Cape Parrot

The Cape parrot is beautifully adorned with equally generous smatterings of a stubborn, inquisitive character. They are critically endangered in the wild

South Africa BirdlifeThe Cape Parrot {Poicephalus robustus}

The Cape parrot is beautifully adorned with equally generous smatterings of a stubborn, inquisitive character. They are critically endangered in the wild, and do not make for easy pets, due to their being so stubborn and determined.

The Cape parrot characterised by a grey / olive green / dull gold head, dark green back and wings, green rump and belly with a slightly blue undertone, orange or red thighs and a brown or black tail. The females have a reddish-orange colour that sweeps across the crown. Their bills are large and strong. However, these birds are known for their variety, and the plumage often differs from one bird to the next.

Their calls are relatively loud, particularly when flying. They are able to learn to mimic a human’s speech, and are easily trained to ‘speak’ and to do various tricks.

The Poicephalus robustus is often confused with the grey-headed parrot and the brown-necked parrot. There are believed to be only 1 000 to 1 500 of these beautiful birds left in the wild, and only around 100 that are classified as people’s pets.

Quick Facts


Range mass: 260g – 410g
Range length: 34 – 36cm.


This pretty bird can be found in the Afromontane forests of South Africa. They prefer mountains at moderate altitudes, extending from the coastline to the midlands, up to about 1 000 metres above sea level. They can often be found in areas rich in yellowwoods.


The Cape parrot is endemic to South Africa. It is most commonly found in the forests of the Eastern Cape, stretching up the east coast to KwaZulu-Natal and, to some degree, Limpopo. However, there are large gaps through this distribution area in which they are not found. When their population numbers were not quite as depleted, they also inhabited the mountains and forests near Knysna and in the Drakensberg Mountain Range.


The favoured food of the Cape parrot is yellowwood fruit. However, as these trees are less and less common, the birds have to use their extremely resourceful nature and opt for other fruits and nuts, for which the strong beak is ideal. Their diet may include a motley variety of acorns, wattle seeds, Jacaranda pods, and so on.


Cape parrots have established themselves as rather social, affectionate pets, despite being extremely stubborn. They are smart and easy to train, and require plenty of toys to keep them busy. Youngsters that mature in one another’s company tend to adapt more easily to being with others later on, while those kept on their own or in pairs are more likely to display aggression.


The Cape parrot is a vocal bird, with a number of distinct calls and sounds. When in flight, they have a very jarring squawk, while they opt for softer, gentler chirps when sitting in contentment. Those kept as pets will often repeat the words and sentences that they are taught by their owners.


This bird tends to make its nest high up in the trees, at canopy level. This makes it difficult to spot them and to monitor the laying process, the incubation, or the progress of the chicks. What has been found is that breeding of these birds is most common between August and February in the wild. Between two and five eggs are laid, which the female incubates for around a month. Once hatched, the chicks take between 55 and 79 days to fledge. They reach sexual maturity at around five years of age. These stats are based on limited research, though.


28 to 30 days.

Life Expectancy

40 years.


The biggest threats facing the endangered Cape parrot is habitat loss (due to logging, urbanisation, and pollution) and the illegal bird market (albeit less common at present as there are strict regulations in place to protect such species). There are some illnesses to which this species is particularly prone, one of which is Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). As South Africa’s most endangered parrot, it is essential that strict measures be taken to preserve these beautiful creatures, and quickly.


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