Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Birds > Black-Headed Caique: Facts, Food & Care Guide (with Pictures)

Black-Headed Caique: Facts, Food & Care Guide (with Pictures)

Black Headed Caique Parrot

The black-headed caique may be a medium-sized parrot, but it has a large personality. These birds are known for being playful and inquisitive, which makes them a favorite of bird lovers. The black-headed caique is a colorful, intelligent bird, but it can be a handful, so be prepared for this feisty bird to keep you on your feet. Read on to learn more about these frisky birds and why they are a favorite of avian enthusiasts.


Species Overview

black-headed caiques, a parrot native to the Amazon
Image Credit: Fernanda Burbano, Shutterstock
Common Names: Black-headed caique, Black-capped parrot, Pallid Caique
Scientific Name: Pionites melanocephalus
Adult Size: 9 – 10 inches
Life Expectancy: 25 – 40 years


Origin and History

The black-headed caique is native to South America and is found above the Amazon in the countries of Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Peru. In the wild, black-headed caiques reside in topical swampy lowlands or woodland areas with high humidity. In the wild, these birds are canopy dwellers, hanging out and playing among the treetops. Their feathers produce a whirring sound when they are in flight and they are highly vocal, trilling out their sound with their flock.  In the wild, the black-headed caique is usually seen in family groups or large flocks because these birds are very sociable creatures. These fun-loving birds are sure to keep you on the move if you choose one for a pet.



Two Caiques in birthday party setting_De Jongh Photography_shutterstock
Image Credit: De Jongh Photography, Shutterstock

The black-headed caique’s sociable nature means that these birds can be very cuddly and will want to be your companion. They enjoy interacting with people and other birds and are extremely playful. Many consider caiques to be the clowns of the bird world because of their antics. They often perform tricks and pranks for the pleasure of their viewing audience. They are not known for being frequent flyers in captivity but can fly short distances, although they prefer to jump or walk to you. Black-headed caiques are highly active birds that need a lot of love and attention from their owners.

The black-headed caique does have a bit of a reputation for being moody. They don’t like to feel as if they are being neglected and they will nip you to show their displeasure. They can also be territorial, and it is best not to introduce other types of birds to a caique because it will become aggressive to protect its territory. If you do want your bird to have a friend, it is best to get another caique, preferably getting both at the same time so they grow up together. There may still be territorial issues and it is important to provide adequate space for both birds to ease those problems.

  • Sociable
  • Good companion
  • Playful
  • Moody
  • Territorial

Speech & Vocalizations

Black-headed caiques are not known for their talking ability among parrots. They can be trained to speak a few words, such as their owners’ name, their names, and maybe a few other words. They are not able to vocalize words very clearly. They are known to be good mimics, often learning the sounds they commonly hear and regaling their audience with these noises. The black-headed caique is also known to whistle musical tunes if they hear a song often enough.


Black-headed Caique Colors and Markings

Beautiful Black head Caiques parrot (Pionites melanocephala) viewed as clown Bird Perching on wood log
Image Credit: Yingna Cai, Shutterstock

The black-headed caique is a favorite among bird lovers because of its colorful plumage. This stocky bird has a black head, nape, and forehead with a gray beak. The wings, plumage, and tail are all a bright green. Its neck and thighs are usually yellow, and it has a white belly. The feet of this colorful parrot are usually black.

There are two subspecies to the black-headed caique. The Pionites Milanocephalus Milanocephalus has a dark orange nape, a white belly, and orange thighs. The Pionites Milanocephalus Pallidus has light orange nape, a white belly tinged with a light-yellow tone, and yellow thighs. No matter what species you get of this popular bird, you’ll end up with a colorful feathered companion.divider-bird

Caring for the Black-headed Caique

To keep your black-headed caique healthy, it’s important to have good hygiene in the bird’s aviary. The water and food bowls should be washed daily and the perches and toys should be washed weekly. The floor of the cage should be cleaned bi-weekly, more often if needed. A good cleaning once a year is encouraged. Broken toys or dirty toys should be thrown away. Black-headed caiques need to be bathed frequently to keep their plumage in good shape.

The black-headed caique is an intelligent, strong-willed bird and will need the training to learn how to interact properly with you. When you bring a new caique into your household, you will need to give it a few days to get acclimated to you, the new surroundings, and its’ new habitat before you handle it.

Many parrots seem to respond well to training during the evening hours, so that is something to keep in mind when beginning your training journey. The first step for training a new bird is to get it to accept a treat from your hand so you can pet its’ head, which means the bird is developing trust for you. Over time, you can teach your bird proper behavior, such as returning to your so you can put the bird away in its’ cage, as well as tricks. Time, patience, and persistence are the keywords to remember when attempting to train the strong-willed caique.

Common Health Problems

Black head Caiques parrot_Black head Caiques parrot
Image By: Yingna Cai, Shutterstock

The stocky black-headed caique tends to be a healthy bird with few health issues. if cleanliness standards are maintained for good hygiene. If your caique starts feather picking, sneezing loses its appetite, develops cloudy eyes, or has ruffled plumage, you should seek medical assistance.

Parrots can also develop other ailments, such as respiratory diseases, Psittacosis (parrot fever), and intestinal ailments, such as intestinal parasites or intestinal influenza. If your bird is experiencing symptoms of an illness, do not hesitate to take it to a qualified avian veterinarian to get treated. If you take proper care of your bird and maintain good hygiene, your feathered companion can live for 25-40 years.


Diet and Nutrition

The black-headed caique has a diet in the wild that is easy to replicate in captivity because many bird seed mixes on the market meet its dietary needs. To add variety and additional nutrients, you can also feed your bird a variety of fruit. Black-headed caiques love apples, cherries, pomegranates, oranges, and pears. They will also enjoy tropical fruits, such as mango and guava if available. They will also eat vegetables, such as corn, carrots, lettuce, watercress, spinach, and sweet potatoes. During the summer, you can include sprouted seeds to add additional variety to your bird’s diet. If you feed your caique a well-balanced diet, you’ll have a healthy, happy bird.

A pet black-headed parrot (Pionites melanocephalus) close up eating seeds out of a child's hand.
Image By: kingma photos, Shutterstock


It’s important to provide plenty of exercise and stimulation for your black-headed caique to keep your bird happy. These parrots love toys, so be sure to stock up on plenty of bird ladders, ropes, link chains, parrot toys, parrot swings, and fresh branches for the ever-gnawing caique. Make sure to add new toys regularly and get rid of any damaged ones. The black-headed caique is an extremely playful bird and you might even see it rolling around and wrestling with its’ toys on its’ back. Be sure to provide plenty of stimulation and attention to keep the black-headed caique’s moodiness in check.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Black-headed Caique

Black-headed caiques are readily available for avian enthusiasts due to successful breeding efforts in captivity. These birds can be purchased from breeders and will cost you anywhere from $800–$1,000 per bird. Reputable breeders will ensure you receive a healthy bird with desirable markings, so take your time when searching for a breeder.

If you’re looking to adopt, you will need to perform a search in your area to see if any owners are looking to rehome their birds. If you can’t find any birds up for adoption in your state, you may also have to search online to see if any rescues are willing to send, or bring, the bird to you.



Black-headed caiques are the clowns of the parrot world because of their quirky personalities and their desire to entertain with tricks and pranks. These birds are very sociable and are good pets because they love to spend quality time with their owners. If you take good care of your black-headed caique, it will provide laughs and companionship for many years.

Featured Image Credit: Hannah M., Pixabay

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets