White bellied caique care, diet & more | Pionites leucogaster

Thinking about adding a white bellied caique to your family? It’s important to learn more about caring for these South American parrots before taking the step. They have very big personalities and can be a handful, so make sure you’re ready!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about white bellied caique care, diet and personality.

White bellied caique origin & natural habitat

Let’s start off with some facts! It’s important to know where our domestic parrots come from to better understand how we should care for them in captivity.

The white bellied caique is a member of the genus Pionites. This is a small genus of parrots that comes with a bit of confusion: originally there were only two recognized members, the white bellied and black-headed caique. Now, it’s been discovered that the white bellies (Pionites leucogaster) are actually three separate species. Still, we’ll discuss them as if they were one.

As stated in the intro, white bellied caiques are naturally found in South America. Here, the majority of them are unfortunately considered an endangered species by the IUCN. This is mostly due to habitat loss as a result of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

In their natural habitat, white bellied caiques inhabit tropical forest canopies and nest in hollow trees. They’re common in Brazil, around the Amazon region, but also occur in a bunch of other South American countries including Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and more.

Did you know? The main difference between the species of white bellied caiques is the color of their legs. There’s the green-thighed parrot (Pionites leucogaster) and the black-footed parrot (Pionites xanthomerius), which has yellow legs. The last one in the bunch, Pionites xanthurus, is not very common.

White bellied caique parrot (Pionites leucogaster), full care guide.

White bellied caique diet

Malnutrition is a very common problem among parrots in captivity, and an avoidable one at that.

Let’s take a moment to go into what your white bellied caique should be eating to stay happy and healthy, starting off with more information about their diet in the wild.

Wild white bellied caique diet

To find out more about what white bellied caiques like to eat in the wild, let’s turn to science. A study from 2014 by Lee et al. took a peek at 190 white bellied caiques in their wild habitat. They saw the birds feed on no less than 44 different plant species!

What exactly they ate varied through the seasons, but wild white bellied caiques were most often seen feeding on seeds from all sorts of different plants, including fruit seeds. They also ate lots of fruits, many of them unripe. Third in line was flowers and flower buds.

Apart from these three main food items, the wild caiques also occasionally ate some miscellaneous foods like leaves and bark. They were even observed eating ants and they also visited clay licks to consume soil, probably to obtain precious micronutrients.

Domestic white bellied caique diet

As we can gather from the above, white bellied caiques naturally have a pretty varied diet. Unfortunately we can’t really replicate their natural diet, because few of us are going to have access to the seeds, fruits and flowers they eat.

So what should a domestic caique be eating? It’s important not to fall into the trap of feeding a seed mix and nothing else, even though that’s still the go-to for many inexperienced parrot owners. Seeds are too fatty and don’t contain the necessary (micro)nutrients to keep your caique going in the long run.

Feeding a very fruit-heavy diet is also not a good idea, even if it seems logical for fruit fiends like this species. The fruits they eat in the wild are much lower in sugars than the ones cultivated for human consumption. Additionally, they’re often eaten unripe, meaning even lower sugar levels. ‘Human’ fruits are just too calorie-rich to be a staple.

Instead, consider a diet consisting of the following:

  • A high-quality pellet food as a staple.
  • Plenty of fresh veggies
  • Some fresh fruits
  • Cooked unsalted grains
  • Sprouted seeds, lentils etc.

Very fatty or sugary foods like nuts and dried fruits are best used as treats and fed very sparingly. You can use them to motivate your caique during training sessions.

Don’t forget to also always have fresh water available, preferably multiple sources. A calcium block and cuttlebone are also appreciated.

Tip: Want to learn more about what your caique or other parrot should be eating? Don’t forget to also check out the full guide to parrot diet.

White bellied caique parrot eatingg an almond on white background.

White bellied caique temperament

Their temperament is definitely what sets caiques apart from other parrot species. All parrots are intelligent and playful but caiques take the cake! They’re known as the clowns of the parrot world and that’s a title they definitely deserve.

A caique is a parrot you can bond very strongly with. They’re extremely social creatures, which is not surprising if you consider the fact that wild caiques tend to roam the rainforest in large groups.

A well-socialized caique will adore being able to hang out with you as much as possible. This does mean you need to be able to spend a lot of time with your bird, otherwise you might want to consider getting two.

Did you know? Caiques are territorial. You can’t combine them with other bird species, as there is a real possibility of an attack taking place over a cage or food dispute.

Keep in mind that you do need a lot of patience to be able to deal with these birds. They just love throwing stuff around, have seemingly unlimited energy for dancing, playing and screaming, and they can even get cranky and nippy at times.

Proper training is important to help avoid unwanted behaviors! Even then, it’s a matter of when, not if, your caique will break something. Whether it be by chewing it up or throwing it on the floor, parrots in general tend to leave a trail of mayhem wherever they go.

All in all, if you want your parrot to be your best friend and don’t mind an extra dash of crazy, a caique might be for you.

Tip: You can check out other caique owners’ content to see what life with a caique is like. Jalapeño Pancake’s Instagram is a good example of the shenanigans this species likes to get up to.

White bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster) parrot hanging upside down from index finger of human hand.
Mirjam, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

White bellied caique housing

Because caiques are such bombs of pure energy, it’s not surprising they need quite a bit of space. Even if your caique gets plenty of outside time, it’s still important to provide a large cage to keep your bird happy.

Your caique’s cage should be sturdy and preferably have some kind of locking mechanism, as these birds are very smart and might find it pretty easy to figure out how to escape. They also like to chew on cage bars. In fact, they like to chew on everything, so provide loads of toys!

