The Hawk-Headed Parrot displays a ruff that rings its head when excited or angry, thus giving it a ‘hawk-like’ appearance!
The Hawk-Headed Parrot is a most unusual looking pet parrot. Though most parrots can raise their neck feathers to some degree when they get excited, the extensive ‘hawk-like’ ruff display is unique to the Hawk-Heads. When it raises its colorful neck feathers it resembles an open fan, leading to another common name besides Hawk-head. It’s also frequently called the Red Fan Parrot.
Hawk-heads have been described as endearing, mischievous, adventuresome, and fearless. This bird is intelligent and its personality has many facets. A wonderfully entertaining bird, the Hawk-Headed parrot will forever amuse you with new antics; a clown in its play. Some behaviors and movements are so bizarre it is mesmerizing.
Being very friendly birds, Hawk-Headed parrots will follow you around the home the entire day if allowed. They love attention. They will also thoroughly enjoy being held close to the body and petted on the top of the head and under the wings. They will actually fall asleep laying on or close to you. And although they are quite loyal and attached to their main human companion, they will frequently play with any individual.
These parrots are also content to entertain themselves if they have a large enough cage and plenty of toys. They will play while on their backs, or hang upside down, swinging from toys with their wings and crown fully extended. Of course they will play and swing from your hair or shirt just as easily. They fly like a helicopter going from head to head entertaining all the individuals around them. This is surely one of the most distinctive parrots in both its behavior and the wonderful coloring of its feathers.
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Guide to a Happy, Healthy Bird
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Psittaciformes
- Family: Psittacidae
- Genus: Deroptyus
- Species: accipitrinus
There is just a single member in the genus Derptyus, but with two sub-species. The differences between the two subspecies are in the appearance and in the location of their natural habitats, with D. a. accipitrinus found north of the Amazon River while the D. a. fuscifrons is found south of the Amazon River. In appearance, the head and crown of the Buff Hawk-Headed Parrot D. a. fuscifrons is streaked with buff.
- Hawk-Headed Parrot Deroptyus A. accipitrinus (Linne)
- Buff Hawk-Headed Parrot Deroptyus A. Fuscifrons (Hellmayr)
The Hawk-Headed Parrot Deroptyus accipitrinus was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. They are found in the Amazon Basin of South America. The accipitrinus sub-species are found along the Amazon basin north of the river and up into southern Venezuela. The fuscifrons subspecies are found south of the Amazon River going down into northern Brazil.
The Deroptyus accipitrinus is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC)..
The Hawk-Headed Parrot is approximately the size of an Amazon with the length reaching about 14″ (35 cm). However, the feel of the body is slender and the weight is less than that of the Amazon almost making one believe this bird is more fragile when it is not.
The lower part of the face has dark brown feathers interspersed with buff. The color of the crown starts as buff and your attention is drawn immediately to the colorful crown feathers. The crown feathers are very long and can be extended, at will, displaying a circular crown of burgundy feathers tipped in blue. The chest from the neck down to the tail also has the burgundy feathers tipped in blue. The back and the upper sides of the wings and the legs are a dark forest green. The undersides of the wings are forest green at the tips and blend to a dark brown or black going toward the body.
Care and feeding:
Food and water should be available to the Hawk-Headed Parrot at all times. The water should be kept fresh and changed daily and the bowls should be kept clean. Hawk-Heads eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, and commercial pellets, as well as the same nutritional foods humans eat.
They do require a higher fat diet, similar to the macaw and they definitely enjoy those nuts and meat. Avocado and chocolate are considered toxic for birds and sugar and salt should be avoided. Human food or prepared foods should be removed from the cage after 4 hours.
These parrots require frequent bathing to keep their feathers healthy and are happy to have a bath in the kitchen sink or the shower. Turn the water on a light spray and they will frequently lay on their backs with their feet straight up displaying the full extent of crown as they bounce up and down on their backs.
A roomy cage is required for the Hawk-Heads. This is an active parrot that likes to play and swing upside down from toys expanding its wings and crown at the same time. It is recommended that a cage be 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
Hawk-Headed Parrots can tolerate a wide variety of temperatures from quite cold to very warm. However, they should be kept away from any drafts.They love to be out of their cage to play with their human and will make anything available to them into a toy. The favorite place to perch is the top of your head and they are quite demanding in their desire to join you for meals.
A variety of perches should be used of varying size and texture. A rougher texture rather than smooth (such as a doll rod) makes it easier for them to perch and is better for their feet and legs. A concrete perch can be placed as the highest perch in the cage and next to a toy. At times during the day they will perch there and it will save them (and you) from the ordeal of having their nails filed.
They love a little cubbyhole to sleep in and will definitely make use of the furry bird beds that are available. They are more secure with the back of the cage (and their bed) against or close to a wall or in a corner of the room given there is light. These parrots can be shy and frighten easily when approached from the back
The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Their cage should be kept clean and this is quite easy to do with cage paper or newspaper under the grate and just pulled as needed. The cage should be wiped down with a disinfectant when needed to insure its cleanliness. 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.
In the wild the Hawk-Headed Parrots associate in pairs within a small flock. As a pet in your home, you or members of your family are the other half of the pair. They sleep singly in a tree but close to the flock. They are very social and will become quite attached to their human caretaker, as well as very willing to interact with other people. Their call is either a very soft cooing or talking when in it wants affection or is curled up on your chest or under your neck.
