A Brown Headed Parrot introduction

Birds Human Classroom

The Brown-Headed Parrot is one of the best-known birds in the Poicephalus family, its calm and quiet personality makes it a perfect pet bird. They adapt extremely well to any type of environment. This loving and playful animal likes to interact with its owner perfectly. Although its wild population has not been calculated exactly, it is very stable despite the increase of its fame as a pet. They are members of the family of other well-known birds such as the Senegal Parrot and Meyer’s parrot, and it can be found in many African countries. If you are interested in appreciating more about this bird I invite you to continue reading.

Natural Habitat

Brown-Headed parrot belongs to the Psittacidae family of the genus Poicephalus, and its scientific name is Poicephalus Cryptoxanthus, which comes from the Latin meaning “Hidden yellow” in its physical description you will know why. They are found mainly in Southeastern Africa, mostly in the countries of Tanzania including the Zanzibar and Pemba islands, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa along with some areas of southeast Zimbabwe and southeast Kenya. It is a bird that likes to live in high altitude habitats and is located in almost all types of woodland, forest-savanna, dry woodlands, and riverbanks. Also, it can be found in coconut plantations and has preferences in baobab trees. Normally these birds are seen in small groups of 12 birds, but depending on the area and the amount of food found, they can reach groups of 50 birds. They have also been viewed a few times in Cape Parrot’s flockings. While it has a stable population, this bird in Mozambique is at risk or of concern due to high levels of illegal trade.

This parrot has 2 recognized subspecies:

  • Poicephalus cryptoxanthus cryptoxanthus, also with the name Brown-headed Parrot and especially found in Eastern South Africa to southern Mozambique.
  • Poicephalus cryptoxanthus tanganyikae also recognized as Tanzanian Brown-headed Parrots and found from Mozambique to Kenya.

Features and Personality

Photo by Anya Auerbach

This African parrot is a small-sized bird that usually reaches a size of 9 inches and weighs about 5 ounces. They have an approximate life expectancy of about 20 to 25 years, but they can last longer. Although it is a bird that doesn’t show something special on the outside it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something unique about it that makes it different. The predominant color in the bird’s feathers is green, it is found from the end of its neck extending to its whole body including its back, chest, and abdomen. It has a brownish grey head that reaches its neck with that same tone, its beak in the superior part is of a light gray reaching the darkest tip and its eyes when they are adult birds are of yellow grayish color, but the young brown heads have the brown eyes. In the superior part of its wings, it maintains the green color but with some feathers of gray tones, but in the inferior part of its feathers, as it says its name Cryptoxanthus, it has a hidden bright yellow color that is observed when it is flying or when it extends its wings to stretch. This bird has a short, rounded tail with the surface of the tail of an olive-brown color, the tips are green and the bottom is gray. Its legs are also gray.

This bird is known to have a calm and relaxed temperament, they do not usually make much noise compared to other parrots, their level of vocalization is considered moderate, so it is adaptable to live in apartments or any type of housing. Although a calm attitude they are usually energetic, therefore, they require exercise. Don’t forget to give them their free time indoors and leave them plenty of toys in their cage. They are affectionate and intelligent, but don’t draw much attention so they are somewhat more independent. Further, they show it when they want but don’t doubt that you can have moments to share and make memories together. They are also known for being sociable as long as they have been used from a young age to adapt to all kinds of people and environments, as when they are adults they usually do not accept unknown environments. If you teach them they can learn tricks and also enjoy being handled, because of their personality they tend to be playful, and don’t forget to give them their treats when you teach them to make them feel rewarded and know they are doing well. Extra guide, they are not very talkative, they can learn certain words and they usually make some whistles and imitate sounds.

Cage and Care

If you decide to have a Brown Headed Parrot you must make sure to give it all the care it deserves as birds, naturally, like to have their space for flying, moving, playing everything it needs to have a good lifestyle. The main thing is to give him a birdcage that is large enough to have its own space and I recommend that it is a minimum length of 7 ft in size. Take into consideration that the space required for their cage should allow them to extend their wings fully and be able to move them smoothly. You should always keep it clean, safe, and durable, and not made of toxic materials that could put their health at risk. The bars in the cage shouldn’t have too much space between them as they can get their heads between the bars and get stuck and can suffocate. Always remember to keep the cage tidy, at least wash the cage completely once a week and make sure that the soap doesn’t have toxic elements that could endanger the life of your pets, and let it dry well. 

