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Maximilian's Pionus
Maximilian's Pionus
© 2003 by Russ Shade. Used here with permission.


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Also referred to as the Scaly-headed parrot, the Maximilian’s Pionus is one of the more commonly kept Pionus parrot species in the US.

Its range is almost as large as that of the Blue-headed parrot, extending from the Andes Mountains eastward to the Atlantic Ocean in an area from mid-Brazil into Northern Argentina. The wild parrots are found at altitudes generally less than 1500 meters down to lowland tropical forest.

Recorded weights range from 230 grams (Low) to 276 grams (Stoodley).

Size data vary according to other writers: 29.5–31 centimeters (Lexicon of Parrots), 28 centimeters (Stoodley), 20 centimeters (Forshaw, Sweeney, Low), and 27 centimeters (Juniper/Parr).

The coloration of Maximilian parrots is quite similar among the four recorded subspecies. The parrot is primarily green (highlights of pale green to dark green) with gray edged feathers on its head giving the head a somewhat scaly appearance when viewed from a distance. The back and wing feathers can range from dark to light olive-brown. There is a touch of violet on the throat and upper breast area that varies in completeness and intensity. The rings of skin around the eyes can vary from off-white to gray. Beaks are generally horn colored and darker near the head. These parrots, like Dusky parrots, are particularly colorful when viewed in full sunlight.

Four subspecies have been recorded.

Pionus maximiliani maximiliani is the nominate of the species and was first recorded by Heinrich Kuhl in Beitrage zur Zoologie und vergleichenden Anatomie published in 1820. These parrots are common across the northern regions of the species’ range. The green on these parrots tends towards the lighter shades.

The well-respected Brazilian naturalist Dr. Alipio de Miranda Riberio recorded Pionus maximiliani melanoblepharus, also known as Riberio’s Scaly-headed parrot, in 1920. This subspecies is found mostly in southeastern Brazil, Paraguay and northeast Argentina and is noticeably larger than the nominate. The coloration of this subspecies is the same as the nominate except the greens are darker and the violet coloration is a bit stronger.

French researcher Baron Charles de Souance initially recorded Pionus maximiliani siy in 1856. This subspecies is found in central to eastern Brazil through Paraguay and northeastern Brazil through Paraguay and into northeastern Argentina. The olive-browns on this parrot tend more towards bronze and the violets have reddish highlights.

Pionus maximiliana lacerus, also known as Tucumán’s Parrot, was first recorded by Ferdinand Heine in 1884. This subspecies has fainter bronze than siy and far more violet and blue than the other Maximilian subspecies. Found in southern Brazil into northwest Argentina, this species appears to be having problems because of the heavy deforestation occurring in those areas.

As is the case with other subspecies of Pionus parrots, it’s not clear which subspecies have been maintained in a pure state in US aviculture.

...excerpted from The Practical Pionus: Volume 1: Pet Pionus Parrots by Russ Shade. ©2003 by Russ Shade. Used here by permission.


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updated 01/29/2004

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