A guide to Pet Black-headed Caiques

Pionites melanocephalus

Clowns of the bird world, cuddly, intelligent and ridiculously hilarious they are true soft feather companions. Well known for their quirky behaviours Caiques are rising as popular companion parrots because of their small size and low maintenance.

High energy birds that are always on the go, they do require a lot of mental and physical enrichment. Foraging toys and puzzles should not be overlooked with this species as well as daily socialisation with not only other parrots but people as well. Some mature Caiques can become territorial of their cage and often display little or no fear when defending it. A solid routine and a set boundaries from the start will help defer this problem as the Caique matures. Both sexes are equally great companions. Not known to be strong flyers we still recommend you be extra vigilant, they are easily spooked and if ever in a situation they do not feel comfortable in they will disappear quickly.

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Not know to be talkers although they do vocalise with clicks, shrieks and toots which we find to be quite nice compared to other parrots.

Training is a breeze as they thrive on attention and positive reinforcement, They are well known for mastering a variety of tricks and have a remarkable memory.

Although we consider them soft feather companions, we find experienced bird keepers best meet their behavioural and stimulation needs. They are ideal as a second bird and if socialised properly from a young age can be kept with other species of similar sized parrots.

General Black-headed Caique Care and Maintenance


What we (Queenslander Aviaries) feed our Black-headed Caiques:

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  • Staple pelleted diet – Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini Pellet, Vetafarm Parrot Essentials Pellet, Vetafarm South American Pellets. Ratios are changed during times of breeding. Pellets are offered 24 hours a day;

  • Sprouted seed – Adzuki, Barley, Black eye, Black turtle, Blue peas, Corn, Linseed, Mung, Northern, Soya, Wheat and small amounts of Sunflower. Ratios are changed during times of breeding;

  • Fruits, Vegetables and Cooked Foods – Corn, Celery, Apple, Kale, Apple and seasonal others. See safe foods list

  • All our birds are offered cuttlebone, mineral blocks, fine grit, egg/ biscuit and the occasional millet spray and nuts.

Pellets:

We feed all our birds the Vetafarm brand of pellets. We have used this brand with confidence for many years. Consumption and waste are easier to manage as they are much cleaner. We have the peace of mind knowing our birds are getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential oils. We recommend feeding Caiques - Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini, Parrot Essentials and South American Pellets.

Seed:

If you feed a seed diet, ensure the mix is varied, clean and nutritionally balanced. We highly recommend Birdzone Medium Parrot Blend. If you want to change a young Caiques staple diet (e.g. from seed to pellets), wait at least six months.

Supplements:

All Caiques should have access to cuttlebone, grit and a mineral block; you can purchase these at any good pet or bird store. If you own a female Caique cuttlebone or a calcium block is essential to avoid egg binding and bone deficiencies.

Perches:

If you buy a cage that comes with smooth dowel or plastic perches, throw them in the bin. Natural wood with varied widths and textures will help exercise the feet and keep toes nails short. Eucalyptus, Bottle-brush and Lillypilly are safe as long as they have not been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. You can also buy ready made mineral perches that are also suitable to use. Do not use sand perches; these will damage your Caique's feet. See safe plants list.

Choosing a Cage:

Buy the biggest most practical cage you can afford, preferably the cage should be new, if second-hand it should be thoroughly disinfected with bird safe cleaner. Good quality cages have stands, metal seed catches and some styles have an open top. The minimum size cage would be 120cm x 50cm. 

Cleaning:

Cages and cage trays should be cleaned weekly with a bird safe disinfectant. We use and recommend Vetafarm Avicare and F10 disinfectant. Newspaper is fine to use in cage trays. 

Wing Clipping:

Deciding to clip your Caiques wings is entirely up to the situation in which you want to keep it. If the Caique is a teenagers pet or you live in a multi-pet household, clipping would be ideal. Fully flighted Caiques can easily slip through an open door or window.  NEVER have an inexperienced person or vet clip your Caiques wings. Incorrect wing clipping can result in injuries and damaged feathers. Both wings should be clipped but still allow the bird to glide to the ground, not fall directly. We recommend an Avian Vet clip your Caiques wings.

Nail Clipping:

Calcium and natural wood perches should help keep your Caiques toenails trim. If not, ask your local vet or pet store to trim them for you. They should be cut in a similar fashion to how you would clip a dog's nails, just enough of the end to avoid cutting the quick. If bleeding occurs simply dip the toe in flour to help stop the bleeding.

Bathing:

Caiques LOVE a bath. You should offer a shallow bowl of water for your Caique to bath in at least once a week especially in the warmer months. If you cannot accommodate that type of bathing method you can also use a fine mist spray bottle, these can be purchased from most grocery/hardware stores cheaply. NEVER re-use old spray bottles that you have previously used for chemicals. Shower perches are a great way for Caique to bath. They usually have suction cups that can be pushed onto tiles or a shower screen. NEVER leave your Caique unsupervised when using a show perch. Shower perches can be purchased at any good pet or bird store.

