Senegal Parrot

A Senegal parrot on a tree branch.

Jurgen & Christine Sohns / Getty Images

The Senegal parrot is a somewhat unusual bird for a parrot, which as a group can be noisy, demanding, high-maintenance pets. The Senegal, though, is remarkably quiet and calm. It is also less expensive than most parrots and is more widely available in ordinary pet stores than most tropical birds. All this, combined with its easy-to-manage size, makes the Senegal parrot a very popular pet.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Senegal parrot, Sennies

Scientific Name: Poicephalus senegalus. It has two subspecies: Poicephalus senegalus senegalus (most common), which has a yellow chest vest; and P. s. versteri, which has a chest vest that is deep orange.

Adult Size: 10 inches in length, weighing from four to six ounces

Life Expectancy: 50 years, although 20 to 30 years is more common

Origin and History

The Senegal parrot is native to the woodlands of central western Africa. The Poicephalus genus of parrots is a group that includes 10 species from central Africa, identified by stocky bodies, short tails, and relatively large heads and beaks.

Like other parrots, this bird is listed in Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Trade of birds trapped in the wild is illegal, but fortunately, the Senegal breeds very well in captivity. Prospective owners usually have no trouble finding captive-bred pets.

Temperament

Hand-fed Senegals make extraordinary pets and are known for being comical and entertaining. They are colorful, relatively small, and can talk and mimic, although they tend to be considerably quieter than many other parrot species. Most well-socialized Senegals have very friendly personalities, but potential owners should be aware that Senegals have a tendency to become "one person" birds and may not desire interaction with other family members. While this is not always true, it does happen on occasion. Having all of the members of the family interacting with your Senegal will help ensure that this one-person bonding doesn't occur.

Colors and Markings

Mature Senegals have gray heads with green wings and chests. On their bellies, they sport a V-shaped patch of color ranging from yellow and orange to red, depending on the subspecies. They are known as "monomorphic," meaning that Senegals of both sexes are identical in color. The dark head is a striking feature of these charming little birds.

Caring Tips

Captive-bred Senegals are fascinating birds and have easily made a place for themselves among the most popular pet bird species. Charming and highly trainable, these little parrots have a knack for being a great source of entertainment and amusement for their owners. While they are not nearly as common as African greys or cockatiels, they have earned a reputation as being an easy-going and playful companion bird.

Because it is on the smaller size, a Senegal parrot does not require an exceptionally large cage, as do some of their larger cousins. A cage with a 20-inch by 20-inch footprint and 28 inches in height is a minimum size, although larger is always preferable. The cage should, of course, be considerably larger if you are keeping two birds. Bar spacing should be about 3/4 inch. Equip the cage with several horizontal bars to serve as perches. Prospective owners should also plan to invest in a variety of toys and accessories for their birds. Senegals can be strong chewers, so it's a good idea to provide them with toys to exercise their beaks.

"Sennies" as they are affectionately referred to by many owners, bond strongly with their owners and thrive on daily interaction with them. Those interested in owning a Senegal should be willing to make time for handling and socialization with the bird every day. Interaction time is rarely a burden since these birds are often content to simply sit on your shoulder.

If you think a Senegal parrot might be the right bird for you, connect with an adoption and education foundation or parrot rescue and try to set an appointment to visit one. You may find a wonderful match with a bird that needs a home. Although the Senegal parrot is an easygoing pet that is less likely to be given up for adoption, some birds do lose their homes due to unforeseen circumstances. Adoption is a wonderful way of providing a home to a Senegal that needs a loving family. You may find that one of these African beauties is exactly what you've been looking for in a feathered companion.

Feeding

In the wild, the Senegal parrot eats mostly fruit, seeds, and blossoms. Senegals kept as pets should be offered a varied diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy seeds such as flax, hemp and chia seed, tree nuts, and a high-quality formulated pelleted diet. Consider making chop, which is a freshly frozen diet that you can learn to make. It's an easy and convenient method of providing your Senegal with a wide variety of vegetables, grains, and vegetable protein. As with any companion bird, fresh water in a clean bowl should be provided daily and changed whenever food and other detritus gets in the water. An all-seed diet should be avoided, as this is extremely unhealthy and can lead to illness and even fatality.

Exercise

A Senegal parrot should be provided with at least one hour a day to play outside of their cages on a play stand or another bird-safe area. Providing toys on the stand with small foot toys, bells, balls, chewable leather, and wood toys will give your Senegal something to do as well as providing it with a bit of time away from its enclosure. They love to climb and can be quite the little acrobats, so many Senegals appreciate a variety of swings, ladders, and other toys to explore.

Common Health Issues

A main health concern for the Senegal and other Poicephalus parrots is Aspergillosis, a common fungal disease in birds. Keeping the cage clean, providing a balanced diet and keeping stress to a minimum will reduce the likelihood of this infection.

Bornavirus (PDD) is another infectious condition that can strike Senegal parrots. Watch for weight loss and poor digestion. PDD is normally transmitted from infected birds and can be present for many years before symptoms develop. There is no treatment for this disease. Owners should be careful about allowing Senegal parrots to come into contact with other birds that have not been carefully quarantined.

Senegals can become overweight, especially if they eat most seeds and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If the delightful Senegal parrot interests you, you might also want to read about some other small parrots: