EPPA Gazette – Winter
In this issue:
Past Events 2
Conure Trivia 17
Member Ads 17
Louise (President): firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photo: Ara, the
Blue and Gold Macaw Petra (Vice-President): email@example.com
and Cricket, the Jessie (Secretary, Newsletter):
Greenwing Macaw. firstname.lastname@example.org
They belong to Alex Carol (Treasurer): email@example.com
and Gloria M. David (Website Chair): firstname.lastname@example.org
Website Address: http://www.eppa.ca
Meetings: are held on the last Wednesdays of
each month at the Muttart Conservatory,
except June, July and December. They start
at 6:45 pm.
Past Event Reports
September’s Meeting: The parrot of November’s Meeting: The parrot of
the month was Lucy, a Maroon- the month was Ruby, a White-bellied
bellied Conure, who belongs to Caique who belongs to Carol. We
Jessie and Quentin. We watched a also had a toy-making session.
video on birds for the activity.
October’s Meeting: The parrot of
the month was Bello, a Bare-eyed
Cockatoo, who belongs to Brian and
Irene, and Carol gave a presentation
about new parrot products she
learned about at a trade show in Las
Cockatoo Above: Ruby, the White-bellied
Thank you! To everyone who has
brought their parrots to our meetings,
to Carol for her presentation, and to
Petra, Louise and David for
Cage Bird Show: The Northern organizing the toy making session.
Alberta Cage Bird society held their
annual show October 14 & 15th at December: Instead of a regular
the Sands Hotel. We were invited to meeting, we had a Christmas party
have an information table there and at Beijing Beijing. We had many
the parrots were a big hit. Many nice door prizes, donated by Pete S.,
thanks to everyone who helped out Carol M., and Hagen pet products.
and brought parrots! The below
photo is of a baby Military Macaw Upcoming Events
Marie and Dwayne brought to the
show. Pet Expo: This year’s pet expo will
be held on January 27th and 28th (a
Saturday and Sunday) at the
Northlands AgriCom. We will be
having an information table and will
need people to help out with things
like selling memberships and of
course, we will need people to bring
their parrots. The hours are from 10
am to 6:30 pm on the 27th and 10 am
to 5 pm on the 28th. You would not January Meeting: January’s
need to stay the whole time. If you meeting will be at the usual time and
can help out, please let Louise know place (6:45 pm at the Muttart
at email@example.com or 466- Conservatory – 9626 96A Street) on
7273. The club will reimburse you January 31st. The parrot of the
for parking and there will be a month and activity are TBA.
loading area close to the doors so
you won’t have to carry your parrot a
long distance in the cold.
Left: A Twenty-eight Parrot
(Barnardius zonarius semitorquatus)
photographed at the Calgary Zoo.
Need magazines? Don’t forget if
you subscribe to magazines through
clicking on the box on the lower right
of our website (http://eppa.ca), the
club will get a portion of the profits.
The Struggle for Dominance:
Fact or Fiction?
A Bird’s Eye View better interpret why our birds behave the
way they do and identify what can be
By: S.G. Friedman, PhD, Utah, and done to decrease the problems they
Bobbi Brinker, Ohio encounter living with us.
Can’t Live With `Em or Without `Em
Published in Original Flying
Machine, Issue 6:May/June 2001 Constructs are useful. When we
observe what appears to be a related
(Dr. Friedman has given me set or class of behaviors, it is both
permission to reprint her articles. – efficient and compelling to synthesize
ed) them according to some unifying
process. For example, it is much more
In the field of psychology, an important succinct to say that a bird is exhibiting
distinction is made between behaviors “nesting behaviors” than it is to describe
and constructs. In this context, a each of the behaviors that comprise this
behavior describes what a bird is doing construct. It could take hours to describe
and is defined as something that can be the specific individual behaviors of Irene
observed and measured. We can see Pepperberg’s amazing bird Alex, when
and count the number of times a bird what we really want to convey is that
flies off a perch, and we can hear and this bird is very “intelligent.” Birds are
clock how long a bird screams. loving, fearful, athletic, zany, all
Alternatively, a construct is an idea or constructs that allow us to convey
theory about the mental processes important information to one another
inside an individual that explains why or with single words.
