Everything You Need To Know About The Black-Headed Caique




The Black-Headed Caique explained at Petrestart.com.

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Black-headed caiques are perfect for people looking for a bright, gorgeous, and entertaining companion. These birds are playful enough to keep your entire day occupied, thus saving you from boredom. However, taking care of a black-capped caique is not always amusing. 

It is essential to note that these birds have needs that you need to understand before deciding to bring one home.

Key Takeaways

This article will discuss the black-headed caique:

  • Characteristics in the wild and captivity
  • The things you need to know about them
  • Tips a caique caretaker must learn to handle them properly
  • Lifespan in captivity

A black-headed caique is a medium-sized bird with a black head and colorful plumage. It lives for 27 years in captivity. It is high-maintenance and is only suitable for dedicated and patient caretakers. 

Black-capped caiques are popular among pet enthusiasts. If you plan to take care of one, knowing this bird’s care and maintenance requirements is essential. 

Getting To Know The Black Headed Caique

Learn about the Black Headed Caique at Petrestart.com.
“Black-headed Caique (Pionites melanocephala), a South American parrot isolated on a white cloth background”

Caiques are the clowns of the wild due to their high energy and mischievous nature. Even in captivity, these birds are a favorite among avian enthusiasts due to their affectionate nature and the playful antics they make. 

The black-headed caique is one of the most popular caiques you will see as a human companion. Let’s get to know this bird and why it is one of the most popular companion birds.

The Black-Headed Cauiqe

As the name suggests, the black-headed caique, or black-capped caique as some people call it, has a black head, forehead, and nape. Unlike its solid-colored head, its body has colorful plumage, with a yellow neck and thighs, white belly, and green wings and tail. 

According to an article posted in the AFA Watchbird Magazine Archive, these birds have two sub-species:

  • Pionites Milanocephalus Milanocephalus
  • Pionites Milanocephalus pallidus 

It is easy to tell the two sub-species apart. The first sub-specie is distinguishable through its orange thighs, white belly, and dark orange nape. On the other hand, the second sub-species has a belly covered with white and light yellow plumage, yellow thighs, and light orange nape.

This type of caique is usually 9 to 10 inches long but is surprisingly heavy for its size.


In the wild, you can find caiques, including the black-headed caique, in the forests of South America and the northern area of the Amazon. They also live in the following places:

  • Brazil
  • Venezuela
  • Suriname
  • French Guiana
  • Colombia
  • Guyana
  • Peru 
  • Ecuador

The name “caique” came from Brazil’s indigenous Tupi language, which directly translates to “water bird.” These birds love bathing, so they primarily live in tropical lowland forests and near swamps.


According to an article written in a journal for domesticated birds, caiques breed successfully in captivity. This fact is far from other parrot species that prove challenging to breed in aviaries. 

In the wild, black-capped caiques breed once a year. Female caiques can lay up to six eggs, but it is not always sure that all of these chicks will survive. Of course, caique chicks have a higher survival rate in captivity.

Since black-headed caiques are social parrots, most will still interact with their caretakers even when they are incubating their eggs or caring for their chicks. However, it is essential to note that no two caiques are alike. So, while some will interact with you during the breeding season, others will become territorial and protective. 

Fortunately, caiques return to their sweet and social nature after the breeding or chick-rearing season. 

However, these birds can be picky during the mating season. They can become agitated when introduced to a new mate they do not like. So, if you are planning to breed black-capped caiques, you need to slowly introduce the birds to each other and watch them closely. 

This way, you will see whether or not your caique will like its new friend.


While many parrots readily accept a bird companion in their enclosure, black-capped caiques are territorial. Not introducing a bird into a caique’s cage will threaten your feathered friend. Sometimes, a caique may even be aggressive to its new companion.

So, if you plan to introduce a mate to your black-capped caique, placing them in separate cages is ideal. Place the cages in the same room and introduce them by placing the cages beside each other until they become familiar. 

After some time, try placing the caiques in one cage to see if they have already bonded. If your caique is not bonding with other birds, no matter how you try to introduce them, it may not be ideal to give it a companion.

