Wings Central Forum

Home Forums Photo Gallery
Log In Register
Home
Home Page
The ARK
African Species
Other Species
The Feed Cup
Parrot FAQ's
Links
Mailing Lists

Membership
Support WC
 
Credits

This site is best viewed when using a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or higher and
using MS IE 6 or FireFox

Cape Parrot FAQ

Cape Parrot FAQ

by Scott Lewis, Old World Aviaries

List of Frequently Asked Questions In This FAQ About Cape Parrots

1. What, exactly, is a Cape Parrot?
2. So, things have changed. What are the new scientific names?
3. What do the different birds look like?
4. Where do these birds live in Africa?
5. You’ve told us that P. robustus is in real trouble. How are the other birds doing in nature?
6. Enough of the scientific stuff already. I am considering buying one of these birds. Do they make good pets?
7. I live in an apartment. Are they loud?
8. Ok, they aren’t loud. But, do they talk?
9. I have heard that these birds are dimorphic. What does that mean?
10.I just got a baby that the breeder claims is a male. It has orange on its head. Did the breeder lie to me?
11. Okay, but, my baby is not nearly as colorful as the photos I have seen. What’s with that?
12. I read someplace that you can’t keep these birds in aviculture or as pets because they die for lack of some critical but unknown dietary need. Is that true?
13. I’m thinking about breeding these birds. How do I get started?
14. Do they have any special requirements?
15. Are they good parents?
16. After you pull the babies, do they have any special handfeeding requirements?
17. Where can I find more information about these birds on the Internet?
18. Who breeds them?
19. Finally, as a breeder, do you think the babies are cute?


1. What, exactly, is a Cape Parrot?

This question used to be easier to answer. A few years ago, the three subspecies of parrots that were members of the species Poicephalus robustus were all called Cape Parrots. However, this has changed.

Recently, based mainly on DNA evidence along with some other observations, Cape Parrots have been divided and renamed. Now, in U.S. aviculture, a Cape Parrot is really either a Brown-necked Parrot or a Grey-headed Parrot. (Some breeders use the common names Brown-necked Cape Parrot and Grey-headed Cape Parrot to provide some continuity.) The remaining bird that retains the common name Cape Parrot is severely endangered and is native to a very small range in South Africa. It is estimated that only 200 – 400 individuals remain in nature. The South African Cape Parrot is not present in U.S. aviculture. 

In general, Cape Parrots are the largest members of the genus Poicephalus. They are medium sized birds with large beaks, large heads, stocky bodies, and short tails. (Poicephalus means, literally, made of head.) They range from about 225g to about 400g in weight depending on sex and subspecies. Within the genus, their closest relative is Jardine’s Parrot, P. gulielmi.

2. So, things have changed. What are the new scientific names?

The South African Cape Parrot is still P. robustus but without the extra robustus at the end. The parrots that we call Cape Parrots in the U.S. are P. fuscicollis fuscicollis and P. f. suahelicus, the Brown-necked Parrot and Grey-headed Parrot, respectively. 

NOTE: To minimize confusion, we will use the scientific names in the remainder of this FAQ. Sorry about that.

Return to the top of this page

3. What do the different birds look like?

Figures 1, 2, and 3 show P. robustus, P.f. fuscicollis, and P.f. suahelicus hens, respectively. Males are similar, but without orange on the heads. In general, P. robustus has a yellowish-green hue to the feathers on the head and neck that is lacking in the other birds. The head and neck of P.f. fuscicollis has brown tones and the orange coloration on the head, wings, and anklets is a bright, intense orange to reddish orange. The head and neck of P.f. suahelicus is grayer and the orange is less abundant and often relatively muted compared to P.f. fuscicollis. In addition, P.f. suahelicus is, on average, larger. For example, a typical P.f. suahelicus male weighs 400g give or take, while a typical P.f. fuscicollis male may weigh 75g to 100g less.

P. r. Hen
Figure 1. P. robustus hen.

P. f. s. Hen
Figure 2. P.f. suahelicus hen.

P. f. f. Hen
Figure 3. P.f. fuscicollis hen.

Return to the top of this page

4. Where do these birds live in Africa?

As shown in Figure 4, P.f. fuscicollis lives in sub-Saharan northwest Africa. The range of P.f. suahelicus is the largest of the three and stretches from coast to coast in south-central Africa. P. robustus is restricted to a small range near the coast in far southeast Africa with a tiny, disjunct population to the north.


Figure 4. Range map.

P. robustus lives in montane, mixed, yellow-wood (Podocarpus) forests and is reliant on the trees for both food and nesting. It has been reported that yellow-wood fruits make up roughly 70% of its diet. Both subspecies of P. fuscicollis inhabit low-lying woodlands and are dietary generalists.

Return to the top of this page

5. You’ve told us that P. robustus is in real trouble. How are the other birds doing in nature?

P.f. fuscicollis is considered to be vulnerable because of its relatively limited range and low population density within the range. P.f. suahelicus is more secure. Although its population density is also sparse over much of its range, the range is much larger.

Return to the top of this page

6. Enough of the scientific stuff already. I am considering buying one of these birds. Do they make good pets?

In general, they make great pets. Jean Pattison, a well-known breeder of African parrots in Florida, describes them as gentle giants. I think most who know these birds would say that this is an appropriate description.

Return to the top of this page

7. I live in an apartment. Are they loud?

“Loud” is subjective. What is loud to one person may not be to another. Anyone who has heard a Mollucan Cockatoo at full volume would just laugh if someone complained about a screaming Senegal Parrot.

