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A Rose-crowned Conure

October 2, 2016 4 comments

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I got a new parrot in December, 2015. He’s a four-year-old Rose-crowned Conure, a species that is somewhat uncommon in North America. His name is Patrick Perry, although my husband and I usually call him by his nickname “Dip.”

patrick-perry

Dip, the Rose-crowned Conure

Rose-crowned Conures are in the genus Pyrrhura (Pyrrhura rhodocephala), and are thus closely related to Green-cheeked and Maroon-bellied Conures. Rose crowns differ in appearance from the most common Pyrrhuras found as pets as they don’t have any tan or grey feathers on the breast and they have white beaks. They are largely green with a red cap on the head, red cheeks,  a red tail, and some red feathers on the chest and belly. Their flight feathers are blue (although Dip has a few white primary flight feathers) and they have white primary coverts, which can be seen on the bend of the wing when the bird is at rest (see picture below).

 

dipper

Dip at a parrot show. This picture shows his white primary covers (at the top of the wing). It also shows his three white primary flight feathers, which are supposed to be blue. I’m not sure why he has those white feathers, as he’s healthy and eats a healthful diet.

 

Juvenile Rose-crowned Conures frequently have less red on the head than adults. Some books on wild birds state that juveniles lack red on the head or have very little of it there (e.g. Forshaw 2010); however, many captive-bred juveniles have quite a bit of red on the head. Juveniles may also have some bluish feathers on the crown and blue (instead of white) primary coverts.

Because Rose-crowned Conures are uncommon in captivity in Canada, Dip is often mistaken for other species. He is most frequently thought to be a Cherry-headed Conure (Psittacara erythrogenys), as both species are red and green with white beaks. However, the Rose-crowned Conure is smaller and has some red on the chest that the cherry heads lack.

The Rose-crowned Conure (AKA Rose-crowned Parakeet) has a rather small range in the wild and is the only Pyrrhura species found in its range. They occur in forested montane areas of northwestern Venezuela (see map below) at elevations of 800 – 3400 m (although they are most common at 1500 – 2500 m). Because they appear to be common in their range, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) lists them as a species of “Least Concern,” meaning that they do not appear to be endangered or at risk of becoming endangered. However, there is little data available on this species’ population status or behavior in the wild.

rosecrown

The range of the Rose-crowned Conure (shown in orange). Image from: http://www.iucnredlist.org

In the wild and outside of the breeding season, Rose-crowned Conures occur in flocks of approximately 10 to 30 birds, although many small flocks may congregate together at sleeping roosts during the evening. Most breeding parrots stay in pairs during the breeding season; however, one species of Pyrrhura (the El Oro Conure, Pyrrhua orcesi) has a cooperative breeding system, where a breeding pairs’ relatives (or occasionally unrelated birds) may help them with raising young. The ‘helper’ birds in El Oro Conures will feed the breeding pair’s chicks. However, there is little information available on the breeding behavior of Rose-crowned Conures in the wild so I cannot say if they breed as pairs or if pairs receive help from other birds.

Pyrrhuras are often said to be among the more quiet parrot types. Certainly, Dip is nowhere near as loud as my Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Blue and Gold Macaw, or Red-lored Amazon. He does make some noise though. He gives off a lot of typical parrot squawks, and he is a very talented whistler. He is also quite talented at mimicking the other parrots. For example, Chiku, my Green-cheeked Conure mix, often says his name and Dip can mimic that perfectly. If I hear “Chiku! Chiku!” sounds from the bird room, I generally cannot tell if it’s Dip or Chiku (or both) making them. Dip can also mimic some of the quieter sounds that Ripley (my Red-lored Amazon) makes.

Dip eats Tropican pellets supplemented with some fresh foods. He particularly enjoys corn, peas, berries, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. I got to pick a lot of wild blueberries this summer and he particularly enjoyed those.

Dip is a very active parrot who loves to climb and chew on wood and cardboard. He lacked a tail when I got him, and his flight feathers were quite short. However, his tail grew back and his flight feathers have molted out and grown back. He likes to fly and his favourite landing spot appears to be the top of my head.

