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
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Psittaciformes
- Family: Psittacidae
- Genus: Poicephalus
- Species: senegalus
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
The Poicephalus senegalus is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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 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.
Because of the success in captive breeding Senegal parrots are available and but are moderately expensive.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds – Exotic Birds
- Senegal Parrots aka Yellow-vented Parrots, Avian Web
- Senegal Parrot Information and FAQ, TheParrotForum.com
- Senegal Parrot, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
- Joseph M. Forshaw, Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1977.
- Arthur Freud, All About The Parrots, Howell Book House, 1986.
Featured Image Credit: Kasama Kanpittaya, Shutterstock