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Choosing a Bronze-Winged Pionus

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Bronze-winged pionus make good pets if you can get them. But obtaining these intelligent, inquisitive birds is very difficult. Mature birds, especially males, may become bonded to one person and aggressively protect that person from other people, including other family members. They are relatively common in captivity but captive-bred birds are not frequently available. They are active by nature and may become overweight if closely confined.

Appearance and Personality

Bronze-winged pionus are medium, stocky dark blue-green parrots with iridescent bronze patches on the dorsal wing coverts but otherwise subtle coloration. They have the typical bright red patch on the under tail coverts as well as variable pinkish-red patches below a white throat patch. Primary and secondary flight feathers are dark blue and green but distinctive aqua color below. The wing coverts on the underside of the wings are blue. The tail is cobalt blue. The beak is horn colored. They also have red eye-rings.

Bronze-winged pionus (Pionus chalcopterus) are found in the North Andes mountains from extreme northwest Venezuela through Colombia and Ecuador to northwest Peru. They inhabit humid and wet monatine forests on the eastern slope of the Andes and drier deciduous formation on the west Andean slopes in Peru. They range from approximately 4500 to 7200 feet elevation.

They are very nomadic and move seasonally. These birds are generally gregarious when not breeding and are often found in large gatherings especially when roosting. They nest in tree cavities and feed in the tree canopies.

Birds can grow to a length of 11 to 11 1/2 inches. Most juveniles have relatively little color compared to adults and may have some red on the forehead and under the chin. The eyes or both juveniles and adults are dark brown. They can probably live up to 40 years or more. Unfortunately, little is known about their life span in captivity, though their breeding age is approximately 3 to 5 years.

Bronze-winged pionus should always be provided with toys, blocks of wood or branches that they can chew. Do not allow your bird to fly within your home unsupervised. They can encounter toxins or even be injured by another pet!

Always socialize young birds to many new people and novel situations, such as new cages, toys, visits to the veterinarian, handling by friends, wing and nail clips, etc. to avoid fear of novel situations. You must also make sure they have adequate space to exercise.

Feeding

Pionus parrots should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet as a basis for good nutrition. They should be fed approximately 2 heaping tablespoons to 1/4 cup of pellets. They will tend to waste less food if fed small sized pellets. The diet should be supplemented with the same volume of fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Monitor food intake. Do not overfeed! Overfeeding leads to pickiness, selective feeding and wasteful throwing of food. Avoid feeding them sunflower or safflower seeds, unless as a very occasional treat. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

Grooming

Routine bathing or showering is a must to maintain good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or gently dried with a blow drier.

These birds have heavy bodies, so be extremely careful when clipping the wing. If you clip too much, your parrot may fall and injure himself. You should only clip the primary flight feathers – and just enough so the bird will gently glide to the floor.

Housing

Bronze-winged pionus are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. Ideally the cage should provide room for flight. Durable cage construction is not as critical as it is for macaws and cockatoos. These are clever birds, however, so locks or escape proof latches may be necessary on cages. Ideally, provide your lovely bird with an outdoor cage as well, so he can frolic in the fresh air and sunlight.

Breeding

Bronze-winged pionus are moderately difficult to breed in captivity. In North America, they breed predominantly in the spring and have a limited breeding season typically from February or March to June or July. Clutch size is typically 3 to 4 eggs. One inch by one inch by 14 gauge welded wire is a good choice for cage construction. A suggested size is 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 6 to 8 feet long suspended 4 feet above the ground or floor.

Grandfather-style wooden nest boxes can be used. Size should be approximately 10 inches by 10 inches by 24 inches. Incubation period is approximately 24 to 26 days. Chicks will usually fledge at approximately 8 to 10 weeks of age. Bronze-winged pionus are difficult to hand-rear from the egg. For best results they should be initially fed by the parents or fed very often in the first week.

Common Diseases and Disorders

The bronze-winged pionus is a relatively healthy bird. The following diseases have been reported in this species:

  • Pox virus infection (Primary disease of imported birds)
  • Feather-picking
  • Aspergillosis
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Psittacosis
  • Poor eating habits
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Mate aggression
  • Toxicity, ingestion of metals
  • Toe necrosis

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