The Senegal Parrot

25th June 2010

Distribution: This western African species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 2,500,000 km2.

There are three officially recognized subspecies of Poicephalus senegalus: the nominate Senegal Parrot, P. senegalus senegalus, is native to southern Mauritania, southern Mali to Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Lobos Island, east to southern Niger, northern Cameroon and south western Chad.

Reichenow's Orange-bellied Parrot, P. senegalus mesotypus, ranges from eastern and northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon into southwest Chad.

The Red-vented Parrot, P. senegalus versteri, is found in the north western Ivory Coast and Ghana east to south western Nigeria; generally it occurs south of the nominate senegalus senegalus, but still north of the rain forest belt.

Status: Because of its vast range in Africa, the wild Senegal Parrot population is difficult to estimate. The overal population is presumed to be large, yet, given that the species is considered common in suitable habitat through most of its wide range. Indeed, its habitat preferences are likely to have helped the species tolerate, if not benefit from, widespread loss of closed-canopy forests in West Africa. Except for Chad and Burkina Faso, where the limits of its range are perhaps reached, it is common and widespread throughout its range in suitable habitat.

In 1981 concerns about extensive trapping of wild parrots for the pet trade lead to it being listed on appendix II of The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), along with all parrot species. This has made the trade, import and export of all wild caught parrots illegal.

Nevertheless, this species is still heavily traded: between 1994 and 2003, over 410,000 wild-caught individuals were exported from range states. But despite international exports of vast numbers of birds, trade does not appear to have seriously impacted this species overall, with no significant national population declines reported. Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not currently believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List Vulnerable category (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, it is evaluated as Least Concern.

Habitat: The Senegal Parrot is a bird of open woodland and savanna, but can also be found in agricultural fields.

General habits: A resident breeder throughout much of western Africa, the Senegal Parrot undertakes seasonal movement within its range, according to the availability of the fruit, seeds and blossoms which make up its diet, moving into dryer areas during the rainy season.

It is a gregarious species, continuously chattering with a range of whistling and squawking calls.

When kept as a pet, it is described as a curious, acrobatic, playful species, much "mellower" than many other parrots. It has a very strong beak and can learn to "speak", though rather slowly and in a limited fashion - often with a high squeaky voice - and mimic many sounds, such as phone ringing, whistling, kisses, microwave beeps and smoke alarms.

Wild-caught Senegal Parrots are unlikely to turn into good pets (besides the trade in wild Senegal Parrots is illegal!), as they are difficult, if not impossible, to tame; and they may always be frightened of humans.

Feeding habits: The Senegal Parrot feeds on fruits, seeds, blossoms and nuts. It is considered a farm pest in Africa because it often feeds on cultivated fields of maize or millet.

In captivity, this parrot does well on a diet of seeds, most fruits and vegetables.

Breeding habits: The bonding behaviour between a pair involves one parrot feeding the other.

Nest: The Senegal Parrots nests in a hole in a tree, often an oil palm.

Eggs: This species lays 2 to 4 white eggs which are about 3cm long x 2.5cm wide.The eggs are incubated by the female, starting after the second egg has been laid, for 20 to 28 days.

Young: Newly hatched chicks have a sparse white down and they do not open their eyes until about two to three weeks from hatching. They are dependent on the female for food and warmth, and the mother remains in the nest most of the time until the little ones are about four weeks old and have enough feathers to create their own heat insulation. During this time the male brings food for the female and chicks, and guards the nest site. After two to four weeks from hatching the female also begins to collect food for the chicks. The chicks fly out of the nest at about 9 or 10 weeks and they become independent from their parents at about 12 weeks from hatching.

In captivity Senegal Parrots can start to breed at the age of 3 to 4 years, though some do not breed until they are 6 or 7 years old. They live an average of approximately 25-30 years in the wild, and have been known to live for 40-50 years in captivity if provided with a proper care.

Immature birds are generally duller than adults; their breast and abdomen are green, their bill pink or white and tipped grey; their eye ring is a pale grey, and their eye is a dark brown or grey, almost black.

Call: Though the Senegal Parrot is continuously chattering with a range of harsh and high-pitched screeches, whistles and squawks calls, it is not as noisy as many other other parrot species- which, unfortunately for it, is one reason for its popularity as a pet. The calls become more raucous when the bird is excited.

Description:. The Senegal Parrots is 20 to 25 cm long, plump-looking, and weighs about 125 to 170 grams. They have a relatively large head and beak for their overall size, and feathers form a short broad tail. Adults have a charcoal grey head, grey beak, bright yellow irises, green back and throat.

The nominate subspecies, Poicephalus senegalus senegalus has yellow underparts and rump. The yellow and green areas on a Senegal Parrot's front form a V-shape resembling a yellow vest worn over green. Poicephalus senegalus mesotypushas a paler green vest extending more down toward its orange vest; this vest is a deeper orange or even red in Poicephalus senegalus versteri which also has darker green upperparts.

Senegal Parrots are not sexually dimorphic, but there are some hypotheses which sometimes might help to determine the gender of adult birds: - The V-shape of the vest is usually longer in females; in females the green area extends down over the chest to between the legs, whereas in males the tip of the green area ends midway down the chest.

- The female's beak and head are generally slightly smaller and narrower than the male's.
- The under-tail covert feathers (short feathers under the base of the main tail feathers) are generally mostly yellow in the male and generally mostly green in the female.
- Males are generally, but not always, larger and heavier than females.

Did you know: The Senegal Parrot is one of the most heavily trapped wild birds in the world; since 1981, 735,775 birds have been recorded in international trade.

Senegal Parrots are one of the most popular parrots to be kept as pets, and the most popular Poicephalus parrot. In the pet trade, the nominate subspecies is the most common though all three are raised and sold as pets. Wild caught Senegal Parrots do not usually become tame and do not make good pets.

Captive Senegal Parrots tend to become jealous of other family members and pets. They can develop a bond with only one human and refuse to interact with other people, even attacking them in some cases. Although a Senegal is a small bird it does not seem to believe so, and will attack larger birds and even dogs if it feels it or its human is threatened.

The Senegal Parrot is also called: Yellow-vented parrot [English]; Bont Boertje [Dutch]; Mohrenkopf [German]; Perroquet youyou [French]; Lorito Senegalés [Spanish]