he black-headed Caique, anc
the White-bellied Caique have been around for breeders and pet owners for some time, however, it is only lately that these inquisitive birds are getting the recognition and attention that they deserve.
Caiques have a very unique personality; they are curious, playful, uninhibited and comical. They are rarely afraid of anyone or anything and are entertaining to watch.Two Caiques that live together will often be seen on the floor of the cage rolling over each other and wrestling. They love to hop, delight in chasing other household pets (including cats) and will often sway back and forth on their perches or rub themselves all over their owner.
The Black-headed Caique has two subspecies: Pionites melanocephala melanocephala in which the thighs, sides of the abdomen, and flanks are orange; and P m. pallida, which has lemon yellow rather than orange on the throat, flank and thighs. In Europe P m. pallida is more common but the majority of birds imported into the U.S. have been P m. melanocephala. Unfortunately, many of the few P m. pallida left in the U.S. don't have mates of their own subspecies so are paired with P m. melanocephala.
The White-bellied Caique has three subspecies: P leucogaster leucogaster, P !. xanthomeria, and P i. xantburus. The nominate P !. leucogaster has green thighs and, not surprisingly, is known as the Green-thighed Caique. This subspecies is more popular in Europe and very difficult to find in the United States. Many U.S. breeders have been unable to find proper mates for their Green-thighed birds and have paired them with P !. xantbomeria; a subspecies often called Lime-thighed Caique. P !. xantbomeria is the most commonly kept subspecies in the U.S. and is also referred to as the Apricotheaded, Yellow-thighed, and Whitebellied Caique.
important to select birds that appear to be in good health: bright eyes,clear nostrils, good weight, bright plumage, good posture and attitude. Caiques have a reputation for easily being carriers of Polyomavirus. Most birds offered for sale nowadays are domestic raised and immature birds. These birds mature sexually fairly soon (average three years) and are a good investment for any breeder willing to wait.
It is a good idea to have any new purchases examined by an avian veterinarian and tested for psittacosis, polyoma, parasites (which are common in domestic birds) and have a full avian blood panel performed. The blood panel will alert you to any potential problems with anemia, liver, kidney, calcium levels and general overall internal health of the bird.
Thanks to DNA testing, surgical sexing is no longer necessary. Caiques seem especially delicate when it comes to surgical sexing and many breeders have suffered losses using the procedure (even with isoflurane gas). One year we had 10 Apricot-headed Caiques surgically sexed and eight of the 10 became ill with papovavirus and died. It does not seem to matter how quick or experienced the veterinarian is, it is still a very risky procedure for Caiques. Fortunately, it can now be replaced with DNA testing.
There are many types of set-ups for breeding Caiques in captivity. Some individuals in less populated areas prefer to breed their Caiques in aviaries while many of us in crowded Southern California seem to have a lot of succcess cage breeding Black-headed and Apricot-headed Caiques. Because the birds are small, even the smaller cages offer the birds a fairly decent amount of space. We have bred Caiques in cages 3 ft. x 4 ft. x 3 ft. with the nest box attached to the outside of the cage. We are in the process of moving these birds to cages that are 2 ft. wide, 3 ft. high and 4 ft. deep and are curious to see how well they produce in this new design.
The location of the cages does not seem to have any importance. We once had three pairs set up in the dining room of a friend. The cages were stacked one on top another and the birds could not see each other but could call back and forth. All three pairs bred successfully and, like many pairs in the same close environment, they all laid eggs around the same time.
Noise is another important factor when setting up one or more pairs of Caiques. Even though they do not have a loud squawk or scream, they do possess the capability of producing a shrill, high pitched whistle-like call. And it carries very easily.
Nest Box Requirements
We use an L-shaped, or "boot" nest box that measures 16 in. tall x 16 in. long x 8 in. wide. There is a wire ladder on the inside of the front of the box that the birds use to get in and out. (It is important to remove any open quarantine type bands before allowing the birds to use use a nest such as this. The band can get caught on the wire ladder inside the box and the bird will die unless you are lucky enough to notice when this happens.)
Our nest boxes are made of 314 in. pine and since our breeding cages are indoors we don't reinforce them with any wire or metal. We usually need to replace the boxes once a year, and it seems to be a good stimulus for the birds anyway.
We line the nest boxes with about three to four inches of pine shavings, much of which gets thrown out or pulverized. It is important to be careful what type of substrate you use in your nest boxes because if the eggs become contaminated, you will have dead in the shell or early fatality in the chicks.
The nest box should be placed as high as possible on the breeding cage so the birds feel secure and content when they go to nest.
Placement of Perches
Perches should be approximately 1/2 inch in diameter and of natural wood. Avoid slippery woods such as manzanita and madrone as these may cause the birds to slip if they try to copulate on their perches.
We have also used some of the new cement perches in our caique cages to help wear down their quick-growing toenails.