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Red-Bellied Parrot

Oliver Jones

The Red-Bellied Parrot is a beautiful bird with a somewhat confusing name because they don’t actually have red bellies! But like most parrots, they are highly intelligent, affectionate, social, and playful birds that make wonderful family pets. This, plus their gorgeous appearance, makes them a unique choice of a pet bird because they have the charming, intelligent personality of larger parrots while being much easier to care for.

If the Red-Bellied Parrot sounds like the perfect pet for you, read on for an in-depth guide!

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Species Overview

Common Names: Red-Bellied Parrot, Red-breasted Parrot, Abyssinian parrot, African Orange-bellied Parrot
Scientific Name: Poicephalus rufiventris
Adult Size: 8 – 9 inches
Life Expectancy: 15 – 20 years

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Origin and History

Red-Bellied Parrots are native to eastern Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. They prefer to inhabit woodland and scrubland areas where there are places for them to nest in the hollows of tree trunks and find food. They tend to live in small flocks close to a water source. They flourish in the wild, and due to strict trade laws and controlled breeding programs, their wild populations are stable and they are not considered endangered.

With their bright orange chest, you’d be forgiven for being confused about their name. Interestingly, the word for the color orange was not introduced into the English language until after the fruit was discovered and named. Many animals were named red because the word orange didn’t yet exist in English.

Temperament

Like most parrots, the Red-Bellied Parrot is an intelligent, affectionate, and playful bird and is ideal for beginners and experienced owners alike. They are known to be highly social birds that enjoy the company of their owners, and if they are well-socialized, they are happy to be petted and held. They are also active birds that enjoy climbing and playing and will do well with plenty of toys outfitted in and around their enclosure.

They are known to become one-person birds if not properly socialized, and they tend to be nippy at times. They are also easily stressed and easily frightened, and while they can be a great family pet, they will do best in a quiet, calm environment. This is why socializing them early is vital to their health and well-being.

Pros
  • Small size
  • Easy to care for
  • Friendly and social
  • Playful
  • Intelligent and easy to train
Cons
  • Can be nippy at times
  • A tendency for one-person bonding

Speech & Vocalizations

Although these birds are not known for having much of a vocabulary, they can be taught a handful of words and phrases if trained from a young age. They are certainly not as vocally gifted as some of their larger parrot cousins. They are generally quiet birds that are great for apartments because they are not too loud or overly noisy.

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Red-Bellied Parrot Colors and Markings

The Red-Bellied Parrot is a medium-sized bird that gets no more than 9 inches long and about 5 ounces in weight. They are predominantly grey on the upper part of their body and green on the lower parts, with dark grey, hawk-like beaks. These birds are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females have different colors and are easy to tell apart.

Males typically have a characteristic orange chest and belly, while females are usually green in these areas, occasionally with a hint of orange on their heads and bellies. Both male and female adults have green feathers covering the tops of their legs, with dark grey feet and claws.

Caring for the Red-Bellied Parrot

Since Red-Bellied Parrots are such active birds, they’ll need plenty of space in their cage and at least 3–4 hours per day outside of it, but the more, the better. You’ll also need to provide them with several toys, swings, ladders, and perches to help keep them entertained and plenty of regular playtime and interaction. They’ll need a cage of at least 24 x 30 x 24 inches, but bigger is better, and it should be equipped with loads of toys to play with.

These birds live in small flocks in the wild and thus need companionship either from their owner or from another bird of the same species. Without this, they will quickly become lonely, depressed, and even aggressive. Indeed, if you are away from home frequently, the Red-Bellied Parrot is not the right pet for you.

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Common Health Problems

In general, Red-Bellied Parrots are hardy and healthy birds that suffer from few health issues during their 20-year lifespan. Of course, this is only the case if they are fed on a healthy, diverse diet and given plenty of regular interaction. Regular checkups with an avian vet are essential to catch any issues before they progress too far, so you’ll want to make an appointment every 6–12 months.

Be on the lookout for the common symptoms of illness in birds, including:

Minor Conditions
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced activity
Serious Conditions
  • Labored breathing
  • Feather plucking

If you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll need to take your parrot for a checkup right away.

Diet and Nutrition

The best food for Red-Bellied Parrots is a high-quality pellet mix formulated for medium-sized parrots. Seed mixes are a great addition but should not be viewed as a staple diet — many of the health issues suffered by captive parrots are due to this widespread misunderstanding. Parrot pellets will give your bird the perfect balanced nutrition that they need, and you can supplement this with occasional seed mixes, fresh fruits, and vegetables as treats.

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Exercise

Red-Bellied Parrots are active birds that need plenty of time outside of their cage, although their cage should still be spacious enough for them to freely stretch their wings. These birds especially love to climb, so a tall cage equipped with ropes, ladders, and various sized perches is a must. Playing interactive games with your parrot is also a great idea, both for bonding and exercise.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Red-Bellied Parrot

Red-Bellied Parrots are not a common variety of parrot, so they can be fairly difficult to find. Avian pet stores may occasionally have them, but you’ll have more luck through a dedicated breeder. No matter where you purchase your parrot, make sure the facility is clean and the birds look healthy and happy. The breeder should also be able to offer you care advice for the bird and let you meet the parents.

Red-Bellied Parrots can also be found through various adoption agencies or rescue organizations, although since they are less popular than most other parrot species, this is somewhat rare.

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Conclusion

Red-Bellied Parrots are beautiful, social, and affectionate birds that make wonderful family pets. Since they are so quiet, they are ideal for apartment living, but they still need plenty of time outside of their cage. They are friendly birds in general, but they do have a tendency to nip occasionally, especially if they are not socialized properly. It’s important to note that these are active birds that need plenty of regular exercise, without which they can develop bad habits, including aggression.

The Red-Bellied Parrot is a rare beauty, and if you manage to find one, they can make wonderful companions indeed!


Featured Image Credit: Charlotte Bleijenberg, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.