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Written by Dan

Species, Availability, and General Information

There are eight types of pionus parrots, the main difference in a lot of them being the coloring. Five of the eight are available for sale: the blue-headed pionus, the Maximilian's pionus, the white-capped pionus, the Dusky pionus, and finally, the bronze-winged pionus. Of these, the white-capped and the Maxi are the most readily available.

The white-capped is the smallest of them all, coming in at 24 cm. The Maxi is the largest -- around 30 cm. One thing to keep in mind is that tails are often included when measuring birds. The pionus have very small tails and thus even though other birds (with long tails) may be about the same size, the pionus will actually be larger due to most of their length being from their actual bodies.

Like with many parrots, it is not possible to visually sex pionus. The recommended way to sex birds is via DNA testing; an avian vet should be able to do this for you.

Pionus, however, are not the most common parrots, so they may not be easily found at pet stores. Your best bet may be to look for online listings of breeders in your area that may have pionus. If you're interested in adopting, check with shelters and similar agencies as well.

Pionus can often live up to 40 years. Many don't due to improper care. Thus, I encourage anyone thinking of getting a pionus -- or any other bird -- to read through all the articles here, as well as ask any questions that come up at the message board, to ensure that your pionus lives as long as possible. Proper diet and care will ensure a long, healthy life.

General traits specific to Pionus

Pionus parrots, in many ways, are like other parrots. Their diets require a good, healthy variety -- that most often includes high-quality pellets, vegetables, and more. Issues such as diet and more are covered by our other articles, and thus I won't speak of these parts. (However, one thing to keep in mind about pionus and diet is that they are prone to fatty liver disease; thus, you should not give a pionus a lot of food that is high in fat, such as nuts.) The following are things that are specific to pionus parrots that many other birds do not typically show.

Pionus are often described as very quiet birds. This is, for the most part, quite true. After having been around just my pionus for the last year, cockatiels, lovebirds, and even budgies at pet stores sometimes seem very loud to me. Thus, if you are looking for a more quiet bird than most -- or if you might need one, due to neighbors in apartments -- pionus may be quite ideal for you. This is not to say, that they cannot make loud noises if they wish to; however, these are pretty rare and still probably not as loud as many parrots can reach. Being around other loud birds (or loud children, for example) could have an impact on noise level.

Because pionus are quieter than most parrots, this means that they are also not as good talkers as most other parrots as well. Many will learn a few words, though not very clearly as other birds. Thus, if you are looking for a bird with a high speaking ability, the pionus may not be the best choice; however, always keep in mind that birds that speak well probably are also quite loud. Also keep in mind that even parrots with a good reputation for speaking may not speak much or at all; it comes down to the individual bird.

Pionus are very gentle parrots overall. For the most part, their beaks are not very strong. This varies from bird to bird and some will probably, at most, be able to break skin and cause a bit of bleeding; however, this shouldn't be a big concern as they won't bite very often.

Pionus are also, overall, a lot calmer and not as playful as some birds, such as the caiques. While words like "bold," "brave," and "always playing" may be appropriate to describe a caique, a pionus might be better described with words like "sweet," "shy," and "sensitive." They will not be always 'running around' and being goofballs like some birds. I have had many quiet, lazy days where I will sit down on my couch and read for several hours; our pionus will stand on his cage door preening himself or just enjoying being there with the breeze coming in during those hours, not making a single peep. Of course, he also enjoys his toys and loves playing. Bravery can show up quite often too, though; I have seen my pionus hang upside down while playing, jump on toys and swing on them on one foot, etc. many times. The only difference is that other birds probably want to play a lot more often than pionus do.

One quick note about the above two paragraphs: white-capped pionus, like the one I have, are generally known as the boldest of the pionus, whereas the Maxis are known as the sweetest. While the white-capped is still pretty sweet, it is probably more playful and assertive than a Maxi; it'll probably have more courage to not obey you, for example. However, one has to keep in mind that they are still pionus and thus this is relative; they are still quite sweet compared to other birds. It all depends on what sort of bird you are looking for; even a white-capped may be boring to some and seen as having no personality; others, however, may find them absolutely delightful. (Of course, pionus have very unique personalities as well; they may differ a bit in some areas from what is described in this article.)

One thing to also keep in mind is that most pionus are very shy when first arriving at a home (or when meeting new people). Be sure to give a pionus time to adapt to its new home, environment, and family. With some time, a pionus will open up.

Pionus can be quite independent birds overall. There are many birds out there described as "cuddle" birds that could probably enjoy hours and hours of cuddling, scritching, etc. While a pionus surely enjoys its scritches and cuddling, they also enjoy their time alone too. Because of this, pionus most often fare well in families that have people gone from the home due to work or school for the typical eight hours a day, granted that they of course have a large cage and many toys to play with (that are rotated every two weeks or so). They are also not as prone to plucking or other behavioral problems as many birds are. Of course, they still need daily attention.

One thing that sometimes scares owners of pionus is a response to scary things that is unique to this species of bird. Pionus will wheeze -- many describe this as what seems like an asthma attack -- when encountered by something scary. This is not anything serious or a medical issue; it is a normal response and will stop as soon as the thing frightening the bird is no longer there. (Also, like other birds, they can also often freeze in place when scared, and in the worst scenarios (such as in night frights), thrash.)

Finally, two little oddities: pionus are often described as having a light "musk" smell, and some are known to actually go inside the cage when it's time for bed and put themselves to sleep (unlike other birds who would play all night if given the opportunity to).

In conclusion, pionus can be lovely birds and a fantastic part of your family. If the things described here sound like your ideal bird, you will love a pionus!

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