how they behave as they do. As such, a
construct cannot be observed or But for all their apparent usefulness,
measured directly. These explanatory constructs present serious obstacles to
theories are “constructed,” that is, the pursuit of understanding behavior
inferred from the outward behaviors we (human and parrot alike). The first
can observe and measure with our problem is with the very choice of a
senses. You can’t touch or measure a label that, like a picture, can convey a
bird’s dominance, per se, but you can thousand words and emotions. Labels
measure how often he bites you when evoke powerful impressions about the
you try to get him off the top of his cage. value of what they describe. These
Height dominance, cage dominance, impressions predispose us no,
food dominance, and flock dominance prejudice us to interpret behavior in
are all examples of many commonly very positive or negative ways. For
discussed constructs assumed to example, some people describe
explain companion parrot behavior. cockatoo behavior as deliciously cuddly,
while others describe the same behavior
Admittedly, specialized lingo like as overly needy. Are greys cold or
“constructs” can be a major turnoff, but independent? Are these good or bad
sometimes these concepts are so things? Should we try to change or
clarifying that it’s worth the effort to accept them?
ponder them. The distinction between
behaviors and constructs is part of a The second problem with thinking in
larger framework for understanding terms of constructs rather than
behavior that is relevant to those of us observable behaviors is verifiability.
living with companion parrots. Of Since they describe intangible mental
course, our goal is always the same: To processes that are neither directly
observable nor quantifiable it’s hard to the most proffered explanation for our
know, for any given construct, if we are birds’ noncompliant behaviors.
dealing with an explanatory truth or an
explanatory fiction. For example, when a Strangely, this interpretation of the
bird bites you from the top of his cage, is dominance construct persists in spite of
he exhibiting height dominance, fear, or the lack of corroborating evidence from
simple annoyance at being removed or ornithologists, field biologists and wild
interrupted? How can you tell? As you bird behaviorists who are studying wild
can see, it is a huge and precarious leap parrots. Apparently, in their natural
of logic, not science, to jump from habitat there are no alpha parrots or
observable behaviors to interpreted straight-line hierarchies. Contention
constructs and there is no surefire way between parrots appears to be relatively
to control the accuracy of the landing. uncommon and brief with unpredictable
outcomes that change with the wind.
Finally, the third problem with constructs Life in the wild is simply not as neat as
is that they are tightly bound by our own we in the companion world would have
genetic, cultural, and personal it. It is also worth noting that, just like the
perspective: The Human Perspective. rest of us, biologists must discipline
For most of us, thinking outside the themselves to resist the allure of going
proverbial “box” to truly understand a beyond observable behaviors into the
child, spouse, or friend is tough enough. realm of explanatory fictions. The history
Thinking outside ones own taxonomic of science is strewn with such errors of
class, from Homo sapiens to Aves, is an interpretation in all fields of study.
extraordinary challenge. Trying to
increase our understanding of birds by It seems that the main basis of the
drawing constructs from the well of dominance construct applied to
human experience is fraught with companion parrots is the projection of
problems. On the one hand, parrots our own domineering behavior. We are,
need all the humanity we can muster in after all, proficient controllers, and the
order to thrive in our homes. On the dominance construct is a strikingly
other hand, our uniquely human human interpretation of what our birds
perspective too often leads us to are thinking when they simply decline to
respond and intervene in inappropriate step up. It is not without a certain logic;
or even harmful ways. For example, it is it has a certain utility, but does it lead to
not uncommon for new parrot owners to the best practices with our companion
punish their bird for biting when he was birds?
merely leading with his beak.