In the wild Caiques spend hours a day foraging for food, this is a natural behaviour you can replicate by offering toys designed to keep them stimulated for hours. Rotating foraging toys will help keep them guessing, swap foraging toys every week.

Toys:

Toys are a great way to keep your Caique entertained when you’re not around. Providing foraging toys will also help reduce boredom related behaviour problems like screaming or feather picking.

Happy Hut Alternatives:

Caiques will chew anything put in their cage, hence Happy Huts are not suitable. Alternatives made from natural untreated seagrass mats are safer. You can buy them with attached toys from any good pet or bird store.

Parasites:

All birds are susceptible to parasites; Caiques should be treated every three months with a Mite and Lice Spray. We recommend and use Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator. Always spray the Caiques on a warm day and ensure you spray under the wings and tail. Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator is also safe to use on cages and has an Insect Growth Regulator to prevent mites and lice breeding.

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Mites and Lice are harmless to humans but an infested Caique may show signs of feather damage and constant scratching.

Worming:

All birds are susceptible to intestinal worms. Caiques should be treated every 3 months. We recommend and use Vetafarm Wormout Gel.Common signs your Caique may be affected by worms included a stained/dirty vent or a sharp protruding keel bone. Prevention is better than cure, combining your worming and mite control routine it will ensure you never forget.


Choosing a Black-headed Caique

If you decide a Caique would best suit your lifestyle, it is best to buy one that is hand-raised, meaning they are raised to be tame companions. Choosing the healthiest most active bird is not all you will be looking for, use the guide below to help you through the process.

  • Allow enough time to observe the Caiques in their cage; this is where they are most comfortable and will show their true colours;

  • Always ensure they are fully weaned (eating independently, no formula). At least two weeks from weaning is ideal. If you observe the Caiques eating in their cage, that is a good sign. Don’t be tempted to buy a young Caique that is not weaned correctly or too young as it will only end in disaster. 

  • Look for a bright, active and tight feathered Caique. If the bird shows particular interest in you and has bright, clean eyes, clean beak (mouth) and vent (bum), this would be the best Caique to consider taking home;

  • Whenever buying a Caique, take particular interest in their living conditions. Cages should be clean, brightly lit and have no smell. Any animal kept in overcrowded, damp or dirty conditions are more susceptible to disease and a sign of poor husbandry;

  • Request as much information about the bird from the breeder/hand raiser/staff including exactly the brand food they are feeding, health routine (worming, etc.), age and any temperament observations. Any good breeder/hand raiser/staff will have some idea of each Caiques temperament;

  • Never buy a hand raised bird you have not handled. Every bird has their likes/dislikes and personality. A good hand raised Caique will sit on your hand/shoulder with little fear and it is also a good time to inspect the birds physical condition; eyes/beak/feet/vent;

  • Always ensure you buy the exact brand of food whether it be seed or pellets that the Caique is currently eating. Staying on the same diet will ensure a smooth transition to its new home and reduce the risk of the Caique regressing and unnecessary stress. NEVER change the diet of a young Caique, if you want to change the staple diet (e.g. from seed to pellets) wait at least six months;

  • Ensure you have the necessary accessories before picking up your new Caique. If you are buying aCaique from a breeder or store that does not sell accessories, ask what brand of food they are feeding beforehand and have it ready; and

  • When transporting your new bird home ensure they are properly contained, most good pet stores will sell bird transport cages/boxes;


Black-headed Caique Shopping List

Please note: These products are recommended when buying a Black-headed Caique from Queenslander Aviaries.

Essentials:

  • Vetafarm Parrot Essentials Pellets
  • Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini Pellets
  • Vetafarm South American Pellets
  • Birdzone Soft Soak/Sprouting blend
  • Vetafarm Wormout Gel (Worming Gel)
  • Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator (Mite and Lice Spray)
  • Cuttlebone or Mineral Block
  • Cage

Recommended:

  • Millet Spray (Treat)
  • Calcium Perch
  • Vetafarm Avicare Cage Cleaner
  • Vetafarm Deli Stock (Best of both worlds - not the seed type)
  • Play Gym or Stand
  • Shower Perch or clean new spray bottle
  • Grey-Stripe Sunflower seed for foraging toys
  • Birdzone Nuts and Seeds Little Bits for foraging toys

Toys and Enrichment – Toys are rotated every week

NO ROPE OR FABRIC TOYS

Week 1

  • 1 x Foraging Toy
  • 2 x All day Toys
  • 1 x Chewable Toy

Week 2

  • 1 x Foraging Toy
  • 2 x All day Toys
  • 1 x Chewable Toy

Everyday:

  • 1 x Sea Grass Hut
  • 1x Foraging tray to go on a play gym or stand

*Information offered here is to provide guidance and is not intended to be a substitute for the good advice provided by your own avian vet. When in doubt always consult your own veterinarian.