Scientific name: Poicephalus senegalus
Adult length: 23cm (9in)
Adult wingspan: about 43cm (17in)
Adult weight: 125g
Potential lifespan: 35-40 years
Find lots of Senegal products here.
Status in wild: Common
Origin: Central-western Africa
Sexing: The under tail coverts (those below the vent) are slightly yellowish-green in the female and bright yellow in the male.
Some Poicephalus Parrots (unlike those of most other genera) really enjoy processed foods, that is, extruded foods and pellets. For those that do, they can form part of the diet or replace a seed mixture. If seed is offered it should be a high quality product such as Parrot Premium Pro that includes a good variety of seeds and grains, only a little sunflower and preferably no peanuts.
Here is lots of tasty Senegal food.
Alternatively, a mixture specially formulated for African Parrots can be used. The diet of sunflower “junkies” can be improved by gradually reducing the amount of seed offered and/or offering sunflower seed in a soaked or sprouted state. Sprouted seeds are healthier and more nutritious with greatly elevated vitamin content.
Many Senegals and other members of the genus also enjoy cooked pulses (peas, including chick peas, and beans) and fresh green beans.
The most beneficial vegetables are those that are high in Vitamin A, especially red bell pepper, sweet potato, broccoli and par-boiled carrot.
Fresh corn and sweet corn kernels are relished, also spinach beet, including the stalks.
The usual fruits are enjoyed. Spray millet should not be forgotten. Fresh branches for gnawing (preferably apple or willow) are essential.
Length is more important than height. The length for a single companion bird should be a minimum of 71cm (28in). Many Senegal cages are available here.
Males and females can become good mimics and some young birds repeat words without any great effort being made to teach them.
Regular (at least twice a week) spraying with a plant mister is very important. Buy a mister here.
Anyone who takes on a Senegal Parrot should be prepared for the fact that their adolescence (about two years old) can be difficult. Some Senegals start to bite and become hard to handle. However, if they have been trained properly, to ‘Step up!’ and return to their cage when requested, this period should not be too traumatic.
At this stage a Senegal might become very nervous and refuse to be handled. As I suggested in my book Why does my Parrot…? : “It is important not to lose one’s patience or to lose interest in the bird. Ask all members of the family to talk to him and praise him when he is behaving well. Look on this as a trying period, after which he will hopefully emerge as much more sweet tempered.”
Note that in Senegals and other small Poicephalus, males usually have a nicer, less assertive temperament, and therefore make better pets. It is essential to buy a young bird if it is to be a companion. An untamed adult will be stressed and unhappy when closely confined. It is very easy to distinguish an immature bird as the eyes are grey and the bare skin around the eye is light in colour and not as extensive and pronounced as in an adult, which has piercing yellow irides. Also, the colours of the plumage are more muted in immature birds.
As in all Parrots, the significant factor in determining whether a Senegal turns out to be a good companion (assuming that it is acquired young) does not depend on it being hand-reared; in fact a young parent-reared bird will be just as suitable and possibly better if acquired as soon as it is independent. It depends totally on having a caring and sympathetic owner who can devote plenty of time to it.
Edward Boosey, a renowned aviculturist of the 1950s and 1960s, wrote in his book Parrots, Cockatoos and Macaws that his Senegal: “…became the most charming and delightful pet of any kind I have ever had. She learned to talk a little -- more indeed than most of the smaller Parrots -- and I could do absolutely anything with her; she would lie on her back in my hand… She was tameness and gentleness itself and the only reason I have never had another (as a pet) is because I felt her to be quite irreplaceable.”
One point to note is that Senegals have harsh, piercing voices. However, they are more tolerable than those of larger Parrots because they are seldom repeated at length (unlike Amazons or Cockatoos). Don’t buy one until you have heard what an adult is capable of!
In Europe Senegals do not have a well-defined breeding season. This means that young birds might be available at almost any time of the year. The usual clutch size is three, more rarely four. The female incubates for about 28 days. I knew a pair that nested every year in a ground-level hole in the wall of their aviary!
There is one important point to remember about Senegals and other small members of the genus (Meyer’s, Red-bellied, etc). On no account should two females be housed together because the chance of one ultimately killing the other is very high.
Get the perfect cage for them here.
Here is our excellent choice of Senegal products.
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