*Do you have a Rose-crowned Conure? Tell me about him/her in the comments!

References

BirdLife International. 2012. Pyrrhura rhodocephala. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22685877A39028964. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T22685877A39028964.en. Downloaded on 02 October 2016.

Forshaw, J. M.  1977. Parrots of the World. T. F. H. Publications: Neptune, NJ.

Forshaw, J. M.  2010.  Parrots of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Juniper, T., and Parr, M.  1998.  Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT.

Klauke, N., Segelbacher, G., and Schaefer, H. M. 2013. Reproductive success depends on the quality of helpers in the endangered, cooperative El Oro Parakeet (Pyrrhura orcesi). Molecular Ecology 22:2011-2027.

Low, R.  2013. Pyrrhura Parakeets (Conures): Aviculture, Natural History, Conservation. INSiGNIS Publications: Mansfield, Notts, UK.

 

 

Chiku! the Pyrrhura Conure

August 14, 2010 1 comment

Last year, in December, I took on a new foster bird named Chiku! He’s apparently a hybrid of yellow-sided Green-cheeked Conure and Crimson-bellied Conure, possibly with other Pyrrhura species in there. I can’t help but wonder if someone was trying to create a very wildly-coloured orange conure by trying that cross. Of course, it didn’t work since the yellow-sided trait in green cheeks is recessive. Chiku! doesn’t have the bright crimson on him from the Crimson-bellied Conure either. That’s okay – he’s still an attractive little bird.

Chiku! hanging out in the paper holder.

I first described Chiku! in my post about hybrid parrots, which is one of the more popular posts on this site. Chiku’s not too unusual looking, since he’s a cross of two very similar species, and he looks very much like a Green-cheek conure with a bit of extra blue shading and extra red under the wings. He’s one hell of a guy so I’m going to write a little more about him. This post isn’t meant to be all that educational, but Chiku!’s such an interesting bird that I have to write more about his personality. I think he’s a boy, but I can’t be 100% sure. I’m getting him DNA sexed at the end of the month.

Chiku! is such a fun bird that I recently applied to permanently adopt him. I really enjoy the Pyrrhura conures, and Chiku! will be my second one, as I already have a Maroon-bellied Conure, Lucy, who I wrote about Here: Living with a Maroon-bellied conure.

Chiku! is a lot different from Lucy. He’s quite a bit younger (he’s a little over a year now) and is about twenty times more energetic. While Lucy is calm and docile, Chiku! is a complete firecracker. When he’s out of his cage, he’s on a non-stop spree of crazy.  Destruction is his favorite activity and I have to make sure he doesn’t go on  my laptop as he removed several of the keys and I had to replace the keyboard. He loves shredding anything – especially books – and throwing the debris around.  I’ve had to work at trying to convince him that when he eats messy food that produces crumbs or juice (such as crackers or berries), that it’s not necessary for him to eat them while standing on top of my head. The top of my head is his favorite perch, and he likes to hang over my face, clinging to my hair, and preen my eyelashes and eye brows. He loves to go down my shirt as well, and stick his head out over the top. He hates my husband and wants to rip his ears off.  Chiku! will even try to walk downstairs if my husband’s there in order to find him and bite his ears. We are working on that behavior and my husband can now at least pick up Chiku! without winding up with a bird as an earring. Biting men’s ears is one of Chiku!’s little vices (passions, even) as he badly bit the man at the last place he stayed at. His nickname is “Man-seeking Dart.” I can handle Chiku! just fine and he’ll even lie on his back on my hand. I don’t know much about Chiku!’s past so I’m not sure how his dislike of men developed, although I do what I can to prevent him from nipping anyone. I’ve been doing a bit of clicker training with him and he’s a very fast learner, as is Lucy the Maroon-bellied Conure.

Chiku! gets a drink of water.

Chiku! likes to say his name over and over again, quite loudly, in several different tones of voice. I have no idea if he was named after his vocalization or if he was named “Chiku” and then learned to say his name. I spell his name with an exclamation point because it just seems to suit him.

