The Senegal Parrots (Poicephalus senegalus senegalus) are probably the best known and most popular members of the entire Poicephalus family, which includes Meyer’s, Red-bellied, and Jardine’s Parrots.
These compact and very playful African parrots are frequently seen in pet shops around the USA and Europe, where they were heavily imported until their importation became illegal in 1992.
Senegal Parrots have a life expectancy of 20 – 30 years; however, some captive birds have been recorded to have lived close to 50 years.
The nominate species “Senegal” was named after its country of origin in western Africa – although they also occur in the adjoining countries, as far south as the northern Cameroon and Central African Republic.
Within its natural range, it undergoes local seasonal migrations, driven mainly by the availability of fruit, seeds and blossoms which make up a large part of its diet. These social parrots usually occur in flocks and inhabit open moist woodland and the edges of the savannah.
In the pet trade, the nominate subspecies is the most common though all three are raised and sold as pets.
Three subspecies are generally recognized – they do not differ in behavior, but can easily be identified by the color of their abdomen.
|Approximate Ranges of the Poicephalus Senegalus Sub-species
- Senegal Parrot / Poicephalus senegalus senegalus (the nominate subspecies):
- Visual Difference: Yellow abdomen
- Native Range: 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 Parrots / Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus:
- Visual Difference: A bit paler overall than the nominate species, but with a deeper orange coloration on the abdomen. Less common in captivity than the nominate species but with the same personality traits.
- Native Range: Eastern and northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon into southwest Chad
- Red-vented Parrots / Poicephalus senegalus versteri:
- Visual Difference: Darker green upperparts than the nominate species and a deep-orange/red abdomen
- Native Range: North western Ivory Coast and Ghana east to south western Nigeria; generally it occurs south of the nominate species, but still north of the rain forest belt.
Senegal Parrots are plumb-looking, short-tailed birds that average 23 – 26 cm (9 – 10 inches) in length from the beak to the end of the tail- which is not much bigger than a cockatiel – and weigh about 110 to 170 g or (3.9-6.0 oz.)
They have a relatively large head and beak for their overall size, and they have a short broad tail.
Physical Attributes – Adults:
The Adult Senegal parrot has a charcoal grey head; green wings, back and throat; and the lower rump and the breast and abdomen have a distinct yellow to orange v-shaped section – sometimes known as the vest – with the upper breast being a bright green.
- Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus senegalus) the nominate species
- Mostly green, charcoal grey head, yellow abdomen
- Reichenow’s Orange-bellied Parrot / Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus):
- Looks like the nominate species, but is a bit paler overall and has a deeper orange coloration on the abdomen, and the green breast extends more down toward its orange abdomen.
- Red-vented Parrot / Poicephalus senegalus versteri):
- Looks like nominate species – but has darker green upperparts and a deep-orange/red abdomen
Physical Attributes – Juveniles:
- Immature birds are duller overall with a lighter grey head. Its bill is a pink/white tipped grey.
- Their breast and abdomen show a green suffusion.
- The eye ring is pale grey and the eyes are initially dark grey or brown, almost black, which change to light grey and gradually their yellowish adult coloration as they reach maturity.
A rare yellow as well as pied-colored Senegal Parrots have occurred in captivity. Mutation Photos
Males and females look alike; however, some theories have been developed to sex these parrots visually. The three most successful ones are listed on top:
- The “V” of the vest is usually longer in females, terminating between her legs whereas the males’ “V” ends somewhere between the upper part of the chest or midway down the front.
- Head and Beak: The female`s beak and head are generally slightly smaller and narrower than the male`s. Also her head is more rounded at the crown and the male has a flatter crown, as well as a larger beak and head.
- The under-tail covert feathers (short feathers under the base of the main tail feathers) are generally pure yellow in the male and yellow-green (mostly green) in the female and immature birds. Mature males with even a hint of green in that area are quite rare. Most of the time, even the slightest trace of green in these feathers indicates a female – although the amount may be so slight that the loss of one single feather can make a female appear pure yellow. This means that there are a few females with the male color pattern.
- Overall size: Males are generally larger and heavier then female birds.
- Behavior: Some speculate that birds can be sexed by their behavior, with females being generally shy and males tend to be bolder and more aggressive. However, this is not a reliable method as there are bold females and shy males.
Any of the above method is not proven by any means and the only reliable methods are surgical or DNA sexing. DNA sexing is relatively inexpensive (from $15 to $30 per bid) and kits can be obtained via mail order (the previous link provides relevant information).
The general instructions are to obtain either a feather or blood sample from a bird (often done by cutting a nail too short) and catching a drop of blood in a provided capillary tube provided that is then returned to the laboratory for testing. Sexing result can often be accessed online only days later.
Calls / Vocalizations
This is a gregarious species whose vocalizations consist of a continuously chattering with a range of whistling and squawking calls, as well as harsh and high-pitched screeches, which turn more raucous when excited.
However, it is still considered relatively quiet when compared to many other parrot species, which is one of the reasons why this parrot has grown so much in popularity.
Species: Scientific: Poicephalus senegalus senegalus … English: Senegal Parrot, Yellow-vented Parrot … Dutch: Bonte Boertje, Senegal Papegaai … German: Mohrenkopfpapagei … French: Perroquet du Sénégal … CITES II – Endangered Species
Species: Scientific: Poicephalus versteri … English: Red-vented Parrot … Dutch: Finsch’ Roodbuikpapegaai … German: Finschs Mohrenkopfpapagei … French: Perroquet de Verster
Description: As senegalus above, but green to back and wings generally darker; lower breast and abdomen yellowish-orange with orange-red centre to abdomen. … Length: 23 cm (9 ins)
Distribution: Ivory Coast and Ghana east to Western Nigeria. … CITES II – Endangered Species
Species: Scientific: Poicephalus senegalus mesotypus … English: Reichenow’s Orange-bellied Parrot … Dutch: Reichenows Bonte Boertje … German: Reichenows Mohrenkopfpapagei
Description: As senegalus above, but green generally paler; green to breast extends to abdomen area; abdomen orange. … Length: 23 cm (9 ins)
Distribution: Eastern to nort-eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, south-western Chad … CITES II – Endangered Species