The Affectionate Canary-Winged Parakeet

This little parrot may be hard to find, but it? worth the wait.

"The canary-winged parakeet used to be considered one species, but they are actually two species, the white-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicoluris) and the yellow-chevroned parakeet (Brotogeris chiriri). Pictured is the yellow-chevroned parakeet. Both make great pets!" Mirages-nl/iStock/Thinkstock

By Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

From the pages of BIRD TALK magazineCanary-winged parakeets (Brotogeris versicoluris), members of the genus Brotogeris, are small, South American parakeets. Their engaging personalities and gentle temperament made them much sought-after pets during the 1970s and ’80s, when they were imported by the tens of thousands. No longer imported due to the 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act, canary-winged parakeets are now domestically raised. Hand-raised babies are truly a joy to own. Their owners often describe them as affectionate, intelligent, playful and bold little parakeets.

Active, inquisitive and outgoing, canary-winged parakeets seem to enjoy spending time with their owners and can be affectionate with all members of the family. “I have two canary wing girls that have been with me for five years now,” said David from New York. “They are wonderful companion birds. They will give you as much affection and attention as you give them, so if you’re looking for a bird to do everything with you, you’ve found the one.”

They can learn a variety of tricks, and some even learn to imitate human speech. Canary-winged parakeets can be social with other Brotogeris species as long as patience and care is used when introducing the birds. They do not lose their bonding with their human owners if they receive daily one-on-one attention.

Canary-winged parakeets, like other Brotogeris, produce a loud, shrill call. Single pet canary wings make less noise than several birds. With lots of appropriate attention from their owners and large, roomy cages, interesting toys and a healthy, nutritious diet, canary wings don’t engage as much in constant, loud calls.

Good Food And Housing

Canary-winged parakeets fed a wide variety of foods during weaning usually become good eaters. They do best on a good basic diet of seed or pellet mixture for cockatiels or small parrots. Feed them fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, greens, grains and legumes on a daily basis. Offer greens such as chard, spinach and bok choy, as well as sprouted seeds, nuts (not too much) and whole-grain breads. If your bird is molting, provide protein foods such as cooked egg, bits of cheese and cooked chicken.

Keep canary-winged parakeets in cockatiel or small parrot sized cages of at least 24 by 24 inches. The bigger the better for these active little guys! Make sure bars are spaced 3⁄4 inches or less. Choose perches with 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 inches diameters and natural wood branches that offer a variety of perching sizes. Make sure to only use safe wood untreated with chemicals or pesticides; wash it well and zap it in the microwave for a few seconds before use. A canary wing will also appreciate a playgym on the top of the cage to keep it busy. Canary-winged parakeets love bathing, so provide them with a daily bowl of clean water to splash and get soaked in.

With their almost boundless energy, canary-winged parakeets enjoy a huge variety of toys, including those designed for much bigger birds. Owners need to take care to provide only the highest quality, well-made toys because their strong beaks easily destroy flimsy or poorly made bird toys. Check toys regularly to make sure there are no broken pieces or sharp edges, and rotate them to prevent your canary wing from getting bored.

Two Of A Kind

Recently, canary-winged parakeets were separated into two species: the white-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicoluris) and the yellow-chevroned parakeet (Brotogeris chiriri).

According to Lexicon of Parrots by Thomas Arnt, both birds are similar in appearance, but the yellow chevron lacks the white patch on the secondary and inner primaries that is found on the white-winged parakeet.

Other physical differences include the plumage color, which is much brighter yellow-green in the yellow-chevroned parakeet, while the white wing is a darker, more forest green. The white-winged parakeet has a larger bare facial pattern than the yellow chevron. The underside of the tail of the white-winged parakeet is strongly washed in blue, and the nominate yellow-chevroned parakeet is green (one subspecies of yellow chevron, however, has a blue wash on the tail, although not as strong a blue as the white wing). Finally, the yellow-chevroned parakeet has a darker pink beak than that of the white-winged parakeet.

Why So Few?

