The Caique in Captivity - Part II


In my opinion, a tame caique makes one of the very best of pet parrots. I will not argue that they do not have the majesty of macaws; the "presence" of the Moluccan Cockatoo or the imitative ability of the African Grey Parrot. But in sheer personality, they are supreme. Their patchwork patterns of contrasting pure colors (yellow, green, white, orange and black), with no intermingling of shades, makes them most handsome harlequins. They are not so big in body size and beak size to frighten the timorous. Nor so small as to make the owner fearful for their safety. Indeed, they are exactly the right size for a pet parrot.

When extremely tame, as they will be after they have been hand-reared, or if they are taken immediately after weaning from the parents, they are utterly fearless. The adjectives which describe them are: exhibitionist, arrogant, charming, confiding and macho. They are an active bird, but in ways pleasing for a parrot. They walk, jump and climb in preference to flying. Tame caiques positively enjoy being touched or stroked. They love taking tidbits. They are tough and resilient enough to be able to withstand the inevitable knocks and bangs caused by living in a domestic environment. They are very curious and, like cats, will explore such interesting cavities as paper bags or open handbags. Being residential birds, not given to wandering, and with a "home base" situated in a tree hollow, they prefer to roost under cover. When night comes, they will literally slink beneath the sheets, whether of cloth material or newspaper, or make use of a nestbox.

Further, when roosting, they do not defecate overnight. This absolute control they have over their bowels allows us to house-train a caique. As they are highly intelligent (and this cannot be said of all parrots), and because it is very obvious to any perceptive owner, when they are going to eliminate, bowel-training is fairly simple to encourage. With the bird on the hand, a small, portable receptacle is gently placed under the tail. This should be done in such a way as not to alarm the bird. This should be done when it appears to be about to void its first "stool" of the morning, which it will do within less than half an hour after it wakes.

As it eliminates into the container, it should be rewarded with a caress and a tidbit. And, most important, this should be done with an accompanying word of encouragement. It will learn, if this word, or some other signal is invariably repeated as it begins to prepare to defecate, to do this on command. Such a trained bird can fly on its own accord to its "potty'.' Although I have read somewhere that birds have no control of their bowel system, this ability to retain a "motion" and defecate under volition is not unique to caiques. It certainly applies to those many South American parrots that naturally roost within a cavity. But caiques seem easier to "train" than others. Thre is also an account of this in a Blue and Gold Macaw.

Of course, if you want a perfect pet caique, or any other parrot, when it reaches sexual maturity it is better to keep it apart from other birds. If it gets a companion it will put some, if not all, of its attention towards this new bird. This wonderfully tame, confident, strutting, bumptious, appealing clown can then become an extremely fearless adversary. Caiques in pairs or family groups can become a ruthless gang. I had a pair of caiques get into a cage containing a tame Vinacious Amazon. They would have killed it if their whoops of frenzied, joyous, battle had not caught my attention and interference. A caique "paired" to its owner may nip other humans who "trespass" against this "union.''

The demand for pet caiques must surely increase once their virtues become better known. This can only be supplied by captive breeding. One of the first hurdles...