|Black-headed Parrots, breeders.|
|Genus:||Pionites Heine, 1890|
The Caiques /kɑːˈiːk/ are species of parrots in the genus Pionites. There are two main species, the White-bellied Parrot (or White-bellied Caique) and the Black-headed Parrot (or Black-headed Caique). They are relatively small and stocky, with a short, square tail. Due to their very bright, pure colors they are considered among the more beautiful parrot species. Their typical weight is 150–170 grams. They can live up to 40 years.
They are endemic in the Amazon Basin in South America, with the Black-headed north of the Amazon River, and the White-bellied south. They are endangered and are listed on Appendix 2 of CITES.They generally prefer forested areas and subsist on fruit and seeds. Caiques are generally canopy dwellers, spending most of their time in the tops of trees, foraging and playing. Caique wing feathers produce a distinctive whirring sound in flight. They are highly vocal.
Caiques have a social system which is slightly unusual for parrots. They tend to live in a clan of five or ten related families in a single enormous tree. They form long-lasting relationships, positive and negative, with other clan members. They are extremely competitive for status. They may be less exclusive-pair-bonders than larger parrots. In captivity they may be more likely to have several long-term human “friends” than other parrots, and can be less troublesome in relating to their bonded human’s spouse.
Black-headed caiques are also occasionally known as the “seven-color Parrot” because in addition to having red eyes, each caique’s plumage includes black, green, yellow, orange, white and blue feathers. They have also been nicknamed in aviculture as “the dancing parrot” for their habit of hopping and “dancing”, especially when encouraged by rhythmic clapping.
Historically, Caiques were thought to be unsuitable as pets, because wild-caught caiques do not accept captivity well. This is evidenced by the fact that natives such as the Machiguenga peoples of Amazonian Peru, who live in the areas where Caiques are endemic, do not typically make companions of them, unlike larger parrots. Current, more sophisticated, domestic breeding practices have shown that this is not the case, although caiques are not “beginner” or “easy” parrots. The black-headed caique’s eyes in the photograph are “pinning”, a precursor to aggressive actions such as biting.
Species and subspecies
- Black-headed Parrot, Pionites melanocephalus. There are two subspecies. They hybridize freely and individuals showing some level of intermediacy in colors are common:
- Black-headed Parrot/Caique (P. m. melanocephalus): Eastern part of its range. Orange thighs and crissum, nape deep orange, and belly white.
- Pallid Parrot/Caique (P. m. pallidus): Western part of its range. Yellow thighs and crissum, nape relatively pale, and belly tinged yellowish (often barely visible; belly normally appears “dirty white” in the wild).
- White-bellied Parrot, Pionites leucogaster. There are three subspecies:
- Green-thighed Parrot/Caique (Pionites l. leucogaster): Eastern part of its range. It has green thighs and upper tail.
- Yellow-thighed Parrot/Caique (P. l. xanthomerius): Western part of its range. It has yellow thighs and green upper tail.
- Yellow-tailed Parrot/Caique (P. l. xanthurus): Central part of its range. It has yellow thighs and upper tail.