What behaviors can you expect from caiques as pets?

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Answered by: Mavis, An Expert in the Life With a Bird Category
Known as the clowns of the parrot world, Caiques as pets have a lot to offer their human companions. They are colorful, social, vocal and energetic birds. Over time they can become attached to you and desire your attention and company.

Caiques belong to the parrot genus Pionites and are either white-bellied or black headed. Their coloring is very lively and evokes tropical climes with generally bright white chests, intense yellow legs and throats, brilliant green wings and backs and beautiful coral/orange heads. Black headed Caiques will have mostly black feathers on their heads and sometimes black feathers speckled among the white on their chests.

Caiques are very playful when they are alone and with their human companions. It is funny to see Caiques moonwalking upside down across the top of their cages, squawking with every step. My Caique companion, Tutu (the only French word I could think of on the spot), has learned how to roll over to get a treat. She loves cashew nuts so much that she knows when you open the jar to get one and starts rolling over before you can get a nut in your hand! She loves to roll onto her back to play and will nip your fingers as you rub her tummy and she then spars with your fingers using her feet. When she is deep into play she will hop after your fingers drumming across the counter. Just remember that Caiques are fast and the harder you play the harder they play!

Tutu loves attention, much like a small child, and will call to you to come and get her out of her cage. Like a small child, a Caique will also be a little cranky and fussy at times. She will bark at you if you are not paying attention or screech if she thinks you are getting too close to her treat or wanting her to do something she is not inclined to do. In the evenings as she becomes sleepy she will nestle under your chin or against your neck and it is hard not to fall in love with her.

Developing a relationship with a Caique takes attention and effort, the same as with a human. It has taken a while to understand her temperament and body language of either "friend" or"aggressor". Tutu came to us eight years ago when she was a baby. She flew across the US in a cargo hold and when I picked her up from the airline my first impression was of a screeching creature somewhere in a back room. We have gone through many stages of relationship building to the point that she now recognizes my voice and calls out to me.

In the beginning she did not know us and was fearful of our behaviors. It took a few painful bites for me to learn what her behaviors meant and how to respond. I have learned to be aware of two main aggressive behaviors; pinning of the eyes and ruffling the feathers on her neck and back. These two behaviors signal fear on her part, and potential bad behavior including biting. Pinning occurs rapidly when her pupils become a pinpoint and her eyes appear orange. Pinning is akin to a rattlesnake shaking its rattles. When she does not like a situation, as when a stranger appears, she may ruffle the feathers on her back and neck and appear as if she is hunching her back. These are times for those who do not know her well to step back and times for me to show human companion leadership.

Caiques as pets are fun and work, interesting and a challenge, and can become a presence of their own in a family of humans. We continue to learn about each other and develop our Caique/human relationship.

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