Find out all about the caiques, a South American bird

Pionites Melanocephala is its scientific name, the caiques as they are known, discover in this post what kind of bird it is, with an unmatched beauty, with a unique behavior and personality that will leave you amazed. It is distinguished by its pale thighs and is sometimes called pale caique. In poultry it is the most common subspecies of the white-bellied xanthomeria, commonly known as yellow-breasted caique.

What is the meaning

Initially it was a light, fishing boat or link, made of wood and with lowered wheels, with a curved keel to be transported along the beach. The caique is specific to the Middle East. Some types are large and have sails.

It is an old rustic type of small boats, oars or sails, the name is updated with much more imposing modern motorized versions (Caiques Ketch or escuna), with all the comforts for the coast and appreciated for its wooden cruisers.

In relation to the birds, we can mention that these are in fact South American parrots, which are very distinct in appearance and character. They have a great personality and are not aware that physically they are not as big as Amazons. The appeal of Caiques is irresistible to many parrot lovers. They have a fascinating personality as well as incredible beauty.


They are small (only 23 cm long) and not very smooth flies, so they do not need wide aviaries. But they are very destructive to wood (use cages or aviaries with an aluminum structure); they are also very noisy. They need a lot of fruit in their diet. These are the most important tasks. Most of those available today are captive born. The black-headed caiques (Pionites melanocephala) is found in the northern Amazon and the white-bellied caiques is found south of the Grand River.

The black-crowned has a black crown, black bill, black legs and the skin around the eyes is dark gray. The one with the white stomach has an orange crown and flesh-colored bill, legs and skin around the eyes. In other words, it is almost identical except for the absence of black pigment. The only other difference is the green feathers on the black head flanges. (See Article: Agapornis Canus).


Young black-headed caiques have yellow and brown feathers on their coffins. Black hair is more common in poultry. The nominal competition in Guyana, southern Colombia, northern Venezuela and Brazil is by far the most famous. Many birds were imported to Europe from Guyana. The southern subspecies, pallida, which range from southern to eastern Ecuador and northern Peru, are rarer.

It is distinguished by its pale thighs and is sometimes called pale caique. In poultry it is the most common subspecies of white-bellied xanthomeria, commonly known as yellow-breasted caique. It is found in eastern Peru, northern Bolivia and western Brazil. In the early 1980s, many birds were exported from Bolivia, relatively few descendants of which are still available. The nominal race, characterized by green thighs, is rare in captivity.

It is not outside Brazil, a country that has not allowed the export of its wildlife for more than three decades. Rare of all is the yellow-tailed caique (Pionites leucogaster xanthurus) which I have only seen in Brazil. It is probably unknown in the avian world elsewhere. With the stunning pure yellow tail, it is an extremely attractive bird.

Meet the Black-headed Goose

Pioneer melanocephalus, sometimes known as pioneer melanocephala, belongs to the parrot family, caiquesna species or simply caiques. It is a bird that usually lives in forests, near forests on the Amazon River or on the Ucayali River.

It is a bird that can be defined as medium-sized, measuring about 25 centimeters more or less. The head is black, with a short tail. The core is black, surrounding the face, while the head is yellowish and goes down to the stomach. The back and wings are green, like its relatives, but its fists and legs are gray. The wings are blue and as they approach the body they become darker.

The truth is that, contrary to what happens with other caiques, this does not present a visible sexual dimorphism, because males and females have the same plumage suit. The only guide that some breeders use to distinguish them is that the female is usually a little smaller, but this is not a viable system. It is a bird that is sociable, but in the wild usually lives in small groups of 10 members, except in special circumstances that can be up to 30. The diet consists of fruits, seeds, flowers and some insects.

A total of two subspecies of this type were recognized:

  • Pionitas melanocephalus melanocephalus: lives in the eastern part of its place of origin. It is characterized by the fact that the thighs and the lower part of the tail are orange, while the never has deep orange tone and white belly.
  • Pionitas melanocephalus pallidus: It lives in the western part of its place of origin. The thighs and the lower part of the tail have yellowish tones, with the nape a little pale and the belly in yellowish tone, although it is usually called “dirty white”.

