Brown Headed Parrot, Red Bellied Parrot, Cape Parrot, Jardine's Parrot, Senegal Parrot, Meyer's Parrot, Ruppell's Parrot

Senegal Parrot

Common Name: Senegal Parrot
Species: Poicephalus senegalus
Subspecies: P. s. senegalus, P. s. mesotypus, P. s. versteri

Description: Senegal Parrots are small African parrots. They are the most prolific member of its genus in the wild and the most widely available Poicephalus parrot in captivity1. They are very colorful, with a gray head, mostly green body, and a yellow/orange vest. When they are born, their eyes are black and their irises are gray. When they mature, their irises turn yellow creating a piercing glow1. The size of a mature Senegal Parrot is about ten inches from the head to the tip of the tail2. They sleep between 12-14 hours a day and they usually turn their head 180 degrees and tuck it into their feathers, and bring one foot closer to their body, in order to conserve heat while they sleep8. Senegals weigh anywhere in between 120-150 grams3. Their eggs are about 3cm long x 2.5cm wide and they fly out from their nests by the time they are 9 weeks old and are fully independent by the twelfth week11. They mature by the time they are two years old and can usually breed by the time they are three or four years old. Their lifespan is between 25-30 years3, however, another source states that they can live up to 50 years5. The Senegal Parrot's voice is noisy, consisting of many high pitched screeches, whistles and squawks10. They are, however, known to be quieter birds than other kinds of parrots.

Sexing: Between the sexes, there are subtle differences in color, although the color variation between the three subspecies is more probable to be the difference, making the determination of gender solely by sight unreliable1. Also, immature Senegals are commonly marked as hens and differentiation doesn't occur until adulthood, further complicating sexual determination1. Lastly, even though the behavior between cocks and hens is usually noticeably different since hens are usually shyer, the differences could also happen in reverse making the only reliable way to determine the gender is to have a DNA test.

Geography/Habitat: Senegal Parrots are a very successful species and are native to most of West Africa. They can be found in the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo4. Excluding the Ring-Necked Parakeet, the Senegal is the only parrot inhabitant of the savanna woodlands and forest mossaic of West Africa6. They live in the green trees in flocks to protect themselves from predators. These birds are considered to be agricultural pests in their native countries and are quite a menace to the farmers because they eat the maize, pecans, peanuts, figs, cashews and millet1, which are very important crops in this area.

Diet: In the wild, they eat a variety of fruits seeds and leaf buds such as the seeds of Kaya Senegalus, Ficus Parkia, etc11. They also enjoy eating maize, pecans, peanuts, figs, cashews and millet. In captivity, it usually is common for them to eat including fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, pellets, and seeds 8. It is healthier, though for them to eat pellets rather than seeds8 since pellets are nutritious and are not as fattening as seeds. Like other birds, food like chocolate, apple seeds, onions, mushrooms, and caffeine is toxic for them7.

Conservation Status: The Senegal Parrot is considered to be of least concern4. They are a very successful species that flourishes in their native land, however, they are illegal to transport out of their native countries. Breeding: Since 1992, importation of wild caught Senegal Parrots into the USA has been stopped1. Almost all of the Senegals after then have been bred in captivity and since then, they have become more popular in aviculture8.

Pet Status: These birds are very good companions as they are not very loud and with a personality of a bigger bird. They are smart and capable of learning many tricks and some are able to acquire a modest vocabulary1. While they are pretty small, they are little feisty creatures. They are very territorial and defensive about their owners. Sometimes, they are quite fearless and can even sometimes attack large dogs and cats. They have even been observed that when they are in a cage with birds like a Macaw or Cockatoo, that the large birds huddle in the corner in fear of this little beast1. However, they sometimes fear the most inanimate things, such as juggling balls. They enjoy playing with their toys, particularly destroying them into a pulp. They have been known to be jealous, especially when they are not the center of attention, especially of their favorite person5. Even if actively socialized at a young age, these birds still have a tendency to become "one person birds"8. This means that they bond to one person, usually their trainer/owner, and are very aggressive toward everyone else. Usually, they are acquired individually if the owner wants the bird to bond to him/her and if the owner intends to spend a lot of time with the bird8. They require cages that are at least 4ft x 3ft x 3ft or in warm climates, a cage that is at least 6ft x 6ft 3ft wide10.

Petting: When the bird wants to be petted, the parrot usually puffs up its feathers loosely and tilts its head down. They also sometimes scratches itself with its foot8. They enjoy it when their owner then strokes his/her fingers from the base of their neck to the tip of their head. One must be very careful petting them because if one touches their fragile pin feathers, it can cause excruciating pain for the bird and a resulting bite to the handler8. On the other hand, when the pin feathers are developed to the point when they are ready to leave their sheaths, they enjoy it when the owner strokes them and helps them break the pin feather sheaths open8. They also sometimes enjoy getting their beak scratched.

Biting: Like any parrot, Senegal Parrots are capable of biting. Sometimes the bird bluffs and pretends that it will bite, however it is just testing the nerve of the person in question8. If the person gets scared and pulls away, then the bird is reinforced to bite that person again. If the person sucks up the first bite, then the bird does not usually bite the person again for the remainder of the session8. Sometimes the bird nips or squeezes a finger to show displeasure of something, to which the owner/handler should ignore the nip in order to not reinforce the behavior8. Overtime the bird stops nipping because it learns that nipping does not lead to results. Lastly, the parrot can do a defensive bite, if it feels in danger and is not able to flee the situation8. The bite is simply due to self defense because the person infiltrated into its territory, or touched it in an improper place. Through positive reinforcement, taming, proper handling and socialization, biting could be reduced.


References

1. Athan, Mattie Sue, and Dianalee Deter. Guide To the Senegal Parrot and Its Family. Illus. Michele Earle-Bridges. N.p.: Barrons, 1998. Print.

2. Burgess, Alyson. "Senegal Parrots." About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://birds.about.com/od/mediumbirds/p/senegal.htm>.

3. "Senegal Parrot." birdieboutique.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://www.birdieboutique.com/senegalparrot.html>.

4. BirdLife International 2009. Poicephalus senegalus. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2. <http://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 July 2010.

5. "Senegal Parrots as Pets." avianweb.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://www.avianweb.com/senegalparrotsaspets.html>.

6. Juniper, Tony; Parr, Mike (2003). Parrots - A Guide to the Parrots of the World. London, England: Christopher Helm. p. 379. ISBN 0-7136-6933-0.

7. Top 10 Common Foods that Can Poison Your Bird." birds.about.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://birds.about.com/od/feeding/tp/poisonousfoods.htm>.

8. Sazhin, Michael, and Mona Delgado. "Senegal Parrot Biting and Aggression Issues." theparrotforum. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://theparrotforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=768>.

9. Sazhin, Michael. "Senegal Parrot Information and FAQ." theparrotforum.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://theparrotforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=348>.

10. "Senegal Parrots as Pets." avianweb.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2010. <http://www.avianweb.com/senegalparrotsaspets.html>.

11. Alderton, David (2003). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds. London, England: Hermes House. p. 222. ISBN 184309164X.
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