What to Know About the Caiques

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 24, 2022
5 min read

If you want a beautiful, smart, and entertaining pet bird, look no further than the caique. These parrots are a bundle of energy and are considered clowns of the bird world. You haven’t seen playful until you’ve seen a caique in full swing. 

This article explains how to care for your caique and the specific traits you should be aware of.

Caiques (pronounced “kah-eeks”) are small, stocky parrots with a short, square tail, and bright, vivid colors such as yellow, green, black, and orange. The most common caiques are the Pionites leucogaster, commonly called the white-bellied parrots, and the Pionites melanocephala, also known as black-headed parrots.

These birds are native to South America and are a favorite among several bird enthusiasts. They are a common sight in North Eastern Brazil and south of the Amazon river. Caiques also inhabit other South American countries like Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

The average white-bellied caique lifespan is roughly 26 years in captivity. But many aviculturists believe they can live as long as 40 years in captivity. The average size of an adult caique is around nine inches (23 centimeters), and they weigh roughly 180 grams, with a wingspan of 15 inches (38 centimeters).

In black-headed caiques, the forehead, crown, and nape are black. They have a green streak below the eyes, while their cheeks and neck are generally orange-yellow. The back, wings, and upper tail are green, and their abdomen and breast are white. 

White-bellied caiques have a flaming orange crown, nape, and hindneck. The front and sides of the neck are yellow, while the back, wings, and tail-coverts are green. White-bellied caiques prefer humid climates, which makes the tropical rainforests of South America an ideal breeding ground. They usually build nests at least 30 meters above the ground level in trees along the waterway and move on to hollow trees during the mating season. 

The usual habitat of white-bellied caiques is roughly 800 meters above sea level. They generally don’t migrate and stick to their preferred habitats throughout the year.

Caiques are born blind and survive on their parents’ will. Young caiques are known to stay in the nest for over 3 months and display sexual maturity between 2 and 4 years. 

White-bellied caiques are not sexually dimorphic: You can’t determine their gender just by a physical examination. You’ll need blood or DNA samples to identify whether they’re male or female.

The reproductive habits of white-bellied caiques depend on their habitat and the season. The usual mating season runs from October to April in the wild. But some reports of domesticated breeding indicate that they mate between January and June.

Caiques are largely monogamous, but don’t exhibit any specific mating behavior. But when white-bellied caiques are paired, they groom and take care of each other before mating. White-bellied caiques mate almost daily during the mating season (sometimes more than once a day), and the female caique lays eggs within 48 hours of mating. 

In the wild, the female lays around three eggs in a clutch and incubates them for 26 days. The male’s primary responsibility is feeding the female and the young ones and doesn’t help with the incubation. When white-bellied caiques are domesticated, they are prolific breeders, and females can lay as many as six eggs in a clutch.

You can discern when a caique is about to lay eggs by looking at its swollen belly. It can be amusing to watch pregnant caiques continue with their funny antics with their big bellies. You’ll usually notice their bellies swell up a week before they begin to lay eggs.

Caiques are considered one of the most intelligent bird species. Feeding caiques from your hand creates a special bond and makes them a central part of the family. Handfed caiques are likely to become friendly with family members and strangers visiting your house, which is an essential consideration for many people looking to raise a pet bird.

Although they don’t speak as fluently as some other parrots, they’re popular for their playful nature and excitable temperament, and frequently whistle and chirp. 

If you already have a bird and are looking to get a second one home, the caique is a great choice, as its friendly nature makes it easy to adapt to living with another feathery friend.

White-bellied caiques love fruits, vegetables, and flowers, while some also enjoy ants. Placing clay licks near your bird’s cage is a good idea, as it serves as a sodium supplement and prevents the harmful effects of toxins. 

A typical caique diet is high in carbohydrates and fats, but they eat more proteins during the breeding season. Caiques have two meals in a day — once in the morning and then again in the late afternoons. They enjoy eating:

  • Mixed vegetables
  • Apples (diced)
  • Broccoli (diced)
  • Cooked beans such as kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils
  • Brown rice (steamed)
  • Raisins
  • Oranges and bananas

When building a home for your caique, you can consider keeping two of them in a cage, as their friendly nature allows them to adapt to a cagemate. When choosing or making a cage, you may consider the following factors:

  • A typical cage can be 2 feet wide, 3 feet high, and 6 feet long.
  • Caiques are comfortable in steel cages made of half-inch steel tubing.
  • If you’re planning to suspend the cage, make sure they are above eye level, as this makes them feel less threatened.
  • Keep a perch (preferably wooden) inside the cage that’s at least 4 inches long.
  • Place separate ceramic dishes for feeding and bathing water, with the bathing dish being deeper, allowing the caiques to enter them. Caiques love bathing — even when it gets freezing cold — and watching them bathe can be a fun family activity.
  • If you want to pamper your caiques, you can fit an overhead misting system that they can cool under when it gets hot.

If your caique gets pregnant, it’s essential to build an appropriate nest box where the female caique can incubate and nurture the young ones as the male caique feeds them. Make sure you keep the nest boxes away from the cages. The ideal nest box size is 12 inches square and 24 inches tall, with a 3-inch entrance in the front. You can use pine shavings or eucalyptus chips as nesting material.