Is a Sweet Pionus the Best Bird for You?
Years ago, before I brought Lely home, I did my research prior to selecting a bird. I researched African Greys—they were the perfect bird for me! I knew very little about cockatoos, just what my friends told me—they scream loudly, they are needy, and they carry PBFD. Most importantly, I knew that I did NOT want a cockatoo. Then I researched breeders and found one that was certified psittacosis- and PBFD-free. I went there to play with the beautiful, intelligent African Grey parrots and select my perfect bird. I came home with a cockatoo.

Prior to selecting another cockatoo, I thought I would do a little research into some of the species with which I am not as familiar. Sunday, I went to the home of a club member who has a couple of pionus—a Maximilian’s and a Blue Head. I also spoke with a breeder, who has much experience with a number of different types of pionus.

The Pros of Pionus Ownership

Pionus are relatively quiet parrots. They are food-motivated (cockatoos are love-motivated) and relatively easy to train. They enjoy a head “scritch” and other human interaction—the Maximilian’s more so than the Blue Head. Pionus adopt the family rather than the individual. Pionus can learn to talk, although they have a smaller vocabulary than African Greys or Amazons. Pionus have a soft beak, so toys need to be of the softer woods such as pine and balsa. They also have limited ability to crack shells, but are successful with almonds and walnuts. Pionus are active and require numerous toys and opportunities to spend supervised time outside of their cage or playing with their owners. That having been said, most pionus parrots will be OK with you spending time away from the home (i.e.–going to work—something that Lely never found acceptable).

The Cons of Pionus Ownership

Downsides of pionus ownership include health issues—pionus are prone to gout and tend to easily become over-weight. I suppose that is no surprise since they are food-motivated—so chopping the nuts into tiny morsels for training is better than giving the whole nut. Pionus should be given ample fresh veggies, particularly those high in Vitamin A, such as kale and spinach to prevent Vitamin A deficiency, another something to which they are prone. Beans are an excellent supplement as a weekly treat. As with many other avian species, the females can have seasonal hormonal issues during which time they are less friendly.

I know that generalizations are just that and all birds should be considered on an individual basis. That having been said, Pionus are on my “short list” and one could easily be my next bird.

If you already have your “heart bird” or are still researching which species would be best for you, consider adding a bird figurine or hanging bird to your home—they don’t require toys, take little time, and are very, very quiet. You can find a great selection here.

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