Clearly, simple logic and utility is not
Origins of the Dominance Theory enough. To advance our understanding
of our birds we will need to bring on
Within the companion parrot community, board the multidisciplinary knowledge of
it is a commonly held belief that our many different fields of study. This was
birds behave from an inherent need to not easily accomplished in the past.
dominate their human flock, that is, to However, such a strategy is more
be king of the tree. Many people have possible now than ever before.
described pet parrots as control freaks
with authority complexes that are
looking for our submissive reactions in
order to win the struggle for dominance. So What?
It is the glib repetition of this idea, not
research, which has given it status as
Given that constructs are merely Consider this: When you want to move
theories about what underlies behavior, your bird from his play top to his cage,
it is reasonable to wonder what all this are you trying to dominate him or do you
fuss is about. However, the way in simply have a different location for him
which we respond to our birds is in mind? How is this different than your
strongly influenced by our assumptions bird’s intention when he declines the
about what makes them tick. offer?
Interpreting our birds’ noncompliant
behavior as a struggle for dominance The Point
leads us to naturally respond by picking
up the gauntlet, clamping down and The point of this article is not to suggest
meeting the challenge with counter- that parrots should be allowed to bite,
dominance. How would our responses scream, flee from our hands, or interact
differ if we interpreted our birds’ refusal with only one person in the family. To be
to our requests as fear or bird- a successful companion, a bird should
appropriate self-centeredness or exhibit none of these behaviors, most of
annoyance at our frequent imposition? time. Neither is the point to suggest that
Misunderstanding what motivates dominant behavior is completely absent
behavior results in missed teaching in our captive parrots. At issue here is
opportunities and decreases the how best to achieve a repertoire of good
likelihood that we will respond with companion behavior with our pet birds.
appropriate, effective or humane
interventions. Perhaps this point can be Over the years, there have been many
made clearer with this silly story from recommended strategies to decrease
our own more familiar human turf: assumed dominance in pet parrots. For
example, to control height dominance,
We know some poor parents lower your bird’s perches to no higher
whose 3-year old daughter than eye level of the shortest person in
refused to brush her teeth. Every the house; to break cage dominance,
night, when told it was time to go don’t pull your finger away when your
to bed, she ran up the ladder bird is biting it; and, to nip flock
and hid in the farthest corner of dominance in the bud, never hold your
the top bunk bed. One night, bird higher than your heart. All of these
when her mother stretched up to strategies may have an effect on a bird’s
grab her, the girl bit her! Well, behavior but they are neither necessary
that was the final straw. The nor desirable for the long run. More
parents could not reward such a importantly, they do not represent best
challenge or show submission to practices, regardless of what motivates
this willful child who had our birds.
apparently assumed that her
height advantage on the top Counting both the authors’ pet flocks
bunk bed made her the dominant combined, we own nine pet parrots
person in the house! So, they ranging in age from 1 to 13 years old.
took back control assertively and Represented in these two flocks are
busted her to a futon in the Congo and Timneh greys, Psittacus
basement. She would never be erithacus erithacus and P.e. timenh, a
higher than her parents again. Severe Macaw, Ara severa, an
The girl still refuses to brush her Alexandrine Parakeet, Psittacula
teeth but she bites less often eupatria, an Umbrella Cockatoo,
now … Cacatura alba, a Budgie, Melopsittacus
undaulatus, and a lovebird, Agopornis.
None of them refuse to come down off bird should comply because from our
their cage tops and all of them can be point of view there is nothing to fear and
nuzzled and kissed on tiptoe by all nothing to avoid. As with our friends’
family members including two children. daughter aloft on the top bunk, there are
We continue to work with some of the lots of good reasons why your bird
younger birds to better express their should come down but apparently he
dissatisfaction with their voices and not doesn’t think so. Ask yourself, what is
their beaks, and we continue to expand the goal: getting him off his cage at any
their confidence to interact pleasantly cost or being the person he wants to
with all friends and strangers. None of come to? Depending on your goal, you
this was accomplished overnight; all of will devise different strategies. Of
this was accomplished in the complete course, we suggest that the goal should
absence of domination and force. always be to avoid force, and facilitate
and reward cooperation.
Insights and Strategies
One mistake bird owners frequently
The act and art of great teaching is make is asking for too much too soon.
largely the result of great observation Don’t lose sight of the fact that stepping
and communication skills. With every up when you “reeeeally” don’t want to is
interaction, both you and your bird are asking a lot of anyone. Arrange a
communicating to one another your teaching environment such that your
personal wants, needs and boundaries. bird is given frequent opportunities to
The goal is to use this communication to practice complying with your request.
get the desired behavior by controlling Reward each and every act of
the teaching sequences, not the bird. cooperation. Ask him to step up often
Consider changing your attitude from just to say “Hello good bird!” and set him
demanding compliance to being “blown down again to continue whatever he
away” by their willingness to cooperate! was doing. In this way he will look
Don’t lose the feeling of awe that forward to stepping onto your hand as it
brought you to parrot ownership in the signals attention without a cost. If the
first place. immediate consequence for stepping up
is always being returned to his cage,
To devise specific strategies, focus on your bird will be less willing to step up in
specific behaviors more than constructs. the future. This is a way to inadvertently
Insights about the inner workings of our punish your bird for complying. When
parrots’ minds are a luxury, not a you do need to put your bird in his cage,
necessity, for successful teaching. allow sufficient time in your schedule to
Analyze the antecedents, that is, the first reward him with a minute or two of
events that occur right before your bird attention or a treat for stepping onto
misbehaves and consider how they your hand.
might be changed to facilitate
cooperation. Carefully consider the Program success by facilitating good
consequences that follow each specific behavior, that is, pave the way for
behavior and arrange them to reward cooperation. For example, make sure
the desired actions not the undesirable that you make requests at reasonable
ones. times, not while he’s deeply engaged in
playing or eating. Ensure that being
Let’s follow one example. Many of us inside his cage is a desirable place to be
have been frustrated by our bird’s by providing adequate space, toys and
refusal to step onto our hands from high sufficient out of cage time. With
perches or cage tops. We expect that a thoughtful attention to these
antecedents and positive consequences
your bird will soon choose to be on your 1. Bird Talk (monthly, about all pet
hand, and stepping up at your request birds), Birds USA (annual,
will become a habit. This is the time to introduction to owning pet birds), &
expect your bird to step up from cage Wild Bird (wild birds and bird
tops and high perches, even though he
may have other things in mind.
We may never know what mental
processes underlie our parrots’ 2. Parrots magazine (monthly, about
observable behaviors. From the human wild and pet parrots, based out of the
perspective, any resistance is easily UK).
misinterpreted as a struggle for
dominance. Depending on our
understanding about what motivates
birds to behave in particular ways, one
Phone: (978) 246-0209
naturally chooses some strategies and
ignores others. We believe that the 3. Companion Parrot Quarterly
quest for dominance is rarely an (quarterly, or biannually, about pet
accurate description of what motivates a parrots)
companion parrot’s negative behavior.
Regardless, the intervention strategies Website:
typically associated with this http://www.companionparrot.com/
interpretation are themselves so Phone: 970-278-0233
domineering as to be senselessly
damaging to the relationship you wish to
4. Good Bird Magazine (Quarterly,
have with your bird. Too often, the
processes thought to underlie behavior
about training birds, and bird
are solely in the eye of the beholder. behavior. Covers all types of pet
When this is the case, we move farther birds).
away from facilitating our parrots’
companionability when we should be Website:
moving closer to a bird’s eye view. http://www.goodbirdinc.com/
The authors wish to express their General Parrot Websites:
gratitude to Martha Hatch Balph, Ph.D.,
and Steve Martin for generously sharing
their insights about bird behavior.
