Caiques… a very big parrot in a very small package!
Caiques are highly intelligent birds. They are thought of as the ‘clowns’ of the parrot world, because they are very outgoing and always on the go. They are some of the prettiest parrots with very distinctive feather coloring.
These are small parrots that adapt well to captivity. They will adjust easily to their cage or aviary. They have delightful and comical personalities and will readily learn tricks. Though not good talkers they can mimic sounds in their environment.
Though the Caique is very playful and affectionate, it is not considered a beginner bird. Caique birds like to be in charge and will want to be dominant. Caiques need consistent and firm training with close interaction from their human companion for them to become the remarkable pets they can be.
See these types of pet birds in theCaique Family
- White-belly Caiques are found south of the Amazon from northern Brazil to Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.
- Black-headed Caiques are found north of the Amazon, from the Guianas westward to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.
Caiques are extremely colorful birds. They are fairly small solid looking parrots with short square tails. Both species of Caique are generally considered to be 9″ (23cm) in length but some of the subspecies are just a bit larger, such as the Yellow-thighed Caique. They are surprising long lived for a parrot of this size, often reaching 40 years or more.
- White-belly Caiques: White-Belly Caiques, Pionites leucogaster, have a mostly orange colored head with the lores, sides of the head, and the throat being yellow. The back and wings are green and the breast and belly are creamy-white. The beak is horn colored and the eye is reddish-brown.
On juveniles the head is more brownish scattered with black feathers, the beak has gray markings by the base, and the eye is brown.
There are two subspecies of White-Belly Caique:
White-bellied Caique P. l. leucogaster – the White-bellied Caique has thighs and flanks that are green.
Yellow-thighed Caique P. l. xanthomeria – the Yellow-thight Caique also has green thighs and flanks, but its tail is yellow.
- Black-headed Caiques:
Black-headed Caiques Pionites melanocephala have a mostly black head with the cheeks, throat, thighs, and flanks an orange-yellow. They also have an orange band across the hind neck bordered by a few bluish feathers. The back, wings, rump and upper tail are green and the breast and belly are creamy-white. The tip of the tail is yellow. The beak is gray-black and the eyes are orangish-red. The subspecies P. m. pallida have yellow on the throat, flanks, and thighs with the breast and belly being very white Their hind neck band is also a much paler orange-yellow.
On juveniles the underside is more yellow, all orange and yellow parts are paler, the beak is horn colored, and the eye is dark brown.
Care and feeding:
- Bird Food and Water:
Fresh food and water must be provided daily. In the wild the Caiques stay high in the tree tops eating fruits, berries, and seeds. In captivity their diet includes of a good bird seed mixture or pelleted food along with various fruits and vegetables.
Fresh foods you can offer include green peas, young dandelion greens, sweet corn, beet greens, carrots, broccoli, unsprayed lettuce, chickweed, dandelions, watercress, spinach leaves, endive, and sweet potatoes. Fruits that you can offer include apples, peaches, apricots, bananas, pears, plums, raisons, and most other fruits. Do not feed avocado as it can be toxic to birds!
A special treat that is a favorite among most caiques is an occasional walnut. A cuttle bone or a calcium block is a good source of calcium as is gravel with oyster shell provided in a separate dish. Vitamins can be added to the drinking water or the food.
- Bird Baths:
Caiques love a bath! A shower can be accomplished with either a hand held shower sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head and lukewarm water. You can also place a bath pan or ceramic dish at the bottom of the cage.
- Bird Grooming:
The wings should be kept trim if you want to discourage flight and to prevent the loss of your pet through an open window or door. The beak and claws need to be trimmed if they are not worn down from climbing and chewing.
Housing: Bird Houses
- Bird Cages:
Their bird cage should provide room for lots of movement as well as space for perches, food dishes and a variety of playthings. Size wise a cockatiel cage, a minimum of 24″ wide by 24″ high by 24″ length (60 x 605 x 60 cm) is okay for as a minimum size for a Caique, though the bigger the cage the better.
A chew resistant metal bird cage is important, as a wooden cage will easily be destroyed. Horizontal bars on the sides are nice as they love to climb.
- Bird Perch:
Provide two perches, sized between 3/4″ to 1″ (2 – 2.5 cm). Place one bird perch up high for roosting and one low by the food and water dishes. Caiques love to chew and will gnaw on the perches. Natural perches from willow, poplar and fruit trees are good for the bird’s feet and for it’s beak.
