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Plumhead Parrots / Plum-headed Parakeet (psittacula cyanocephala)

fashionfobie

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Some helpful resources for Plumheads. They are secure in aviculture though not as popular as other small parrots. Since they aren't as popular, it can be difficult to find care resources.

Plum-headed Parakeet
https://pamelaclarkonline.com/free-resources

Some links are more for an aviary or nesting setting, but there is helpful info.
Plum headed Parrot or Psittacula cyanocephala cyanocephala
Plum-headed Parakeet
The Avicultural Society of NSW (ASNSW) - Plum-headed Parakeet

This isn't everything you need to know, but it could help get you on the right track.

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My experience with Plumheads has been very positive.

Colouration:
They are sexually dimorphic. Males have the vivid reddish plum head, they also developed a black ring with a turquoise/teal nape. Males develop red shoulder patches. Females still have a plum head, but it is an ashy purple and will not get as vivid. Females will not develop the black ring. Females will not develop a red shoulder patch :: It can take 3 years to know the sex of your bird by colouring alone. Most good breeders offer DNA sexing to confirm your young bird's sex before you bring them home. There are also colour mutations in a wide variety, which can change the appearance, but the black ring will only be present on males and females will never develop this ring. Plumheads have white tail tips, these two long decorative feathers develop above their main tail and don't have the same mobility of their main tail. Young birds all start with green heads.
BEWARE: Slaty parrots (Slaty-headed Parakeets | Beauty of Birds) and Blossom head parrots (Blossom-headed Parakeet (Psittacula roseata) | Parrot Encyclopedia) are commonly mistaken for Plumheads. Even normally reputable resources confuse the pictures and place blossom heads as plum heads or plum heads as blossom heads. All of these birds have similar temperaments, but you must know which bird you have. It is not advisable to keep blossoms or slaty with plumheads because they can cross breed. -It is better to stick to your species and to promote responsible husbandry practices. If you never intend to breed I would suggest trying to keep the species separate when housed anyway if you do keep multiples. Separate aviaries or cage, at a distance that they couldn't copulate through the bars. There are also size differences between the species, just continue to be mindful and you will figure it out.​
Based on wild colouration (please note that mutations confuse species identification): Blossom-head parrots do not develop the turquoise/teal nape in male birds. Female birds look very similar between the species, but there are a few difference; blossom-heads have yellow tail tips and both sexes have red shoulder patches. Slaty parrots are a little easier to distinguish in their adult plumage, notably the much more vivid orange beak.​

Hormones:
Sexual maturity is around 3 years of age. Normally they will not have a successful clutch until they are 5 if they are encouraged to breed. They are seasonal breeders so they have a mellow temperament most of the year. During the spring season they can get nesty and more protective and aggressive of their perceived nest. This contributes to hens sometimes being misunderstood as mean birds. Once spring has passed she will snap out of it. She isn't being protective of her nest to hurt the relationship with her owner, she is responding naturally to her hormones. Avoid shiny objects in the cage. I would prohibit the use of mirrors. Mirrors are very stimulating and most of the aggressive hens I have met are worsened by the presence of a mirror.

Preening:
This species does not allopreen. Meaning that they do not preen their mate or their friends. Their feathers are very soft and they can easily work off the shafts on their own. This is important to understand. Reaching toward a plumhead's head is very distressing to them as it isn't a natural behaviour. It comes across as an aggressive action, not a nurturing one. Reaching at a plumhead can damage trust and harm your relationship with your bird. Get in the mind of your bird and you will be fine!

Molt:
The molt happens quickly and all at once, the bird will have a very disheveled appearance during a molt. This doesn't mean they are pluckers or that they are ill. They have gnarly and fast molts. It is important to supplement their diet with some extra bulk during this time so that they can regenerate their feathers healthily. I have had success with crushed hemp seed.

Cage Size:
Go as large as you can. Despite their small size, anything under 600 mm (24") is not comfortable for them. You will see in the other sources provided that many are kept in long aviaries, multiple meters long. They are an active species and require room for toys, chews and foraging games. In my opinion this species will not thrive in a smaller sleeping cage. Never go small, go large they like open space. Plumheads will also select several roasting places and will change between them nightly based on their desire. My bird has 3 regular spots. It is important that they have the choice. All plumhead require time out of the cage. They MUST be allowed to fly. They are a very active bird. My plumhead will fly in circles around my living area. As he develops and becomes a stronger flier the number of laps increases. After my plumhead burns his energy this way he will happily perch and chatter on the playstand.

Cage mates: I wouldn't house multiple birds in a cage together. In an aviary you should have no problems! Seasonal agression can get exaserbated in a cage setting, why risk it? If you want to breed you would need an aviary setting anyway as these birds are not easy to breed.​

Toys: Wooden chews are a must! Try a wide variety of textures and colours. Avoid shiny toys, or toys with cotton. This species tends to ingest cotton fiber which they can't digest and can become impacted. Foraging toys are very rewarding. Plumheads are amazingly intelligent. A lot of fanciers think they are better problem solvers than Indian ring necks, a close cousin. If you give a plumhead a treat directly or a treat in a puzzle.. they seem to always choose the puzzle. You need to think ahead and get creative because they can get bored of the same puzzle.

Hands off Bird: Plumheads are considered to be a more hands off bird. This doesn't mean they don't require a lot of attention. They don't allopreen, but they love their flock. My plumhead will spend all day with me. He doesn't want physical contact, but he treasurers spending time with me. I enjoy this because I work from home. I can work and he will stand next to me on his stand or on my shoulder and he will let me work. I have never touched his head, I have never scritched his feathers. This would damage his trust in me. He does kiss my nose with his beak, but that is about it. You don't need to handle a bird to have a very strong and meaningful relationship.

Training: Generally these birds are eager to learn. Plumheads are very treat motivated and learn concepts quickly. I can't over express how intelligent these birds are.

Diet: This can be a big discussion on itself so I am just going to point out a few considerations that are unique to plumheads as a species. The birds naturally eat lots variety including fruit and blossoms. Even though fruit can be dangerous in abundance for some species it isn't the case for Plumheads. Variety is more important than larger portions. Give them a wide variety of fruit and try anything that is parrot safe. Dried fruits like figs, dates or sultanas are also a good treat, but not for a standard diet. Feed fresh or frozen/thawed for their day-to-day. If you can find a market that sells edible flowers try adding that to the diet. My bird eats lots of flowers, I am lucky enough to have some on my property for him and also an organic shop that sells edible flowers. Don't wash flowers before feeding because you will wash away the nectar and pollen which is what they bird is going for. Plumheads should also get a wide variety of vegetables everyday and a larger portion of veggies is fine. Pellet are worth trying, but plumheads are likely to reject them no matter how you go about it. Pellets have many advantages so do your best, but in the event they are never accepted keep in mind that plumheads are tough eaters. They can eat some sunflower and other richer seed and don't have the same health issue that other parrots have. This doesn't mean it should make up a large portion of their diet, but they tend to eat a wide variety naturally. It is up to you, their care taker, to give them enough variety to replicate that selection.

Picky?: Plumheads will try almost anything when they are young. They are curious and brave about foods. When they are adults this can change. Once they are older they will be a little more set in their ways about what they consider safe foods. This makes it critical to provide them an incredibly wide variety when they are young. Don't be afraid to keep trying new things when they are older. They are very curious birds, but just know they may develop a suspicion that wasn't there in their youth.​

Vocalisations: I don't think any bird should ever be valued on their talking. Just love them for who they are. Plumheads have a bright chirpy sound that can get loud at points in the day. Generally they are noisiest midday. Mornings and evening are filled with more relaxed pondering and chatter. Some consider them a quiet species, but it is a little misleading. My neighbor didn't know I have birds so they are fairly quiet, but they are still birds. The contact call of a little plumhead is bright, crisp and can carry. The more birds you have the nosier it gets. A plumhead enthusiast I know in the UK has a large flock and he would consider them LOUD birds.

If you build your life for your plumhead you will have a dedicated little companion. I have met people who have had their plumhead for 32 years. These little birds with big hearts are a lifestyle! Be prepared for what you are getting into :D I couldn't imagine my life without plummies now.
 

sunnysmom

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Thanks for sharing! They sound like great birds.
 

fashionfobie

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I realise I didn't include a section on an adolescent bird gaining independence.

Bluffing is an old fashion term that should no longer be used. Most information out there related to bluffing is harmful, and can in fact damage your relationship with your bird. If you hear about bluffing in regards to a Plumhead or any other bird please don't follow the advise. Instead get informed and read Barbara Heidenreich's article below. She is a professional animal behaviourist and knows her stuff!


Follow this link:

Do Animals Bluff?
 
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