pet bird


Blackheaded caique
Blackheaded caique

Caiques information

The Caiques are two colourful and comparatively small parrot species in the genus Pionites:

  • Pionites leucogaster

Commonly known as the White-bellied Parrot or White-bellied Caique

  • Pionites melanocephalus

Commonly known as the Black-headed Parrot or Black-headed Caique

Caiques are endemic to the Amazon Basin in South America and can be found nowhere else in the world. The White-bellied Caique lives south of the Amazon River, while the Black-headed Caique is found on the north side. These regions are forested and contain a lot of different fruits and seeds for the caiques to feed on.

Caiques taxonomy

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Aves
Order:           Psittaciformes
Family:          Psittacidae
Subfamily:    Psittacinae
Tribe:             Arini
Genus:           Pionites

  • Pionites leucogaster

Commonly known as the White-bellied Parrot or White-bellied Caique

Three recognized subspecies exist:

  • Pionites leucogaster leucogaster (Green-thighed Caique). This subspecies is found in the eastern part of the Pionites leucogaster range. Thighs and upper tail are green.
  • Pionites leucogaster xanthomerius (Yellow-thighed Caique). This subspecies inhabit the western part of the Pionites leucogaster range. Thighs are yellow but the upper tail is green.
  • Pionites leucogaster xanthurus (Yellow-tailed Caique). This subspecies inhabit the central part of the Pionites leucogaster range. Tails and upper tail are yellow.
  • Pionites melanocephalus

Commonly known as the Black-headed Parrot or Black-headed Caique

Two recognized subspecies exist:

  • Pionites melanocephalus melanocephalus (Black-headed Caique). This subspecies inhabit the eastern part of the species range. Thighs and crissum are orange, the nape is deep orange, and the belly is white.
  • Pionites melanocephalus pallidus (Pallid Caique). This subspecies is found in the western part of the species range. Thighs and crissum are yellow, the nape is comparatively pale, and the belly has a very pale yellow to dirty white shade. 

The two subspecies readily hybridize and you can therefore see individuals displaying a blend of characteristics from both subspecies. 

Caiques care

Important information for prospective parrot owners
Caiques are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. Just like all other species of parrots, both caique species are however protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Before you decide to purchase a caique, it is important to check if the species is placed in CITES appendix I or II. Do not trust old information since it may be outdated. Import, export and trade in wild-caught specimens of appendix I species is illegal, unless you have a licens and licenses are only given in exceptional circumstances. For parrots listed in Appendix II legislation is more lax, but you still need to adhere to certain rules and regulations. Captive bred parrots of appendix I species are considered appendix II specimens when it comes to trade.
Also keep in mind that national legislation does not always match international legislation; you have to research both.

Caring for Caiques

Caiques are becoming increasingly popular among parrot owners since they are playful birds that form strong bonds with their human keepers. The White-bellied Caique is normally more difficult to obtain than the Black-headed Caique.

Caiques are energetic birds that can develop unwanted and harmful behaviours if they are not given proper outlets for all their energy in captivity. They also need a lot of social interaction and plenty of things to chew on. Don’t worry if you find your caique on its back at the bottom of the cage; it is probably just playing with something. In the wild, caiques live high up in tree canopies and they like to be perched high in captivity as well. Including natural branches in the set-up is recommended since caiques love to chew on them.  

Compared to most larger parrots, caiques are fairly quiet unless you teach them unwanted behaviours, e.g. by always running into the room to shush them when they start making sounds. (If you do, the parrot will quickly learn that making loud sounds is a great way of getting your attention and company.) In the wild, caiques make a call sounding fairly similar to a smoke alarm when they need to warn other birds of potential threats or make contact with flock members who are out of sight. The call is very high, piercing and virtually impossible to neglect so don’t encourage it in captivity.

Wild caiques are typically seen in pairs or small groups and they are commonly kept like this in captivity as well since it is difficult for most human owners to provide the highly sociable caique with sufficient amounts of interaction each and every day.

