The Red-Bellied Parrot Poicephalus rufiventris, also known as the Orange-bellied Parrot, is a very pretty and intelligent small parrot. A great companion bird, they provide much amusement with their playful nature and talking ability. They are quite similar to other popular Poicephalus parrots, like the Meyer’s Parrot and the Senegal Parrot. But they are slightly larger, their eyes have a red iris rather than yellow, and they are sexually dimorphic. The male and female are both greenish gray in color, but the male has an orange-red belly, hence their common names of Red-Bellied or Orange-Bellied Parrot.

   As with other Poicephalus parrots, the Red Bellied Parrots are very playful and natural comics. They are extremely enjoyable pet birds and fascinating to watch even years after you’ve brought them home. They love to have interesting and interactive toys, anything that is a puzzle. They will hang upside down from anything they can dangle from. If you give them a hand held toy they will frequently lie upside down and play with their feet. They are very amusing and they enjoy hearing you laugh at their antics.

   These parrots do learn to say a few words and some can become very good talkers. They may be the best talkers of the Poicephalus genus. Many Red-Bellied Parrots try to imitate human voices before they’re even weaned. They are capable of a few words or maybe a phrase by the time they’re three months old. They love to imitate whistles and can learn to whistle a certain tune based on a verbal cue. They are very easy to train. With a little patience and tons of repetition they can learn to do many things on cue such as; whistle, talk, and even flap their wings. Yet none of the Poicephalus parrots are loud birds, so they are well suited to an apartment or condominium.

   The Red-Bellied Parrots enjoy human interaction and have a very friendly personality, making them endearing companions. They adapt well to routine and become accustomed to the habits of their 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. But like the Senegal it can also become very attached to one human companion, becoming quite possessive and jealous. To avoid this, early socialization with all members of the family is required.

Scientific Classification


Scientific name

Poicephalus rufiventris


  The Red-Bellied Parrot Poicephalus rufiventris was first described by Ruppell in 1845. They originate in the savannahs of Eastern Africa. They live in the brush and feed off of the acacia fruit. This particular fruit hangs upside-down in a bell fashion, so that the only way for the red belly to get to the yummy fruit inside is, you guessed it, to hang upside down and crane his head around to get the fruit. No wonder they spend so much of their out of the cage time upside down!


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


Red-Bellied Parrots are beautiful birds, with a visible difference between the males and females. The females are gray with a deep forest green belly. The males are gray on the back with olive in their wings, a brilliant orangish red belly, neck, and forehead, and lime green stockings on their legs. The irises of their eyes are red and can be changed in width at will, depending on how interested the bird is in what he’s looking at.

These birds can reach up to 8 1/2″ (22 cm).

Care and feeding

In the wild Red Bellied parrots feed off of the acacia fruit. A pet bird will enjoy a varied diet, including a seed mix with safflower, and many fresh fruits and vegetables. Formulated diets should only be fed as a supplement, not as the only food, but they can be fun when they come in a variety of different flavors.

Red-Bellied Parrots enjoy many fruits and vegetables, including corn, peas, spinach, parsley, fresh peppers, green beans, carrots, apples, oranges, bananas, and more. Feed all vegetables fresh or frozen, but never canned. Some may also enjoy dried red hot chili peppers. 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 Red-bellied.


The question of housing is always difficult to answer, as a clipped bird will need less space than a flighted bird. The minimum cage requirement for a clipped bird is a 20 x 20 cage, with horizontal bars on at least two sides for easy climbing. Of course the larger the cage the better as your bird will have a wonderful time with the extra space and toys.

Place the cage in a part of the house where you and other humans in your life spend a great deal of time. These birds are very social, living in colonies in the wild, and will often whistle or call your name through the house to find out where you are if you are not in sight. The Red-Bellied Parrot prefers to be near the center of the household and where they can be closest to you.


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

These birds are extremely social and will often show off for company, letting everyone know what new words, whistles, and phrases they have added to their vocabulary; sometimes without you having ever heard them before. If you Red-Bellied Parrot gets regular time out of the cage, it will be more willing to try relationships with more people, and, indeed, other animals . As with any bird, if your Red-Bellied Parrot’s wings are clipped, they are much easier to train. This also increases its dependence upon you, relying on your hand to be the ‘elevator’ to where it wants to go.


These birds are very easily trained. Your laughter is the strongest training tool imaginable for your bird. He will learn that a particular behavior pleases you, and if you say a particular phrase every time he does that behavior, he will quickly learn to associate the phrase with the behavior. One day he will surprise you doing the behavior when you say the phrase; or, if he does it on his own, saying the phrase while he does it. They are eager to please and live to make you happy.


Red-Bellied Parrots are very interested in anything they can do with their humans. They enjoy toys with bells, and will ring them to get your attention. They will show off by dangling upside down off of the roof of their cage, often by only one toe! Many birds love to look out the window and perches can be bought that are designed with suction cups to attach to the window. Any moving object outside will interest your bird greatly, and he will have his beak pressed to the window for as long as you permit him.

Sexing – Sexual Differences

The Red-Bellied or Orange-Bellied Parrots are sexually dimorphic. The male and female are both greenish-gray in color, but the male has an orange-red belly. Young birds of both sexes have an orangish cast to the belly.


Red-Bellied Parrots are sexually mature at two years of age, though many pairs won’t start reproducing until they are four years of age.They are dimorphic with the females being gray with a deep forest green belly while the males have a bright red belly.

The average clutch size is three to four eggs. The clutch of the Orange-Bellied Parrot takes an average of 26 days in incubation and the eggs hatch a day or two apart. Chicks leave the nest about 63 days after hatching. Suggested band size for the red belly is from a 9 to a 10.

Potential Problems

A Red-Bellied 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 Red-Bellied, 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.


   The Red-Bellied Parrot is becoming more and more steadily available, though they can still be a bit hard to find. They can be found in some pet stores and through breeders. The Red-Bellied Parrot price ranges from about $400 to $600 USD.



Featured Image Credit: Eckhard Lietzow, Shutterstock