Aviculture of Pionus Parrots: Breeding, Care and Personality


T he Pionus parrot has become overwhelmingly popular in the past two to three years. It was not impossible to predict that this lovable pet bird would one day ascend to the very top of the ideal medium-sized pet bird for both family and individual. The handfed Pionus parrot is in greater demand than ever before.

I have been a Pionus enthusiast for many years, first as a pet bird owner, then moving into breeding these wonderful birds exclusively. The venture has been rewarding but not without the pitfalls that accompany taking on a responsibility of this magnitude solely and with very little written information available.

Much credit is to be given to John and Pat Stoodley of England for the first and only Pionus book ever to be written Pionus Parrots which is now out of print. The Pionus Breeders Association, founded by the late Hank Brawley, maintains a studbook and supports its membership by distributing a newsletter. Dr. Catherine Toft of U.C. Davis maintains the studbook.


The Pionus parrots, native to Central and South America, are comprised of eight species that vary in size. The smallest is the Dusky, at approximately 10 inches. The White-capped, is slightly larger·in length and fullness of body. The Blue-headed, and the Bronze-winged, are of an intermediate size. The largest of the genus are the Maximilian, often referred to as Scalyheaded because of its ruffled head, and the Coral-billed, sometimes referred to as the Red-billed Parrot.

The Pionus can be compared in size to a small Amazon. Two of the Pionus parrots are endangered.


Rare Species Massena's Pionus

Massena's Pionus or White-headed Pionus Pionus seniloides is the rarest of the Pionus species. Its range was at one time western Venezuela, western Columbia, Ecuador and northwestern Peru in the Andes. The head is dullish green with a white base that gives it a speckled appearance. The upper parts are dark green, which extends to the tail. The breast is a dark mauvish blue. There has been little breeding success if any as they seem to be non-existent.

Recently the Pionus Breeders Association funded the South American Research Project by putting biologist and P.B.A. member Ana Sosa de


Asanza in Ecuador to study the population and ecology of the White-headed Pionus. On January 17, 1996 in the northeastern side of the Andes Mountains she recorded 45 individuals during a four hour period. In a second nesting area she recorded 56 individuals. I have heard of only one pair in captivity, and do not know the accuracy of this.

Plum-crowned Pionus

The Plum-crowned Pionus P.

tumultuosus. Its native habitat is western-central part of South America. It has a unique head coloring with plum on the crown and the forehead. The Plum-


crowned is very similar in head contour and body shape to the Massena's or White-headed. Their numbers are also very limited Although most aviculturists tend to keep them as separate species, they have definite physical similarities.

Red-billed Pionus

The Red-billed Pionus P. sordidus.

Its range in the wild is northern Venezuela and western Columbia to Ecuador, eastern Peru and northern Bolivia. The coral bill is the most outstanding feature of this species. The body is green with blue bordered feathers and the eye ring is white. A subspecies is the Coral-billed Plonus, P. s corallinus. This species is bred in limited numbers and should be kept by breeders only.

Popular and Available Species Blue-headed Pionus

Blue-headed Pionus P. rnenstruus.

This species is also known as the Redvented Parrot. Its native habitat is Mexico, Costa Rica and tropical South America.

Its outstanding blue breast and throat are complimented by the brilliant green of the body. The bill is dark gray with red markings at the base of both mandibles. The undertail coverts are brilliant red tipped with green. A subspecies is P. m. rubegaris, referred to as the Ruby-throated Pionus, not to be confused with the menstruus as both may have red throats but the head of the rubegaris is a lighter blue. The red throat is quite dominate in the

 rubegaris. These also are limited and may have been bred with the menstruus due to lack of knowledge.