Choosing a Jardine’s Parrot
Jardine’s parrots (Poicephalus gulielmi) are affectionate and outgoing birds. They are medium-sized, about 11 inches long, and have short, square tails and red-orange markings on the crown, the bend of the wings and the legs. The birds are a vivid green color accented by dark feathers scalloped with green on the body coverts, darker wing coverts and black flight and tail feathers. The upper beak is horn colored with a black tip; the lower beak is black.
Jardine’s parrots love attention but are not generally too demanding. As they reach sexual maturity (at 3 to 4 years old), they tend to become more independent. Adult males may become aggressive during breeding season. While Jardine’s are not great talkers, they have some limited mimicking ability.
Jardine’s are energetic and should be provided with toys, wooden blocks that can be chewed, and branches from non-toxic trees. When young, these birds adapt readily to new surroundings and should be introduced to novel experiences –- new cages, toys, visits to the vet, handling by friends and family, etc. –- at a young age. Adult birds are less adaptable to unfamiliar environments and dietary changes.
Also known as red-headed parrots, the birds are not common in the marketplace but are being bred more frequently as pets. They can live as long as 30 years, although 15 to 20 years is probably a more common life span.
In the wild, Jardine’s have two separate ranges in west central Africa. They inhabit montane forests (at 5,000 to 9,000 feet) in Tanzania and Kenya. In Western Africa, they occupy rain forests. The diet of wild birds comprises fruits, nuts, flowers and seeds as well as insects. They are generally found in pairs or small groups and are shy and wary but may forage for food in large flocks.
- P.g. gulielmi: Known as the black-winged Jardine’s in the United States, these birds are fairly large and mainly green with red/orange on head, leading edge of wings and legs. They are found from Southern Cameroon into the Congo, Rwanda, Zaire and Kenya.
- P.g. fantiensis: Known as the Lesser Jardine’s in the United States, they are slightly smaller than the other two subspecies and are found in the Upper Guinea rain forests of West Africa in Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
- P.g. massaicus: Known as the Greater Jardine’s in the United States, they are found in the Great Rift valley, in Kenya and Tanzania.
Note: Subspecies identification can be difficult and hybrids occur in captivity.
Jardine’s, as well as African Grey’s, appear to use calcium differently than other psittacine species. Birds kept as indoor pets especially tend to develop signs of calcium deficiency that can be a serious health threat. Natural or full spectrum light may be helpful in controlling the problem.
African parrots should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet. Some manufacturers offer diets formulated for African parrots that have a readily utilizable calcium source to help prevent calcium deficiency. Jardine’s should be fed approximately 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons of formulated diet supplemented with approximately the same volume of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Alternatively, they can be fed a small-bird diet (birds will generally waste less of the small-size product). Treats may be given in small amounts, especially as rewards for good behavior. Fresh, clean water must be provided daily. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds eating a formulated diet.
For birds fed a seed diet, vitamin supplements are necessary. Note that vitaminized seeds have vitamins added to the shells that are discarded by the bird when it eats. Add vitamins to soft foods rather than water, as vitamins and their accompanying sweeteners promote bacterial growth in water.
Jardine’s are very difficult to hand-rear from the egg. Very young chicks need to be fed frequently (approximately every 1 to 2 hours during the day), so it is better to allow some parent feeding. Jardine’s wean or fledge at approximately 8 to 10 weeks.
Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or they can be dried with a blow drier. Care should be taken not to clip the wing feathers excessively as heavy-bodied birds may fall and injure themselves. Clip feathers only enough so the bird will glide to the floor.
African parrots are very active and should be provided with as large a cage as possible. The cage should have two perches, so the birds can move between them. Toy and activities should be provided. Ideally, pet birds should have a cage outdoors to allow exposure to sunlight and fresh air in good weather.
Jardine’s parrots breed fairly well in captivity, mostly in the spring. Clutch size is usually 2 to 4 eggs. Jardine’s will use a vertical nest box 10 inches by 10 inches by 12 inches or 12 inches by 12 inches by 14 inches or an L shaped box. Cage size should be at least 4 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet or 3 feet by 3 feet by 8 feet.
Common Diseases and Disorders
Jardine’s parrots are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following: