If you want a bird that is beautiful, intelligent, active, and very entertaining, a caique (pronounced "kah-eek") may be the bird for you. These lively little parrots pack a lot of personality into a tiny bundle of feathers, and they're known to be the clowns of the bird world.
What is a caique?
Native to South America, caiques are a type of small parrot with short, square tails and prominent colors like green, black, yellow, and orange. While caiques do not typically speak words in the same manner that many other parrots do, they are known as a playful species that regularly whistles and chirps.
Caiques have easily made a place for themselves in the homes and hearts of countless bird enthusiasts. A caique would be the right choice for a family or person that wants to keep a pair of birds.
Common Names: Black-headed caique, white-bellied caique, seven-color parrot, dancing parrot, yellow-thighed caique
Scientific Name: Pionites melanocephala (black-headed), Pionites leucogaster (white-bellied)
Adult Size: 9 to 10 inches
Life Expectancy: 25 to 40 years
Origin and History
In the wild, caiques call home the areas of South America north of the Amazon. Their range includes Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname. They also live in parts of Brazil and Venezuela.
This species enjoys the swamps and tropical lowland forests. Often found in small flocks of about 30 birds or a pair, they're naturally very social birds and are rarely alone. The word "caique" comes from the indigenous Tupi language from Brazil, meaning "aquatic bird." These birds enjoy bathing.
Caiques are known for the strong bonds that they can form with humans. They love attention. They can be quite affectionate and enjoy time playing with a human companion or just sitting with them. If you're looking for a new best friend, this may be the species for you. They love to show off and are not called the "dancing parrot" for nothing. Quick learners, they're adept at picking up fun tricks and have great personalities.
Caiques are playful, comical little birds that enjoy activities and the opportunity to explore. Always on the move, they're one of the most energetic parrots and quite curious and mischievous. These birds can also become cranky at times and can nip or, in the least, find ways to use their beak when interacting with people.
As pets, caiques usually do well alone or in pairs, but be careful not to cage a caique with another species. They can become aggressive and deliver surprisingly harsh bites.
Speech and Vocalizations
Some caiques may learn to speak a few words, but most prefer to stick to "bird speak." You'll enjoy their whistles and songs as well as the environmental sounds they mimic. Though they can get loud, they're generally known for a moderate noise level with soothing sounds in comparison to other parrots. At times, they may emit calls that are very high-pitched and shrill. Before committing to this species, make sure their noise level and vocal abilities are what you are looking for.
Caique Colors and Markings
The markings of a caique are distinct; they have more of a color-blocked look. Their heads, wings, bellies, and thighs tend to be a distinct color from other body parts with few gradients between the colors. They are often referred to as the seven-colored parrot due to the highly defined and colorful feathers. The black-headed and white-bellied caiques are the most common color variety.
Black-headed caiques have mostly black heads with orange or yellow cheeks and a green streak under their eyes. Their wings and upper tail feathers are a beautiful green and bright yellow on the thigh feathers and under their wings. They have a beige-white colored abdomen with gray legs and a gray beak. They are also called the seven-color parrot.
Subspecies of the white-bellied caique, specifically the yellow-thighed and yellow-tailed caiques, are becoming popular as well.
Caring for Caiques
Caiques must get regular, scheduled playtime. Shower this bird with lots of positive interaction. They are usually able to entertain themselves for short periods, making them a good choice for working bird owners.
They are also relatively small, which makes them appealing to those who dwell in apartments and condominiums. Despite their small size, caiques will do best in a small aviary or large cage. At a minimum, provide a cage that is at least 2 feet long and 2 feet wide by 3 feet tall. The spacing between the bars should be no more than 3/4-inch wide.
Since they are intelligent, they also make pretty good escape artists. Ensure their cage is sturdy and can keep these crafty birds safe. A wrought-iron cage is best since they often try to chew the bars.
Provide this bird a bathing dish with fresh water every day. They are very fond of splashing around in the water.
Common Health Problems
Caiques are generally healthy birds. However, this species is susceptible to polyomavirus, a potentially deadly virus mostly in young birds that causes severe intestinal issues and can affect the bird's heart, liver, and kidneys. At birth, the bird can get a vaccine to help prevent this disease. And, you can get an annual booster to help keep your bird healthy if your pet bird will come across other birds in their home environment.
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, caiques eat seeds, berries, and fruit. As pets, feed them a high-quality extruded pellet. Supplement this with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. As with all bird species, clean, fresh drinking water should be made available at all times.
Leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard, watercress, kale, or collard greens are nutritious additions to their diet. Fresh fruit makes a wonderful topping for the veggies. A dash of healthy seed such as chia seed here and there is fine but refrain from an all-seed diet, which does not meet their vitamin and mineral needs.
You can start by offering a 1/2 cup of parrot pellet and a 1/2 cup of fruit and vegetable salad upon waking in the morning. Scale back the amount you give your bird based on the amount of food eaten. If the bird eats everything, you can offer a second feeding a couple of hours before bedtime. By the end of each day, toss out any uneaten fresh foods. Keep an eye on your parrot's weight. If they are noticeably gaining or losing weight, adjust the food serving sizes.
Caiques are active little birds and are unique in that they seem to prefer to walk more often than fly. Caiques enjoy floor time and you will enjoy watching them on the floor or any large flat surface. They have a unique hop that is charming and endearing. They appear to be a windup tin toy that hops along in a very amusing way.
A caique should be given a minimum of 1 hour outside the cage each day to hop around and exercise its strong leg muscles and do a bit of supervised exploring in a bird-safe room. To safeguard the room, turn off ceiling fans, close all windows and doors, cover the fireplace, and remove all toxic plants and other pets.
As busybodies, these birds need plenty of stimulating toys. It may take some time to find your bird's favorite toys. They can be somewhat finicky and stubborn about their things. Playtime also helps the bird wear down its beak, which helps keep it in good shape. Rotate branches and toys regularly as they become worn out.
Social and affectionate
Can mimic sounds, perform tricks, and dance
Not a great talker
Does not get along with other bird species
Where to Adopt or Buy a Caique
Contact a parrot adoption or rescue agency that has caiques and ask if you can visit their birds. Seeing one of these parrots in its home environment will give you quite a bit of insight into what it's like to live with one.
Breeders sell caiques in the range of $1,000 to $2,000. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find caiques include:
If you are considering a bird breeder, make sure you interview the breeder, look at the general health of their birds, check out their living conditions, and talk to past customers. Signs you should avoid the breeder include cramped living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or do not seem to have much information on their birds.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
If you are interested in similar species, check out:
Otherwise, check out all of our other small bird species profiles.
Henriques, Ana Margarida et al. AVES POLYOMAVIRUS 1 IN ARA CHLOROPTERA AND ECLECTUS RORATUS WITH DISCLOSURE OF FULL GENOMIC SEQUENCES, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 4-10, 2018. doi:10.1053/j.jepm.2017.10.003