(General parrot site, with a focus on
Note: More of Dr. Friedman’s articles lovebirds).
can be found at
ML/friedman.htm (Resources for owners of parrots
who pluck or barber their feathers).
Magazines for pet bird owners:
Meet the Conures! be found in the pet trade and like the
By: Jessie Zgurski Maroon-bellied and Green-cheeked
Conures, they are small birds that have
The term “conure” refers to a large dark green wings and backs. Most also
group of elegant South American have a red or maroon tail. This trait
parrots with long, tapered tails. This is a gives this group of birds their name - the
highly varied group of parrots which genus name Pyrrhura comes from the
range in size from only 25 cm long Greek terms “pyrros” and “auro,” which
(Black-capped Conures, Pyrrhura mean “fire” and “tail,” respectively.
rupicola) to 49 cm long (the Greater Other Pyrrhuras seen as pets include
Patagonian Conure, Cyanoliseus the Black-capped Conure (P. rupicola),
patagonus byroni). the Pearly Conure (P. perlata lepida),
the Crimson-belled Conure (P. perlata
There are several conure genera perlata), the Painted Conure (P. picta),
(scientific groups), with Aratinga and the White-eared Conure (P. leucotis)
Pyrrhura being the largest. These two and the Fiery-shouldered Conure (P.
genera contain some of the most egregia).
popular small and medium parrot
The genus Pyrrhura contains sixteen
species of small, dark green parrots,
although only about half of these are
seen as pets. The most common
species are the Green-cheeked Conure
(P. molinae) and the Maroon-bellied Above: Lucy, the author’s Maroon-
Conure (P. frontalis). Both are about bellied Conure.
the size of a cockatiel, and are dark
green with light brown chests, blue flight As a whole, conures have a reputation
feathers, long, wedge-shaped tails and for being very noisy birds. However,
white eye rings. They can be difficult to while the small Pyrrhura conures can
tell apart. The names of these two also produce shrill calls, they are not as
conures don’t really give away their loud as the calls produced by their
differences, since both species have bigger, brighter cousins in the Aratinga
maroon-coloured bellies. The genus. This makes Pyrrhura conures a
differences can be seen by checking out suitable choice of parrot for most living
the bird’s tails and heads. A Green- situations, including apartments.
cheeked Conure’s tail will be solid
maroon, whereas a Maroon-bellied Pyrrhura conures are not exceptional
Conure’s will be maroon on the bottom talkers and most that learn to use
and light olive-green tipped with human speech only say up to 10 to 20
brownish red on the top. The top of a or so words, although a few
Green-cheek Conure's head will be a exceptionally gifted individuals exist.
dark greyish colour, while the top of a Lucy has a low, robotic speaking voice
Maroon-bellied Conure's head will be that's hard to understand and she does
green. not talk much, although she does a
convincing imitation of a squeaky rodent
Several other Pyrrhura species can also wheel. However, some Maroon bellies
chat non-stop in a quiet, raspy voice, so Sun, Jenday, and Gold-capped conures
whether or not a Pyrrhura conure says all have very shrill, loud voices that they
much seems to depend on the individual like to use frequently. Generally, they
bird's personality. are not known for their talking ability, but
some do learn to say a few words. They
The Aratinga Conures are, however, very active, clever, and
playful birds that learn quickly. Their
There are 23 members of this genus. stunning looks and friendly personalities
Members of the genus Aratinga are have made them quite popular in the
larger, brighter, and louder than the parrot world.
Pyrrhura conures. Below are
descriptions of the most common ones:
1. The Sun Conure and Relatives
The most popular conures in this group
include the Sun (A. solstitialis), Jenday
(A. jandaya), and Gold-capped (A.
auricapilla) Conures. These parrots are
all about thirty cm long and have some
bright red, orange, and/or yellow
feathers, combined with bright green
ones. Sun conures have the least Above: Jenday Conure chicks bred by
amount of green on the body and wings. Marie and Dwayne.
