Scientific name: Pionus menstruus
Adult length: 11in (28cm)
Adult weight: about 250g. They are a similar size to a Caique, so find lots of products suitable for them here.
Potential lifespan: 35 years
Status in wild: Common
Availability: They were freely available mainly from Guyana, until imports ceased in 2005. Now it is not so readily available and breeding successes have declined. In fact, this applies to the whole genus.
The Parrot Society’s Breeding Register for 2008 shows that members reported breeding only 21 Pionus (all species) in that year. The peak was in 1998 when 216 were bred.
Reported breeding are now only seven above 1974 levels. Difficulty of acquisition is surely the only reason as Pionus are perfect aviary birds and nest readily in suitable conditions. This was once the best-known Pionus species in aviculture. Now Maximilian’s Parrots are more numerous.
Origin: Southern Costa Rica in Central America, throughout the northern part of South America as far as northern Bolivia and central Brazil. This is the most widespread member of the genus.
Pet potential: A young bird, whether hand-reared or recently removed (weaned) from its parents, is much more suitable for the average household than a large parrot such as an Amazon. Less noisy and less excitable (except perhaps males in breeding condition), they also have a delightful temperament.
Description: Adult birds are extremely beautiful with the head, neck and upper breast of a rich shade of dark blue and black ear coverts. The feathers of the throat are pink at the bas e, forming an irregular patch. As in all Pionus, the under tail coverts are scarlet and tipped with green to make a lovely pattern.
Immature birds: Lack the deep blue head coloration, the blue areas being replaced with dull green until the age of about one year when they lose the red or orange frontal band that is usually a feature of immature plumage.
Some birds might have a few colourful feathers of pink or orange on the forehead. The sides of the upper mandible, which are pink in adults, are a lighter colour in young birds.
Diet: If introduced to variety at an early age, Pionus will eat a wide range of items. The following can be offered: a Parakeet mixture, with soaked or sprouted sunflower seed (white or striped) offered separately.
A pelleted diet can be fed instead of seed, as most Pionus readily accept this. Fruit should form about 30% of the diet, especially pomegranates, grapes and orange.
Vegetables are relished, notably green beans, green peas, carrot (par-boiled), celery, fresh corn and thawed frozen sweet corn. For breeding birds cooked beans and pulses and boiled maize are valuable.
As a treat, warm, cooked pasta, cubes of hard cheese and dry or semi-sweet biscuits can be given, also a cooked chicken bone with no sharp surfaces. In autumn, berries of hawthorn will be relished.
Choose from lots of scrumptious food here.
Buying: If you are wise you will purchase directly from the breeder. This is because the immune system is not fully functional in young birds. On the premises of a shop or a dealer, birds arrive from various sources, increasing the risk of disease transmission to vulnerable young parrots.
This important point is often overlooked, resulting in deaths which cause extreme disappointment and often bewilderment to the purchaser, who has no idea why the bird died. It might look well, but the stress of moving it triggers perhaps a low-grade infection or a virus, resulting in a fatality.
Furthermore, a new bird could pass on a virus to existing stock, resulting in devastating losses. Make enquiries through local bird clubs, or scan advertisements, to find a breeder.
Note, however, that Pionus are seasonal breeders. Most females will lay about April, hatch young in May and fledge them in July. So you might have to wait until August or September for a young Pionus.
Young birds are at their most vulnerable during the first few days in their new home, especially if they have just been removed from their parents’ aviary. Losses can occur in insensitive hands, especially those who fail to provide enough soft foods and expect young ones to exist mainly on seed or pellets.
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