Black-Headed Caique (Personality, Appearance, Care, and Diet)

Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by Ali Shahid

The black-headed Caique (also known as the black-headed parrot, black-capped parrot, and pallid parrot) has a huge personality to make up for its small stature. Black-headed caiques are smaller than their cousins (White-Bellied Caiques) and are the most common pet caiques in the United States.

Originating in the north of the Amazon, they are one of the most colorful parrots, and they also have charming and funny personalities. They are very bright and fast at picking up new skills. They are capable of imitating a wide variety of noises, yet they are not often regarded as talkative birds.

However, they are not suitable for beginners as pet birds. It can be challenging to care for caiques as a first-time bird owner, however, they are also very entertaining. As they have a life expectancy of 30 years, those who can care for these colorful and energetic parrots can enjoy their company for 30 years.

The black-headed caique is a beautiful and clever bird, but its fiery nature will force you to think on your toes. Find out why these lively birds are so beloved by bird watchers by reading on.

Scientific NamePionites melanocephalus
OriginHighlands of South America: Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc.
ColorsBlack crown, yellow upper body, green wings, orange flanks
Size21–25 cm (8.3–9.8 in.)
Weight130–170 g (4.6–6.0 oz)
PersonalitySociable, lively, affectionate, clown-like behavior
Beginner FriendlyNo; requires attention and dedication
Care LevelModerate; needs regular cleaning, bathing, and interaction
Talking AbilityLimited; good at imitating sounds
LoudnessModerate; not excessively noisy
Clutch Size2-4 eggs
LifespanUp to 30 years
Price Range$800 – $25000
IUCN StatusLeast Concern

Origin and History of Black-Headed Caique

The black-headed caique lives in the highlands of South America, which include Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Peru. All are located north of the Amazon River.

Black-headed caiques may be found in the wild in humid woodlands and lowland swamps. These birds spend much of their time in the wild, up in the tree canopies.

While in flight, their feathers make a whirling sound, and they trill out their song with the rest of the flock. The black-headed caique is a very social bird that often travels in large flocks or with its family in the wild.

If you have one of these gregarious birds as a pet, you’ll never be bored. The black-headed caique is divided into two species:

  • Black-headed Pionus caique (Pionus melanocephalus)
  • Pionites melanocephala pallida (Berlepsch)

Appearance (Colors and Marking)

The length of the black-headed parrot is 21–25 cm (8.3–9.8 in.), and its weight is 130–170 g (4.6–6.0 oz). Male and female caiques are identical with no physical differences.

Nominal subspecies adults are distinguished by a black crown that extends from forehead to nape and a rufous-orange stripe that runs down the length of their tail. Their lores just below their eyes are green, while the rest of their upper body is yellow. 

They have dull green bodies and wings with dark blue primaries and crimson axillaries. They have apricot-yellow flanks, thighs, and the region around their vent, while their lower breast and belly are creamy white.

The top of their tail is green, while the underside is an olive-yellow color with yellow feather tips. The breasts and bellies of young birds are light yellow. 

The P. m. pallidus subspecies resembles the nominate but differs visually by having a lighter rufous-orange stripe on the hindneck and a whiter breast and belly.


Because they are sociable, black-headed caiques frequently seek out human companionship and can be quite adorable. They are very social and lively birds who love to meet new people.

Many have referred to caiques as the clowns of the bird world due to their antics. As entertainment for their viewers, they often engage in pranks and antics.

In captivity, they are not recognized for their regular use of flight, although they are capable of short hops. The owners of black-headed caiques must be prepared to devote a great deal of time and energy to their pets.

The bird’s cheerful demeanor is evident in its incessant chirping and endearing attempts to imitate the noises around it. Its acrobatic abilities will keep you entertained all day long.

A hand-raised black-headed caique is very inquisitive and prefers to spend time out of its cage with its owner, whom it often cuddles. The black-headed caique’s reputation for grumpiness is well-deserved.

You may notice that they nip at you when they feel ignored. Caiques may also be territorial, so introducing them to another type of bird is not a good idea in case they become hostile.

The best way to ensure your caique has a companion is to acquire a second caique, ideally at the same time. There may still be territorial disputes, so making sure there’s enough room for both birds will help.

Speech and Sound

Among parrots, black-headed caiques have a poor reputation for verbal abilities. They can learn to say things like their owners’ names and maybe even some more words. People have trouble making themselves understood while speaking.

They have a reputation for being excellent imitators, quickly picking up on and reproducing the sounds they hear most often. If the black-headed caique hears a song frequently enough, it may begin to whistle the melody.

While these caiques can be vocal at times, they typically produce more calming and moderate noises compared to many other parrot species.


