Sunday, March 23, 2008

My thoughts on caiques...

In my comments from March 20, I received this question, which I decided to answer as a new entry instead of just in the comments:


I've been reading your blog with great interest for a little bit now. We recently adopted a 2 year old female Maximillian Pionus. We want to add a second bird to our family and are considering a newly weaned male Caique. Would you tell me the real truth about living with Caiques? Noise level, need for interaction and getting along with our other bird are my main concerns. I'd like to hear an account of your experiences. Most people I have found opinions from have very young birds which I think is not the best representation for a lifetime with a bird companion. I'd be really greatful for your opinion!

First, thanks for your comment! I apologize in advance for my lengthy response. Brevity is not one of my strong points!


A little background: both of my caiques are at least third-hand. I got Calypso in 2004 when he was 9 years old, and Beeps entered our house in 2006 when he was 8 years old. I don't have much experience with young caiques, therefore, as mine were mature when we got them!



Calypso came from a home where he was kept covered 24 hours a day because he was too noisy for the house. "Too noisy" is definitely a relative concept, as he was not as loud as the only bird we had at the time, our timneh grey, Max. Because of his previous deprivation, when we got him and gave him a good diet, proper lighting, etc., his hormones went out of control and he plucked all of the orange feathers on his legs and mutilated sores into them. This happened in August 2004, and we have not seen a repeat of this.



Beeps was going to be released outside in February 2006 because he had bit his owner so badly that she had to go to the emergency room. Or at least that's what we were told. A very wonderful person found out about this and took him into her life for about 9 months. However, given his reputation, they were afraid of him and knew they weren't giving him the life he needed. That's when he came to live with us.

I guess what I'm trying to say by retelling their backgrounds is that I'm not sure how representative my sample is. Would their personalities be different if they had been raised in a loving environment from the start?


To address your main concerns: noise level, need for interaction, and getting along with your other bird:


Noise level -- as I mentioned above, Calypso was considered too noisy for his previous home. I don't think they're that loud. Beeps does beep almost constantly (hence his name!) but it really fades into the background of our lives. I really don't even notice it until I watch videos and hear him in the background. They both have loud alarm calls that they occasionally do when a perceived threat passes by a window. Calypso, not confident in his flight skills, will make a different, and rather loud, call when he wants me to ferry him around. They also will make a pig squeal kind of noise when they are really excited or playing with their toys. Unless you are extremely noise sensitive (or happen to get a really loud caique), this shouldn't be a major issue. They also love to play with bells and are aggressive toy-players, so that noise also needs to be considered. Although I wouldn't recommend it as each individual is different, I think I could live in an apartment with my caiques and not get complaints from the neighbors.


Need for interaction -- caiques, as most parrots, love interacting with their humans. I would really recommend looking into some kind of trick training (I clicker train my parrots). This site shows a caique that knows all kinds of tricks, taught through a similar method. They are quite intelligent and love showing off! They tend to be beaky parrots, and need to be taught proper beak pressure. Many caiques love surfing on their favorite people. With his new-found flight skills, we've noticed that Beeps now will fly over to one of us for a little attention, and then we toss him back to his cage after 20 seconds or so, and he's happy. My caiques are nowhere near as needy as my macaw or grey -- I'd say they're similar to the pionus parrots I've met in that respect. But they need to be consistently handled and suffer greatly when left cagebound.


Interaction with other bird -- this is my major concern with caiques. They tend not to like other parrots. I'd strongly recommend separate play stands and cages placed so that it's not easy for them to interact, at least until you feel comfortable with them. When we brought Beeps home, we'd hoped that he and Calypso would form a friendship. However, they want nothing to do with each other and in the beginning, would get into minor fights. Beeps jumped Daphne (budgie) once when she had escaped from her cage (luckily she flew away and wasn't hurt) and Calypso jumped a cockatiel we were watching (I intervened in time). Beeps and Max have also had minor fights. They are also known to hate dogs, and Calypso did attack a dog we were dog-sitting for once. Here again, I think it depends on your expectations. Do you want them to preen each other? Doubtful. Share a cage? I wouldn't recommend it. Live in peace with each other? Very doable.


I absolutely adore caiques. They have tremendous personalities! One thing that I love about them is how expressive their body language is. Once you understand that (eye flashing, feather puffing, head bobbing), you can pretty much avoid getting bit. Another thing that seems to be rather unique to them is their reaction to things that they hate. For example, both Rocky (severe macaw) and Beeps hate brooms. When Rocky sees a broom, he runs to the other side of the room to get as far away from the broom as possible. When Beeps sees one, he gets excited and attacks the person sweeping. (Knowing this, we make sure they are both safely away in their cages before sweeping). They also tend to launch themselves at and attack people they don't like, even if not provoked (I have heard this from other caique owners). So you need to be very aware with them and arrange their environments so that they don't resort to that.

I am a little biased towards caiques, but realize they aren't for everyone. Another place you can go to find out more information is here. I'd particularly recommend the pages marked "other pets," "biting," and "escaped." I think they give a pretty accurate picture of what living with a caique can be like.


If I missed anything or if you have any other questions about them (realizing that I am dealing with a limited sample of 2!) feel free to ask!!!

2 comments:

Stephanie said...

Thanks SO much for your input! We decided that a Caique is probably a little too much bird for us right now. I think in the future when the kids are bigger and the dogs are used to being around birds then a Caique would be great for us! But for right now I think we need something a little more mellow. We have decided to get a second Pionus & put down a deposit on a White Capped baby. I think a Caique might have driven our Lucy nuts - she such a mellow little sweetie. Hopefully another Pionus will be more her speed.

Mary said...

I think you're probably making a very wise choice! I would still recommend looking into doing clicker training or some trick training with Lucy and your new bird.
http://www.clickertraining.com/node/68 is some more information, with a link to a great yahoo group at the bottom. I taught myself by reading their files.

It's amazing how this increases the bond with your parrots, and they absolutely love it. Your kids can get involved in teaching the birds tricks, too! I think that having parrots learn this kind of structure when they're young helps them better transition into adults!

Good luck with your new bird -- I'll be watching your blog for updates!