June 19, 2010

The Pet Potential of the Grey-cheeked Parakeet

Brotogeris refers to this genus' talking ability and means "with the voice of a man." Pyrrhopterus means "red" or "flame" therefore the term "fire-wing" applies to grey cheeks for their bright orange underwing coverts. Grey cheeks are often called "pericos" by Ecuadorians which is Spanish for "little parrot."

Most common pronunciation heard for Brotogeris has been: broh-toh-JERR-iss with a long "o" sound and the "g" sounding like that of Geritol or Jerry. Have also heard it pronounced broh-TOJJ-uh-riss (accent on the second syllable) and an Americanized version, broh-toh-GAIR-iss (soft "g" sound like in Gary). Pyrrhopterus is pronounced pirr-HOPP-turr-uhs (with long "i" sound, "Pie-ur") and also heard as purr-HOPP-turr-oos. Personally, I'll leave it to the Latin experts.

From sources I have read, grey-cheeked parakeets (grey cheeks) are unique birds; originating in parts of Ecuador and Peru, they were imported into the United States in large numbers during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They have been set up by a number of breeders in all parts of the country, make excellent pets, and, according to Dr. David Alderton ("You and Your Pet Bird"), have an average life span of 15 years.

Though relatively quiet birds when compared to macaws, cockatoos, or conures, grey cheeks can be fairly boisterous when they want to be and can even become annoying at times. I am always amused when people ask, "Are they noisy?" or "Are they loud?" Arthur Freud ("The Complete Parrot," p. 10) summed it up best when he said, "Parrots are sometimes referred to as noisy. This is rather like calling river wet. Noise and parrots go together, and if noise would be a problem in your home you probably should not own a parrot."

Grey cheeks weigh 54-68 grams and are about 8 inches long (this includes the tail) (20 cm), while other members of the Brotogeris family can be anywhere from 7-9 inches in length. These birds were not rated in the top ten by Bird Talk magazine in their talking ability, but a number of them have a good capacity for speaking. My bird learned to say "hello", "peek-a-boo", the name of another bird (also imitated the voice of the other bird to a "T"), made kissing noises, and wolf whistled. All parrots have the capability of talking, although not every parrot, even in a particular genus known to be good talkers, will learn or choose to speak. Some simply do not want to talk.

Grey cheeks are generally sweet-natured, and those that have been hand-fed love to be held and have their heads scratched (preened). In fact, they prefer to be with you 90% of the time and will even beg with little buzzing beeps for you to pick them up. My bird would even turn her head completely upside down to get my attention! Once on their beloved human buddy, they are reluctant to let go of your hand or clothing and often tighten their grip on your finger. Needless to say, my grey cheek decided not to obey the "down" command (she was very stubborn about it too) and sometimes had to be pried from my finger to be put back in her cage. This was more of an endearing quality than a nuisance. They really like their owners!

Occasionally, grey cheeks will start frantically flapping their wings or thrashing about their cage right after they have been covered for the night. It seems to me that the bird is simply showing its displeasure at you daring to put it to bed before it is ready to go! My tiels do this too on occasion.

Grey cheeks will often pick up food with their foot like larger parrots, lift it to their beak, and eat it while standing on one foot. They will even drag a favorite food to a higher perch in their cage--or on top of their cage--before eating the item with relish.

They are also proficient climbers and are able to get just about anywhere they want to go. I would turn my back one minute and find a certain little green bird had jumped off her cage, ran across the floor, and climbed up the bookcase. How the bird got up the bookcase is still a mystery to me, especially since her wings were clipped, and she usually climbed, walked or hopped to get where she wanted to go! They are also extremely intelligent, very bold, require a lot of time, and seem to need a lot of their owner's personal attention. Very needy birds.

Many breeders and owners recommend grey cheeks as first time pet birds. It is my personal opinion that they would make a good addition to an already established home of one or more birds as long as one has the time to devote to this bird. One breeder indicated to me that she thought grey cheeks disliked children. According to an article that I read by Susan Hoss ("Hello, My Name Is Captain Flint"), this is not true. Susan and her husband not only have taken their grey cheeks to grade school with them but have used them to help teach classes! The kids absolutely loved them and begged to have them come back! I think the only reasons a grey cheek might resent a child is if the bird were jealous of the child, afraid of a child or if the bird were mishandled by the child at some point or felt that the child was invading it's territory. But I think this would hold true for any bird species and not just grey cheeks.

lthough they can be very sweet, grey cheeks are also quite territorial and will start 'hollering' or may bite you as a warning when a stranger comes into their home. They also tend--although this is not always true--to nip their owners or owners' friends if they feel threatened, which, of course, can be problematical. A number of articles that I have read mention that grey cheeks will challenge a bird 5 times their size (or even a visitor to your home) and seem quite fearless in announcing their displeasure to newcomers invading their territory. I have seen this behavior in these birds as well.

Reprinted from the former Grey-cheeked Parakeet website, 1997.

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