Animal-World > Birds > Parrot Species > Senegal Parrot

Senegal Parrot

Yellow-Vented Parrot

Family: Psittacidae Senegal Parrot Picture, Poicephalus senegalus, also known as Yellow-vented Parrot"Clover"Poicephalus senegalusPhoto Courtesy: Darwin Wagner
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My Senegal parrot escaped three weeks ago. When he got out, he was in the early stages of puberty: lots of molting, his eyes beginning to change color from grey to... (more)  Rachel

   Senegal Parrots are known for their acrobatics, their mischievousness, and their passion!

   The Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalus, also known as the Yellow-vented Parrot, is a charming and very trainable small parrot. They have the big bird personality in a little bird body. Being cuddly and adapting easily to their environment, they make endearing pets. Senegals are great sources of companionship and amusement for their owners.

   The Senegal is an interesting bird that likes routine and becomes accustomed to the habits of its owners. Plan on spending an hour or so a day in some type of interaction with this little guy as he is a social creature. Whether that is in front of the TV or at meals, it makes no difference. Senegals can frequently become very attached to their human mate and have been known to become quite possessive and jealous. In order to avoid this, early socialization with all members of the home is required.

   Senegal Parrots are probably the most popular of the Poicephalus parrots, which includes the Meyer's Parrot, Red-bellied Parrot, and Jardine's parrots. They are also much quieter birds than many of the smaller, more colorful and popular parrots, like the Conures in the Aratinga genus. For this reason they make ideal pets for apartment or condominium living or just for the owner who prefers more peace.

  Senegal Parrots learn human speech quite easily. Their voices are softer and gentler than their larger African cousins like the African Grey. They usually acquire a moderate vocabulary although some can have a more extensive list of words and phrases. Most will develop an understanding of several common phrases like "step up". Of course the best way to teach a parrot to talk is to talk to your parrot.

To learn more about parrot care, see:
Bird Care: How to Take Care of a Pet Bird


Geographic Distribution
Poicephalus senegalus
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Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Genus: Poicephalus
  • Species: senegalus

Scientific name

   Poicephalus senegalus

Distribution

  The Senegal Parrot or Yellow-vented Parrot Poicephalus senegalus was first described by Linnaeus in 1766. They can be found across a wide range of West Africa. They migrate within West Africa based on availability of food which consists of fruits, seeds and blossoms. They will raid ripening millet and maize crops, attack harvested peanuts and they love figs. They are highly social and live in flocks. There are three subspecies of Senegal:

  • Subspecies: Poicephalus senegalus senegalus - Senegal Parrot (the nominate subspecies)
  • Subspecies: Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus - Orange-Bellied Senegal Parrot
  • Subspecies: Poicephalus senegalus versteri - Senegal Parrot Versteri

Status

   The Poicephalus senegalus is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC).

Description

   For its size, the Senegal Parrot or Yellow-vented Parrot, appears to have a large beak and head. The head is gray and it has a mostly green body. The breast and belly ranges in color from lime-yellow to deep orange. The body markings form a "V" with a green point running down the breast bone. Under the wing and under the tail, you will see a bright yellow. Juvenile birds have dark brown eyes, while the adult eye color ranges from silvery yellow to orange. The bill is gray and the legs are a brownish color.

  Senegal Parrots are about 9 inches in length (23 cm) and weigh between 120 and 170 grams (4.2 – 6.0 ounces). Their life span in the wild is 25 – 30 years. In captivity, they have been known to live as long as 50 years.

   There are three subspecies of this parrot and although they do not differ in behaviors, they do differ in the coloring of their vest.

  • Poicephalus s. senegalus (the nominate subspecies) has a yellow vest.
  • Poicephalus s. mesotypus has an orange vest.
  • Poicephalus s. versteri has a deep-orange/red vest.

Care and feeding

   In the wild the Senegal parrots eat seeds, nuts, berries and fruit. They love millet, corn and figs. For your pet, ready made name brand seed mixes are usually available at your local pet store or super market. These contain a mixture of canary grass seed, white millet, yellow millet, oats and groats and red millet, niger seed and linseed. Some higher quality seed mixtures come with thistle, anise, rape, sesame, and safflower seed. Vitamin pellets with iodine in them are sometimes present to prevent thyroid problems. Pellet mixes are also available.  Store seed in a dark but airy place. Don't use plastic bags, cloth bags work better.

   Additionally, your Senegal can eat anything nutritious that you eat. Offer fresh foods such as eggplant, green peas, cucumber, young dandelion greens, sweet corn, beet greens, carrots, unsprayed lettuce, green peppers, sorrel, spinach leaves, tomatoes and zucchini. Fruits that are suitable are: Pineapples, apples, apricots, bananas, most other fruits. Don't feed your bird chocolate or avocados. These foods have been implicated in the death of many birds and should not be fed to Senegals.

Housing

   Provide a roomy cage with the minimum dimensions of 2 feet by 2 feet and 3 feet high. These little guys do not do well in a closed in space. They need room and they need toys. They enjoy playing and climbing. A cage with horizontal bars about 3/4 inches apart makes climbing easier. It has been observed that wooden toys are favorites of Senegal's. Wooden ladders, chew toys, and wooden hanging toys seem to be preferred, most anything made of wood.

   You can also attach a perch/play area on top of the cage. In the cage have about three perches of different diameters (or branches with some angling) without the sandpaper guards. Swings are a favorite and bells along with plenty of chew toys. 

Maintenance

   The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.

Social Behaviors

   In the wild, the Senegal Parrot is generally seen singly or in pairs although there are frequently in larger parties of 10 – 20 when food is plentiful. They are a gregarious species and constantly chatter to each other with a range of whistles and calls. They migrate in large flocks to take advantage of ripening crops of millet and maize or other food sources. They are not aggressive unless you would say the male is aggressive during breeding season when he is protecting his mate and chicks from predators. Normally, they just get along with everyone.

Handling/Training

   You should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, but be patient and go slow. Allow them to hear your voice, get the scent of you.

   Remember that taming and training a bird takes patience, never 'punish' your pet! This only serves to destroy the trust you've spent so much time building. For more information on training your parrot, see Parrots: Handling/Training.

Activities

   The Senegal is quite content to play with his toys. They love playing and climbing. They need wooden toys to chew on and welcome new things to play with.

Sexing - Sexual Differences

   Many breeders can accurately determine the sex of these parrots by sight and behavior. However, they have a lot of experience and usually a lot of birds. It is said the male is slightly larger and heavier and it is said the male is a little bolder. The only accurate way to determine if you have a male or female is through DNA sexing.

Breeding/Reproduction

   In the wild breeding takes place toward the end of the rainy season which occurs in the fall from September to November in Africa. Senegal Parrots nest in a hollow tree at a considerable height from the ground. The female lays 3 – 4 eggs and the female incubates the eggs starting after the second egg is laid. They hatch out approximately 27 – 28 days later and will fledge around 12 weeks of age.

   It is believed the Senegals mature at approximately 4 years, although some will not breed until they are 6 – 7 years old. They are relatively easy to breed in captivity and require a nest box that is 18 inches high and 10 inches square. Suitable nest-box litter would be decomposed non-toxic saw dust, wood shavings, peat mixture, or other suitable materials. If they are to be bred in captivity they should be provided a spacious aviary with non-toxic leafy branches for perching and entertaining. Chewing these branches will minimize boredom and give the birds some beak exercise. There is no reason not to put toys in their aviary.

Potential Problems

   A Senegal Parrot parrot that is well cared for will seldom become ill. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:

  • ruffled plumage
  • listlessness
  • drooping wings
  • sagging body
  • extreme mood changes
  • having no appetite
  • bulges in feathering
  • partially closed or watery eyes
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • rasping
  • difficulty breathing
  • excessive saliva
  • dirty vent
  • any change in the feces not apparently diet related.

