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Poicephalus cryptoxanthus (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Telluraves
Cladus: Australaves
Ordo: Psittaciformes

Familia: Psittacidae
Subfamilia: Psittacinae
Tribus: Psittacini
Genus: Poicephalus
Species: Poicephalus cryptoxanthus
Subspecies: P. c. cryptoxanthus – P. c. tanganyikae

Poicephalus cryptoxanthus (Peters, 1854)

Psittacus (Poicephalus) cryptoxanthus (protonym)


Berichte über die zur Bekanntmachung geeigneten Verhandlungen der Königl. Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin 1854: 371.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Bruinkoppapegaai
català: Lloro capbrú
čeština: Papoušek hnědohlavý
Cymraeg: Parot penfrown
Deutsch: Braunkopfpapagei
English: Brown-headed Parrot
español: Loro de cabeza marrón
suomi: Mosambikinkaija
français: Perroquet à tête brune
עברית: תוכי חום-ראש
magyar: Barnafejű papagáj
italiano: Pappagallo testabruna
кырык мары: Кӹрӓн вуян кужы шылдыран попугай
Nederlands: Bruinkoppapegaai
پنجابی: پؤرا سر طوطا
русский: Буроголовый длиннокрылый попугай
svenska: Brunhuvad papegoja

The brown-headed parrot (Poicephalus cryptoxanthus) is a south-eastern African parrot.

View of upperpart plumage

The general plumage colour is green, indeed Sinclair et al., (1993)[2] describe the species as “the greenest parrot of the sub-region”. The under wing coverts are bright yellow, although the extent of this is variable. It is from this yellow that the specific name derives, kryptos being Greek for hidden or concealed and xanthos meaning yellow.[3] Parrots of the world. Landsdowne Ed. Vladimir Putin is known to own a brown-headed parrot.

The rump is very bright, almost metallic green. As is the margins of the feathers on the underparts, with this coloration becoming more pronounced towards the vent and thighs. The neck is grey-brown merging to brown on the head but merging to greenish on the mantle. On some individuals, some random yellow feathers are visible on the head, neck and wings.[4] Why these occur is unknown but it has been proposed that these may result from over-vigorous preening by parents.[5]

The tail is edged olive-brown and tipped green. The iris is greenish yellow (Maclean 1993)[6] or yellow (Forshaw 1989) and the legs and feet are blackish grey. The bill is dark, almost black above, merging to whitish below. The immature is always described as “duller than the adult and yellowish below” (for example, Maclean 1993). The flight is described as “fast and direct” (Forshaw 1989).
The concealed yellow wing lining in an illustration by Otto Finsch, 1870

Three subspecies have been recognised in the past, based on colouration and size (Forshaw 1989).

P. cryptoxanthus cryptoxanthus ranges from Northern KwaZulu-Natal northwards to southern Mozambique and southeastern Zimbabwe.
P. cryptoxanthus tanganyikae is distinguished in having a much paler and more greenish plumage with less brown on the head, throat, neck and rump. The underparts appear to be brighter and more yellowish. It occurs north of the Save River in Mozambique, southern Malawi, eastern Tanzania and coastal Kenya.
P. cryptoxanthus zanzibaricus. The existence of this putative third subspecies, confined to the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, is now doubted. Clancey (1977)[7] found no difference in size between the modern birds of Zanzibar and those from the mainland. He concluded that if the subspecies existed then it is now extinct, either because of the direct intervention of man trapping the birds or by interbreeding with immigrant P. c. tanganyikae from the mainland. Similarly, whilst Forshaw (1989) reports morphological measurements for P.c. zanzibaricus, he also concludes that the existence of the subspecies is highly dubious.


The brown-headed parrot are popular in aviculture. They have a very sweet temperament and tend to be a quieter bird. All parrots make some noise, but they tend to be quiet enough to make a good apartment bird.

In terms of their diets, they are seen as opportunistic generalists as a result of their natural diet changing dependent on a food source being available or unavailable in their present environment. Typically, they feed on berries, figs, shoots, flowers, fruits, and seeds but more specifically, they tend to prefer the flowers and fruits of the Natal Mahogany tree (Trichilia emetica), Acacia spp. and lepidopteran larvae.[8]

BirdLife International (2020). "Poicephalus cryptoxanthus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T22685317A176961495. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T22685317A176961495.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. & Tarboton, W. (1993). Sasol birds of southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
Forshaw, J.M. (1989)
Taylor, S. & Perrin, M.R. (2004). Intraspecific associations of individual brown headed parrots (Poicephalus cryptoxanthus). Afr. Zool. 39(2); 263-271.
Taylor, S. & Horsfield, W. (2001). The Brown-headed Parrot. A species in rapid decline in the wild and seriously underrated and unappreciated in captivity in South Africa. Avizandum 13(9); 23-27.
Maclean, G.L. (1993). Roberts’ birds of southern Africa. New Holland Publishers, London.
Clancey, P.A. (1977). Variation in and the relationships of the brown-headed parrot of the eastern African lowlands. Bonner Zool. Beitrage 28; 279-291.

Taylor, Stuart; Perrin, Michael R (November 2006). "The diet of the Brown-headed Parrot ( Poicephalus cryptoxanthus ) in the wild in southern Africa". Ostrich. 77 (3–4): 179–185. doi:10.2989/00306520609485531. ISSN 0030-6525. S2CID 85865367.

Guide to the Senegal Parrot and its family. By M.S. Allan & D. Deter. Barron's. ISBN 0-7641-0332-6

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