Things You Need To Know About The Black-Headed Caique

Things You Need To Know About The Black-Headed Caique revealed at Petrestart.com.
A black-headed parrot (Pionites melanocephalus), close up on a branch.

The black-capped caique’s huge personality always shows despite its medium-sized body. Besides the birds’ playful and charming characteristics, they are also intelligent. However, the boldness of these birds can also make them a handful to care for, so be forewarned.

So, if you are planning to take care of a black-capped caique, here are the things that you need to know about them:


As mentioned, black-capped caiques are highly sociable creatures. For this reason, they will always want to cuddle with you. So, a black-capped caique is a fantastic choice if you want a parrot that will always stick with you. 

These birds are also people-pleasers. They enjoy it when people are watching them do tricks, pranks, and funny antics. 

Unlike other parrots, these birds will not fly around energetically when you bring them out of their enclosure. Instead, they will stroll, hop, and jump around the room, often curious about their surroundings. Despite this, caiques are very active, so you need to spend a lot of time with them.

Like children, black-headed caiques can throw temper tantrums when you do not give them enough attention. Your pet may bite you if you do something that causes stress or displeasure. 

If you plan to take care of a caique, you must prepare for its mood changes, the constant need for attention, and demands. 


If you are looking for a parrot that does well in mimicking human language, caiques are not among the best choices. The reason is that while black-capped caiques can learn a few words, they are not as good as other talking birds. But with patience, you can teach your feathered companion to speak its name and a few words like “hello” and “goodbye.”

The words your caique will learn depends on what they frequently hear. So, if you want your pet to speak its name, you must talk to it and repeat it constantly. Your caique will learn to mimic you in time, although its speech will not be as clear as how other parrots speak.

Moreover, black-headed caiques do well in vocalizations. They are good singers and often whistle musical tunes when in a good mood. 

Recreational Needs

Apart from constant attention, black-capped caiques need various toys. You may not be able to spend all your time with your pet, so toys are essential to keep them occupied. 

These birds love to play with toys, especially ones they can stack and knock down. It is also essential to give these toys in rotation. Meaning you need to have a stock of toys that you can interchange.

This way, you can replace the toys in your caique’s cage once you notice it is bored with them. Black-capped caiques quickly become bored with their activities, so they require constant changes. According to pet care experts, domesticated black-capped caiques should have at least three toys that they can play with in their cage.

In addition, you need to experiment with various toys to find out what types your feathered companion would like.

Moreover, countless types of toys are in the market, particularly for birds. But before buying one for your pet, you must ensure the toy is safe.

Enclosure Requirements

Like any other pet bird, black-headed caiques should have a clean and mentally stimulating enclosure. According to avian experts, a caique’s enclosure should measure at least 30 inches x 36 inches x 30 inches (2.5 ft. x 3 ft. x 2.5 ft.)

The cage material should either be stainless steel or powder-coated to ensure it will not rust or chip. You also need to pay attention to the spacing of each bar. The bars should not be too far apart, as your caique might peek its head between them and have it stuck, which can result in injury. That said, each bar on the cage should only have a 1/2 to 5/8 inches of space between them. 

Moreover, it would be best if you kept the enclosure clean. This way, no bacteria will grow on the cage, which can cause diseases and infections to your caique. 

You must place the enclosure in a room where your pet will always see you. This way, your feathered companion will not feel alone and will have constant interaction with you. 

Taking Care Of A Black-Headed Caique


Black-capped caiques mainly feed on bird pellets and mixed seeds. Special bird pellets are mixed with the nutrients your feathered companion needs, allowing it to stay healthy. For additional nutrients and food variations, you can also feed your caique with:

  • fruits 
  • vegetables
  • sprouts
  • leafy greens 

These birds love pears, cherries, and apples. However, you must remove the pits and seeds when feeding them these fruits. The reason is that the pits and seeds of these fruits contain a small amount of cyanide, which can hurt your pet. 

Caiques will enjoy sweet fruits like oranges, pomegranates, guavas, and mangos. 

When feeding your black-headed caique with leafy greens, the ideal choices are:

  • lettuce 
  • watercress
  • spinach

These greens are high in water, providing sufficient hydration for your pet. The fiber content of these greens is also beneficial for your caique’s gut health. 

