Caiques

These small to medium size parrots are residents of South America, notably the area around the Amazon basin. There are two species of
the genus Pionites - Melanocephala and Leucogaster. These are further subdivided into five subspecies.

Pionites melanocephala melanocephalaBlack-headed Caique

Pionites melanocephala pallidaPallid Caique

Pionites leucogaster leucogasterWhite-bellied Caique

Pionites leucogaster xanthomeria Yellow-thighed Caique

Pionites leucogaster xanthurusYellow-tailed Caique

The melanocephala species are found north of the Amazon, the Leucogaster species south of the Amazon. However where they overlap to
the west of the Amazon they intermingle. The Yellow-thighed Caique seems to be a hybrid of the Black-headed and White-bellied Caiques.

They are birds of the forest and spend a considerable time high in the trees searching for food - seeds, fruits and berries. Flocks of about
thirty are common as well as small family groups

According to Parrots of the World these birds bear many similarities to the conures of the genus Aratinga, notably in skull structure. Some
people, Rosemary Low for example, believe that Caiques are related to Hawk-Headed Parrots ( Deroptyus accipitrinus ) and also to
Pyrrhura conures. I have heard from other sources that Hawk-Headed Parrots are descended from a smaller parrot, believed to be Pionites
i.e. Caiques. Their behaviour is similar to conures, in my experience and their calls are similar to the Hawk-Headed Parrot. Certainly thsre
is a close relationship here; perhaps DNA analysis may provide clues.