Maxine and Echo, the Meyer’s parrots (Poicephalus meyeri)
Article and Pictures submitted by bird club member, Karen W.
The Meyer’s parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) is a charming companion. It’s a relatively small parrot (one of the smallest of the Poicephalus genus), with an average weight of 100 – 125 grams which makes it popular among those of us who don’t live in a mansion. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the small size houses a small personality. This is a LOT of bird packed into a little body!
As with most Poicephalus, Meyer’s are fiercely loyal to their caretakers and expect loyalty in return. Because of this, extra care and effort should be taken to socialize your bird with the entire family to avoid the “one person bird” situation. After all, the lifespan of these birds can be 25 years if properly cared for, so this will be a member of the family for (hopefully) a couple of decades. And no one wants to live with a brat for that long.
The Meyer’s, generally referred to as “that little green African bird with yellow on it’s head and wrists” is indeed mainly green - often with a turquoise wash - with a dark brown to grey head, and yellow at the bend of it’s wings. Their range in Africa is actually quite extensive, as evidenced by this map courtesy of the African Parrot Society: http://www.wingscentral.org/aps/
As is turns out, there are several subspecies of Meyer’s – commonly segregated by those with yellow on the crown of their head and those without, and those with turquoise on their chest/belly and those without. However, due to overlapping habitat in the wild and the fact that during the first few years of importation the subspecies were not clearly understood or maintained, it is often hard if not downright impossible to determine the specific subspecies of a companion Meyer’s. Many are, in all likelihood, a mix of subspecies.
As if to prove that statement, my two Meyer’s not only don’t act alike, they don’t even look alike! Maxine, female 10-year old, has one mission in life….chew wood and shred paper. She’s shy around people she doesn’t know and completely ignores other birds. Echo, female 5-year old, loves to be around small children yet wants to hunt down and destroy every other bird in the house. It seems the only thing they agree on is that they don’t appreciate the presence of my husband.
Many books will tell you they make great apartment birds. I can agree with that – a 20x24x48 inch cage - which is the minimum size I would recommend – can fit in almost every living situation. Many books will also say they make great family pets, suitable for small children. To this I would add the following caveat: that as long as THE ENTIRE FAMILY socializes with the bird, that basic training is done and reinforced over time, and that the children are taught how to handle birds the situation will then likely be successful. However, most Poicephalus, Meyer’s included, can go through a nippy phase (often called the “terrible twos”) as they hit sexual maturity. Many a Poicephalus has lost his or her home because the family was not prepared for the personality shifts and didn’t know how to help the bird through this difficult phase. That’s actually how I got both of my Meyer’s (in a roundabout sort of way).
I’ve written about Max and Echo several times in the past, so I don’t want to bore anyone with old stories. I can sum up some aspects of their personalities, though….
• I never speak on the phone while I’m holding one of them (unless I want to bleed)
• My husband never handles them with his bare hand, ever (unless he wants to bleed)
• They both would sell their sole for an almond in the shell, yet want nothing to do with a pistachio nut
• Neither of them talk, but both make several funny sounds, as well as a few unpleasant ones
• They LOVE swings and boings
• They love to make “pellet soup” in their water bowl
• I love them both to pieces.