Overall, their plumage is dominated by
bright orange and yellow feathers, with 2. The Blue-crowned Conure
some red ones on the face, and green
and blue ones on the wings. The upper The Blue-crowned Conure (A.
side of the tail is olive and blue and the acuticaudata) is a large bird (38 cm
underside is blackish. Jenday conures long) and is green with a blue head and
are similar, but their wings are entirely reddish colouring on the underside of
green. Gold-capped Conures are the tail. These are often noisy, chatty
primarily green, with blue flight feathers, birds, and many Blue-crowns become
and gold colouring on the undersides of excellent talkers. The main parrot
the wing, the belly and the head. character in the film, Paulie, is a Blue-
crowned Conure. Fourteen Blue-
crowned conures were used to play the
part of Paulie, and each one was trained
to respond to about fifty commands and
hand signals. A few animatronic birds
were used as well.
3. The Green Red Heads
The Cherry-headed Conure, (A.
Above: Sun Conures Reba and Buddy, erythogenys, also called the Red-
who belong to Dorothy F. They are both masked Conure), has become more
graceful dancers. well-known recently because these are
the birds featured in the book and film,
“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” A
small flock of these birds, which are
native to western Ecuador and socialized and well-trained, many can
northwest Peru, lives around Telegraph make very friendly, sociable
Hill in San Francisco, and Mark Bittner companions. They are active and busy
managed to befriend several of them birds and most need plenty of wooden
and his experiences are documented in toys to satisfy their instinct to chew.
the above mentioned film. A few Mitred
(A. mitrata) and Blue-crowned Conures
also live(d) amongst the flock of Cherry-
headed Conures. A few Mitred-Cherry-
headed Conure hybrids also live wild
around Telegraph Hill. Other feral flocks
of Cherry-headed Conures can be found
in southern California and Florida.
Cherry-headed Conures are bright
green with red heads. They also have
some red on the bend of the wings.
There are several other similar species,
all with green bodies and red heads,
which include the Mitred Conure, the
Finsch’s Conure (A. finschi) and the
Wagler’s or Red-fronted Conure (A.
The Finsch’s Conure is the smallest
member of the group, at 28 cm long,
followed by the Cherry-headed Conure, Above: Young Mitred Conure (top bird),
which is ~33 cm long. The Wagler’s and adult Mitred Conure (bottom left),
Mitred Conures are large parrots at 36 Wagler’s Conure (bottom middle),
or 38 cm long, respectively. The Cherry-headed Conure (bottom right).
Cherry-headed Conure’s mask is solid
red and the Mitred Conure’s red mask 4. The Peach and Orange-fronted
will be broken and flecked at the edges. Conures.
Wagler’s and Finsch’s Conures both One of the smallest Aratinga species,
have a small patch of red between the the Peach-fronted Conure (A. aurea), is
eyes, but where the adult Wagler’s red also a common pet. These little conures
patch will reach past its eye ring, the red are 26 cm long and are beautiful green
patch on the adult Finsch’s will not. birds with a patch of peach feathers
above the cere, and blue feathers
All of these red-headed green conures between the orange patch and the eyes.
can easily be mistaken for the primarily Peach fronts are very similar to Orange-
green White-eyed Conure (A. fronted Conures (A. canicularis). The
leucophthalmus) as juveniles. They do two can be differentiated by their beaks
not develop their red heads until they – Peach-fronted Conures have black
are about six months old. beaks and Orange-fronted Conures
have horn-coloured beaks. The Half-
Cherry-headed, Finsch’s, Wagler’s, moon and Petz’s Conures are
Mitred, and White-eyed Conures are subspecies (geographic variants) of the
generally vocal birds and some learn to Orange-fronted Conure. Peach- and
speak well, but others don’t. If Orange-fronted Conures can have shrill
voices, but they are amongst the quieter
of the Aratinga Conures.