Furthermore, feeding your black-capped caique with a balanced diet will keep it healthy and happy.

Foods You Should Avoid

Avoid eggplant with birds. Learn more at Petrestart.com.
Eggplants are not good for your parrot.

If you are a bird enthusiast, it is common knowledge that you should never feed your black-capped caique with:

  • avocado
  • chocolate
  • coffee and caffeinated beverages
  • fruit pits

However, these are not the only toxic foods for your bird.


Eggplants came from the nightshade family. According to Robert M. Kliegman, MD, solanine is the plant’s defense against fungi. However, while a regulated amount of solanine is not toxic to humans, a tiny amount can harm your caique.

Feeding your pet with eggplants can cause:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach issues


According to the publication Postharvest Handling, sulfoxides are the substance that provides onion its pungent aroma. But while the smell of onion means delicious food to humans, sulfoxides are not suitable for black-headed caiques. No studies conclude that food with sulfoxides is toxic to our feathered friends.

However, a test conducted by the Journal Of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigations showed that feeding green onions to white geese can cause them health issues.


Caiques are lactose intolerant. So, giving them dairy, such as milk, ice cream, and cheese, can upset their stomachs and lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Some dairy products are also high in fat, which is unsuitable for your pet’s diet.


Similar to eggplants, tomatoes are in the nightshade family. For this reason, they contain toxic substances to your black-headed caique. Tomatoes are also acidic, so feeding your pet with them can cause stomachaches and ulcers.

Saltine Crackers

Saltine crackers are a delicious treat for black-capped caiques if given in moderation. However, these crackers contain a high amount of salt. Feeding your bird too many saltine crackers can cause dehydration, kidney issues, and liver problems. 

Raw Meat

Black-capped caiques are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on small bugs and insects. For this reason, adding chicken, fish, and red meat to your domesticated caiques diet will not cause any problems, as long as you cook these meats well.

Feeding your feathered companion with raw or half-cooked meat can be dangerous. The reason is that raw meat may contain bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. When these bacteria get into your caique’s digestive system, they can cause food poisoning and even death.


While there is no doubt that garlic adds a great flavor to dishes, you should never feed it to your black-headed caique. According to an article, the allicin content of garlic may cause hemolytic anemia or the rupture of red blood cells in your pet.


When getting perches for your black-capped caique, pick the ones made of natural wood. The texture of such perches will help exercise your feathered companion’s feet. And since caiques can bury their claws in wood, getting a wooden perch may even keep your pet’s nails short. 

Moreover, your black-capped caique should have at least three perches of varying thickness. This way, your caique can practice its grip. 

However, you must ensure that the perches you are getting are natural and not treated with chemicals. Exposure to chemicals can be dangerous for your caique’s respiratory health.


Another vital aspect you need to learn when taking care of a black-headed caique is grooming. 

Nail Trimming

A black-capped caique’s nails continuously grow. These birds will prevent their nails from growing in the wild by clawing at tree barks and branches. But since these natural nail trimmers are unavailable in captivity, you need to provide your feathered companion with alternatives.

As mentioned, one thing your pet can use to trim its nails is natural wood perches. But a wooden perch is not enough to trim your pet’s nails; you must bring your caique to a professional groomer to clip them. Or if you trust your skills, you can trim your caique’s nails by yourself. 

However, you have to ensure that you are not clipping your pet’s nails too short, as it can cause bleeding and pain. 

Beak Trimming

Beak trimming is also a necessity for domesticated caiques. Like their nails, these birds can trim their beaks in the wild using trees and branches. They may also nip nuts to prevent their beaks from overgrowing.

You can give your black-capped caique hard nuts to keep its beak short. You can also give it chewable items like cuttlebones. However, there will be instances when your caique’s beak will require manual beak trimming.

If you are experienced in avian care, you can trim yourself. However, letting a veterinarian do this task is always better to prevent injuring your feathered friend. 

Once you notice your caique’s beak is overgrown or oddly shaped, you should promptly bring it to a professional. The vet will check your caique to ensure that no illness is causing the beak’s abnormality. Then, it will use a special file to remove the overgrown part of the bird’s beak gently.


