Many, really too many, wild-caught conures are still being imported. Wholesalers routinely stock hundreds of Nandays, Mitred, Cherry-Head, Blue-Front, Maroon-Bellied, and several other species of conures.
Unfortunately most `bronco’ conures are purchased, because of the cheap price, by people looking for a pet. This is a terrible mistake on the part of both the pet buyer and the merchant. A wild-caught conure can not be expected to become tame and friendly. Conures are among the loudest of all parrots. Though macaws and cockatoos yell with higher volume, conures are the most persistent screamers. You must be prepared for a conure to squawk all day long. After several months of a bird that only hollers and bites, the novice parrot owner will often dump the bird. If the wild conure is kept, since it is deprived of the company of its own kind, the bird will probably start to pluck its own feathers.
For the same price as a wild conure, a tame, hand-reared cockatiel may be acquired. Most shop owners now realize that this is the better bargain all round. A tame cockatiel makes a loving pet that will be cherished. With a good initial experience in birds, people soon want other, more exotic, tame parrots. Buying a wild parrot as a pet is a mistake. You are cruelly keeping a social bird in solitary confinement and you are throwing your money away.
Domestically raised conures do make very good pets. Hand raised youngsters are naturally tame and playful. Being relatively small parrots, conures require less cage space than the larger birds. Conures can be taught to say a few words. Though their vocabulary is generally rather limited, their intonation can be very good. I saw a Nanday that said `hello’ as clearly as any African Grey.
Dedicated breeders invest many thousands of dollars in order to raise parrots in captivity. A great deal of time and effort is also required. After reflecting on this, you will see that domestically raised parrots are really quite a bargain.
Captive bred conures are very happy to have humans as companions instead of other birds.
Imported conures do offer aviculturists the opportunity to economically set up breeding operations. The price of imported conures is still very low. The best idea is to buy at least six birds of the same species. Starting off with one type allows the breeder to use identical cages, nest boxes, and other hardware. The same foods can be used for all of the birds. Also, the resulting offspring will be from a number of pairs. These youngsters can be paired with birds of different blood lines. This will avoid inbreeding and the often resulting loss of vigor.
Though some babies may have to be sold to pay for expenses, the breeder should retain most of the nestlings. This is the only way for bird breeders to establish true domestic strains. It will be a shocking shame, after so many thousands of birds have been imported, if most kinds of birds become unavailable after exports stop.
The serious breeder will want to have the gender of the birds determined before pairing. In conures, like most parrots, males can not be distinguished from females by visual examination of color, size, or behavior. I had a pair of Mitred conures that definitely thought that they were a pair! I intended to set the birds up in a breeding flight with a nest box. Since I had an appointment to bring a number of other birds to the vet for surgical sexing, just to confirm the obvious, I brought the Mitreds along for the ride. The amorous `pair’ turned out to be two males!
A complete, vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched parrot seed mix is the beginning of good nutrition for conures. Balanced pellets and other formulated foods have been developed that contain all the dietary items needed by parrots. These foods can be used instead of a seed mix. If you are feeding seeds, cuttlebone or mineral block and health grit are also required to provide calcium. Spray millet, honey sticks, fruit sticks, and egg sticks are good as treats.
Conures must have a wide variety of fresh foods to be at their best. Scrambled egg, salmon, carrot, celery, greens, whole wheat bread, corn, and all fruits are very good. Beans, cooked as for human consumption, quickly become a favorite with parrots. Don’t over do the fresh foods. People food should be twenty-five percent of the bird’s diet, no more, no less. Giving too much table food can lead to imbalances in the diet. As for all parrots, don’t give conures avocado or chocolate.
Monkey chows, dog foods, and cat foods should never be used for birds. These feeds contain many indigestible by-products and do not offer proper nutrition for birds. Biscuits and kibbles begin to spoil immediately when soaked.
When shopping for a cage for a conure be careful that your bird can’t stick his head through the bars. This is very dangerous, for the bird can panic and strangle itself. For the smaller conures, a large parakeet cage will be very good. Since conures are much stronger and smarter than keets, you will probably have to secure the cage door. Otherwise the conure will let itself out and possibly come to harm. Clips sold for dog leashes work just great. Large conures like the Mitreds do fine in most parrot cages.
No matter whether captive-bred or wild-caught, your conure’s mind must be kept occupied. Many good toys made of wood, metal, hard vinyl, acrylic, and stone are designed for parrots. Conures have strong beaks. The only wood toys that will last are made from manzanita or eucalyptus. Bird Toys made from other woods are fine also. Parrots love to destroy things!
Parrots vary in their reactions to toys. Most quickly get tired of a toy, just like human children. The solution is to buy a number of toys, but to only place one or two in the cage at any time. Some birds need a long time to get used to a any new item. In this case, first hang the replacement toy outside of the bird cage. This will give your bird time to adjust to a new plaything.
Watching your bird amuse himself with his toys will offer you many hours of pleasant diversion. Conures at play, with their bright colors and happy personalities, always remind me of colorful clowns performing at a circus!
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SKULL AND CROSS BONES – PACHECO’S DISEASE
Pacheco’s disease is a particularly virulent virus that can cause the death of many species of parrots within hours. The bird may be eating and appear absolutely normal right up to the time of death. Without any warning sign, the bird may drop right off the perch and immediately die. Macaws, though they may also contract the disease with fatal results, generally fight it off for at least a few days. I know of a breeding colony of African Grey parrots that was wiped out in a few days by Pacheco’s disease. Amazons are particularly hard hit.
Many species of conures carry Pacheco’s disease and never will show any symptoms. These conures pose a serious health threat to other birds and should never be kept in the same area. If you do care for a conure as part of a “feathered family,” give your vet a call. Some conures very rarely have the virus. Your birds can now be protected by vaccination.