Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years of three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is considered locally common in the East Transvaal, common in Malawi but only common in parts of Kenya (Collar and Boesman 2019).

Trend justification

The species is tentatively assessed as being in decline due to habitat loss per Tracewski et al. (2016). Particularly in Mozambique, the species has been targeted for the cagebird trade and has been massively declining there since the 1990s (S. Taylor in litt. 2016).

Distribution and population

This taxon occurs as two subspecies: subspecies tanganyikae is found in south-east Kenya, Wasiri Island (Juniper and Parr 1998), Zanzibar and Pemba in eastern Tanzania (where common and widespread (N. Baker in litt. 1999), south Malawi and Mozambique (north of the River Save); and subspecies cryptoxanthus is known from south-east Zimbabwe and Mozambique (south of the River Save) to north-east South Africa (Swaziland, Zululand and Transvaal) (del Hoyo et al. 1997, Wilkinson in litt. 1998, Juniper and Parr 1998). The only substantial population in South Africa is estimated at 1,500-2,000 birds, and is confined to the Kruger National Park (Wilkinson in litt. 1998). However, south of the River Save in Mozambique, the population was estimated at over 20,000 individuals in the 1990s (Parker 1999) and was thought to be increasing because it exploits fruit and grain crops and nests in alien coconut trees, despite being hunted and captured for export as a cagebird (Harrison et al. 1997).


The species occurs in flocks of 4-12, sometimes up to 40 (Fry et al. 1988), in semi-arid and subhumid bush, thornveld, open wooded savanna and woodland, including areas with large baobabs or figs, riparian forest, coconut and cashew-nut plantations, smallholdings and mangroves up to 1,200 m (del Hoyo et al. 1997). It feeds on seeds such as Erythrina and Adansonia, nuts, fruits and berries (particularly figs Ficus and Pseudocadia zambesica), pods of Acacia and Albizia gummifera, nectar and green shoots of trees (del Hoyo et al. 1997). It is known to raid millet and maize crops (del Hoyo et al. 1997). It breeds from April-October depending on the locality (Juniper and Parr 1998) and clutch size is 2-3 (del Hoyo et al. 1997).


The species is becoming increasingly vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation (Juniper and Parr 1998), with illegal capture for the bird trade also of concern, particularly in Mozambique (Wilkinson in litt. 1998, S. Taylor in litt. 2016).


Text account compilers
Harding, M., Hermes, C., Palmer-Newton, A., Symes, A.

Baker, N. & Taylor, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Poicephalus cryptoxanthus. Downloaded from on 02/04/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 02/04/2023.