That being said, they are not loud birds, relatively speaking. They are probably the loudest of the Poicephalus, but the Poicephalus, in general, are relatively quiet birds. Most breeders recommend them for situations where noise is a concern.

Return to the top of this page

8. Ok, they aren’t loud. But, do they talk?

They have excellent talking potential – probably on a par with African Greys. However, they talk in parrot voices, not in human voices as do Greys.

Return to the top of this page

9. I have heard that these birds are dimorphic. What does that mean?

Male and female birds differ in appearance. The most noticeable difference is that females have orange above their ceres and, depending on species, subspecies, and the individual bird, sometimes covering most of the crown and the cheeks below the eyes. In addition, males are larger than females. Figure 5 shows a pair of P. robustus. The female is on the left.

Cape Pair
Figure 5. P. robustus pair.

Return to the top of this page

10. I just got a baby that the breeder claims is a male. It has orange on its head. Did the breeder lie to me?

We assume not. Juveniles are not dimorphic with the exception of size. As the birds mature, the males lose the orange on their heads. Figure 6 shows three young male P.f. fuscicollis. As they mature, they will lose the orange on their heads but develop orange anklets and orange on their shoulders.

Juvenil Cape
Figure 6. Young, male P.f. fuscicollis.

Return to the top of this page

11. Okay, but, my baby is not nearly as colorful as the photos I have seen. What’s with that?

You probably have seen photos of mature birds. Although the amount of orange can vary significantly with individual birds and is typically less with P.f. suahelicus compared to P.f. fuscicollis, in general, fledglings lack much of the orange coloration displayed by mature birds. As they mature, they progressively molt in more orange for the first few years. Figure 7 shows a young P.f. fuscicollis hen well before the first molt. Figure 8 shows a mature hen.

 Young P. f. f. Hen
Figure 7. Young P.f. fuscicollis hen

Mature P. f. f. Hen
Figure 8. Mature P.f. fuscicollis hen

Return to the top of this page

12. I read someplace that you can’t keep these birds in aviculture or as pets because they die for lack of some critical but unknown dietary need. Is that true?

Absolutely not, at least as far as P.f. fuscicollis and suahelicus are concerned. Years ago, a well-known aviculturist published an article saying that Cape Parrots could not be maintained in aviculture because of some unknown dietary need. We don’t know why the aviculturist was of this opinion, but we find that these birds do just fine on a wholesome, well-rounded diet such as you would offer to most psittacines. Our diet includes pellets, nuts, seeds, produce, and, optionally, cooked grains and pulses.

Perhaps the aviculturist in question was keeping P. robustus and perhaps P. robustus requires yellow-wood fruits and perhaps these fruits weren’t available. We just don’t know.

Return to the top of this page

13. I’m thinking about breeding these birds. How do I get started?

Obviously, the best way to get started is to buy a good producing pair. However, this isn’t easy to do. Few breeders are willing to sell good pairs. Most would be buying, not selling. In lieu of a producing pair, we recommend buying young, unrelated birds from reputable breeders. And, don’t make them pets. You don’t want the youngsters to be confused as to whether they should bond with each other or with you.

Return to the top of this page

14. Do they have any special requirements?

Our pairs are set up in 4 x 4 x 6-foot cages. This appears to be adequate. They do not seem to be picky about nestboxes. Our first pair of P.f. fuscicollis produced well in a tiny L-shaped box that was so small that both birds could barely fit in the body of the box. That box was not practical when they were moved outside. They now have a large boot nestbox that obviously gives them more room than they need. They consistently produce in the larger nestbox.

Return to the top of this page

15. Are they good parents?

We can’t speak for all pairs, but all our pairs do a good job of feeding babies in the nestbox. However, we did almost lose one parent-raised baby because, after he fledged, his parents were so shy that they take proper care of him until he was eating well on his own. We suspect that this was an isolated incidence, but in general, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on parent-raised babies of any species at fledging.

Return to the top of this page

16. After you pull the babies, do they have any special handfeeding requirements?

Not that we can determine. Our babies do fine on Roudybush Formula 3. Before we switched to Roudybush, they did fine on Kaytee Exact.

Return to the top of this page

17. Where can I find more information about these birds on the Internet?

Craig Harris maintains an excellent site that is devoted to Cape Parrots. The URL is:
http://www.capeparrot.org/
Additional articles are available on the information page at Old World Aviaries.
http://www.OldWorldAviaries.com

Return to the top of this page

18. Who breeds them?

Breeders include:
Old World Aviaries, Texas
http://www.OldWorldAviaries.com

Jean, the African Queen, Pattison, Florida
http://members.tripod.com/The_African_Queen/

Susie Johnson,  Sounds of Joy Aviary, Oregon
http://www.soundsofjoyaviary.com

Maggie Tarleton, Wing Nuts Avioary, Indiana
260-244-9690

Cal & Margie Adams, Pompano Beach, FL.
http://www.margiesbirds.com

Return to the top of this page

19. Finally, as a breeder, do you think the babies are cute?

It doesn’t get much cuter. Figures 9 and 10 show babies.

Baby Capes
Figure 9. Babies

Older Baby Capes
Figure 10. Older babies

Return to the top of this page
 
Wings Central Is Sponsored By The African Parrot Society
Wings Central Home © 2005-2006 African Parrot Society
© 2006 Wings Computer Consulting Inc.
339411