He has learned how to imitate Peggy, my Jenday Conure, and can say, “Whaaaaaat??” in this surprisingly indignant and sarcastic-sounding tone of voice. Peggy sounds like a Blue Jay, only more shrill, and Chiku!’s imitation of that is even shriller still.  He insists on sharing anything I may be eating or drinking in front of him which is fine almost all of the time, since most of the food I eat is okay for birds. However, he can’t have coffee, and if I have coffee while Chiku!’s out, he’ll violently protest by pecking on the lid of the coffee cup and making these angry mumbling noises. He’ll simmer down if I get him a little cup of juice to drink out of. He can only have pure juice that doesn’t have any extra sugars added, and the juice I usually give him is carrot-blueberry.

Chiku! shares my herbal tea.

Chiku! shares my herbal tea.

I kind of wanted to keep Chiku! very early on in his foster period with us. But, if a better home applied to adopt him, I decided I’d let him go. However, most adopters were a bit turned off by his biting-men’s-ears-and-faces habit. Go figure. The parrot rescue that Chiku! was surrendered to held an adoption day at the local Humane Society in June and I figured that I’d take him and that if no one adopted him, I’d keep him.

Chiku! didn’t behave too badly at the adoption day and mainly stayed in his cage. When I took him out, he mostly stayed under my hair on my shoulders and basically clung to me. He wasn’t adopted, so I decided to keep him and just submitted my formal application to adopt him.

Chiku! on his play gym, with Ripley in the background.

I’ve noticed that, often, small birds are seen as being “starter birds”  – the ones that people should get to gain “experience” before getting a bigger bird. However, as Chiku! demonstrates, the small conures are just as smart and interesting as the larger parrot species. I have a couple bigger parrots (a Red-lored Amazon and a Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo) and still decided to get another small conure because I just enjoy these little birds so much. Chiku! needs as much attention as the bigger birds.

Introducing Peggy, the Jenday Conure

October 4, 2008 12 comments

Introducing Peggy, the Jenday Conure.

Last week, I got a new addition to my flock. She’s a sweet little Jenday Conure (Peggy) who’s had a bit of bad luck in her life. First, she became positioned a bit funny in the nest box she hatched in and one of her legs became splayed out. Her breeder did manage to straighten it quite a bit, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. However, a little later on, she got her other, good leg caught up in a snuggly. Most of her leg was lost, although she still has a bit of a stump there. Poor bird.

Peggy went to another home for a while, but ended up going back to the breeder, who Emailed me wanting to know if I could give Peggy a good home. I thought about it and figured, Why not? I have room for a medium bird, and plus, I really like conures. They tend to be very friendly, curious birds, and Jendays in particular are absolutely gorgeous. They can be noisy, but bird noises don’t bother me too much. The breeder also wasn’t asking for any adoption fee, which I thought was nice.

Anyway, this is little Peggy:

Peggy, the Jenday Conure.

Peggy, the Jenday Conure.

She’s very cute but I guess she broke off her tail feathers too at some point. I’m sure they’ll grow back, though.

Peggy’s a very sweet, friendly bird. Quentin (my husband) put her on his lap the second day she was here and preened the pin feathers on her head for her. She then climbed up his shirt and started preening his beard. Aww.

She gets around okay despite her handicap. She can climb around on the cage bars side to side with no problems. She falls occasionally, so I got her a long, short cage. It’s one intended for rabbits, but it seems to suit her needs well. She has a lot of rough perches (like natural wood and concrete ones) so she can grip onto them well. Her one foot is still a little gimpy so I don’t think she’d be able to perch well on smooth dowel or manzanita perches. She can perch on my shoulder just fine and she can grab my hair or shirt if she slips. She seems to like being a “shoulder bird,” and she spends a lot of time preening my hair.

She has to have small pellets since she cannot hold food in her feet. Likewise, any vegetables or fruit I give her need to be bite sized. Her chew toys are ones that won’t swing around much, since she cannot hold on to toys with her feet. She seems to enjoy exploring and chewing stuff, and she’s been trying to chew up my keyboard. She successfully got the “Ctrl” key off when I wasn’t looking. Lucy, my Maroon-bellied Conure, previously bit the “Home” key off, but I found it and glued it back on.

