A pair of Senegal Parrots in the wild at Hann Park, Dakar, Senegal.
The Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) is a Poicephalus parrot which is a resident breeder across a wide range of west Africa. It makes migrations within west Africa, according to the availability of the fruit, seeds and blossoms which make up its diet. It is considered a farm pest in Africa, often feeding on maize or millet. It is popular in aviculture.
There are three subspecies. They do not differ in behaviour, but only in the colour of the "vest". In the pet trade, the nominate subspecies is the most common though all three are raised and sold as pets.
- Poicephalus senegalus senegalus (the nominate subspecies): this subspecies has a yellow vest; its native range includes southern Mauritania, southern Mali to Guinea and Lobos Island.
- Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus: this subspecies has an orange vest; its range is from eastern and northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon into southwest Chad.
- Poicephalus senegalus versteri: this subspecies has a deep-orange/red vest; its range is from the Ivory Coast and Ghana east to western Nigeria.
Senegal Parrots are birds of open woodland and savanna. It is a gregarious species, continuously chattering with a range of whistling and squawking calls. Senegal Parrots live an average of approximately 25-30 years in the wild, and have been known to live for 50 years in captivity.
Senegal Parrots are about 23 cm long, weigh about 125 to 170 gm. They have a relatively large head and beak for their overall size, and feathers form a short broad tail. Adults have a charcoal grey head, grey beak, bright yellow irises, green back and throat, and yellow underparts and rump. The yellow and green areas on a Senegal Parrot's front form a V-shape resembling a yellow vest worn over green. Juveniles have dark grey, almost black, irises.
Senegal Parrots are not sexually dimorphic, but there are some hypotheses which sometimes might help to determine the gender of adult birds:
- The V-shape of the vest is usually longer in females; in females the green area extends down over the chest to between the legs, whereas in males the tip of the green area ends midway down the chest.
- The female's beak and head are generally slightly smaller and narrower than the male's.
- The under-tail covert feathers (short feathers under the base of the main tail feathers) are generally mostly yellow in the male and generally mostly green in the female.
- Males are generally, but not always, larger and heavier than female birds.
One parrot is feeding the other as part of bonding behaviour between a pair.
Senegal parrots nest in holes in trees, often oil palms, usually laying three to four white eggs. The eggs are about 3cm long x 2.5cm wide. The eggs are incubated by the female, starting after the second egg has been laid, for about 27 to 28 days. Newly hatched chicks have a sparse white down and they do not open their eyes until about two to three weeks from hatching. They are dependent on the female for food and warmth who remains in the nest most of the time until about four weeks from hatching when the chicks have enough feathers for heat insulation. During this time the male brings food for the female and chicks, and guards the nest site. From about two to four weeks from hatching the female also begins to collect food for the chicks. The chicks fly out of the nest at about 9 weeks and they become independent from their parents at about 12 weeks from hatching.
Because of its vast range in Africa, the wild Senegal Parrot population is difficult to estimate. Nevertheless, in 1981 concerns about extensive trapping of wild parrots for the pet trade lead to it being listed on appendix 2 of The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), along with all parrot species. This has made the trade, import and export of all wild caught parrots illegal.
Pet parrot in a cage with toys. The perch is made from a hard material to wear down the tips of claws.
Hand reared Senegal Parrots are one of the most popular parrots to be kept as pets, and the most popular Poicephalus parrot. Their calls are generally high pitched whistles and squawks, but they are not as noisy as many other parrot species. An indoor cage at least 4 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft or an outdoor aviary, in warm climates, at least 6 ft x 6 ft 3 ft wide would be suitable.
Wild caught Senegal Parrots do not usually become tame and do not make good pets.
Senegal Parrots are relatively easy to breed in captivity and there is a small industry in breeding and hand rearing Senegal Parrots and other parrots for the pet trade. In aviculture Senegal Parrots can start to breed at the age of 3 to 4 years, but some do not breed until age 6 or 7 years.
Senegal Parrot nest boxes can be any of a variety of sizes and shapes; but for example, a nest box about 18 iches high and 8 inches to 10 inches square would be suitable. An exit and entrance port about 2.5 inches in diameter would be suitable, and the birds may enlarge the port by chewing the wood. Nest boxes generally have a secure side door for inspecting the nest.
Pet perching on a rope.
Pet on the top of cage.
Senegal Parrot nest box
Senegal parrot egg (on 1cm grid)