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The caique is either of two brightly colored species of parrot, native to the Amazon Basin in South America. Caiques belong to the genus Pionites, and are divided into white bellied caiques, Pionites leucogaster, and black headed caiques, Pionites melanocephalus. In the wild, they dwell in the rain forest canopy and forage for seeds and fruits. The caique has also become a popular domesticated species, reputed as pets for their energy and playfulness.
Caiques are vocal birds in the wild, spending most of their time in small groups in the rain forest. They have a hooked bill and flexible tongue that they use to open nuts and preen feathers. An adult caique is typically about 9 inches (23 cm) long and weighs between 4.5 and 6 ounces (130 and 170g). The male and female caique look alike, so the only way to tell the gender of the bird is through either surgical or DNA sexing.
A caique is born blind and altricial, or completely dependent on its parents for survival. Chicks stay in the nest for as long as three and a half months, and become sexually mature between two and four years old. When caiques mate, they are monogamous and may stay paired for life. A female lays two to four eggs at a time, and incubates them by herself for around 27 days. The male does not help with the incubation, instead he brings the female food until the eggs hatch.
As a domesticated species, caiques are growing in popularity. They tend to be energetic and affectionate pets that are naturally inquisitive and playful. As the caique is clumsy in the air, most prefer to walk or hop, and their strong feet and bill making them excellent climbers. Caiques typically bond well with humans, preferring lots of playtime and interaction with their owner. Unlike other species of parrots, caiques are not as adept at talking or mimicking voices. Most caiques will learn to whistle and sing rather than speak and can readily produce short tunes.
The caique as a pet tends toward having a stronger personality than other birds. While known to be charismatic and funny, caiques can also seem moody, and be demanding of time and attention from their owners. Naturally, caiques are mistrustful of other bird species in the home, though many caique owners have had much success keeping multiple caiques together, either as mating pairs, or just companions.
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