Make sure that it stays entertained and you can provide it with non-toxic toys that are suitable for birds, ropes with knots, perches, or wooden sticks of various sizes and textures. Some large stones that can help it to keep its toenails. Just try to keep the perches away from food and water dishes to avoid contamination or dirt, including water bowls for bathing and more because they like to bathe to maintain good plumage and skin condition. Also, when it is time for breeding, make sure they have their nest box. You should always keep the cages with access to natural light and as any bird likes to fly, so take it out of its cage daily and let it fly indoors so they can do some exercise and at least give it few hours out of the cage to keep him healthy and move freely, always making sure it’s in a safe room.


Brown Headed Parrots have a very high life expectancy, but in turn, you have to keep an eye on their health. One of the diseases that might be susceptible to develop is fungal infections due to bacteria or fungi, causing respiratory tract infections which can be fatal for them and can be caused by lack of cleaning in their cages or lack of water change, producing fungi and leading to these complications. If you realize that your parrot is holding difficulty breathing, you should go at once to the avian vet so it can be treated in time.

Another disease that can happen in this kind of parrot is the psittacine beak and feather disease, which comes from a virus called Circoviru, this can cause long-term immunosuppression as well as cause feather, and beak abnormalities. It doesn’t have a cure and can be very fatal, it affects wild and domestic birds. The only way to control this virus is prevention, plus infected birds should be kept isolated from non-infected birds as the disease is easily transmitted. Moreover, they may present a destructive attitude to their plumage that is known as “feather plucking” if a check is made and the veterinarian discards a physical cause, this may be caused by the stress that the bird must have because of boredom or the lifestyle it has, due to the lack of mental stimulation. This can be avoided if you give them a good lifestyle that allows them to exercise, move around or climb nets, or simply enjoy playing, and loving their toys.

Don’t forget to take your pet to the avian vet a couple of times a year to have him/her checked for any kind of illness and to help maintain good health.


Photo by Kenneth Weaver

Just like any living being, food is fundamental to the growth and life of this bird. In the wildlife, this parrot will consume a range of foods found in their habitats like fruits, berries, figs, a variety of seeds also unripe seeds, aloe nectar, coconut palm flowers, millet, and maize from cultivated areas. Furthermore, they like to eat insects, notably in the breeding season as it is a good source of protein. If you choose to have this species as a companion you must take into account that you have to provide it with enough nutrients to keep it healthy and the best way is to feed it based on a natural diet as much as possible.

Likewise, the Brown-headed in captivity can be fed with a seed mix, especially for Poicephalus parrots. You can also add a variety of nuts, seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, boiled corn, many fruits like; banana, apple, and oranges, and fresh vegetables. If you decide to use bird food marketed in pet stores, make sure it is of good quality and that you give the right amount in their diet. Do not forget to always leave him clean and fresh water to drink, you must change it daily to avoid him getting sick.


In the natural world, the Brown Headed parrot looks for places such as tree cavities, or if it is possible, they use some old woodpecker’s nests to start their nesting and look for places that are tall. Breeding season starts in April and usually lasts until October. But some birds may breed year-round. The size of their nest is large enough for the mother to lay 3 to 4 white eggs, which are incubated by the female in an average of 22 to 26 days. The chicks leave the nest after approximately 7 to 9 weeks and reach sexual maturity around 2 to 3 years old. It is known that adult males can shift aggressively during the breeding season. In captivity do not forget to leave a vertical nest box or an L-shaped nest box in their cage that has the right size for them, or preferably the size of 12″ x 12″ x 24″.

This African brown headed parrot is recognized to be a perfect pet, has a very good personality, is lovely, and does not make so much noise, so it is highly recommended. If you want to have this bird, try to do it in the right way and avoid illegal places, or places that do not give you enough confidence. In this way you will be sure that your bird is in good health and evade the illegal traffic of these birds to keep growing. Likewise, having a new pet of any kind, even a bird, is a new responsibility that you must assume. Its care is very important as it will determine the lifestyle and health they will have. If you have any questions, or if you think I’ve missed anything please let me know in the comment section down below.

Professor Whiskers
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