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Home > Birds > Cape Parrot: Personality, Food & Care Guide (With Pictures)

Cape Parrot: Personality, Food & Care Guide (With Pictures)

Cape parrot on top of cage

The Cape parrot is a stunning exotic bird that many bird lovers treasure. Not only are they beautiful, but they also have loving personalities and bond well with their owner. Cape parrots are not the most common pet bird, which makes them extra rewarding to own. The Cape parrot is endemic to South Africa and is difficult to find in other parts of the world. They are commonly seen as part of South Africa’s wildlife, and they have an incredibly strong beak that they use to crack open nuts and fruits from the yellowwood tree which is part of their natural habitat.

This article will inform you of everything you need to know when it comes to caring for your cape parrot to ensure that you know how to keep them happy and healthy in captivity.


Species Overview

Cape Parrot in Kruger National park
Image By: PACO COMO, Shutterstock
Common Names: Knysna papagai
Scientific Name: Poicephalus robustus
Adult Size: 12 inches
Life Expectancy: 30 years


Origin and History

cape parrot hoping for a treat
Image By: Bjorn Harders, Shutterstock

Until recently, the endangered Cape parrot was thought to be a subspecies, but they are now considered as a distinct species. They originate from South Africa with only 1000 birds spotted in the wild according to a study done back in 2004. They were originally confused with the grey-headed parrot, but researchers have found distinctive characteristics that separate the two species. You can find them hanging around forests with yellowwood trees, however, their numbers are diminishing due to habitat loss from human intervention.

To further preserve the cape parrot, breeding and owning them in captivity has become an important part of the species preservation and rise in population.


The Cape parrot is a gentle bird who seems to have minimal behavioral or aggression issues. Domesticated cape parrots have a loving side to them, and they will rarely bite. The cape parrots are more likely to become more attached to one specific person in the household which can make them scared to be held by other people. If you introduce your cape parrot to the rest of the family from a young age, the Cape parrot is more likely to warm up to the whole family. Cape parrots are highly intelligent birds, and many owners refer to them as gentle giants. Cape parrots seemingly have all the desirable traits for a parrot.

  • Intelligent
  • Cuddly
  • Loving
  • May get attached to one person
  • Get restless in small cages

Speech & Vocalizations

Little has been studied about the speech and vocalizations of the Cape parrot, but their musical song is well-known in the Knysna regions of South Africa. The cape parrot has a distinctive vocal repertoire and the calls from the cape parrot can easily be identified. When disturbed, cape parrots let out a loud alarm call to notify other parrots in the area of potential danger. In captivity, the cape parrot can be taught to sing and copy human words. Since they are such large birds, they have strong vocal cords.


Cape Parrot Colors and Markings

Cape Parrot sitting on a perch
Image By: SurfyDarkSlim, Shutterstock

The cape parrot stands out against other parrots with its large body and green belly that has a slight blue hue. The tail ranges from black to brown, and the thighs are ruby-red. The females can be identified by the reddish-orange color that forms around the head. The cape parrots bill is short and thick with the top beak overlapping the bottom. Their many colors can range from olive, grey, gold with dark green wings. The tail is shorter when compared to other parrots and juveniles are shaded with orange before the color matures.

  • Females: olive green, grey, dark brown/black tail, dark brown head with a distinctive orange marking across the crown.
  • Males: Dark grey to brown head, olive-grey body, red inner thighs, and bright green stomach with a blue undertone.

Caring for the Cape Parrot


 The cape parrots take care of grooming by themselves. They also enjoy having a clean water bowl to take a bath in. They will dip their heads into the water to sprinkle the remaining water around their body. As the owner, you do not need to groom the parrot yourself, and this includes avoiding clipping their wings at home. An experienced avian veterinarian should clip the wings as it can be difficult and dangerous to do yourself.


 The Cape parrot can live in pairs if they are similar in age and size. The parrots should also be of the same gender. The cape parrot can live alone perfectly fine, but this means they require more human attention. It is recommended to only keep cape parrots together if you are experienced in their care. The cage will also have to be double the size of a singular cape parrots cage.


These intelligent birds are highly active and enjoy spending their time outside of the cage where they can explore their human environment safely. The cage should also have lots of enrichment items and enough space to not feel cramped.

 Cage Size

 If possible, the cape parrot should have both an aviary outside and a large cage indoors. This is because cape parrots should spend the majority of their time outside under a large tree with 80% of the aviary fully shaded. The aviary should be 120 inches by 80 inches in size and the cage should be 5 feet tall, 50 inches wide, by 30 inches.


Common Health Problems

Cape Parrot in Kruger National park
Image By: PACO COMO, Shutterstock

If the cape parrot is cared for properly, they are typically healthy birds with very few health issues. These are sturdy and strong birds that can live out their full lifespans without experiencing severe health problems. However, even the healthiest parrot is not immune to falling ill. If you think that your cape parrot is ill, they should be taken to an avian vet for treatment immediately.

Minor Conditions
  • Polyomavirus (sexually transmitted)
  • Candida (yeast infection)
  • Parrot fever
Serious Conditions
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease
  • Respiratory infections
  • Neurological issues
  • Diarrhea (along with anorexia, loss of appetite)

Diet and Nutrition

Due to the cape parrot’s strong beak, they should be fed a diet of hard nuts and fruits to ensure that their beak is worn down properly. Their wild diet consists of nuts and seasonal fruits that grow on the yellowwood trees in Knysna. In captivity, their diet should consist of a mixture of commercial parrot pellets, large nuts with the shells still intact, like palm nuts. Seeds like Ficus and acacias are a favorite and should be incorporated into their diet. They should be fed fruits and veggies at least three times a week. Small seeds make up a small percentage of their diet but are important.



Cape Parrot in Kruger National park
Image By: PACO COMO, Shutterstock

Since the cape parrot is so large, they are active birds that require a lot of space, toys, and enrichment. Inside of the cage or aviary, there should be natural branches for them to sit on, with the addition of large hanging and chew toys. These toys can be found in nearly all pet stores and should be the size of African Grey parrot toys. These birds are similar in size and since the African Grey is such a popular parrot, they share the same sized toys and enrichment. Strong toys are important as it helps keep their large beaks healthy. Without adequate mental stimulation, the cape parrot can develop behavioral issues.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Cape Parrot

The Cape parrot is categorized as a rare, luxury exotic parrot that is primarily sold in South Africa and surrounding areas. They typically sell for $2,000 to $4,000. Young cape parrots are sold for less, usually around $800 to $2,000. They can be found in local South African pet stores or from ethical cape parrot breeders. Before you turn to buy a cape parrot, you should check if your local parrot rescues have a cape parrot up for adoption.



This fascinating parrot has a lot to offer as a domesticated pet. It is very rewarding to share your home with a cape parrot and experience caring for a rare and endangered parrot. There is so much to learn about these birds and new care aspects are being uncovered every day.

We hope that this article has helped inform you about the appropriate care this bird requires.

Featured Image Credit: JillLang, Shutterstock

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