In the case of both subspecies, when the birds are young they have a strong yellow color in the belly area.

As they are very active birds, caicos (pionites) need spacious housing. Ideally, they should be kept in a pamphlet 2.5 meters long, 2 meters high and 1 meter wide. However, it should be kept in mind that caicos cannot withstand extremely low temperatures.

The minimum temperature during the winter months should not be less than 10 degrees. For this reason, in the colder areas of Europe it will be necessary to have a warm coat. Some poultry farmers prefer to keep them in temperature-controlled rooms. In this case, they can be housed in suspended cages 1.50 m long by 1 m high and 0.60 m wide.

Another factor to take into account when locating the caicos is the high-pitched, piercing screech that they emit, especially at dawn and dusk. The screams are so loud that they are perfectly audible from far away, so you have to take into account possible conflicts with the neighborhood when you make them stay outside. For this reason, some fans prefer to keep them indoors, where it is obviously possible to breed them, although the ideal place is the outdoor aviary.


The truth is that in the poultry breeding world, black pies are much more popular than other members of this species. Their biggest drawback is that the only way to stop the sex of the bird is through a DNA test, although some use a surgical procedure to find out.

It is a very energetic pet that needs a cage 60 cm high, 60 cm wide and 90 cm high, because it likes to beat its wings. The bars should not be more than 2.5 cm apart. Although it is not catalogued as one of the most intelligent birds of the parrot family, the truth is that they are very flexible when flying from a cage, to be able to open doors without many problems. So you must be very careful that these are closed.

Their food is quite basic, and although originally from the Amazon area, you can get used to the native food, as long as they are given fresh vegetables and fruits, the bird will be very happy.In his cage, it would be nice if he had some toys to entertain himself, because he likes to rock and climb, so he will be very grateful to have a rope or a ladder to entertain. Of course, we must be very careful when it comes to taking him out of the cage, because it is not uncommon for him to fly.

The caiques is a bird belonging to the pionitas genus. Behind its descriptive characteristics include its great friendliness and also its high level of sociability. This medium-sized bird usually measures about 23 cm. It is also a very confident bird that knows no nerves, making them ideal to have at home. They are also very intelligent and generally calm birds.

This bird is typical of the American continent, inhabiting the areas of South America. Within these species other subspecies can be found, among which the black-headed and the white-bellied stand out. The first of these subspecies, as its name says, has the black crown and also the legs, the beak and, in general, a mask located around the eyes. The other subspecies has the orange crown and, in the case of the legs, the beak and the eye mask are in skin tones.


Black-headed Caiques (Pionites melanocephala) are very common in the flatter areas and a relatively high number of pairs can be observed. This may be due to the fact that there was a decrease in their territory due to human intervention.

The White-breasted Caique (Pionitis leucogaster) is very abundant in its territory, being less frequent in the dry forests of the south. In some areas of Brazil, where a large-scale deforestation process occurred, they were hunted and disappeared completely. In contrast, the number of national parks and reserves in Brazil and Peru is very high.

The caiques (pionitas) are extremely greedy birds and can eat more food than other larger birds. They are very active birds, with a very high metabolism and, therefore, must always have a large amount of food at their disposal.

They are not exposed to obesity and have no special dietary requirements. Caïques happy to accept a variety of fruits and vegetables (apple, orange, grape, cucumber, zucchini, etc.), legumes, seeds (sunflower, corn, safflower, buckwheat, flaxseed, semolina, canaryseed, millet and hemp) and green food dandelion, spinach and chickweed.

Because dried seeds are not part of the diet of wild birds and not of wild calcos, we offer them as much fruits and berries, which varies depending on the season. In fact, the caiques do not eat the fruit, but squeeze the mass and extract the juice.

Caiquesna are the only parrots that feed their chicks inside the farm, even during the night. They have also been seen feeding during the night!

The dietary needs of these birds, although not demanding in terms of food type (once they eat everything), require large amounts of food. Thus, the caicos must be supplied with lots of fruits, seeds, legumes, etc.