Caiques are known to be weary towards other parrots that aren’t caiques and combining them may lead to aggressive behaviours.

All caique specimens possess a peculiar odour, which depends chiefly on genetics, diets, and grooming but also is affected by the current emotional state of the bird. The scent is somewhat similar to that of a dry piece of cardboard, sometime with a sweet tone. 

Feeding Caiques

Wild caiques live in forested parts of the Amazon Basin where they feed on fruit and seeds. Keeping them on a similar diet in captivity is recommended, but you don’t have to stick to fruits and seeds present in the Amazon – almost all types of fruits, vegetables and seeds are fine so you can serve species readily available in your part of the world. Parrot pellets are also known to be appreciated, but keeping them on pellets only is not recommended. Some breeders serve their breeding couples lory nectar.

Breeding Caiques

Male and female caiques look the same, so surgical sexing methods or DNA analysis are the only ways of sexing caiques before they commence breeding.

Caiques normally attain sexual maturity at an age of 2 years, but young birds rarely make good parents and it is advisable to wait until they are 3-4 years old.

The most difficult part of breeding caiques is normally to obtain a compatible pair. Caiques can be rather finicky when it comes to choosing a mate and can become aggressive if you try to force a mate upon them. Professional breeders often get at least four birds of each sex and place their cages near each other in the same room. By doing so, you can see how they interact with each other and hopefully at least one pair will be formed.

Once you have a pair, it should be placed in a large breeder cage. Be vigilant because the birds may become aggressive towards each other. Sometimes they will fight for weeks before they mate. Do not try to speed up the process, just keep an eye on them and be ready to step in if there is a risk of serious injury. 

Once you have an established breeding pair they will normally produce two clutches per year. Having more than two clutches is possible, but it’s very tiring for the female bird since she is the one responsible for most of the parenting, including feeding the young. A tired mother is more susceptible to disease and there is also a risk of abnormally small eggs and weak offspring. 

Caique Health

When a caique falls ill the exact disease can be hard to pin down, because many different conditions cause similar symptoms. Ideally take your bird to a veterinarian specializing in pet birds. Also try to determine if there is any underlying cause behind the illness, such as stress, malnutrition, or boredom.

Visible signs of illness in caiques:

  • your caique sleeps more than usual
  • your caique eats less than usual
  • the bird screams more than usual or screams differently
  • the faeces of your bird has changed
  • the eyes aren’t fully open; they look like slits
  • discharge flows from the nostrils
  • your caique sneezes more than just occasionally
  • your bird plucks its feathers
  • the plumage looses its lustre
  • the plumage looks ruffled
  • you can see bare spots in the plumage

Caique Facts

Caique fact # 1
Caiques are known to love soft surfaces, e.g. pillows and cushions, so if you have a free roaming caique, don’t throw yourself onto the sofa before checking that it’s bird-free.

Caique fact # 2
Caiques love to bathe and should be provided with a large enough “bath-tub” so they can take a bath whenever they feel like it.

Caique facts # 3
Caiques are sometimes referred to as seven-colour parrots, because of their multi-colored plumage. They are also affectionately known as “dancing parrots” since they can be easily encouraged to dance and hop to music or rhythmic clapping.

Caique facts # 4
Caiques are not very good at imitating human speech, but will readily mimic other sounds from the environment, such as microwave beeps, alarm clocks and telephone signals. Once they have learned to whistle a tune they can recombine the sounds to compose new jingles. Some individuals have actually learned to mimic words and can repeat them in a soft and gravelly voice.

Caique facts # 5
When caciques fly, you can hear a distinctive whirring sound in the air. They rarely fly long distances and are not very skilled when it comes to manoeuvring through the air. Instead, they are highly capable climbers with strong feet, legs and beak. 

Caique lifespan

The expected lifespan for a caique is 20-35 years.


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