On another note, if there are any other conure fans out there reading this, you should also check out this blog: Best in Flock: Life with a Sun Conure and Pionus Parrot. The author has some info on Sun Conures (which are similar to Jendays).

I’ll likely post more pictures of Peggy later on!

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Update! (November 14, 2008)

Here are a couple more pictures of Peggy:

Peggy

Peggy the Jenday Conue

Peggy and Lucy

Peggy and Lucy

Peggy does get along fine with my Maroon-bellied Conure, Lucy.  Despite her handicap, Peggy is extremely active.  She’s always puttering around her cage, busily chewing up and dismantling her toys.  She has a few wooden ladders and is currently working on chewing off all of the rungs.  I often tie strips of vegetable-tanned leather to the bars of her cage and she loves to chew those up or untie them.  I’ve also caught her hanging upside-down from the top of her cage beating up some of her bells.

She’s very affectionate too and comes out of her cage each night to sit on or with me and Lucy while I work (mostly on my thesis). She’s really a charming little character.

Update 2 (May 19, 2009)

Peggy’s tail and flight feathers are coming in nicely. A lot of her flight feathers were broken when I got her.

Peggy at a parrot club meeting

Peggy at a parrot club meeting

Above is a picture of Peggy at a parrot club meeting.  A Blue and Gold Macaw was spreading his wing out and Peggy was copying him.

Wings

This is my favorite picture of Peggy. It really brings out her colours and her facial expression is adorable. She’s a bit damp in this picture because she just had a shower.

Pegs2

A picture of Peggy taken about a month ago. Her tail is growing in, though some feathers are a bit bent. She’s very sweet and playful.

Categories: Pet Parrots Tags: , ,

Living with a Maroon-bellied Conure

September 11, 2008 10 comments

On to conures now! Here’s an article I wrote for the December 2006 issue of Parrots magazine. Since I wrote it, I’ve done more clicker training with Lucy. She’s a very fast and eager learner.  I often refer to Pyrrhura conures as macaws scrunched down into a handful of bird. They have a lot of personality, but are a nice size and aren’t too loud.

Living with a Maroon-bellied Conure

As often happens with new parrot owners, a few months after getting my first bird, (Garnet the Lineolated Parakeet), I decided that one parrot wasn’t enough and that I wanted to add another one to the family. After all, I had the room, and had become captivated with these clever, charismatic animals. However, deciding on the species to adopt was difficult, given the wonderful diversity of parrot species available as pets. I did want to limit my search to a medium-sized species, but many such parrots exist. For example, Green-cheeked and Maroon-bellied Conures are gorgeous, a nice size and very clever, but Quaker Parakeets are too, and they are often talented talkers. On the other hand, Senegal Parrots also have that “big parrot in a small body” quality I was looking for and they can also make pleasant companions.

So, I started to keep my eyes open for a parrot of one these species that seemed to like me and needed a home. I eventually came across the website of a local parrot breeder who had two adult Maroon-bellied Conures available, and I decided to have a look at them. They were a breeding pair that was separated because they began to fight with each other. They were about six years old, and since both were friendly to people, they were being adopted out as pets. One of them – a bold female named Callie – was immediately up on my shoulder and would gladly step up onto my hand. It didn’t take me very long to decide to adopt her, and my husband, Quentin, and I re-named her “Lucy.”

