African Brown Head Species Description
The above picture points out some of the key differences between brown heads and the species they most resemble, Senegal parrots. (Thanks to Mel for posing for the photo, and Sherri for taking it and lending it to me!)
Brown heads are small parrots; if you've met a Senegal or Meyer's, brown heads are pretty much exactly the same size. They're about 9" long including the short tail, and my full-grown babies usually weigh in at about 120 grams or so. This varies a great deal by individual; one of my smallest adult babies weighed only about 95 grams, and I've heard of others that were a healthy weight at about 140. This makes them a bit bigger than a cockatiel (and much chunkier!).
- Brown heads lack the bright yellow or orange belly that is a trademark of the Senegal.
- Senegals' beaks are all dark gray or blackish; brown heads have a basically whitish beak, with black on the tip of the upper mandible. How much black is present depends on the individual; I've had babies in the same clutch, some with very dark beaks and only a bit of white, others with very light beaks with black only present on the very tip.
- Senegals have yellow eyes as adults; some brown heads do, too, but they're a darker, grayish yellow. Others have light gray eyes even as adults. All juvenile brown heads have dark gray, almost black eyes, which lighten to their adult color by the time the bird is a year old.
- Senegals' heads are a slate gray color and the gray stops abruptly at the back of the head. Brown heads have a browner shade of gray (how brown or how gray depends on the individual) which gradually fades into the green on the neck.
- The brown head's scientific name, cryptoxanthus, means literally "hidden yellow" and refers to the yellow coloring on the underside of the wing. Unfortunately this is rarely visible unless the bird is in flight (possibly it developed in the wild as a warning mechanism, to let other birds in the flock know that an individual is taking off? Also, an excited or courting brown head will lift it's wings slightly, making the yellow under the bend of the wing easily visible).
(By the way, I said brown heads most closely resemble Senegals, but this isn't actually the truth; they look almost exactly like the practically unknown Niam-Niam parrot. These birds are unavailable in American aviculture. They look basically the same as brown heads, but have bright red-orange eyes.)