(By Laura Doering)

If you flip through the classified pages of BIRD TALK, you’ll find a lot of bird breeders specializing in a range of bird species. You won’t, however, find too many who breed Brotogeris parakeets. This once common pet bird seems to have gone missing. What happened?

Gloria Balaban, owner of Shady Pines Aviary in Florida and co-founder of the Brotogeris Society International, traces the canary-winged parakeets’ scarce showing in the pet market back to when the species was first being imported into the United States. “Canary-wings were so plentiful and inexpensive that many breeders didn’t concentrate on setting them up [for breeding]. Many of the birds coming in went straight to the pet trade instead of to breeders.” She added that when the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 stopped the importation of birds, breeders had to rely on the birds that were already here, essentially trying to convert pet birds into breeders.

According to Leslie Gillis, owner of Secret Garden Aviaries in California, “When the imports ceased, there were not many birds in the hands of breeders, and some were mixed with other Brotogeris.” Gillis said that there are now more people working with the canary-winged parakeet. “I did not find them difficult to breed, and they have proven to be wonderful parents. If people are lucky enough to find one in the pet trade, I would tell them not to hesitate in buying it … they are delightful, lively birds.”

Note: This article was written when the canary-winged parakeet was considered one species.

Article Categories:
Birds · Lifestyle


  • I would love to find one. A handfed baby,for a companion.
    Please let me know if their are any of these little guys around?
    Would really appreciate it very much.
    Ft Lauderdale
    Boca Raton
    Delray Beach. – Florida.
    Palm BeACH

    corina hart December 10, 2016 12:18 am Reply
  • I had one of these bee bee parrots in the early 1970s and he (Homer) was a wonderful pet for a youngster like myself at that time. He was a really great pet to learn the basics of pet care. He had no issues with me cleaning his cage and in fact “talked” the entire time. He enjoyed being handled and he loved to fly around our family room. To gt him back in his cage all I had to do was hold out my hand and Homer would fly right to it. He used to make the greatest noise when I would set his cage out on our picnic table on a warm, sunny day; it was like he was calling out to all of the birds in the area! One day he managed to escape the cage while outside! I thought I had lost my Homer! I could hear him in the trees squawking and even managed to catch sight of him flying around. That night we had a pretty violent thunderstorm and I remember feeling sick for Homer and I blamed myself for his escape. The next day I went out in my backyard hoping to hear him when I called. When I called and whistled Homer called back!! I then spotted him in the top of a very large and tall tree. I continued calling for him, held my out and wouldn’t you know, Homer flew to my hand and let me put him back in the cage!! He was truly a great pet for the many years I had him. I saw the bee bee parrots in the store and wanted on desperately so I picked blue berries in the summer and made enough to buy Homer and a big cage. I believe I paid $25 for him!

    buck February 25, 2017 11:47 am Reply
    • I also had a bebe canary wing when I was in my late teens and early 20s. I’ve had many kinds of birds and she was by far the best. So much personality and affection in a tiny body. These little birds have all the personality and intelligence of full-size parrots, but mine was much more affectionate and nonneurotic than the parrots I’ve known. And compared to love birds or conures, no contest. I had long hair in those days, and she would hang upside down, clasping my hair for hours, while she made gentle chortling noises and nibbled my ear. When she wanted food she would fly out of my hair to her cage. When I went off to college she lived in the dorm with me, and often, when people came to my room to talk, they wouldn’t know she was in my hair until she suddenly flew out!

      She loved people food, and would sit on my shoulder, leaning way out to take something off my fork. She loved orange juice and wine, and would hold the rim of a glass and let herself way down inside to drink what little was left in the bottom. When she took a drink of wine she would stick her tongue out the side of her mouth and shake her her from side to side, like someone drinking strong whisky, and then she’d let herself down in the glass for another drink.

      The most amazing thing is that she was 90% toilet trained. When she had to go, she would fly back to her cage, although she did decorate my shoulder a few times. I used to go outside with her on my shoulder, and one day, like Buck’s bird, she got excited and took off, disappearing high into the sky. I went around the neighborhood calling, and she eventually called back from a tall tree and flew down to me. I had her for more than ten years. Then I went on a trip and the guy who’d promised to feed her starved her to death. I still dream about her 40 years later.

