There are more than 300 species of parrots known, and a large percentage of them are available as pets at least occasionally. With so many different species available, it stands to reason that some would be very popular or common and others less so. Elsewhere on this site, there is more detailed coverage of the most popular parrots. Here, we’ll discuss some lesser-known gems that you might see at your local pet store, bird rescue, or bird specialty store.
There are at least nine species in this group (pronounced bro toe JER us) of small and cuddly parrots, all native to Central and South America. The most common are the canary-winged parakeet and the gray-cheeked parakeet, but other species are available. They range in size from about 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) and are mostly bright green, with markings of other colors on the wings, face, and/or tail. Their tails are long, making up about half their total length.
These birds can become quite affectionate and are known to burrow into their companions’ clothing. They can be good talkers, but they also can be loud for their size. Brotogeris are enthusiastic about bathing and love to chew. Provide one of these little birds with plenty of chew toys.
There are two species of caiques (pronounced kigh-EEKS): the white-bellied and the black-headed. In nature, they live in the Amazon Basin. They are about 9 inches (23 cm) long. The two species appear very similar but for the color of their heads. The black-headed caique has a black patch from the top of the head to just below the eyes. The white-bellied has a peachy-orange to yellowish head. Both have white bodies and green wings.
Caiques are known to be energetic, clownish birds, always playing, chewing, and moving about their cage. Teaching a caique to do tricks is a great way to burn off some of his seemingly endless energy. He can be a moderately loud bird and is sometimes a good talker.
Eclectus parrots originally come from islands in the South Pacific, including New Guinea and parts of Australia. They are unusual for parrots in that the males and females are different in coloration, so different that they were once thought to be two different species. The male is vibrant green with some red or blue markings on the wings and tail and a yellow-orange upper beak. The females are deep red with blue to violet markings and black beaks. Eclectus are about 14 inches (35.5 cm) long.
Eclectus eat mainly fruit in nature, so pet birds should be fed accordingly. They can be more aloof than many other species, but they are also very quiet birds, suitable for apartment dwellers.
Pionus are medium-sized parrots found over much of Central and South America. There are nine species that range in size from about 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30.5 cm). The blue-headed, white-crowned, and Maximilian’s pionus are the most common species. Often considered drab parrots, pionus are quite beautiful in natural sunlight, which brings out the iridescence of their feathers.
These quiet parrots are often gentle and affectionate, although they can be somewhat nervous. Pionus make a strange wheezing noise when they get excited, but this is normal for these birds. Vitamin A deficiency can be a problem for pionus, so they should be fed foods rich in this nutrient, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, and mangoes.
The parakeets of the genus Psittacula (pronounced SIT a cue la) are known for their long tails and great talking ability. Their tails are usually more than half their total length of 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm). They are found from west Africa to Southeast Asia. The Indian ring-necked parakeet is the most commonly kept species. Most of the species are predominantly mint green with a head of some other color.
These parakeets need tall cages to accommodate their long tails. They are among the best talkers of all the parrots; they are also good at learning to do tricks.
Senegal Parrots and Relatives
The Senegal parrot is the most commonly kept species of Poicephalus, a genus of parrots found over most of sub-Saharan Africa. Other species available as pets include the Meyer’s parrot, the Jardine’s parrot, and the red-bellied parrot. Senegal parrots are about 9 inches (23 cm) long, with short tails and large heads. They are mostly green in color, with yellow to orange bellies and gray heads.
Senegals and their relatives are fairly quiet parrots who sometimes learn to talk. They are very playful and love to chew.