Home | Tag Archives: Hawk Headed Parrot

Tag Archives: Hawk Headed Parrot

Feed Subscription

What is my Parrot Saying? – Growls, Clicks and Other Noises

Parrot owners often tend to focus on their birds’ speaking abilities, but it is the many vocalizations that our pets make naturally that represent their true efforts at communicating with us. Following are a few commonly-heard parrot sounds and their usual meanings.

Hawkheaded Parrot

Beak Grinding

People often grind their teeth at night, when under tension. Beak grinding has a similar sound, and so is often misinterpreted as indicating stress or aggression. However, in parrots, beak-grinding is usually a sign of contentment, given as darkness falls or sometimes while the bird is sleeping.

Beak Clicking

Beak clicking, the rapid snapping of the upper and lower mandibles, is a threat, most often issued when the parrot is protecting its territory, mate or favored person. Clicking is often accompanied by pupil dilation and a raising-up of the feathers, wings and/or foot (the hawk head parrot exhibits an extreme feather-raising display…please see photos).

Tongue Clicking

Unlike beak clicking, tongue clicks are uttered when a parrot is secure and seeking attention. Most often heard in cockatoos >(including cockatiels), the sound is much the same a person makes when clicking the tongue against the roof of the mouth.


Low, guttural growls indicate that a parrot is stressed and aggressive, and likely to bite if approached. Growling parrots often raise their neck and other feathers, fan their tails and appear taut and ready for action. The pupils will be dilated as well.Hawkheaded Parrot scratching


Purring is sometimes difficult to distinguish from growling; it is lower than growling, and sounds “less aggressive” somehow. Your parrot’s body language is an important key in determining the nature of the sound it is making…the pupils of a purring parrot will usually not be dilated, its feathers will be down and its stance may appear “relaxed”.

Further Reading

Please check out the book The Parrot Problem Solver for valuable information on parrot sounds and body language.

An interesting technical paper on parrot vocalization analysis is also an interesting insight.


Hawkheaded Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio
Hawkheaded Parrot scratching image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Goaly

The Hawk Headed Parrot: Natural History and Captive Care

The vibrant colors and unique erectile head crest of the hawk headed or red fan parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) have long rendered it a favorite pet in its native South America.  After the first exports in the mid 1800’s, the bird achieved instant stardom in zoos and private collections worldwide.

The Unique Crest

The first hawk headed parrot I encountered,  a wild caught male at a bird importers decades ago, surprised me in a way that only this bird can – it flashed a head crest of deep red, blue-edged feathers and hissed menacingly.  The unexpected display of size and color stopped me in my tracks, as well it might a predator.  I was later fortunate enough to glimpse a pair in the wild, and have cared for a number in captivity.

Hawk heads are the only parrots to possess a feather crest that encircles the head. They are the sole members of their genus, and their relationships to other parrots are unclear.

In addition to its role as a threat display, the crest is raised by courting birds as well.  Some observers report that displaying birds also glide earthward from above in succession.

The Name – Origin and a Thought

The “hawk headed” part of the name is said to arise from the barred pattern on the head crest, which resembles that of some hawks.

I wonder, however, if the name does not somehow relate back to the magnificent harpy eagle, which shares some of its range.  One of the world’s largest birds of prey, the harpy also has a head crest, and features prominently in local lore wherever it occurs.

Physical Description

The rest of this bird’s plumage is no less spectacular than the crest.  The back, wings and thighs are a fluorescent green, and the breast and abdomen feathers are dark red edged in bright blue.  The blue-edged green tail feathers have distinctly rounded tips.

Range and Habitat

Two subspecies range from Ecuador through southern Columbia, northern Peru and Venezuela to Guyana, and south to northwestern Brazil.

They favor forest edges, and roost in hollow trees rather than on branches as do most other parrots.

Hawk Headed Parrots as Pets

Hawk headed parrots are not all that common in the pet trade, but are well-worth searching for.  The smaller subspecies, known as the buff-crowned (D. a. accipitrinus) is more commonly bred than is the southern (Brazilian) subspecies, D. a. fuscifrons.

They are affectionate and talk well.  Even more so than many other parrots, individualism is the rule…some bond strongly to one person, others are accepting of most anyone.

Nearly all change drastically when breeding, however, becoming very aggressive towards people and, surprisingly often, towards one another.


Fruit forms a significant part of the natural diet, and captives need a wide variety of types if they are to thrive.  Tropic Fruit Pudding and freeze dried fruits are a convenient means of providing important dietary variety.

Hawk heads tend to be picky eaters, and may balk at pellets and most seeds.  Nutriberries are designed for such situations, and are usually readily accepted (it may help to feed fruit at one meal and only Nutriberries at the other).


Further Reading

An article on the behavior of hawk headed parrots in the wild, published in The Condor, is posted at http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v093n01/p0177-p0180.pdf.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Bobby.

Scroll To Top