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White-headed Pionus
wild white-headed Pionus parrot
wild white-head photo courtesy of Vinicuio Perez


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Referred to as White–capped parrots by working ornithologists, Pionus seniloides returns us to the world of taxonomic confusion. In a brief paper in Condor in 1976, authors Ted Parker III and John O’Neil assert that P. seniloides is actually a subspecies of the Plum–crowned parrot (Pionus tumultuosus). They base this conclusion on their observation that there is a distinct break between the white-headed populations of Ecuador and northern Peru and the Plum–crowned populations of southern Peru and Bolivia, while the only recognizable morphological difference seems to be the amount of purple coloration present in the feathers of the head. Interestingly, Ridgely, Forshaw, and other researchers dismiss these distinctions and view the two forms to be separate species. Until we are more certain, I prefer to treat P. seniloides as a separate species.

White-headed parrots range in length from 28–30 cm

and weigh from 230–270 grams.

They live in an altitude range of 1200–3000 meters.

Some writers have suggested that these parrots migrate both altitudinally and latitudinally at several times throughout the year, but these movements have not been formally recorded. In the Mindo area of Ecuador, these parrots are common for some periods of the year and nonexistent at other times, lending credence to the migration theory. White-headed parrots are similar in appearance to Plum-crowned parrots with the primary difference being the lack of purplish coloration on the head. Their vocalizations also tend to be more screech-like, thus rendering them easy to identify in the wild.
...excerpted from The Practical Pionus: Volume 1: Pet Pionus Parrots by Russ Shade. ©2003 by Russ Shade. Used here by permission.

Results of the Survey of P. tumultuous seniloides in Southern Ecuador, by Ana Christina Sosa.

Results of the Survey of P. tumultuous seniloides in Northern Ecuador, by Ana Christina Sosa.

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updated 01/29/2004

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