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The Black-headed Caique

Parrots magazine 157

A joy for the experienced bird-keeper, or specialist breeder

by Pauline James

The Black-headed Caique (Pionites melanocephalus), sometimes known as the ‘Dancing or Monkey parrot’ in its South American homeland, due to its playful, acrobatic and highly-animated disposition, has, along with its close relative the White-bellied Caique, built-up a huge reputation as being a fun-loving and gregarious companion bird. And, in the last few years, the more commonly available Black-headed Caique especially, has become one of the most highly sought-after companion parrots, even though they are not known for their talking ability, and command a relatively high-price for their size.

As a hand-tame pet, there is no doubt, these chunky, medium-sized parrots at around 23cm (9.5in) long, tick many boxes. They are highly-intelligent, forever active, and will play with everything and anything, and when they lock-on to an object, toy or treat that they want, that is out of reach, they can be very persistent, and will purposefully march towards it with their wings out-stretched, showing that they mean business. Wooden items that they can gnaw, toys that make a noise, and ropes and ladders that they can climb and hang from are all favourites. They use their feet very adeptly, like hands, and are hugely entertaining to watch, as they expertly balance, or toss and catch their favourite foot toys.

Caiques do not keep still for a moment, and it is important they be afforded as much time as possible out of their cage. They prefer to climb and gnaw good-sized branches rather than fly, but need to be kept occupied and stimulated at all times. They love to hop, jump, dance, run, hang upside down while flapping their wings, or perform acrobatics. They respond well to music and if you clap in time with the music, they will be encouraged to dance with even more vigour. They are also capable of learning a variety of tricks too, including rolling over onto their backs and playing dead. These birds also enjoy a cuddle and adore a good scratch on their heads and chests, and will even keep perfectly still, if they are gently stroked and caressed on their cheeks.

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