Senegal Parrot: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

A Senegal parrot on a tree branch.

Jurgen & Christine Sohns / Getty Images

The colorful and relatively small Senegal is remarkably quiet and calm. It can talk and mimic, although it is not the most prolific talkers of the parrots. It has an affectionate, fun-loving disposition; it's comical antics are entertaining and playful. This charming is also less expensive than most parrots and is more widely available in ordinary pet stores than most tropical birds.

Species Overview

Common Names: Senegal parrot, Sennies

Scientific Name: Poicephalus senegalus

Adult Size: 10 inches in length, weighing from 4 to 6 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.

The trade of these birds trapped in the wild is illegal; fortunately, Senegals breed 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.

Most well-socialized Senegals have amiable 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.

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.

Speech and Vocalizations

Senegals can talk and mimic, although they tend to be considerably quieter than many other parrots. Compared to other parrots, they are not known for their talking ability, but they can learn to speak. They can learn to say a couple of dozen words.

All birds make noise. Senegals are not silent; they are merely quieter (and less screechy) than other species of parrots. Their vocalizations are mostly whistling and clucking noises. A Senegal parrot may be the right choice for you if you live in an apartment or if your space cannot tolerate a loud bird.

Senegal Parrot Colors and Markings

A striking feature of these charming little birds is their dark head. Mature Senegals heads are gray, and their wings and chests are green. On their bellies, they sport a V-shaped patch of color ranging from yellow and orange to red, depending on the subspecies.

There are two subspecies, the more common Poicephalus senegalus senegalus, which has a yellow chest vest; and P. s. versteri, which has a chest vest that is deep orange.

They are a monomorphic species, meaning that Senegals of both sexes are identical in color. To tell the sexes apart, your bird would need a surgical sexing procedure or a DNA test.

Caring for a Senegal Parrot

Because it is on the smaller size, a Senegal parrot does not require a huge cage. At the minimum, it needs a cage with a 20-inch by 20-inch footprint and 28 inches in height; larger is always preferable. The cage should, of course, be more substantial 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 sit on your shoulder.

Common Health Problems

The main health concern for a Senegal and other Poicephalus parrots is Aspergillosis, a common fungal disease in birds. Keep the cage clean, provide a balanced diet, and keep stress to a minimum to reduce the likelihood of this infection.

Bornavirus is another infectious condition that can strike Senegal parrots. Watch for weight loss and poor digestion. This disease is usually 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 until carefully quarantined.

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

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, the Senegal parrot eats mostly fruit, seeds, and blossoms. Senegals kept as pets should eat 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. In general, feed Senegals eat 1/4 cup of food per day. Provide a seed/pellet formulated mix every morning. Give as much as the bird will eat. Supplement pellet food with fruits and vegetables.

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, provide fresh water in a clean bowl daily. Avoid giving an all-seed diet; this menu is extremely unhealthy and can lead to illness or even death from nutritional deficiency.

Exercise

A Senegal parrot should get at least 1 hour a day of outside-of-cage time on a play stand or another bird-safe area. Provide toys like small foot toys, bells, balls, chewable leather, and wood toys. These items will entertain your Senegal while away from its enclosure. They love to climb and can be quite the little acrobats. These birds will appreciate a variety of swings, ladders, and other toys to explore.

Pros
  • Social, friendly, and appreciate handling

  • Intelligent, can say a few words

  • Quieter bird, noise level should be suitable for close neighbors


Cons
  • Requires a lot of attention and mental stimulation

  • Tend to be one-person birds not the greatest family pet

Where to Adopt or Buy a Senegal Parrot

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 an excellent 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. On average, breeders sell Senegal parrots from $800 to $1,500.

Online rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find Senegal parrots include:

Look for a bird that is bright, alert, and active. Avoid a bird that is sitting quietly with puffed feathers; it might be ill. The bird's feathers should be smooth and shiny and lay down flat on the body. The feathers around the vent/cloaca (opening where bird expels feces and urine) should be clean, dry, and free of fecal matter. The scales on the feet should be smooth. Make sure Its nails are in good condition, and Its beak is smooth and well-shaped. Its nostrils should be clear and clean.

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:

If you want a bird with a talent for mimicry, take a look at some small and medium talking birds that might be a good fit.