   Some of the more common illnesses are:

  • Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
  • bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • feather picking (results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, lack of bathing)
  • allergies
  • chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
  • beak malformations in chicks
  • Papillomas
  • kidney disease (gout)
  • toxicity
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • lipomas in older birds.

   If you notice any of this bird illnesses in your Senegal, immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Availability

   Because of the success in captive breeding Senegal parrots are available and but are moderately expensive.

References

Author: Cheryl Galloway
Lastest Animal Stories on Senegal Parrot

Rachel - 2014-06-03
My Senegal parrot escaped three weeks ago. When he got out, he was in the early stages of puberty: lots of molting, his eyes beginning to change color from grey to a definite yellow. Four days ago, I got a call that he had been found and went to pick him up. The found parrot is farther into puberty, with orange eyes with dark circles around them and very bright plumage. So my question is: is it possible it is the same parrot? It is friendly toward me but, so far, does not show any of the behaviors I had known my parrot to. However, the combination of puberty and three weeks in the wild, plus the fact that he's only just gotten home ... he might just be tired and stressed. Any advice?

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Mark Anderson - 2008-11-27
I have recently acquired my second senegal, Dylan, a 12 week old male. My previous bird was lost when a door was left open around 6 months ago and I've pined for him ever since. They are fantastic birds and complex in nature and should be treated so, my previous parrot harry was without doubt the best thing I have ever spent my money on. I didn't realise another creature could be quite so intelligent. But as such they can be unpredictable, and I always found a change in scenery helped with negative behaviour. Removing a toy from the cage, moving cage or covering three sides may help in stimulating problem birds to think of something else. I have heard that owners with other birds should experiment with cage heights and positions and although I can't speak from experience on this I think it is worth a mention. I also allow my bird to be handled by as many people as possible and constantly push the boundaries of what he is comfortable with me doing with him (laying him on his back and opening his wings etc). They have a very strong impulse on where they are within the flock, and I cannot stress enough that you need to be firm with them. If my bird bites my ear for instance, I'll drop the shoulder it's on and tell him off. I'm the boss in our relationship and that's the end of the story, and as long as the bird knows that we'll always be fine. If you have other birds in the house I would urge you to try and move the birds around, but I hope you get around it all and bring your parrot back to the bird it was.

  • Jessica - 2010-03-30
    These are great tips. My senegal is about the sweetest bird you can ever ask for and I know a large part of that is the socialization. From the time I first got him I made sure to have him practice "stepping up" with as many people as possible which I think is very important and prevents them from becoming one person birds. Now he will step up for just about anyone and perch on just about anyone's shoulder, and he also lets my brother and mom pet him. When he is being naughty (tries to bite at my skin or clothes when he's perched on my hand or shoulder), I drop my hand or shoulder like you said and he immediately quits what he's doing. He is as sweet/good as can be I feel because of these things. People need to understand that in order to have a well-behaved bird you need to spend lots of time with it and give the proper training!
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Gabby - 2008-10-03
Alas, fellow Senegal lovers it seems we are destined to try to please what can be a very moody bird species. I have two Sengal parrots. Scooter, the male, is 20 (yes, that's twenty!)years old. I got him at 4 weeks of age and he has only just become more predictable in his behavior. I am hoping his hormone levels have peaked and are now on the decline that will hopefully lead to more dependable, good behavior. For many years, he would give me severe bites on the hands, arms, and face. These bites were always unexpected and I could never really pin down what might have sent him over the edge. I have read everything out there on Sengal behavior and what has worked best for Scooter and I are boundaries and setting limits. I do not let him have the run of the house and return him to his cage periodically and latch the door to reinforce his dependency on me. If he goes through a spell where he acts as if doesn't respect me, I will take him out of his environment and upset his comfort level with a trip to the post office, etc. so that he again views me as his safety net. Keeping their nails groomed and wings trimmed is especially important- an independent Senegal can get pretty full of himself. Track on a calandar what months you seem to be having the most behavioral problems. It could be cyclic with hormones and the seasons. Don't give up! Maintain the commitment you made to your Senegal when you first got it. Be aware of your Senegals body language and know the signals- flashing eyes, low aggressive stance, etc. Sengals should not be placed on your head (Scooter leaned over and bit my eyelid) and shoulder time is stongly discouraged. There is a reason the pirates with parrots wear eye patches! There is no reason that you can't enjoy your Sengal for as many years as I have plus 20 to 30 more.

