent play, and they can amuse themselves quietly during the day when their owners are at work, so they can make great apartment pets. Yet they are eager to learn to mimic sounds or to play little tricks like rolling on their back in your hand to play dead.

That said, like other small Poicephalus, it's important to train the Brown-headed 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 An older bird may not be able to adapt or to learn nearly as well, and some birds may be timid or withdrawn, instead of outgoing and playful.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 Brown-head 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 Brown-headed 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 Brown-headed 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.

Brown-headed 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 Brown-headed 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, but be aware that the Brown-headed Parrot has a tendency to gain too much weight. This species is also considered at risk for fatty liver syndrome, so you really need to control the fat available in the diet. 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. You should also be teaching this bird to accept non-fat treats like fruit.

Caution: Never feed avocado or chocolate to your Brown-headed Parrot.

Written by Elaine Radford


affectionate, outgoing lovey personality, quiet bird, super mellow pionus, intelligent bird


zinc toxicity, powder coating zinc, feather plucking, high pitch screech, high pitch screech


play dead bird, rescue organization, little dance, stainless steel cage, calm children

Brown-headed Parrot Health Tip

Brown-headed Parrot

From ellietucker May 30 2013 2:25PM


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