Lucy

Lucy

Maroon-Bellied vs. Green Cheek Conure

The Maroon-bellied Conure belongs to the Pyrrhura genus of conures, which are a group of small, long-tailed parrots from South America. The Lexicon of Parrots lists sixteen different species in the genus, although not all of them are common in aviculture. The Maroon-bellied Conure (Pyrrhura frontalis) and the Green-cheeked Conure (Pyrrhura molinae), are the most common members of the genus in captivity and they are very similar to each other. They are both about cockatiel-sized, and are dark green with light brown chests, blue flight feathers, long, wedge-shaped tails and white eye rings. The names of these two conures do not give away their differences, since both species have maroon-coloured bellies. However, a look at the birds’ tails and heads can allow one to see the difference. A Green-cheeked Conure’s tail will be solid maroon, whereas a Maroon-bellied Conure’s will be maroon on the bottom and light olive-green tipped with brownish red on the top. The top of a Green-cheek Conure’s head will be a dark greyish colour, while the top of a Maroon-bellied Conure’s head will be green.

Other Pyrrhura Species

Several other Pyrrhura species can also be found in the pet trade and like the Maroon-bellied and Green-cheeked Conures, they are small birds that have dark green wings and backs and red or maroon tails. This trait gives this group of birds their name – the genus name Pyrrhura comes from the Greek terms “pyrros” and “auro,” which mean “fire” and “tail,” respectively. Other Pyrrhura conures seen as pets include the Black-capped Conure (P. rupicola), the Pearly Conure (P. perlata lepida), the Crimson-belled Conure (P. perlata perlata), the Painted Conure (P. picta), the White-eared Conure (P. leucotis) and the Fiery-shouldered Conure (P. egregia). Most of the information I provide below on Maroon-bellies will be applicable to these and other Pyrrhura species.

The “Quiet” Conures

As a whole, conures have a reputation for being very noisy birds. Certainly, many of the large conures in the Aratinga genus, such as the Sun Conure, can produce very loud shrieks that may leave their owners wanting some earplugs. The small Pyrrhura conures can also produce shrill calls, but they are not as loud as the calls produced by their bigger, brighter cousins. This makes Pyrrhura conures a suitable choice of parrot for most living situations, including apartments. Lucy is generally quiet during the day aside from a few low-volume squawks, and she will give a few contact calls in the morning if I’m late getting up, but her calls are no where near as loud as the ones produced by Ripley, my Red-lored Amazon, or by Randy, a Quaker Parakeet I am currently fostering for a local parrot rescue. She is, however, a little bit louder than my Lineolated Parakeets, Garnet and Emerald, but “Linnies” are among the quietest of all parrot species.

Pyrrhura conures are not exceptional talkers and most that learn to use human speech only say up to 10 to 20 words, although a few exceptionally gifted individuals certainly exist. Lucy has a low, robotic speaking voice that’s hard to understand and she does not talk much, although she does a convincing (not to mention irritating) imitation of a squeaky rodent wheel. However, I’ve met some Maroon bellies at pet stores and parrot club meetings that chat non-stop in a quiet, raspy voice, so whether or not a Pyrrhura conure says much seems to depend on the individual bird’s personality.

Lucy on her boing

Lucy on her boing

Feeding a Pyrrhura Conure

Wild Maroon-bellied Conures eat foods from at least two dozen plant species, which can include domesticated crop species and introduced exotic ones. Seeds and grains make up a large portion of their diet, as do leaves. This makes the diet of this species a bit different from the diet most other wild parrot species, which do not eat mature leaves. Many wild parrots will, however, eat leaf buds. Since wild Maroon-bellies eat leaves, I would think that pet ones would benefit from having green, leafy foods like dandelion leaves, turnip greens, kale, or mustard greens provided to them. I often clip such foods up in Lucy’s cage. Wild Maroon-bellies also eat sprouts, stems, fruit pulp, insect galls and parts of conifer cones.

Much like their wild counterparts, pet Maroon-bellied Conures appreciate and thrive on a varied diet. Conures that were weaned onto a varied diet, as Lucy was, are very likely to accept a wide variety of foods. Lucy eats a diet composed of about 50% pellets (RoudyBush and Harrison’s brand), with the rest composed of “human food” including whole grains such as quinoa, fruit, vegetables, nuts (including pine nuts), seeds, and lentils. The fruit and vegetable portion of her diet leans heavily towards dark green, red or orange ones like bell peppers (Lucy’s favorite!), mango, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, and dandelion leaves because of their high vitamin A content. She also adores fresh raspberries (straight from the backyard), corn, snap peas, prickly pear fruits, grapes (seeds included), and bits of apple. Feeding her a balanced diet is no problem, as she will eat nearly anything. In fact, she is as bad as our dogs when it comes to begging for food, since she bobs her head rapidly (a begging gesture) at anyone she sees eating. She is generally given her fresh “people food” during dinner time, so she doesn’t feel left out. She’s quite a messy eater and tosses a lot of food to the floor, so of course our smaller dog, Pharaoh, loves to hang out under her play stand.

