Conservation status Least concern
The Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) is a parrot which is a resident breeder in west Africa. It undergoes local movements, driven mainly by the availability of the fruit and blossoms which make up its diet. It is considered a farm pest, often feeding on crops.
The Senegal Parrot is a bird of open woodland and savannah. It nests in holes in trees, often Oil Palms, laying 2-3 white eggs. The eggs are about 3cm long x 2.5cm wide. It is a gregarious species, continuously chattering with a range of whistling and squawking calls. Senegal Parrots live an average of approximately 25-30 years in the wild, but have been known to live for 50 years in captivity.
The Senegal Parrot is about 23 cm long, plump-looking, and weighs about 125 to 170 gm. Males are generally larger and heavier then female birds. Adults have a charcoal grey head, yellow eyes, green back and throat, and yellow underparts and rump. The yellow and green areas on a Senegal Parrot's front form a V-shape and resemble a yellow vest worn over green. Immature birds are duller, with a lighter grey head and grey eyes. Senegals are not sexually dimorphic, but there are some hypotheses on how to tell the genders apart; it is thought that a female's beak and head are smaller and narrower than the male's and also, the V-shape of the vest is usually longer in females, so that the green area extends down over the chest to between the legs whereas in males it ends midway down the chest.
There are three generally recognized subspecies. They do not differ in behaviour, but only in the color of the "vest". In the pet trade, the nominate subspecies is the most common though all three are raised and sold as pets.
- Poicephalus senegalus senegalus (the nominate subspecies): The vest is yellow. Its native range includes southern Mauritania, southern Mali to Guinea and the Island of Los.
- P. s. mesotypus: This subspecies has an orange vest. It comes from eastern and northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon into southwest Chad.
- P. s. versteri: The vest of this subspecies is red. Its native range is the Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana east to western Nigeria.
Senegal Parrots as pets
The Senegal Parrot has recently begun to be bred in captivity and is the most popular Poicephalus parrot in aviculture, with the Meyers Parrot being the second most popular. They can live up to 40 or 50 years in a safe clean home. They eat seeds, most fruits and vegetables.
Hand reared Senegal Parrots make excellent pets, and, like all Poicephalus parrots, they are curious, fun-loving animals that are much "mellower" compared with many other parrots. They are acrobatic, amusing, and generally sweet. They are able to speak in a limited fashion, often with a high squeaky voice, and can learn to mimic many sounds such as whistling, kisses, microwave beeps, and smoke alarms. They do not make very loud noises, like some parrots do. They are known for their jealousy of other family members and pets. They can develop a bond with only one human and refuse to interact with other people, even attacking them in some cases. Although a Senegal is a small bird it does not seem to believe so, and will attack larger birds and even dogs if it feels it or its human is threatened. Owners should be cautious in multiple-pet homes. Continuing to socialize the hand reared pet bird from a young age and letting many people handle and interact with it can prevent single-person bonding and allow it to become an excellent family pet.
Wild-caught Senegal Parrots do not make good pets, because they do not become tame and they will always be frightened of humans. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made the trade of wild caught parrots illegal.