Blue-Headed Pionus

Blue-Headed Pionus

Scientific Name: Pionus menstruus
Origin: Tropical Central and South America
Average Lifespan: 25 years
Size: 11 inches
Color: Mainly Green
Sounds: High-pitched squeaks
Interaction: Social

Blue-Headed Pionus parrot

Photo: Anna Hesser | Flickr

Physical Characteristics of the Blue-Headed Pionus

The Blue-headed Pionus or Blue-headed Parrot is a medium-large parrot about 11 inches, with a wingspan of about seven inches. It derived its name from the distinctive bright blue color of its head and neck which stands out from its mainly green feathers. It has black beaks with red spot on the upper mandible, gray feet, black patches on its ear coverts, and red feathers under its short tail (which is why some call it “red-vented parrot”). Some have pink feathers at the neck.

A fledgling, at about 70 days from hatching, has feathers which are green all over (with just a light shade of blue in the forehead), with some red feathers above the nose holes (which start to fall off at around the third month of the Blue-headed Pionus), and with beaks just starting to turn black from a flesh toned beaks it originally had upon hatching. It attains its full adult color after its second year molt.

There are two localized subspecies of Blue-headed Pionus, the rubrigularis from southern Central America and the reichenowi from East Brazil. The rubrigularis has a distinctive pink patch in the throat and has paler feather, while the reichenowi has most of the underparts blue and has a paler beak.

Personality and Temperament

The Blue-headed Pionus is “quiet” compared to other parrots of its size, but turns noisy during the breeding season. It is increasingly becoming a popular choice for first time parrot owners as it is less likely to bite compared to other parrots, and requires lesser attention as it is contented with just food and toys. It is also sweet and affectionate although not as playful as other parrots. As to the talking ability which parrots are known for, it is rated poor.

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A male Blue-headed Pionus tends to be aggressive towards their mate in breeding condition. And as a pet, it (male) can be territorial around its cage and tends to be aggressively protective of its owner from other persons and other perceived dangers. When frightened, it makes a wheezing hissing sound similar to the sound when a human is having an asthma attack. The sound is not indicative of sickness but of stress.

With proper training, a Blue-headed Pionus can be very obedient and can learn simple tricks much like the other kinds of parrots.

Health and Care

Blue-headed Pionus has a hearty appetite, thus, excessive feeding usually results to obesity. It is advisable to keep it in a larger cage with toys so it can move about and avoid the gaining of too much weight. Aside from commercial pelleted feeds, the diet needs to be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those high in Vitamin A is necessary as it is prone to Vitamin A deficiency.

With its wild counterparts endemic in rainforests, a pet Blue-headed Pionus in the same way loves bathing in the rain. It is better if a natural shower could be simulated with the use of hose sprays which produces rain-like drops. Bathing is not only fun for the pet, but also important in its hygiene and to maintain good plumage. A plenty supply of fresh drinking water is also a must. With proper care and good nutritional practices, a pet Blue-headed Pionus can live as long as 40 years.

History and Background

Pionus is a genus where the Blue-headed Pionus belongs. This genus is native to Central and South America characterized by its stocky body, short tail, and bright red undertail coverts. That red undertail coverts is the source of the name Pionus menstruus – the  scientific name of Blue-headed Pionus. Menstruus refers to the red feathers under the tail of Pionus, in comparison to the blood (red) in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

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Blue-headed Pionus inhabit in rainforests and tropical zones, with large population found mainly over the stretch of the Amazon River. In Brazil the population extends towards Araguaia-Tocantins River in the east, to the South Atlantic coast in the southeast, a long coastal strip stretching from Pernambuco in the north to Espirito Santo in the south. The range continues to Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia and on a Pacific Ocean coast covering the area of southern Ecuador and the Caribbean areas.

In the wild, Blue-headed Pionus nests in tree cavities and lays a clutch of three to four white eggs which it incubates for about 26 days. The young fledge at about 70 days from hatching, weans at around 12 weeks old, and reaches maturity at two to four years. It becomes of breeding age at about three to five years old.

The Blue-headed Pionus is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Least Concern (LC).

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