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The term conure is used for a diverse, loosely-defined group of small to medium-sized parrots. The term conure is seldom used in a scientific context; it is instead primarily used by those who keep birds as pets. The conure group is not a natural, scientific grouping.
Conures hail from the western hemisphere and all species that have not gone extinct are native to South or Central America (including Mexico and the Caribbean). Some conure species are endangered or are becoming increasingly scarce in the wild, e.g. the Queen of Bavaria (Aratinga guarouba) and the Blue-chested Conure (Pyrrhura cruentata). Fortunately, there are many sellers who offer captive bred conures so you can keep a conure without depleting the wild populations. If you wish to purchase a wild-caught bird, make sure that it does not belong to a vulnerable species.
Conures are light birds with slender bodies and short, broad beaks. Some species have short tails with narrow tips while others sport elongated tails. Conures come in many sizes; from the large Patagonian conure that can reach a length of 19 in (48 cm) to the Painted conure which stay around a more modest 9 in (23 cm). Different species feature different colours, including various shades of green, yellow, brown, red, orange and white. The beak is normally black or horn-coloured and will always feature a fairly broad cere. (A cere is the fleshy, waxy covering at the base of the upper beak of some birds.) Around the eye you can see a clearly defined eye ring in most species, and it is often possible to distinguish males from females based on the thickness of the eye-ring since male conures tend to have broader rings than females.
Since conure is a loosely-defined group with many different species of bird it is more or less impossible to offer any steady-fast rules when it comes to care, feeding etcetera. The information provided below is therefore only general guidelines; it is always recommended to obtain species specific information regarding the particular species of conure that you are interested in keeping.
All conure species belong to the long-tailed group of the New World parrot subfamily Arinae.
You can find conure species in the following genera. Since the group conure is loosely-defined, some bird-keepers choose include even more genera in the conure group.
Aratinga This genus contains over 20 different species.
Conuropsis Carolina Parakeet (extinct)
Cyanoliseus Patagonian Conure
Enicognathus Austral and Slender-Billed Conures
Guarouba Golden or Queen Of Bavaria Conure
Leptosittaca Golden-Plumed Conure
Nandayus Nanday Conure
Ognorhynchus Yellow-Eared Conure
Pyrrhura This genus contains over 20 different species.
Conures are known to be social and intelligent birds and they are highly appreciated as pets. In the wild, most species form flocks of 20 birds or more. If you keep a single bird, you have to give it a lot of attention and companionship since it is such a social creature. You should also give it toys, mirror etc to keep it active and prevent boredom in the cage. Conures are normally easy to tame and can be taught all sorts of tricks as long as you give them enough attention. Single birds are known to be especially keen on interacting with humans and can for instance learn how to say a few words in their peculiar high-pitches voice. A conure that does not receive any stimulation can grow sad and listless.
Conures wants to keep clean and you should give them opportunity to take a bath on a daily basis. It is important not to use deep water. Some specimens love to be sprayed with lukewarm water. After bathing or being sprayed, the bird will carefully preen its entire body and excrete oil to lubricate the feathers.
The recommended minimum cage size depends on how large and active your bird is, and how much time you let it spend outside the cage. The cage must be protected from draft. Include at least two perches; one up high and one near food, water and bath. Give your bird suitable things to climb and chew on in the cage; this way it will maintain its beak and nail in good condition. You can find various objects in the pet store, e.g. mineral blocks. It is also a good idea to add small natural branches from trees to allow gnawing.
Each day: clean and replenish water and food dishes
Each week: clean perches and toys
Each year: clean and disinfect the entire cage
Newspaper needs to be changed every other day. If you use absorbent bedding instead, you only have to change it once a week.
A wild conure spends a lot of energy searching for food and will therefore need much more food than a captive bird. A captive conure that does not spend a lot of time flying around in search of food and shelter is easy to overfeed, so keep an eye on its food intake and do not expect the bird to stop eating when it has had enough.
The recommended diet depends on which particular species you keep, but most conures appreciate grains, seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, insects, meal worms, and various food mixtures form the pet shop. Keep the diet varied to prevent malnutrition. A varied diet will also make life in captivity less monotonous for the bird. Including a food mixture with added vitamins in the diet is recommended, and serving fresh food (such as fresh fruit) at least now and then is also advisable. Vitamins can be added to the drinking water if you suspect that your bird isn’t getting enough from its diet. If you don’t like feeding your bird insects and meal worms, you can give it protein in the form of hardboiled eggs and cottage cheese. Many conures benefit from having cuttlebone, oystershells or gravel in their cage.
Conures are rather easy to breed, once they have grown accustomed to their new home and new group members. If you have a couple that has commenced breeding, you can expect them to continue to breed year after year.
Determining the sex of a conure is sometimes possible by looking at the eye region. Around the eye you can see a clearly defined eye ring in most species, and male conures tend to have broader rings than females. The color of the iris can also be a clue in certain species, where the male has a black iris and the female a red. Some species are really easy to sex since the coloration of the plumage varies considerably between the sexes.
The onset of sexual maturity varies from species to species, with small species generally being ready to reproduce at an age of 2 and large species having to be at least 3 ½ to 4 years old.
If you want to breed conures, you need to provide them with a nesting box filled with a soft material for the eggs to rest on, e.g. pine shavings. When the couple is ready they will mate and the female will take up residency in the box where she will lay her eggs. It is normal for a conure to lay one egg every other day until she has a batch of 3-8 eggs and brood them for about a month, but the exact procedure and number of eggs varies a lot between species as well as between individuals and even from one breeding period to another. Ideally keep the humidity in the nesting box at 50-55%. You can expect the offspring to leave the nesting box roughly 50 days after hatching, but this time period also varies considerably.
Conures are generally healthy animals that rarely become ill, but it is important to follow the requirements above and any specific requirements of your species, e.g. when it comes to housing and feeding, if you want your conure to stay happy and healthy.
Signs of illness in conures
- resting more often than normally, especially if the head is tucked under the wing or rump
- sitting on the bottom of the cage more than usual
- not making any sounds anymore
- ruffled plumage
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- drinking more or less than normally
- discharge from mouth and/or nostrils (like when human has a cold)
- clouded eyes
- the droppings become looser than normally
- seem to have difficulty breathing
- opening and closing its mouth in an unusual fashion
- growths around the beak
Contact a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If your bird starts plucking its feathers it is probably not physically ill, it is most likely bored and feels alone in the cage. It may also be bullied by other birds in the cage or feel unsafe in its environment.
Conure fact # 1
The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) once lived in the eastern United States, from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the only conure outside South- and Central America. The last wild Carolina Parakeet was killed in Okeechobee County in Florida in 1904 and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo 14 years later.
Conure fact # 2
Captive conures are often affectionately referred to as the clowns of the parrot world since they love to attract the attention of the humans around them, e.g. by hanging up and down like circus artists and making funny noises.
Conure fact # 3
A captive bred, handfed conure is recommended if you want a specimen that is used to being handled and easy to train.
Conure fact # 4
Conures love to preen and be preened.
Conure fact # 5
Conures tend to feel safer if you cover their cage when it’s time to sleep. They need 10-12 hours of rest per day as adults.
The average lifespan of a wild conure is believed to be around 10 years, but some have reached an age of 25 years and there are reports of captive specimens living for up to 35 years. Some bird keepers include a clause in their wills providing for the care of their birds should the birds outlive them.