      Rob Peters March 8, 2017 7:22 pm Reply
  • I’m hoping someone here can help me. When our Jenday conure died we did a lot of research into finding the right bird for our family. We decided after months of research that a Hahns Macaw was what we wanted. We have a busy household with two dogs and two kids but I am ALWAYS home so its a perfect environment for a parrot; they are almost always out of the cage and have lots of interaction and socialization. So when we went to pick up our Hahns Macaw my daughter fell in love with a tiny baby Canary Winged Bebe. My daughter did not have a good experience with our Jenday (she was very small and the Jenday bonded with her brother so saw her as a threat and would bite her) so she was terrified. We had only intended to buy one bird but after asking the store, which is one of the largest and well known and respected companies that ONLY does birds, about the Bebe they told us that they were perfect with other parrots, are love to be with multiple animals in the house and are sweet and kind. Because we drove 3 hours to get to the store we had to decide about the Bebe right then. We had done no research into this breed. We knew nothing about them so we trusted the knowledge of the staff at the store and we brought them both home.

    It’s been about 2 years now and everything they said about the Bebe was the opposite of what I’ve found. We never deliberately put the two birds together but there have been a few times where they have gone after the other basically each trying to kill the other and on two occasions managed to draw a bit of blood on a foot and inflict a small wounds on each of their beaks. The Bebe is the feistiest little creature I have ever seen. It acts like a miniature hawk with the personality of a bi-polar Pit Bull. The Bebe is sweet to everyone in the family but because I am always home it and the Hahns have both tried to bond with me. The Hahns prefers males and love me and my son while the Bebe always want to be with me but is either moody and will defend its cage or lovingly come out for the other family members. The Bebe will fly over to me every time she is let out and on numerous occasions tried to mate with me. I discourage this and don’t pet it anywhere besides the head and neck and send it back whenever it tries. Over the last few months the Bebe has been getting more and more vicious with me to the point where no one else but my son will touch her. She will be calm sitting on my lap for hours and then out of nowhere bite me in the face. Nothing startled it, no noises, no lights. Just calm then bam! Both my ears have been punctured scores of times, my hands and face have more then their share of scars and every time it bites it draws blood, These aren’t little attention pinches or climbing down and uses your body to do so. These are massively painful, deliberate, and repeated attacks. One time it bit me so close to my eye I thought she had blinded me but thank God it only got the eyelid and some eyelashes. Despite all of this I still try to work with her and try to give her time out of her cage and every time she instantly flies over to me and every time it ends with me being bit except now in the last two months it had gone into full blown attack mode. It bites me and I sent it back to its cage but now it flies back going right at my face biting repeating until it finally stays on my back locks into my head, neck or face. The attacks now are so fierce that and I sometimes need help getting the beak detached from me. The Hahns on the other hand is so easy, she just loves to chill, is potty trained (so is the Bebe) and DOESN’T BITE LIKE A CROCODILE so the tendency is to prefer spending the time with her instead of the Bebe which is not fair and will make the issues worse I think.

    My wife asks why I still take her out of the cage and the simple answer is that if I don’t who will? They are all terrified of her after seeing what happens to me so that leaves me as the only option. I’ve read that Bebe’s do best where they are the ONLY animal in the house and I think a lot of the problem is that it is competing with the other parrot for me. It is also probably frustrated that I’m not picking up on its biological signals and it’s also about the time that it would be going through those dreaded teenage bird years where these types of issue happen. I’ve been through those tough years with the Umbrella Cockatoo I had many many years ago as well as with the Jenday Conure but it was nowhere near the severity of what I am seeing here.

    My wife says we should give her away. I don’t totally agree. We made a commitment to give this bird a home and too many birds are just passed from person to person because people don’t know how to deal with them in one way or the other. I don’t want to be one of those people though I want to do what is right for the animal. If there was a home with a better environment where every day wasn’t a competition for attention then maybe the Bebe would be better off with them? I don’t know what to do. Please help.

    Scott Watson July 31, 2017 2:02 pm Reply

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