As mentioned, black-headed caiques live near swamps, which means they love bathing. For this reason, it is ideal to bathe your caique frequently, especially in the warmer seasons. 

When bathing a black-capped caique, simply give it a shallow bowl of clean water and let it soak itself. Never use shampoos or soaps, as the chemicals in these products can damage the plumage of your feathered companion. Even if the bathing product you want to use says its formula is safe for birds, it is always better to use clean bathing water alone.

Apart from regular bathing, it would be best if you also misted your caique’s feathers regularly to moisturize their feathers and soothe their skin.

Common Illnesses

Black-capped caiques are prone to bacterial infection and intestinal parasites, especially if they are living in a poorly maintained environment. Failing to clean a caique’s enclosure will cause it to harbor bacteria and parasites, which can enter your feathered companion’s body. 

Boredom and stress can also cause illnesses in these birds. They will pick their feathers, which can result in cuts on their skin. If not treated promptly, these wounds may become infected, leading to a more severe health issue.

Moreover, some of the other common health conditions include:

  • respiratory issues
  • psittacosis
  • coccidiosis
  • intestinal influenza

How Long Do Black-Headed Caiques Live In Captivity?

According to an article reviewed by an expert in veterinary care, a black-headed caique can live up to 26 years in captivity. However, when well taken care of, aviculturists believe their lifespan can reach 40 years. These birds live long in captivity than in the wild, as there are no predators that may endanger them. 

For this reason, caring for a black-headed caique means having a companion for a long time. You will also have to spend a lot of time interacting with your caique. 

In addition, these birds are high-maintenance. They can be dependent on their caretakers, but not to the point that they become annoying. However, a caique that does not get enough attention from its caretaker becomes less tame.

The long lifespan and maintenance requirements of a caique make it suitable for caretakers willing to spend time and dedication taking care of it. Taking care of a caique also means ongoing maintenance expenses.

Black-Headed Caiques: Final Thoughts

Black-headed caiques are one of the friendliest birds out there. They depend on their caretakers but will enjoy themselves alone if they have toys and activities. But unlike other parrots, caiques are not much of good talkers. 

Do you have questions, comments, or suggestions about this article? We’d love to hear them, so make sure you leave those thoughts in the comments section!

Domesticated black-capped caiques can live for 27 years, according to experts. However, some believe their lifespan can reach up to 40 years, depending on how you care for them.

These Articles May Also Interest You

  1. Gonzales, Fran. “Caiques.” AFA Watchbird 23, no. 2. https://watchbird-ojs-tamu.tdl.org/watchbird/article/view/1036/1016. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  2. Worth, Gail J. “Breeding Aspects of Caiques and Pionus Parrots.” AFA Watchbird 25, no. 3. https://journals.tdl.org/watchbird/index.php/watchbird/article/view/1411. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  3. Pet Supplies Plus. Caique Parrots. http://www.buffalobirdnerd.com/storage/app/media/PSPCaiqueParrot.pdf. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  4. Robert M. Kliegman MD, Joseph W. St Geme MD, Nathan J. Blum MD, Samir S. Shah MD, MSCE, Robert C. Tasker MBBS, MD and Karen M. Wilson MD, MPH. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/solanine. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  5. Vincente, Ariel R., George A. Manganaris, Cristian M. Ortiz, Gabriel O. Sozzi, and Carlos H. Crisosto. “Nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables.” In Postharvest handling. Academic Press, 2014. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/sulfoxide. Accessed February 8, 2023.
  6. Crespo, Rocio, and R. P. Chin. “Effect of feeding green onions (Allium ascalonicum) to White Chinese geese (Threskiornis spinicollis).” Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 16, no. 4 (2004). DOI: 10.1177/104063870401600411. Accessed February 8, 2023. 
  7. Venkat S.R. “Caique Characteristics.” What to Know About the Caiques (blog). https://pets.webmd.com/what-to-know-about-caiques#:~:text=Peru%2C%20and%20Bolivia.-,Caique%20Characteristics,as%2040%20years%20in%20captivity. Accessed February 8, 2023.

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