Housing a Conure

Don’t let their small size fool you: the Pyrrhura conures are very active birds with a lot of energy! As a result, they need relatively large-sized cages for their size. Pyrrhura conures are about the size of a cockatiel, but I have noticed that most cockatiel cages are a bit small for them. A cage intended for a slightly larger bird is best, as long as the bar spacing is appropriate. Of course, the cage must be outfitted with a variety of perches and toys. For example, Lucy’s cage contains wood perches, a rope perch, and a cement perch. Her toys include a large bundle of twigs and some branches for her to chew on, some peacock feathers for her to preen and destroy, and a ladder. She also has a box of various store-bought toys I rotate in and out of her cage for variety. Most conures seem to enjoy chewing twigs and taking the bark off of larger branches, so I generally recommend clean, non-toxic, unsprayed branches as an enrichment item for them.

A play stand is also an excellent item for a conure owner to purchase or build, as having one will give the owner a place to put the conure when she is out of the cage but not perching on the owner. Being out on the play stand also gives the parrot a change of scenery from the usual cage she is in. I bought Lucy’s play stand at a pet shop, but one can also be made out of natural branches. Lucy’s play stand has a spot for food and water bowls, and hooks that toys can be hanged from. Beside the spot her play stand is usually located hangs a very large, coiled rope she loves to climb and swing on. Conures are very acrobatic parrots, so they often appreciate the opportunity to play on ropes or swings. Many of them also love to play on their backs, but Lucy does not.

Bath and Sleep Time

Most Pyrrhura conures enjoy bathing, and Lucy seems to have a bath in her rather large water dish almost daily, as evidenced by the fact that she, and the papers on her cage’s bottom, are often soaked when I go to check them upon arriving home from work. I also frequently offer her a large, shallow container of water for her to bathe in while she is out of her cage.

A bathing container for a conure should be big enough for the bird to get right into, and the water should be relatively shallow – about an inch or so deep will do; maybe a bit less for a bird that has never tried a bath before. The conure will likely splash the water around with her head so she gets wet all over. Most conures prefer to bathe in a tub of water over receiving a shower. Lucy seems to hate being sprayed, so I do not shower her as I do the Garnet, Emerald, and Ripley. Randy seems to like showers or a bath.

Lucy has a bath

Lucy has a bath

While they love to play and socialize, Pyrrhura conures also need plenty of quiet time to sleep. About 10 hours each night is needed, and most will also appreciate the chance to have an afternoon nap. Many of them also enjoy sleeping in cloth huts, which is fine as long as the bird doesn’t start treating it as a nest area. I offered one of these to Lucy after seeing another conure sleeping in one, but I eventually took it away since she ignored it for many months.

The Pyrrhura Persona

Among the most gregarious parrots I have ever met are several Pyrrhura conures. These little parrots, if treated gently and with affection, are typically very sociable. When handled frequently from a young age by a number of people, most will not become “one-person birds” that attack all but the favored person. Of course, every parrot is an individual, and a few conure owners do struggle with this problem. Luckily, I do not; as Lucy will step up nicely for almost anyone she meets. She is also quite affectionate and allows me to preen the feathers on her head, and she enjoys sitting on my shoulder while I type or read. However, when she gets bored of that, she climbs down and often starts to peck at the computer mouse or keyboard or shred papers. When she does this I put her on her play stand where she can play with something more appropriate. Most Pyrrhura conures love to chew and shred paper, and get into things they shouldn’t. For their safety, supervision is needed when a Pyrrhura conure is out of her cage. These little birds are very curious and may go exploring and create mischief or hurt themselves when not being watched.