Place the cage where it will be away from harmful fumes and drafts. To provide you pet with a sense of security, you can cover the cage at night.
- Playpen and Bird Toys:
When Caiques are housed in a small cage they will need to be out daily for exercise and play. A playpen is a great option for this. Playthings can be such things as climbing ropes, chains, bells, parrot swings and wooden or other bird toys.
An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary. It should be no smaller than 59″ – 79″ (1.5 – 2 m) high with a floor space of 39″x 39″ (1 m x 1 m) and have an attached flight cage. The flight should be 79″ – 118″ (2 – 3 m) long with a perch at each end. A climbing branch and a bird bath are nice additions too.
You can find bird seed, bird cages, and everything you need for your pet here:Bird Supplies
Good bird health care starts with providing a clean environment for your Caique.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.
The general demeanor of the Caiques is one of affection and sociability. In the wild the White-bellied Caiques are generally seen in pairs, a family group, or a small flock, while the Black-headed Caiques will be seen in family groups or flocks up to 30 birds.
In captivity the Caique is very social, greatly enjoying interacting with other birds and people. But despite this overall affectionate nature some caiques, especially the Black-headed Caiques, can get rather grumpy and nippy and can be aggressive to other birds. They should never be left unsupervised with other pets.
Because of their highly social and active nature, if you do not have a lot of time to devote to your pet, it is recommended that you get a pair so they can have a friend.
Caiques are very intelligent. They enjoy learning tricks and then showing off, however, they are very strong willed individuals. You will need a firm hand when taming your pet to establish dominance. If they are handled timidly they can become aggressive so are not considered a beginners pet. When raised correctly, Caiques can become wonderful companions.
- Taming Basics:
To be able to handle and train your parrot depends first on trust, so go slowly and be consistent. 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 handfed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.
Caiques, like other parrots, are most receptive to training in the evening (as well as when you are entering or leaving the room). Each session is best if limited to under 20 minutes with about an hours rest in between.
- Initial Training:
Your first goal is to get the parrot to accept a treat from you, which will lead to it allowing you to gently scratch its head. Once you have his trust and are able to pet his head, then you can begin to work on getting your parrot to step up on your hand.
Depending on the tameness of the bird, these two steps can be instantaneous as in a handfed baby or take several weeks or longer for an untamed bird.
- Advanced Training: Once your Caique has gotten over its shyness, then you can work on behavior and trick training. Repetition and frequency are the keys here. Almost every parrot can learn at least a few words or sounds. Caiques in particular do better at mimicing environmental sounds rather than human voices.
Remember that taming and training a bird takes patience, never ‘punish’ you parrot! This only serves to destroy the trust you’ve spent so much time building.
Exercise and play are important bird activities for the physical well being and psychological health of your parrot. These activities help deter distress and prevent the problems of screeching and feather picking.
Caiques especially enjoy climbing and chewing. Provide your pet with lots of bird activities in the form of large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, parrot toys, and fresh branches for gnawing and chewing. Rotate new bird toys on a regular basis.
Caiques are not dimorphic so you will have to have them sexed by either a surgical probe, endoscopy, a DNA test, or a chromosonal analysis. The sexes must be confirmed and the pair must be harmonious, bonded with each other.
They are challenging to breed. You can encourage breeding by providing them with a nest box in a secluded and darker area with some soft bedding material inside on the bottom of the box.
A caique female will lay 2 to 4 eggs and she will brood for about 27 days. The male will feed the female while she is brooding, and will join her in the nest box at various times during the day and at night. The hatchlings will leave the nest at about 10 weeks (up to 14 weeks for Black-headed Caiques).
Successful breeding is helping to preserve the species and reduce the number of wild caught birds. There are no breeding regulations in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom, though other countries might have restrictions and you should consult with the authorities in your country before undertaking breeding.
As Caiques are hardy birds, and good bird health care is easy to maintain. But as with all parrots, the signs of illness to be aware of are ruffled plumage, resting often with their head turned back, having no appetite, sneezing, discharge from the nostrils, cloudy eyes, and any change in the feces.
Some of the common illnesses your Caique could contract are internal parasites, intestinal influenza, coccidiosis, respiratory ailments, feather picking, and parrot fever also known as psittacosis. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Both White-bellied Caiques and Black-headed Caiques are successfully being bred in captivity. They are occasionally available as pets, but still not as readily available as other parrot species and they are more costly.
Featured Image Credit: Tirriko, Pixabay