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Species Guide
A photo of a Brown-headed Parrot (Poicephalus cryptoxanthus)
Brown-headed Parrot

Brown-headed Parrot

Poicephalus cryptoxanthus

The Brown-headed Parrot, a charming avian resident of southeastern Africa, is adorned in a predominantly green plumage. Observers often remark on its strikingly green appearance, which is considered the most vibrant among its regional counterparts. The bird's under wing coverts boast a bright yellow hue, though the extent of this coloration can vary among individuals. The rump shimmers with a metallic green luster, and the underparts are edged with a similar green that intensifies near the vent and thighs. A grey-brown neck transitions to a brown head and then to a greenish mantle. Occasionally, one may spot random yellow feathers adorning the head, neck, and wings, the origins of which remain a delightful mystery, though some speculate they may arise from overzealous preening by parent birds. The tail is edged with olive-brown and tipped with green, while the iris gleams a greenish-yellow or yellow, depending on the light. The bird's legs and feet are a subtle blackish-grey, and its bill presents a dark, almost black coloration on top, fading to a paler hue below.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Brown-headed Parrot, look for the distinctive yellow under wing coverts and the bright green rump. The head's brown coloration is a key feature, along with the greenish-yellow iris. Juveniles may appear duller and exhibit a yellowish tinge on the underparts. In flight, the bird's swift and direct movement is noteworthy.


The Brown-headed Parrot thrives in a variety of habitats, including woodlands and forests, where it can find ample food sources and suitable nesting sites.


The species is distributed across southeastern Africa, with P. cryptoxanthus cryptoxanthus found from Northern KwaZulu-Natal to southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe. The P. cryptoxanthus tanganyikae subspecies is identified by its paler, more greenish plumage and is located from the Save River in Mozambique to southern Malawi, eastern Tanzania, and coastal Kenya. The existence of a third subspecies, P. cryptoxanthus zanzibaricus, once thought to be confined to Zanzibar and Pemba, is now considered highly dubious.


In the wild, these parrots exhibit a sweet temperament and are known for their quieter demeanor compared to other parrot species. This trait has made them popular in aviculture, as they are often considered suitable even for apartment living due to their relatively low noise levels.

Diet and Feeding

Brown-headed Parrots are opportunistic generalists, altering their diet based on the availability of food sources. They typically feast on berries, figs, shoots, flowers, fruit, and seeds. They show a particular fondness for the flowers and fruit of the Natal Mahogany tree, Acacia species, and lepidopteran larvae.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Brown-headed Parrot as Least Concern, indicating that, at present, the species does not face an immediate threat of extinction in the wild.

Brown-headed Parrot Sounds

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Brown-headed Parrots on Birda


More African & New World Parrots

A photo of a Yellow-faced Parrot (Alipiopsitta xanthops)

Yellow-faced Parrot

Alipiopsitta xanthops
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