CONURES (Central and South American Parakeets)

Most conures are actually referred to as parakeets in scientific circles. The term parakeet is used to describe almost any parrot-family bird with a long pointy tail. Perhaps aviculture designated South American pointy-tailed birds as conures to avoid confusion with the parakeets of AustralAsia.

I hate to lump just about all of these birds into one category because there are some definite differences in their personalities; some are obvious while others are subtle. The birds we call conures can be delightful, affectionate companions with the right amount of guidance. It is always important to realize that individuals can vary a great deal in that their interactions with people can create or diminish their potential as companions. Educated caregivers who provide proper guidance with liberal instructional interaction usually have great conure companions. Their playful, acrobatic antics can keep people entertained and it is even more fun if their behaviors are interactive.

When I tamed wild-caught parrots, I found that conures were one of the easiest birds to “reach”. If I calmed my energy, they calmed down. Most of the conures of the many species I worked with trusted me and tamed down within less than an hour. I have this desire to teach just about any parrot that fits in my hand to do a somersault. The conures I tamed were usually among them with a high percentage of success. I that, with nurturing guidance and instructional interaction from the people in their lives, conures have the potential to be some of the sweetest companion parrots.

Many conures have a reputation for being noisy but I have found that much of their noise can be channeled into more pleasant sounds like whistling, talking, or even muttering. The key, as with all parrots is to allow a minimal noise level based on the “happy to be alive” level as an integral part of the personality and not make it worse by creating drama rewards for screaming. The real problem screaming is that of excessive and manipulative screaming. This usually occurs when a bird is not getting its needs met and they learn to scream to get attention ... whether it is negative or positive attention. The best way to control problem screaming is to pre-teach positive behaviors that can be used as distractions before the screaming becomes a problem. Conure noise will be increased in a noisy household, especially if there are other conures or noisy birds to communicate with. That is the basic vocalization of many conures.

While conures can exhibit aggressive behaviors, I have found that with most of them gentle handing will prevent or stop aggressive behaviors towards the members of their human family. Some will exhibit territorial aggression with strangers or will become aggressive towards other people in the household if they are allowed to develop a mate bond with the primary person in their lives. It is possible to change these negative behaviors through better behavioral management. 

Some conures can develop feather destructive behaviors and this seems to be more common in the group of conures that are green with red on their heads. These include Cherry-heads, Mitreds, and Wagler's although other birds in this group may feather pick. I am convinced that a great deal of these problems are related to diet. Many of the conures that I have known who are feather pickers have been on seed only diets with too much human junk food or on a primarily pelleted diet with one of the manufactured diets that is loaded with chemical additives including artificial food coloring. 

On a good diet with lots of fresh foods such as veggies, some fruits, quinoa and whole grains, conures can live up to 30 years with some living longer. Quality care can help a conure stay healthy. This includes a clean environment, proper humidity and bathing opportunities, little or no exposure to toxins, and lots of opportunities of exercise. It would be unusual for a conure on a predominately seed or pelleted diet diet to live much past adozen years. 

Conure Profile

by Sally Blanchard

The first conure I ever met was a newly imported Blue-crowned. He was a raffle prize at a bird club meeting in the late 1970s. I have never been a fan of live animal raffles because I always worry that the animal will not find a proper home. Because of this worry, I put a lot of money in the raffle jar and ended up winning the conure. A friend of mine with two boys who loved birds really wanted the bird and was disappointed that she didn’t win him. I made an arrangement with her that I would take the bird home and work with him to tame him for a few weeks and then she could have him for the price of my raffle tickets. I was amazed how quickly this very smart bird tamed down and learned to trust me. He was even saying a few words by the time he went to live with his new family.

When I started working with other people’s parrots, the conures I met almost always delighted me. Most were incredibly easy to tame simply by lowering my energy and because I could win their trust with a good head skritch. One Mitred conure named Elvis had a significant vocabulary and danced to the rock and roll song that he sang.

Of course, it is impossible to lump all of the conures together. There is quite a range in species, sub-species, sizes, color, and personalities. From the smallest to the largest, conures have the potential to be delightful, affectionate companions. The common characteristic is that, with positive affection and attention, all of the conure species can be curious, cuddly, acrobatic, full of themselves, and a literal handful.

Negative comments about conures usually have two aspects; they can be noisy and they can be aggressive. I think both of these complaints often have as much to do with the people as they do the birds. Conures are no louder than many other parrot species but with some of them, their noise-making may be more insistent. I think for the most part, people can work with their noise level or accept that it is normal at least a few times a day, especially in the dawn and at dusk. 

As far as aggression is concerned, I think that with the proper guidance and a caregiver who understands their excitability, the problem can be eliminated. One of my early conure consultations was with a sun conure who flew at people's faces when the caregiver's friends came into her house. This probably involved over-bonding (in a sexual manner) with the caregiver and defense of the conure's perceived territory. I think that my initial response was right on and that was that the bird needed to be in his cage when people came over. I believe that parrots need to "earn" their privileges. Of course, it is up to the caregiver to teach them proper behaviors. As long as the conure flew at people's faces, he should not be allowed out of his cage when visitors were in the home. 

It is my experience that conures really match the energy of the people around them and they slow down when people slow down. It is true with conures that aggression is met with aggression so if someone attempts to punish them or “teach” them to behave with aggression that aggression will be returned until there is no mutual trust.

I have enjoyed being entertained and charmed by conures doing all of the things that conures do best which includes:

» Hiding out in their caregiver’s shirts with their heads sticking out at the collar.

» Crawling around in shirt sleeves.

» Mumbling profound and profuse thoughts.

» Doing somersaults.

» Sleeping on their backs on the floor of their cages and scaring the you know what out of people who have never seen them do this before.

» Getting all fluffed up for a head skritch.

» Sounding off when they feel like it and/or have a strong opinion about something.

» Letting the whole world know there is a stranger within 100 feet of their house..

» Quivering their wings to get someone to come over and pick them up.

» Asking for kisses and enjoying a good raspberry on their bellies.

» Turning into mush in their caregiver’s hands.

» Hanging upside down and smashing the hell out of their toys.

» Acting as if they are the supreme commander of the Universe.




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