Pionites Melanocephala Melanocephala
 
 
English: Black-headed Caïque 
Latin: Pionites Melanocephala Melanocephala 
Dutch: Zwartkopcaïque 
French: Caïque à tête noire 
wild variation  
CITES II/C2 
ringsize: 7.5 hardened 
length: 23 cm 
 
Distribution
Black-headed Caiques are mostly native to the north of the Amazone river i.e. from Guiana and Para in the north of Brazil to the west up to southern Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There is one subspecies, i.e. the Pionites Melanocephala Pallida, which is rarely kept by private breeders.

Breeding
Caiques are psittaformes that do not require very large aviaries, since they do not fly long distances.  In the wild, they live high in the forest canopy and are able to fly almost completely vertically from one branch to the next above; just like a helicopter.  Most breeders accommodate them in cages of about 6 ft long, 2.5 ft wide and 3.5 ft high constructed with netted wire.  The cages are attached side by side at eye level.
My Black-headed Caiques live in small aviaries of about 4.5 ft long, 2.5 ft wide and 6.5 ft high.  They can see other pairs, which most probably increases their urge to brood.  They have outdoor aviaries with bird shelters and a nest box where they sleep at night. As nesting material I use simple wood shavings and mouldered wood.
By looking at the swelling of the female’s abdomen you can determine when the first egg will be laid.  They usually start brooding early June, since all pairs are housed in unheated aviaries.  Caiques are very aggressive towards their partner, other pairs and birds.  Therefore, you should always space their cages sufficiently apart in order to prevent bleeding toes.  Nevertheless, they can be very affectionate towards their partner. All my pairs were only fit for breeding at five years of age.  Fellow breeders have told me of a few exceptions who bred successfully already in their third or fourth year.
They lay 3 to 5 eggs with an interval of two days. When the third egg is laid, the female starts brooding for about 25 to 27 days.  The first three eggs are taken away and put back when the fourth egg is laid.  The eggs which are temporarily removed are replaced by plaster eggs. Otherwise, the chicks’ size would differ too much.  The smallest ones won’t survive. In practice I have about three chicks a year.
I close band the chicks when their legs are big enough. Close banding the chicks a few days early is of not much use, since the band will probably fall off anyway.  Close banding them too late is not very convenient either; you will then have to use a bigger band since its legs are very short and it is very difficult to squeeze the last toe through the band because the latter is pushed against the knee cap.  Each year 70% of the chicks in my collection are males, matching the percentage of imported birds.  How come??

Diet
Caiques feed on a seed mixture (large parakeet seed supplemented with sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and buckwheat) combined with a rich pallet of vegetable and fruit mixtures (see diet).  Every two days I give them a piece of frozen corncob varied with a vegetable, fruit and berry mixture.

Hand Rearing
Tame Caiques are very suitable as indoor pet.  They are relatively small and mew their feathers practically unnoticeably, which means less feathers and dust in their cage. The Grey Parrot on the other hand is completely the opposite: lots of dust and feathers.  In the aviary, Caiques are very noisy, they chew on everything and their droppings are very loose, as a result of the large amount of fruit in their diet.  Indoors, Caiques are playful birds, everyone’s feathered friend, they are not at all noisy and try to imitate every song and noise they hear. Sometimes they sleep on their back with their wings spread out.  They only fly from hand to finger, etc. In other words, they are real clowns always surprising you with their tricks. They have a very limited talking ability and speak a totally different language.  In spite of this, Caiques are my favourite roommates. You can read more about our tame Caique in the section on Carlo.


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