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Senegal Parrot

Oliver Jones

While the Senegal Parrot isn’t as showy as many South American species, this west­ern African bird is still quite striking in its own right. Its plumage provides excellent camouflage on the savanna and scrublands in which it lives. This species is a popular pet, particularly if they are hand-fed. They are cavity-nesters in the wild and are easy to breed.

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Species Overview

Common Names: Senegal Parrot, Yellow-bellied Senegal Parrot
Scientific Name: Poicephalus senegalus
Adult Size: 9 inches
Life Expectancy: Up to 40 years in captivity

Origin and History

Naturalists identified and described the Senegal Parrot in the mid-1700s, despite their remote habitats in west­ern cen­tral Africa. It is a social creature that will gather in small flocks outside of mating season. They feed on a variety of foodstuffs, which makes their care easy. However, their adaptive nature has also made them an agricultural pest. It’s a factor that has contributed to their drop in numbers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Senegal Parrot as a species of least concern. However, international trade controls and an EU import ban exist because of the illegal pet trade in these birds. The parrot’s pleasant nature has made it a target and continues to threaten the stability of the wild population.

A senegal parrot perched on a fence
Image Credit: HeikoAL, Pixabay

Temperament

The Senegal Parrot is a popular bird for several reasons. It’s a manageable size for experienced pet owners. This parrot is also quite amicable. It tolerates handling well, particularly with hand-raised birds. This bird is vocal with sounds that some people may find irritating. The more excited it gets, the louder it becomes. Fortunately, they are diurnal animals that sleep a lot during the day.

Like any species of this type, the Senegal Parrot is intelligent and needs human interaction if kept singly. We recommend at least an hour or two a day so that your pet stays mentally fit. The alternative is to get a second parrot so that both birds can stay occupied. This bird can also learn to talk, which we’ll discuss in detail. That’s another justification for their popularity.

The lone Senegal Parrot will become quite attached to its human companion. It may even step in between other family pets clamoring for attention from its owner. That differs from wild birds that aren’t as keen on people being around them. Considering their antagonistic relationship with farmers, it’s hardly a surprise.

Pros
  • Friendly
  • Easy care
  • Long-lived
  • Easy to train

Cons

  • Noisy
  • Excitable
  • Expensive

Speech & Vocalizations

The Senegal Parrot is adept at both learning words and mimicking sounds. After all, that’s the main reason why people often gravitate toward these birds. The latter is a unique ability of these parrots. It’s one thing to say hello, but quite another thing to replicate your phone’s ringtone. Their intelligence also extends to picking up tricks. It’s an interactive pet if you spend a lot of time with it.

Senegal Parrot Colors and Markings

The most striking feature about the Senegal Parrot is the contrast between the colors of its head versus the rest of its body. Both its beak and head are gray with black eye rings and yellow eyes. Green is predominant on the rest of the bird, with a splash of yellow on its backside. It also has orange plumage in the center of its body.

Of course, juveniles are less colorful. Interestingly, both males and females are similar, making it difficult to distinguish the sexes. There are two subspecies with slight color variations. Not surprisingly, the two live in different parts of western Africa.

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Caring for the Senegal Parrot

Spending enough time interacting with your Senegal Parrot is the most critical aspect of its care. This bird needs attention. Like many other species, it will pluck its feathers or become loud and boisterous if it feels ignored. Another consideration is the parrot’s lifespan. Captive animals live longer without the threat of predation from both wildlife and humans. For this species, it’s 40-plus years.

Common Health Problems

Managing stress and feeding your Senegal Parrot a healthy diet are the main ways to ensure its good quality of life. The other overriding factor is controlling your bird’s environment. This species lives in a warm climate and, thus, cannot tolerate drafty conditions well. That can leave them susceptible to upper respiratory diseases.

Obesity is another risk factor, but one that you can easily manage with a nutritious diet. Unfortunately, being overweight increases the parrot’s chances of developing other chronic illnesses that could shorten its lifespan.

Diet and Nutrition

You could almost call the Senegal Parrot a generalist or opportunist when it comes to diet. They’ll eat just about anything, from seeds to nuts to fruit. They won’t turn up their beaks to the occasional grub or insect. That makes it easy for pet owners to offer a diverse diet that will meet their nutritional needs. Captive birds develop a taste for foods we eat, even mashed potatoes!

The vital thing is not to feed them seeds exclusively. They are both high in fat and calories, which can contribute to obesity. They are also not nutritionally complete. That’s why you should add fruits and vegetables to the mix. If you want to feed your Senegal Parrot a commercial diet, opt for pellets that are complete.

Exercise

When we talk about exercise, it often means going outside of the cage. That could include play and training. Both will provide welcome mental stimulation. We suggest that you discuss wing-clipping with your vet. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue, such as avoiding flights into a window. Luckily, it’s something you can do with your veterinarian’s assistance.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least caution you about chewing. Senegal Parrots are not the only birds that think nothing of gnawing on your furniture. Beak-trimming is not necessarily the right answer with profound welfare implications. We recommend supervising outside playtime.

senegal parrot grooming itself
Image Credit: zdenekfritz0, Pixabay

Where to Adopt or Buy a Senegal Parrot

Two things will affect the price of a Senegal Parrot: availability and import controls. As you may expect, those facts translate into higher prices. We strongly urge you to vet any seller to ensure that you’re getting a captive-bred bird. You’ll be glad that you did since you’ll get a more lovable pet. The popularity of this species will also drive the price.

You can expect to pay $1,000 or more for a hand-raised Senegal Parrot. There are many online offerings. You can also investigate whether you can special order one from your local pet store. Another option is to adopt a bird. It’s a shame to think of such a friendly, gregarious animal as a Senegal Parrot without a home. You’ll likely find that the cost is cheaper, too.

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Conclusion

The Senegal Parrot is a delightful pet in the right home. This bird craves attention and will make an excellent companion if you can give it the time it wants and needs. Another thing to understand is that getting this parrot is an investment, mainly with time because of its long lifespan.

Remember that being a pet owner isn’t a right. It’s a privilege to invite an avian companion into your home. The Senegal Parrot has so much to offer for the right family that understands its needs.


Featured Image Credit: Ondrej Prosicky, 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.