This is because they are very active birds and therefore expend a lot of energy. Many times they not only feed during the day, but also during the night. This process is very simple. In this, the female lays about 3 eggs, on average, which are incubated for a total of about 26 days. After that incubation time, which is done by the female, hatching occurs.


Caicos (pionites) are seasonal breeders that begin breeding in the spring, usually in April. Some aviculturists have observed that males can be aggressive towards females during this period. The frequency of this behavior decreases if pairs are formed from very young individuals.Copulation occurs several times a day, two to three weeks before laying.

A few days before the laying of the first egg, certain changes are observed in the females that show an extremely relaxed abdomen. This is something that does not happen in other psittaciformes. Apparently, it seems that the female suffers from egg retention, however, it is something completely normal in this species. It is actually quite amusing to see the female walking around the cage looking “pregnant”.

Laying is usually 2 to 4 eggs that are incubated by the female for 26 days. As incubation time approaches, the female is observed to periodically leave the nest to bathe and return to the nest with wet plumage. The reason for this behavior is not known with certainty, although it can be assumed that, by doing this, the female increases the moisture level of the nest.

When the pups hatch, they are covered with a pale yellow. During the incubation period, the caecilians can be very aggressive. During the night, the male sleeps inside the nest next to the female. The young develop much more slowly than most psittacines.

They do not open their eyes until 27 days after hatching, in contrast to the Galah cockatoo which does so in 12 days or the Eclectus around 18 days. The first feather cannon does not appear until 30 days. After fifty days, all feather guns will have emerged and will not be opened until 60 days have elapsed. They remain inside the nest until 70 to 80 days of age before leaving.

Once they leave the nest, they will still stay 10 to 14 days with the parents until they can feed. It often happens that when four cubs are born or even when there are only three, the youngest, the last one to be born, is invariably ignored by the parents. He does not grow like his older siblings and eventually begins to lose weight until he finally dies. When we observe this type of neglect, we can remove the puppy and try to raise him by hand.

The nest of the Caiques (pionitis) is very important for their reproduction. The most frequent mistake is to build them too big and the same happens with the entrance hole. The place where we place it also has a great importance. It should be placed away from observation and direct light.

The nest should be a warm, dark and comfortable place, as well as sturdy to avoid its destruction, since the caicos like to gnaw wood. In fact, it is important to provide fresh branches so that they can satisfy their need to gnaw. Whatever the mode of housing, for a cowbird, good nest quality is paramount.

The dimensions of the nest are 25 cm x 25 cm base and 60 cm deep. It is advisable to leave the nest all year round since adult pairs usually lay down to sleep. In addition, the female spends most of the day and night, whether in the breeding season or not, gnawing inside the nest.

Caicos usually retire to roost very early, at least an hour before sunset and wake up later in the morning than other parrots.


All caiques and their subspecies ll or pionites are native to South America and occupy a large areaMapa Caique (pionites) Caiques Caiques Caiques Pionites distribution map that includes most of the Amazon River swamps from the west coast of Bolivia into areas of eastern Peru and Bolivia. Although the ranges of both species are adjacent, they are clearly separated.

Black-headed cowbirds (Pionites melanocephala) live in the northern part of the Amazon River, while white-breasted cowbirds (Pionites leucogaster) live in the southern part of the river.Thus, both species are inexorably separated by the Amazon River if we consider their limited flight capacity that prevents them from crossing the enormous distance that separates the two banks.

Some authors claim that they cannot fly more than a few hundred yards before landing on the ground exhausted. This lack of flying ability is due in part to a very heavy body with excessively short wings.

Meanwhile other experts assure that the caicos do not have sexual dimorphism. Knowing whether our parrot is male or female therefore requires DNA sexing. Captive breeding of these species is not easy, but the growing number of farmers are opting for these parakeets, to begin the adventure of reproduction and dissemination as pets.

