Pionus is not a specific type of parrot. It is the name of a genus, or group, of 8 species of parrot that are very similar to one another but cannot be considered the same species. These birds are all from various parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. They look similar in body build and are all almost identical in size, but their coloring is all different. The most obvious characteristic they all share is the red patch underneath their tail feathers. They actually used to all be known as the red-vented parrots because of this. They are stocky much like an Amazon is, but a tad smaller in size. They are not chubby, but they carry a nice sturdy weight. They all are about 10 to 11 inches in length. Their feathers are beautiful and shiny in the right lighting. They live anywhere from 25 years to over 50 years, depending on nutrition and how well they are taken care of.
The Pionus parrot’s diet in the wild consists of fruits and other common parrots foods. They do tend to choose softer foods, however, as their beaks are not as hard as some other species of parrot, such as the Macaw. A nice balanced pellet is a good choice for the captive bird, supplemented with fresh fruits, veggies, and legumes. Since they tend to be vitamin A deficient, it is wise to feed plenty of sweet potatoes, carrots, and any other foods rich in this vitamin.
Because their coloring is pretty mellow compared to a lot of other pet birds to choose from, they are often overlooked. They don’t have the explosion of bright coloring that make people “ooh and ahh”, but they are extremely sweet. They are also actually pretty calm and quiet. They are much quieter than their Amazon cousins and this is a real benefit for some people that want a bird companion but don’t want the incessant screaming. They do copy sounds and may try to mimic your screaming children, but they just naturally don’t want to be noisy all day long. They can “talk” but aren’t the best of talkers and when they do talk they may not talk very clearly. They are not known to be extremely outgoing, but are sweet and cuddly. They aren’t overly adventurous, so you may not be able to get them comfortable with “crazy” tricks such as flipping them onto their backs, but they can learn simple things such whistles, stepping up onto your hand, bobbing their heads on command, etc.
Pionus have a unique stress response. When frightened they will make a sound that sounds like a wheeze. They will not stop making this sound until whatever is stressing them stops. They will also thrash when something scares them. Other times, when frightened they will sit stone still without making a peep.
One thing that stands out about the Pionus parrots is their smell! They have a very neat odor that people either love or dislike. It is described as musky and sort of sweet smelling and is present whether or not the bird is bathed often or not.
The species included in the Pionus parrot group are as follows:
The Blue-headed parrot
Or Pionus mentruus, range from Central America down to Northern South America in the wild. They are one of the more stunning of the Pionus group with their dazzling blue head. The feet and beak are dark grey to black in color. Their body is almost all green, with different shades of green depending on what part of the body. The top parts tend to be a darker green and the bottom parts tend to be lighter. The feathers over the ears are black underneath the beak, sometimes there will be feathers tinted a pink color.
The Red-billed parrot
Or Pionus sordidus, is not commonly found in the USA. The coloring is almost all green similar to the blue-headed parrot. There are blue accents under the beak and some blue around the cheeks. The beak is pink and the eyes are yellow, making for a nice contrast against the rest of the feathers on this bird’s body. They are found on the Northern edge of South America in forested areas.
The Scaly-headed parrot
Or Pionus maximiliani, is one of the plainest of all the pionus birds. The colors are very subdued making this bird unable to really stand out. Olive green covers most of the body of the bird and the beak is a nice tan color with darker shades of gray at the base. The legs are gray. They head has a distinct scaly appearance giving the bird its name. They are found in Argentina and Brazil and are also quite common in the United States.
The Plum-crowned parrot
Or Pionus tumultuosus, is mostly feathered in green and red with some splashes of purple. There is a bit of red on the side of the head, forehead, and neck. The “plum” in the name comes from the purple on the chest and around the neck. The beak is a delightful bright yellow, the eyes are brown, and the legs are gray.
Or Pionus fuscus, are found in northern South America. They are a light blue in color. They almost look gray or blackish from far away. They have nice accents of purple and red feathers. They have speckles of white feathers on the neck and sides of the head. They have a deeper blue on the wings and the tail and purple feathers flowing down the breast. The beak is a yellow that melts into a gray color near the base. Their eyes are dark brown and the legs are gray.
The White-capped Parrot
Pionus senilis, fits its description well. It looks just like it has a cute little white hat on the top of its head. This is another bird that is primarily green. The wings have accents of violet and blue. The abdomen starts at the top as brownish-blue and blends down to green near the lower belly. The iris is either brown or dark orange and the legs are pink. The beak is yellow with a hint of green. It is found in southern Mexico down to Panama.
Pionus chalcopterus, is primarily royal blue in color. The wings, as described in the name, are a bold bronze color. The beak is yellow, the iris is brown, and the legs are tan colored. The naked ring around the eye is pink. The bronze-winged parrot is found in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Or Pionus seniloides, is not commonly found in the United States. This one is different than the white-capped parrot because of the amount of white on the head. This one’s entire forehead and crown is white instead of just having a white cap on the top of the head. Edging the white coloring is orange. Along with the white, the head sports many different colors on the remaining area, such as red, gray, blue, black, and pink. The chest area is a red and brown color. The legs are gray, the beak is yellow, and the eyes are brown. This particular bird is found in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia.