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An Insight into the Senegal
  Senegal Poicephalus Senegalus

I recently attended a meeting, where a fellow fancier stated that in his opinion, the commonly available Senegal (Poicephalus Senegalus) is much underrated with regard to its pet parrot potential. Having myself kept the species over the past ten years his statement led me to ponder and reflect upon the virtues or otherwise of this little African Parrot.

In nature, the Senegal is fount to inhabit savannah woodland and open forest around central to western Africa. During past years, levels of wild-caught imports have been high rendering the species readily available within aviculture at bargain prices.

I first became hooked on the Senegal many years ago during a visit to a bird garden. There I found a solitary individual, which displayed such charm and friendliness of manner that I immediately became smitten! I would have wished to take 'Kiki' home with me, but alas, he was not for sale. However, from that day on, I was determined that one day, a pet Senegal would become part of my life.

Experience has taught me that the Senegal could be likened to a Beaver bearing feathers, albeit a quite charming beaver. Anyone wishing to maintain the species in an aviary setup, would be best advised to utilise housing of an all metal construction, furnished with ample natural logs and branches to meet the quite considerable chewing needs of this parrot. The Senegal is no respecter of woodwork and I witnessed my aviaries being reduced to an eye sore by way of the occupants' continuous shredding activities.

When kept as a house pet, the Senegal may prove equally destructive to household furnishings and fittings, making supervision prudent during periods of free time. One of my house pets, used to constantly seek an outlet for her 'beavering' urges and once demolished half a loaf of bread whilst my back was turned! As I had no use for a pile of breadcrumbs on that day, I was not best pleased!

Destructive tendencies and a propensity to jealousy are the only downside that I have found to the personality of the Senegal and I feel that its many virtues far outweigh any adversities. I have to say that this parrot is one of the less messy pets of any that I have maintained, making for less cleaning up that say a pair of lovebirds! One primary 'plus' is the lack of vocal prowess. Compared with many other parrot species, the Senegal is quiet by nature. The odd shriek or shrill does not present much of an assault upon the human hearing. Some individuals posess good talents for mimicry. Those that I have heard, seem to communicate their utterances in a very low, gutteral tone.

Being of comparatively reduced stature, this parrot will not require a pet cage of gross dimensions, but generosity of space should be a prime consideration. The species' infrequent, less powerful vocalisations make it a good choice for keepers wishing to maintain stock in outside flights with neighbours in close proximity. It is my experience that Senegals are unlikely to spark complaints of noise, but of course their are no guarantees.

The Senegal is not easy to sex visually; male and female appear alike. Certain visual characteristics, such as staturem broadness of head, size of bill and depth of green frontal v may serve to guide an experienced keeper towards making a calculated guess as to the gender of an individual. Some keepers say that they are able to sex individuals according to the colour of the vent feathers: yellow in the male and green in the female.

In Britain, the Senegal will sometimes go to nest during spring, but more often it chooses to commence breeding activities around Autum time. It is the male of the pair which carries out the larger part of nest preparation, spending much time, sometimes months fashioning the nest.

Prior to egg production, mating take place frequently. This I have observed to be a fairly drawn out affair, with the pair performing a sort of preliminary 'dance' after which copulation proper lasts some three to four minutes. Eggs appear alternate days with two to four forming a clutch. Incubation generally commences after the second egg has been laid and is carried out by the hen. Some males appear to spend much time in the nest alongside their mate, but the main duty of the cock is to act as a guard. A cock bird will commonly present displays of aggression to the keeper during breeding time, although I personally have not found the species to be dangerious to administer to.

I have logged the incubation period to be 28 days from commencement of incubation proper to hatch. Chicks bear a white down upon emergence from the egg. I found that as soon as chicks were present, the parent birds consumed generous portions of insectivorous food in addition to their staple diet of 50/50 parrot-parrokeet mix, fresh fruit and vegetables.

A hand-reared youngster makes for a delightful companion bird. A tame Senegal usually becomes totally devoted to its owner. However, in common with many other parrot species, the Senegal is likely to single out a preferred person or sex upon whom to lavish its affections. Aggression may be displayed to all but the chosen person, who will become the pet's sole 'love object'. Rest assured, it is a sign of true affection and a great compliment to be offered regurgitated crop contents and the chosen mortal should not frown upon the compliment!

© Pat Drew 1999
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