(Pionites melanocephala melanocephala) finds its natural habitat in the north of the Amazon and in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. It is characterized by its ability to move and fly in the forests of these areas of South America. Besides the black of the head, the colors of the species are: the orange of the neck, the yellow of the neck, the green of the wings and back and the white of the chest. ( See Article: Maize Duck )

The orange-headed goose (Pionitis leucogaster leucogaster), in the wild, is found in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. In aviculture, it has been a less common species than the black-headed goose. The plumage is practically the same as in the first variety. The main difference is in the color of the head feathers, which are shades of orange and not black.

Care of a Caiques as a pet

In their behavior and care in captivity, all caiques can be considered as one species. In the UK, some breeders keep them without access to overseas flights, which in my opinion offers an unstimulated existence to these intelligent and curious parrots. It would be a nice change to offer an outdoor area with a 3 meter flight with an indoor area with a fully enclosed building or shelter.

If the nest is outside the aviary, it should be in the darkest, most isolated place with a covered roof. Caicos do not feel safe in an open aviary, as it would be appropriate to create Australian budgies. They need a nest to spend the night all year round. The best situation is in the covered shelter during the colder months. Outside the aviary, they will probably not breed, except in the spring and summer. When kept indoors, females can come in at any time of the year.

Young hens have little or no dropping. The weight of the hens is 6 g or 7 g when they crash. They have little or none. The second dropping is scattered and whitish.Hens should be banded with 8.5 mm rings around day 17. They remain ten weeks in the nest. If you remove them to raise them manually, you must take care with the diet.

Commercial handmade formulas that provide success in many other egg species may not necessarily be appropriate. When hatched from the nest, young caicos do not have a snow-white breast, but are spotted yellow and brown. White-bellied cowbirds have variable areas of black feathers on the head, especially over the eyes.

This led to the assumption that they were hybrids with nailed khakis! In fact, this indicates precisely what a close relationship they are. The immature plumage of many parrots provides clues to evolutionary relationships. young khakis are adorable! Khakis are the perfect size for medium-sized domestic parrots. They are extremely playful and should be given destructible items, including cardboard boxes and short leather cords tied to cage bars. They love to bathe.

Yellow-headed Caique

If the African Grey Parrot is considered the “intellectual” of domestic birds and Ara macao as a true exhibitionist, the caique is par excellence of the aviaries. The caique (pionitis) is friendly and easily establishes affectionate bonds with humans without showing fear or nervousness. He is confident, calm and very intelligent. All these qualities captivated, for some years, many passionate ornithophiles.

Its enveloping personality and childish character made the popularity of this small South American parrot grow among poultry fanciers of all countries, while increasing its presence in homes, where it emerged as an adorable pet. By their behavior, they could be considered as the South American replica of the loris. Like them, the Pionites are very active birds, curious, playful and fun jumping, climbing and swinging on the branches describing incredible pirouettes.

Caiques blackheads live on the peaks and within the borders of upland forest. They can also be found in flooded forests near riverbanks. Their relatives, the white-breasted caiquesna also live in the forests of the tropics, but prefer shrubs growing along rivers.

The environment in which they live is typically tropical, characterized by high temperatures and very high humidity. Temperatures reach 33 or 37.7 degrees C in July and 37.7 or 42.4 in January. Average annual rainfall is very high, with January being the wettest month.

Pioniter melanocephala lives in pairs or small family groups, although they can often be seen in larger groups of up to thirty individuals. They usually perch in trees where they feed. Their diet consists of fruits, berries and seeds.

They make contact calls similar to high-pitched squawks. They also offer other very high-pitched, piercing sounds. The covering season is different depending on the territory they come from. In Venezuela it starts in April, while in Suriname you will find eggs on the farm in October. They live in holes in large trees. The position consists of two to four eggs. The incubation period is 27 days.

The habit of Pionite leucogaster in the wild resembles those of melanocephala, although the breeding season of this species begins in December. The rest is found in large trees at an altitude of 30 meters above the ground. The position is usually two eggs. The incubation period is generally 25 to 27 days. The lifespan of the caiques is high and can easily exceed 20 years. Specimens are known to have reached the age of 45 years.

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