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A Well-kept Pet Parrot Secret – The Pionus or Red-Vented Parrots

Bronze wing PionusSometimes viewed as less talkative “versions” of the popular Amazons, the Red-Vented Parrots (Pionus spp.) have until recently been overlooked by aviculturists.  Many are now coming to realize that this is a mistake, as these wonderful birds have much to recommend them – at a fraction of the price of “flashier” species!


With their stocky builds and squared-off tails, the 8 species of Pionus Parrots do bring to mind the Amazon Parrots (Amazonas spp.).  Rather than bright colors, Pionus plumage shows a more subtle beauty, with a variety of hues blending into one another in a way that is quite unique.  All sport bare eye patches and red feathers about the vent, but the various species are otherwise completely different from one another in coloration.

Pionus as Pets

Pionus reach only 10-12 inches in length – this, along with soft voices and calm personalities, renders them more suited to life in a large cage than are their more boisterous cousins.  While their speaking abilities may not match those of most Amazons, some have acquired impressive vocabularies.  The 3 species covered below are those most readily available in the USA.

Pionus Parrots are rather quiet and calm, and usually make affectionate, trusting pets.  They do, however, become stressed easily, and in this condition commonly fall victim to Aspergillosus and similar infections.  They do not travel well, and begin breathing heavily almost as soon as any disturbance occurs.

Individuals kept in cramped cages usually become lethargic and obese.  When given enough space, however, they are as curious and entertaining as any parrot.  Even mated pairs often get along well with other Pionus, unrelated parrots, finches and softbills.

Blue-Headed Parrot, Pionus menstruus

Blue headed PionusMauve-bordered feathers lend this green and blue parrot a very distinct appearance.  Ranging from Costa Rica and Trinidad to Bolivia and Brazil, these are birds of forest edges.  This preference has apparently allowed them to adapt to logged woodlands and plantations, and their numbers appear stable at this time.

I worked for a bird importer in the early 70’s, when this species first made its appearance in the US pet trade, and have followed their captive history since.  They are only now gaining in popularity, and are still reasonably priced.

Maximilian’s or Scaly-Headed Parrot, Pionus maximiliani

Another uniquely-plumed species, Maximilian’s Pionus is olive green with a blue-black cast to the head and throat.  It ranges from eastern Brazil to northern Argentina, and seems to adjust well to habitat disturbance.

Inexpensive and usually affectionate, this parrot’s habit of dropping its head onto the chest when sleeping has given more than one owner quite a shock!

Bronze-Winged Parrot, Pionus chalcopterus

The Bronze Wing, while not “colorful” in typical parrot fashion, has a subtle beauty.  Its brownish to blue-black plumage is trimmed with pink along the forehead, and set off by a white throat patch, pink eye ring and indigo-edged flight feathers.  They have the reputation of being high strung, but become quite friendly in gentle hands.

Bronze-Winged Parrots are limited in range to mountain forests in a narrow range running through northwestern Venezuela, western Columbia, Ecuador and northwestern Peru.



Further Reading

An interesting report on Bronze-Winged Parrots in the wildis posted by the Pionus Parrots Research Foundation.

An amusing video of a Blue Headed and Bronze Winged Pionus playing may be viewed here.

Bronze-wing Pionus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio

Blue headed Pionus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Haplochromis

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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