The breeding season of the black-headed parrot varies greatly from region to region. It covers the months of December through February in French Guiana, the months of April and May in Venezuela, and the months of October and November in Suriname.

The clutch size is estimated to be between two and four eggs and it uses tree cavities to do so. The incubation period is 25 days, and the birds fledge 10 weeks after hatching when kept in captivity.

Black-headed Caique Veterinarian Care

This hopping parrot should have a steel cage that is 24 inches by 24 inches by 36 inches and has 1-inch spaces between the horizontal bars. Maintaining clean living conditions in the cage can help your black-headed caique stay healthy.

Daily cleaning of the water and food bowls and weekly cleaning of the perches and toys are required. Every other week, or more frequently if necessary, clean the cage floor. Once a year is recommended for a thorough cleaning.

Toys that are unclean or broken should be discarded. In order to maintain healthy plumage, black-headed caiques need regular bathing.

It is crucial for the health of their plumage that they take regular baths, which they love. Do not house these birds in close proximity to a radiator, as they will suffer from the dry air.

The black-headed caique is a smart and independent bird that will need training to behave appropriately around humans. You should wait a few days before handling your new caique to give it time to adjust to you, its new home, and its new routine.

When starting off with your parrot’s training, keep in mind that many of them learn best in the evening. Teaching a new bird involves getting it to accept a reward from your palm and allow you to touch its head.

Over time, your bird can be taught proper behavior, such as returning to you so it can be re-caged. While trying to train a caique, time, patience, and perseverance are essential virtues to uphold.

Nutrition and Diet

Several commercial bird seed combinations are suitable for the black-headed caique. Hence, its natural diet may be easily replicated in captivity. You may also give your bird a diet that includes a wide range of fruits for added diversity and nutritional value.

Fruits and vegetables are favorites of black-headed caiques. Mangoes and guavas, among other tropical fruits, will be welcomed with open arms. Corn, carrots, lettuce, watercress, spinach, and sweet potatoes are among the vegetables they’ll consume.

During the warmer months, you may provide your bird with more dietary diversity by feeding it sprouted seeds. You can ensure your caique’s health and happiness by providing it with a varied and balanced diet.

Common health problems

Caiques are robust birds that rarely get sick if you follow proper sanitation measures. Your caique may need medical attention if it’s plucking its feathers, sneezing, losing appetite, and having hazy eyes.

Other disorders that may affect parrots include respiratory conditions, psittacosis (parrot fever), and gastrointestinal issues including parasites or influenza.

Do not delay in taking your sick or injured bird to a licensed avian veterinarian for treatment. A well-cared-for bird, depending on the species, may survive for 25–40 years with the right owner.


If you want a happy black-headed caique, you need to provide it with lots of opportunities to fly and interact with you. Always have enough fresh branches on hand for the ever-gnawing caique.

In addition, have lots of bird ladders, ropes, link chains, parrot toys, and parrot swings on hand for these playful parrots. Always replace worn or broken playthings with fresh ones.

The black-headed caique is a very outgoing bird, and you may see it grappling with its toys while rolling around on its back. The black-headed caique’s irritability may be mitigated by providing it with lots of mental and social activity.

Population Number and Conservation Status

The black-headed parrot has been rated as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. Its population number is unknown but thought to be constant, and it has a huge range. There are no imminent dangers that have been discovered.

It has a high population density throughout its range, and “huge amounts of habitat remain.” It may be a common cage bird in Venezuela, but it doesn’t seem to be often traded as a pet elsewhere.

From Where You Can Get a Black-headed Caique

Due to effective captive breeding efforts, black-headed caiques are easily accessible to bird enthusiasts. Breeders sell these birds, and the price per bird ranges from $800 to $2500.

Popular and reputed breeders and online stores include

  • Parrot Stars, IL: $1,800-$2,000
  • JC Aviary, TX: $2,800
  • Feather Headz Aviary, CA: $2,000-$2,500
  • Worldwide Exotic Parrots Farm: $1,500
  • Bird Breeders: Different breeders have different prices
  • PetBirdBreeders: $600-$1300
  • Worldwideexoticparrotsfarms: $1500

Take your time looking for a breeder to guarantee that you get a healthy bird with good markings. You could explore your region to see if any bird owners are looking to give up their pets.

If you can’t find any birds to adopt in your state, check online to see if any rescues will ship or transport the bird to you. 


Welch, Jade. “The Black-headed Caique: An Aussie Overview.” AFA Watchbird 43.3 & 4: 40-47.

Lima, Ralph. “The Care and Breeding of Caiques” AFA Watchbird 23.2: 34-38.


  • Ali Shahid

    Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.

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