The Hawk-Headed Parrot is quiet when playing alone in its cage, or with you. At times though, they become very excited or upset and they will make a high-pitched call that can be quite loud. They are having a temper tantrum. This definitely occurs if you eat in front of them without sharing your food or when they feel they should be the boss. The Hawk-Headed Parrot will make a hissing sound if it is mad or frightened which is believed to be a defensive behavior. It is definitely a sound that most living things would surely back away from.
In “A Monograph of the Hawk-Head Parrot”, Deborah Westi-Petererson, states that these endearing parrots can pose some problems as they mature because they often become very protective of their territory. She also states their play can be rough and that while playing with your Hawk-Headed Parrot, care should be taken so it does not become overly excited. Just having a few seconds of time out will prevent this.
The Hawk-Headed Parrots are quite intelligent and they have a great desire to please you and be with you. This makes training fairly easy given the owner is consistent in their teachings. Sharing your food at any meal, playing with your Hawk-Headed Parrot, or saying “I Love you” or “good” are positive reinforcements for your pet. Separating the Hawk-Headed Parrot from its human is punishment.
A bird behaviorist advised me that “Jail” is the quickest and easiest way to stop a poor behavior in a parrot. She defined “Jail” as confining the parrot away from you, in the dark, but for no more than three minutes. If you choose to use the bathroom, place the parrot in the bathtub with the lights out for 3 minutes. I have found it takes about three trips to “Jail” and that particular poor behavior is eliminated – at least for a while. Frequently, if you say, “Don’t” to the Hawk-Headed Parrot and it doesn’t work, then use the word “Jail” and there is usually a positive reaction from your mischievous pet.
Don’t try and reprimand the parrot for a natural behavior because it became overly excited. Just talk softly and assure them that you are the boss and everything is all right and don’t forget to share your food. We could equate this bird to the written word about pirates. Both are said to be strong, adventurous, bold, fearless, fun loving, romantic and very loyal to their crew. However, both have their own set or rules and the Hawk-Headed Parrot will change them at will and certainly not tell you. It is your consistent behavior and teaching that will insure you have a wonderful companion with this beautifully colored parrot and its many faceted behaviors.
The Hawk-Headed Parrot is quite creative in its ability to amuse both themselves as well as their human companions. They definitely enjoy swinging from toys and playing its music box (I have found that they love the bird music boxes). Of course they will swing from your hair or shirt with the same enthusiasm. It would seem that the Hawk-Headed Parrot is happiest when eating with you or on your head, exploring the house for new toys, or teasing you while you try to do the dishes or read a book.
Now, what should you do if you place your Hawk-Headed Parrot on its perch and it only stays for 2 minutes? Then it flies to you landing on your head wanting attention. Respond positively like you would to a 3 year old human who wants affection! As mentioned above, the favorite perch of the Hawk-Headed Parrot is your head. If you think of this feathered pet creature as being a feathered three-year-old child you should not have any problems.
Sexing – Sexual Differences
No visible differences.
Initially, the Hawk-Headed Parrots were difficult to breed but they are becoming more available as breeders become successful with their knowledge of the Hawk-Headed Parrot’s nesting and breeding behaviors.
In the wild the Hawk-Headed Parrot Parrot is usually seen in pairs and as part of a small flock. They do live and sleep singly in trees. They select their mate at a young age many years before they are ready to breed. Their courtship prior to mating is elaborate. The male and female stand about 6 inches apart and call back and forth to each other in a high pitched rhythm. They walk approximately half circle to the right and then back to the left displaying their colorful fully extended crowns while they raise and lower their heads in a bobbing motion.
Three eggs are normally laid and hatched in approximately 26 days. The babies start to fledge in the wild at approximately 10 weeks old. They wean while being hand fed at about 4 months.
We could not find any diseases or ailments that were unique to the Hawk-Headed Parrot. Any ailments and the treatments are similar to that of any other parrot. Hawk-Heads that are well cared for will seldom become ill. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of bird illness to be aware of are:
- ruffled plumage
- drooping wings
- sagging body
- extreme mood changes
- having no appetite
- bulges in feathering
- partially closed or watery eyes
- swelling of the eyelids
- 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)
- chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
- beak malformations in chicks
- kidney disease (gout)
- heavy metal poisoning
- lipomas in older birds.
If you notice any of these ailements in your Hawk-Headed Parrot, 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.
Until recently the Hawk-Headed Parrot was almost impossible to obtain because of lack of success in domestic breeding. Today it is a little easier to acquire this creature but you have to have patience. They are rarely found, if ever, in a pet store. You would need to call a breeder inquiring as to who breeds the Hawk-Headed Parrots and place your name on the waiting list. You should call the breeder certainly more than once to assure them of your interest and starting in the spring, inquire about possible hatch dates. The cost of a Hawk-Headed Parrot usually runs between $1200 and $1800.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds – Exotic Birds
- Joseph M. Forshaw, Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1977.
- Dr. David Alderton, The Atlas of Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1991.
- Rosemary Lowe, The Complete Book of Parrots, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 1989.
- Dennis Saydak, In Praise of the Hawk-Headed Parrot, Old World Aviaries
- Deborah Wisti-Peterson, Monograph of Hawk-Head Parrots
Featured Image Credit: Donatas Dabravolskas, Shutterstock