Pionus parrots
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Pionus Parrots and Medium Parrots

Pionus parrots

pionus parrots

Blue-Headed Pionus

Pionus parrots are sometimes overlooked with the exception of the Blue-Headed Pionus because they are not as flashy or colorful as other parrots. The characteristics that distinguish them from other parrot species is a triangle of red vent feathers under their tail and a wide fleshy eye ring. They do talk but their voice is described as garbled, soft or robotic. They also have a very musky sweet smell. Pionus' wheeze when frightened and the sound is like an attack of asthma which may startle those unfamiliar with this behavior.

dusky pionus

Dusky Pionus

            They are relatively laid-back and are commonly called the "great apartment birds" due to their quiet behavior. Whether this is a pro or a con, I don't know, but I own a Blue-Headed and a pair of Duskies, and I find them to be almost statue-like when sitting on their perches. In fact, the only time I see them move is to their food dish, and boy do they love to eat. Being "food loving perch potatoes," they have to watch their waist lines. What I adore about these birds is the loving look in their eyes. They look like mesmerizing pools that go mysteriously deep. Other common species of the Pionus found in U.S. aviculture are the Bronze-Winged, the Maximilian and the White-Capped Pionus.

Medium Parrots

If you don't just want to own the common Australian budgerigar or "budgie" which ranges from 6 to 8 inches, then maybe you might consider one of the following which ranges about 13 to 15 inches in size. In this category, I am going to include the ones that I keep which are Conures, the Moustached Parakeet and Quakers.
            Conures:  Hailing from South and Central America, Conures come in more than 50 species. They span many sizes from the 10 inch Green-cheeked Conure to the Mitred Conure which can be up to 15 inches long. One of the most striking is the Sun Conure. Its colors is a combination of sunrise and sunset, that of buttery yellow and Sunkist orange. I used to own the most beautiful pair.

coonure parrots

Green-Cheeked Conure (left) and Painted Conures

            I am not really attracted to the birds in this group for two reasons. I guess it is a size thing. They don't really feel substantial on your hand, and boy, are they noisy. They certainly don't have the volume of a McCaw or a big bird, but they have the pitch that would drive you up a gum tree. These talkative birds are lively and engaging and owners cite them as playful and rewarding. You will find that a Conure is happy to just "hang" out with its owner while they read the paper or work on the computer. Bottom line, spending time together may be one of the best ways to enrich a Conure's life, so if you don't live in an apartment and would like a companion and a playmate, this might be a good match for you.
            Moustached Parakeet: I have read that Moustached Parakeets have never been popular as pets probably because of how noisy they are. I have found this to be so. However, I was told by a gentleman named Peter who keeps these birds that nothing could be farther from the truth. He says that they are quiet and in his is opinion, should be recommended as an apartment bird. My recommendation before purchasing any animal is to do your research to make sure the animal's size and temperament matches you and your lifestyle and not buy impulsively which will be a detriment to the both of you.

Moustached Parakeet

Moustached  Parakeets

           Quakers: Quaker parrots are sometimes fondly referred to as "evil green chickens." According to some, the nickname "quaker," comes from its baby habit of quaking from its head to its toenails to beg for food and attention. I am presuming that the "evil green chickens" comes from the fact that they have been banned in some states as they interfere with power lines and agriculture. These parrots' nesting habits have posed a problem to utility companies as their favorite spot to weave their intricate nests are on power poles. In the wild, Quakers are prolific builders constructing enormous nests that house multiple Quaker families. Each family nest houses them year round, rather than just during breeding season and has separate chambers, which serve as a nursery, play area and living room for the entire family. Utility companies attribute these enormous nests as a source of power outages and line fires and often do battle with Quaker populations by removing the nests, which the birds quickly rebuild. The other reason they have been banned in some states is because in feral populations, they have been known to feed on and cause destructive damage to crops.
            They are charming, funny and endearing and once they establish a bond with an individual, they become dedicated avian companions. If you like a strong personality to the point of being quite feisty, and without the big price tag, then this might be the bird for you.

quaker parrots

Quaker Parrot, "Chick Chick"

            They are extremely intelligent and have the potential to develop a large vocabulary. My little Quaker "Chick Chick," was the first baby that I ever bred so she has a special meaning for me. She got her name because as a baby she used to bob her head and say, "chick, chick." Every morning she greets me with, "Hi Darling Bird. Come to Mummy." I guess you know who she got that from.
            They are as a rule, intensely territorial birds and will guard their cages. This makes sense when you recognize that they are communal nesters in the wild. I have a young man who comes certain days of the week to help me with my birds and whenever he goes to clean Chick Chick's cage, she squabbles until he leaves. As companion birds, they have been known to also build and weave nests around their cages. As long as they have supplies like tail feathers, strips of dried vegetables, or are given things like sticks, paper, or small, flexible safe items such as straws, leather strips, etc., they are prone to interlace the bars of the cage with these items. However, do not give pipe cleaners. The wire inside them is toxic.
            A very bad behavioral problem for Quakers is feather picking. My Chick Chick is bare on her entire chest and under her wings. If your vet has ruled out skin problems, or feather problems due to parasites or emotional issues, which most experts are quick to say is abuse, then you can say that they do it simply because they do it. In an article in Bird Talk, Liz Wilson, an animal behavior consultant quoted, "If your Quaker is raucously noisy, consumes a nutritious diet, plays madly with his toys and you, then he is a happy bird - whether or not he has feathers. And that is really all that matters." My Chick Chick is all of that. The only time it seems to matter, is when it gets cold. The remedy - a bright, yellow, cozy velour tent to go inside on a chilly night.

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Suzanne Hosang Author and Healer