Where are they Found? Inland Central and Eastern Africa
Latin Name: Poicephalus rufiventris
Talking Ability: Medium – able to learn 20 or so words
Noise Level: Reasonably Quiet
Size: Average Height 22 -25cm Weight 110-130 grams
Lifespan: 20 -25 years
The red bellied parrot is another popular African parrot from the same family(poicephalus) as the more widely known Senegal parrot and Meyer’s parrot. They are popular aviary birds in North America and have found their way into the hearts of Australian bird keepers that they are far from common here.
Like the Meyer’s and the Senegal parrot they are small and stocky of around 22 to 25 cm in height. Even their temperaments are similar but in many ways they are physically very different. Unique in the poicephalus family they are sexually dimorphic which and short means males and females can be visually identified by their appearance. They are somewhat misnamed as only the males have red bellies – the red in fact being more of a bright orange was the females have a green grey stomach only.
As juveniles the males and females are almost identical as both the males and females are green with very light orange colouring on their chests. After their first molt however their gender becomes very clear. Prior to that you may wish to look at DNA testing if you are looking to get a pair to breed.
Both sexes have a deep orange red Iris with a black pupil. They have black beaks and feet of dark grey Females have mostly dark grey feathers around their head and neck though some have tinges of orange. Both are a deep grassy green on their underbellies.
In the wild they live in the savanna areas of Africa where they primarily feed on fruits and seeds especially the fruit of the acacia tree. It will come as no surprise to keepers of these birds that in order to eat the fruit they need to hang upside down as access to the fruit was from the bottom is a spend a great deal of their day hang upside down from their perches often by 1 foot. In the wild they live in large colonies and as a result of very social birds
Care and Feeding
It is most unlikely you will be able to provide the usual diet of acacia fruit they will thrive on a mix of seeds fresh fruits and vegetables. An African parrot pellet feeds can be added to their diet but it shouldn’t make up more than 30%.
Suggest vegetables include green beans, capsicums, peas, corn, spinach, carrots and fruit such as Apple’s oranges bananas etc never give them chocolate or avocados which will kill them.
They are extremely social and friendly birds, lovers of company and attention. They do differ however from individual to individual with some being nervous and reserves especially around strangers were as others will be characters and should a new person entered the house they will seek them out to show for them. They are generally good with other birds either at the same or different species in a mixed aviary.
Since there are used to being in a large flock they will happily interact with the entire family but to ensure everyone spends time with them or they will bond to closely with one person and pine if that person is a way all be at times aggressive is other people approach their special human.
They love to please and as such if you show joy in saying a word they will try and recreate that joy for you by repeating it. They are not capable of learning a great many phrases that they can certainly learn some and once learnt will take great pleasure in showing off their vocabulary.
Assuming that you are keeping your red bellied parrot inside try getting them the largest cage that you can reasonably afford something like 50 x 50 x 80 cm cage. They will require a variety of dangling, jingling and shiny toys hanging from the roof of their cage to play with and many perches to sit on and hang from.
That should have time of their cage for at least three or four hours every day and indeed the social natures may dictate they stay out for longer. Once your red bellied parrot is bonded to your family will see you as its flock and went out of its cage will seek to be with you or whoever it is bonded with the most closely at all times. If you go missing expect that they will call you by name assuming they have heard others do this.
They love and need bathing so missed every day and give them somewhere warm to dry out. Some may permit you to dry them gently with a blow drier – after time if they want this they will likely mimick the sound of the blow drier so you get the message.
The cage toys and perches should be washed and claimed about every 10 days with a total disinfecting about every six months to make sure there is no build up the bacteria
Breeding will require an outdoor aviary off sufficient size for your breeding pair to fly around and court each other. And lots of perches and greenery and a nesting box in the top corner. Though they are fully grown at one cannot socially more until two and may not yet breed to layer for so don’t be discouraged if you have little early success with very young birds.
Assuming all goes to plan your female will a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs and 26 days later the eggs will hatch the chicks will leave the nest in a little over two months. It is a personal choice whether to remove the chicks at an early age and hand raised them which will create a braver and more human friendly bird for people wanting an indoor pet. Other enthusiasts would prefer to have a nest raised bird especially if they wish to purchase a breeding parrot for themselves
Potential Health Problems
they are fairly Hardy birds but they do come from a low humidity and warm environment so they do best if kept in a similar environment. If keeping them outside its best to provide a small area that is kept at a constant 30°. Inside you will also need to ensure their cage is not placed somewhere where there is a constant draft.
Rarely they will suffer from bacterial or viral diseases and being birds they won’t necessarily be of the tell you that they are suffering so be suspicious of changes in behaviour such as general malaise, lack of appetite, problems with breeding or changes in the consistency of their poop.
A bored, malnourished, dirty or sexually frustrated red bellied parrot may become a bald red bellied parrot as they pick their feathers out as a means of dealing with their unhappiness. How self-mutilation can possibly help them is not known if they start exhibiting this sort of behaviour its best to take them to a vet and get some advice as to the cause.
As Pets in Australia
As Australia has many areas that are similar in climate to the African Savannah(editor’s note – we even have acacia trees here) they generally do well here and though there are a few breeders if you are interested in obtaining a red bellied parrot should be able to do so.
They make wonderful outdoor aviary parrots or indoor companion parrots and whilst they are sociable and chatty they are not loud screamers like some of the larger parrots.
All in all they are a wonderful parrot to keep as a pet.