  • Anonymous - 2013-08-13
    Just about to get a rescue bird, thanks for positive flow. I know this love is love. You step in, never give in. Animals rock, god bless.
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Cindi Kirby - 2009-03-18
I have spoken about Emma, our parrot on your site previously - when we had just got her. Dr Jungle has her as a postcard pet. She is about 4 years old already! I think she is a HE, but nonetheless, the name Emma stuck! She is incredibly tame - which can be a problem! We leave her cage open at all times - just outside our back door. Our dogs are there too - and I prefer her to be near them, in case a stray cat comes to eat her! The dogs have a great relationship with her, but she DEFINITELY RULES THE ROOST! We are a family of 5, and no one else is allowed to pick her up! She bites them! But not immediately, which is always a problem, as they keep wanting to trust her, then she gives them a good bite! She has never ever bitten me. She wouldnt dare, because I am strict with her. I get very angry with her when she bites or tries to bite my kids and she gets taken back to her cage and closed in there for 20 mins. It doesnt help! She still bites everyone else! But some guests try their luck and she doesnt bite them - its never really a serious bite, but leaves a dent in the finger which is very painful for a child! She adores me. She waddles around the house looking for me - and she always gets attention this way, even if I take her back to her cage - as I am afraid of her messing the house, chewing the wood or cables of computers! She allows me to do absolutely anything with her! I look in her mouth, grab her tongue, she lies upsidedown in my hand. I grab her beak and shake it, as one would do with the muzzle of a dog. I cut her feathers, I rub her feet, I SMOTHER her with kisses and tickle her tummy and under her wings. In fact I am a bit rough with her and she LOVES it! She screams at the dog - ZIGGY, all day - and I dont know how she keeps on with it - because the dog never get screamed at by us! ;-). The dogs keep their distance from her - but if they are lying on a mat in our hallway and she walzes into the house, she walks within inches of them, and they dont budge! They DO keep their eye on her, though!She never ever bites them. Sometimes, I try to put her on Flash's back (she is a boxer), but she just flaps her wings and flies down. She adores any seeded bread and can destroy that for an hour, eating all the seeds. She also LOVES sweetcorn on the cob. She is very spoilt with food and is extremely greedy. She also loves to swim and splash in her water! Once we left her at home when we went away on holiday (with the dogs) and someone came in to feed them daily. I forgot to cut her wings before I left. She flew away - I think they tried to get her down from the roof with a broom, and it spooked her and she flew. She gets spooked VERY easily. She was gone for 4 days and we found her at the Veterninary CLinic. Someone WITH DOGS had brought her in. Thankfully! Unfortunately, she hates my husband and she stretches her neck out as far as possible, almost toppling off her cage to try and bite him as he goes past! He says we should let her grow her wings and fly away! Ha ha! She adores showing off in front of our friends and showing them all the things she can do - like lying on her back. I also pick her up by the scruff of her neck - like one would a kitten and she just hangs there - calm as anything! Everyone thinks thats the cutest! She just LOVES attention and would sleep with me at night if she could. Sometimes, when I rest on my bed of an afternoon - which is FAR away from her cage, she will walk the entire length of the house to come and find me - chattering and clicking all the kissing sounds all the way! Quite irreristable! Unfortunately, she DOES screech - and usually does it when I hang the washing right near her. I tell her to stop it immediately, - then she does some quiet little whistles and then hears a bird in the distance, and starts screeching again! I have battles with her all the time with this! If I start whistling or singing, she joins in and its the cutest sound. She mixes up all the notes, but gets 2 or 3 in a row right! Its really the cutest thing! She is also very funny the way she mimics us laughing! She ALWAYS mimics laughter and its a low giggle that she does, but quite amazing! She is actually extremely well behaved. Unfortunately, one of the negatives about having her outside and in an open cage, wild birds come and visit her and take her food. I am amazed that she doesnt chase THEM away! She just watches them. I think she quite likes the company! She is extremely good at immitating sounds! We live in SA, so we have an alarm system that turns on and off everytime we exit or enter our house - and she mimics the sounds it makes, as well as the squeak of the door and the clang of the gate. She doesnt say many words well - but she will try and mimic almost every SOUND we make! IF we click, she clicks, if we cough, she coughs, if we laugh, she laughs, if we bang, she bangs! Quite amazing. The tiring thing about her - is that she demands a LOT of attention! I read in one of the other comments, that the guy started leaving his parrot for LONGER in her cage - as she didnt like spending the entire day with him - I find the same with Emma - if I take her somewhere, she gets a bit tired and irritated and starts screeching, and then I know that she wants to go back to her place! They definitely DO try to communicate what they want! She also huffs up her feathers and RUNS at one of my daughters feet in the lounge! Hysterics! But one learns what to be careful of - and if you show her that you are scared - then she thinks you are submitting to her and she rules the roost even more!