Aside from toys, your caique’s cage should contain multiple natural perches, food and water bowls and ideally also a bird bath. This species absolutely adores bathing.

Because your caique needs multiple hours of out of cage time each day, it’s handy to set up a little playground outside of the cage. The playground can be made of natural wood to encourage chewing and contain plenty of toys to keep the bird busy.

Tip: Any room your caique has access to should be fully parrot-proofed. They’re very curious and can get you and themselves in a lot of trouble with their exploring and destroying. And don’t forget to forego any scented products or items that can emit fumes near your bird!

White bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster) parrot with books in background.
pionetes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

White bellied caique enrichment

All parrots need plenty of enrichment to prevent boredom and loneliness leading to serious issues like feather plucking, incessant screaming and aggression. In the wild, they spend all day foraging and engaging their super smart brains in the presence of a tight flock, after all.

Caiques are no exception to this. In fact, it might apply even more strongly to them than other species! Because they are so extremely social and energetic, you need to be able to spend a lot of time with your caique. You also need to offer lots of mental stimulation.

Some important ways to offer enrichment to your caique on a daily basis include:

  • Training. A double edged sword! You can encourage positive behaviors and discourage unwanted ones while simultaneously engaging your bird’s brain. On top of that, these intelligent parrots easily pick up fun tricks.
  • Hanging out. So important! Take your caique out of its cage for playtime and cuddles. These guys are extremely playful and might like to swing from your hand, wrestle while laying on their backs, crawl up your sleeves and much more.
  • Offer different toys. Your caique should have access to different toys, preferably on a rotating basis. Get toys for chewing (including fresh bird-safe branches), ones that make noise, shredding toys and more. You can easily DIY some of these.
  • Foraging. What’s the one thing a parrot spends the most time doing in the wild? That’s right, looking for food. Replicate this brain-engaging activity in the home with foraging boxes, foraging toys and all sorts of DIY foraging options.

    Even something simple like offering whole veggies rather than pre-chopped already helps in making your bird work for its food.
White bellied caique parrot perched on human hand, with the other hand holding a mug.
Ken Banks, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

White bellied caique sounds

As far as parrots go, caiques are not the loudest species out there by any means. Does that mean they’re quiet? Well, no, there’s really no such thing as a quiet parrot.

Although caiques tend to stick to whistling, beeping and soft squawking at a relatively acceptable noise level for most of the day, they can emit very shrill screams as well. Not surprising: in the wild they need to be able to locate each other from different tree tops.

All in all, as far as apartment living goes, caiques are a better choice than many other parrots. Still, remember that your days of enjoying silence without earplugs are bound to be over when you add any parrot to the family!

Do caiques talk?

If you’re looking for a talented talker, a caique is not the best choice for you. Although some individuals are better at it than others, caiques can’t compete with the likes of an Indian ringneck or African grey.

This being said, caiques are still great candidates for vocalization training. Their talking skills might be limited, but they still do quite well when it comes to picking up whistles or tunes.

To teach your caique a tune, choose something short like a wolf whistle. Then, just start repeating this throughout the day! If you notice the bird (trying to) repeat your chosen sound, be sure to reward with a treat. This is a great way to spend time with your bird while adding a fun trick to its vocabulary at the same time.

White bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster) perched on wood branch on black background.

White bellied caique medical emergencies

Although it’s not something we want to think about, it’s important to keep in mind that medical emergencies are a possibility with any pet. Before even considering going out and adding a caique to your family, you should know what to do if any sort of health crisis pops up.

Make sure to:

  • Have the number for one or more avian vets in the area saved in your phone.
  • Have a basic parrot emergency kit on hand, containing items like blood clotting agent, disinfectant, vet tape, bandages, sterile swabs, tweezers and whatever else might be helpful.
  • Be able to recognize common symptoms. Parrots are very good at hiding anything that might be wrong with them! You know what your bird normally looks like, so if that changes, it might be time to call a vet.
  • Bird-proof any room your caique has access to. Accidents and disease stemming from exposure to dangerous fumes and other agents are a very real danger for these curious birds.
  • Take your caique for a check-up after purchase/adoption and on a yearly basis.
  • Quarantine any new birds that will be in the same space as your caique for a few weeks to see if any symptoms manifest.

Caiques are susceptible to polyomavirus, which causes severe organ issues, especially in young birds. Vaccinating your bird against this disease is highly recommendable.

Close-up of baby Pionites leucogaster, a parrot also known as the white bellied caique.
Caiques under 4 weeks old are susceptible to polyomavirus, which can be fatal.
Ruth Rogers, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you have any more questions about white bellied caiques or want to share your own experiences with these clowns of the parrot world, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🦜

Sources

Lee, A. T., Brightsmith, D. J., Vargas, M. P., Leon, K. Q., Mejia, A. J., & Marsden, S. J. (2014). Diet and geophagy across a western Amazonian parrot assemblage. Biotropica46(3), 322-330.

Kateryna & Elles Rijsdijk on Adobe Stock.

2 thoughts on “White bellied caique care, diet & more | Pionites leucogaster”

  1. My Caique is 9 years old. We have always used a diet of fruits vegetables nuts and pellets. We also have a 5.0 UVB light for her cage. About 6 months ago some of her back feathers which were always a vibrant green began to turn yellow and her black feathers near the tail began to turn white. I have changes bulbs 3 x’s thinking that the UVB may be the issue. Although the discoloration hasn’t gotten worse it has not gotten much better. Do you have any suggestions?

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