Above: Lucy decides to have a bath at a bird show. She’s very outgoing and likes outings.

Lucy eats a peanut

Lucy eats a peanut

Nippy?

The most common problem faced by owners of these little parrots is likely nippiness. It is certainly not an unsolvable problem by any means and most conures that are taught commands like “step up”” using kind, positive techniques are easily to handle. Pyrrhura conures in general are not overly aggressive, but potential owners should be willing to work around any nippiness that could occur. Luckily, Lucy rarely nips, and has never broken my skin. Her body language generally lets me know if she’s likely to nip which helps me avoid being bitten. If she’s standing upright with her nape feathers erect, I wait for her to relax before picking her up. When on her cage or play stand, she also sometimes does what I call the “conure strut,” where she slowly struts back and forth while striking at the air with her beak. This little display basically means, “Back off!” Once she stops strutting, she’s again safe to pick up. She was quite cage territorial when I got her, so I had to wait for her to come out on her own before asking her to step up, although she now allows me to place my hand in her cage with no problems.

Feather-picking in Conures

Another potential problem a conure owner may have to deal with is feather-plucking. It’s not common in these birds, but does occasionally occur. About three months after we brought her home, Lucy began shredding her chest feathers. This puzzled and alarmed me, as she was eating a balanced diet, had lots of toys to chew on, got plenty of exercise (she was unclipped) and bathed often. What was I doing wrong?

So, it was off to the veterinarian to make sure she was completely healthy. She was, and the vet recommended that we make sure she had lots of toys to shred and play with to distract her from chewing her feathers. I had been giving her branches and other toys to chew on. However, I did catch her playing with a feather she shed which gave me the idea of giving her some peacock feathers to play with. I ordered some natural feathers, washed them, and clipped several in her cage. She did indeed begin shredding those, in addition to the extra twigs and paper I gave her.

She stopped destroying her chest feathers after a couple of weeks, and they all eventually molted and grew back. Again, almost exactly one year later, she began over preening her feathers again, but this episode was brief and the destruction wasn’t nearly as bad. Her feather condition has since improved. My theory is now that the over preening was a displacement behavior that occurred when she went into breeding mode and did not have a mate. Since she couldn’t mate and lay eggs she put her energies into preening herself, which got so excessive that she wrecked some of her feathers. Giving her extra toys and objects to shred seemed to give her an alternative activity to ruining her own feathers.

Good “Starter” Birds

Many general books and websites on parrots note that Pyrrhura conures can make excellent pets for first-time parrot owners. They do have many characteristics that make this true – they fit into almost any living situation because of their small size and relatively quiet voices, they are easy to train, and they are generally friendly. However, do not let their “starter bird” status fool you into thinking that these are low-maintenance pets, as they are not. I like to think of them as tiny macaws, which isn’t too far off, as the conures and macaws are closely related. A Pyrrhura conure kept as a pet will need as much attention and care as many of the larger birds.

Conclusion

I would recommend a Pyrrhura conure, such as a Maroon-bellied Conure, as a pet to anyone who is interested in having an active, friendly bird with a lot of personality and who doesn’t mind keeping a high maintenance pet. These beautiful, bold little birds have all of the personality and intelligence of a larger parrot without so much noise and expense. Although she’s caused me a bit of worry and can be a lot of work, Lucy has made a fantastic addition to the family because of her friendly, inquisitive personality.

References

Arndt, T. 1996. The Lexicon of Parrots. Arndt-Verlag, Germany. Also available online at: http://www.arndt-verlag.com/

Forshaw, J. M. and Cooper, W. T. (Illustrator). 1978. Parrots of the World. TFH Publications, Neptune, New Jersey, USA.

Kristosch, G. C., and Marcondes-Machado, L. O. 2001. Diet and Feeding Behavior          of the Reddish-Bellied Parakeet (Pyrrhura frontalis) in an Araucaria Forest in          Southeastern Brazil.. Orthinologica Neotropical. 12: 215-223.

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