  • Allison Yarbrough - 2010-05-08
    I think it's great how open you are with your Senegal but it does worry me that you leave her out to roam. You already lost her once! My mom and I hatched my Senegal 16 years ago and she is very precious. My mom has also been a parent of a female Senegal for 28 years. It seems that this breed is very partial to females and focuses on one parent. Sasha tolerates my mom only when I am not around (she hand fed her as a baby) but tries to bite her while I am in the picture. I do think it is wonderful how much freedom you give to Emma but you may want to keep your doors shut since you don't clip her wings. You don't want her flying away again and being eaten by some animal or starving to death. It's just not responsible as a pet owner.
  • lindy alvestad - 2011-01-06
    I wonder if you are still lucky enough to still have this little bird. So many things accidental things can happen to small birds especially one that enjoys as much freedom as yours appears to have. If you still have this bird, I suggest you go to the "Bird-n-Way" sites for some education or there are excellent magazines out there such as "Bird Talk" and others that will help you enjoy your bird while keeping him/her safe for years to come. Good luck and good reading!
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Jayme - 2008-11-24
I have an eight year old senegal named Frankie, (He was my birthday present.) At first he was very shy, but then he turned around and was very nice and playful, he did "kisses" and said his name and even used to sing the banana phone song! He only snapped at me occasionally. Now, everytime I try to take him out he bites very hard, my whole family is almost afraid of him! I recommend senegals for singles or couples, for I think they will tolerate more than a couple people, but they will bond to one. Overall for bird lovers who have time to spend with their bird I think a senegal is a fun and good choice!

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Denise & Jeff Preusse - 2005-08-28
We purchased are Senegal parrot three years ago from a local bird store. Born on November 1, 2002, We brought Elmo (named before we were told her sex) home the weekend after New Year's 2003. My husband and I have no children, so Elmo is very spoiled. Grandma says "Thank God you don't have any kids since the bird is so spoiled". Elmo has free rein of the house when we are at home. The first thing we do is open the cage door and allow her to go wherever she wants to go. Normally she'll climb down the play set to make sure everyone is home. If one of us get home late she will pace until the other person gets home. If we don't open the cage door right away she will call for us until we let her out. Elmo speaks a few phrases, "Pretty Bird" "Oh, Pretty Baby" "Mommy" "Daddy" but I think she does better with the imitations of the microwave, alarm clock and my husband's cell phone. The "wolf whistle" and "charge" are also popular. She loves taking showers and will run to the bathroom door and she'll peck at the door until she's let in. She's plenty of fun and alot of work to keep occupied. But she is definitely special.

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