Above: Thorin, the Nanday Conure,
Above: Peach-fronted Conures, with a who belongs to Michelle F.
Pacific Parrotlet. Picture from Linda &
Vic L. 7. Other Conure Genera
5. The Dusky Conure While the Pyrrhura and Aratinga genera
of conures are the largest, a few other
Another one of the quieter of the genera exist, each with only one or two
Aratinga species is the Dusky Conure members. One example is the genus
(A. weddellii). These conures are Cyanoliseus, which contains one
primarily green, with pale yellowish species, the Patagonian Conure, C.
feathers on the belly and brownish-grey patagonus. These are large (45 cm
feathers tipped with blue on the head. long) conures that live in central Chile,
The outer webs of the primary and northern and central Argentina and
secondary feathers are blue. These are southern Uruguay. They are largely
generally very sweet, friendly parrots. olive green in colour with yellow and red
feathers on the belly. They are one of
6. The Nanday Conure the loudest of all parrots, but can make
friendly, engaging pets for those who do
The Nanday Conure (A. nenday) was not mind the noise. Some Patagonians
previously placed in its own genus, will choose one or a few people to bond
Nandayus. However, genetic studies closely with and many can speak well.
indicate that it is closely related to the
other Aratinga conures. They can also In the wild, Patagonian Conures will
interbreed with other Aratinga conures. nest in the side of tall cliffs. This has
Some breeders will cross Nanday and earned them two alternative common
Sun Conures to produce “Nansun” names: The Cliff-dwelling Parrot and the
conures, although hybridizing parrot Burrowing Parrot.
species is a very controversial practice
in aviculture. The genus Enicognathus contains two
of the more unusual conure species,
These beautiful birds are green with a and neither is commonly seen as a pet.
black face, a blue upper chest, blue The Austral Conure (E. ferrugineus) has
flight feathers and red legs. They have the most southerly range of any parrot
loud, shrill voices and are not always the species. They live in the forests of
best talkers. However, their good looks, southern Chile and Argentina and are
friendly temperaments and playful able to survive the very cold, harsh
natures have made them popular pets. winters there. Slender-billed Conures
(E. leptorhynchus) live in central Chile
and have a very long upper mandible A good brand of parrot pellet can make
that they use to dig up roots and a great base for a conure’s diet. Parrot
puncture large fruits, so they can get the pellets contain a suitable balance of
seeds. carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins
and minerals for a parrot. However, the
addition of healthy fresh foods will also
enrich a conure’s life and offer it
additional nutrients and antioxidants not
found in the pellets. A mix of 75%
pellets and 25% fresh food is often
recommended by vets, and most parrots
will do very well on such a diet, although
a higher proportion of fresh food can be
offered if it’s chosen wisely.
Lucy eats a diet composed of about 50
to 65% pellets (RoudyBush and
Harrison's brand), with the rest
composed of "human food" including
whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice
or bulgur, plus fruit, vegetables, nuts
(including pine nuts), seeds, and lentils.
The fruit and vegetable portion of her
diet leans heavily towards dark green or
Above: Slender-billed Conure (left),
orange ones like bell peppers (Lucy's
Austral Conure (right).
favorite!), mango, sweet potato, carrot,
broccoli, and dandelion leaves because
Conure Care of their high vitamin A content. She also
adores fresh raspberries (straight from
1. Feeding a Conure the backyard), corn, snap peas, prickly
pear fruits, grapes (seeds included), and
Most wild conures are generalists, bits of apple. Feeding her a balanced
meaning that they will eat a wide variety diet is no problem, as she will eat nearly
of seeds, grains, fruit pulp, leaf buds, anything. In fact, she is as bad as our
flowers, sprouts, parts of conifer cones, dogs when it comes to begging for food,
insect galls, and insects. Many will also since bobs her head rapidly (a begging
eat domestic crops. Wild Pyrrhura gesture) at anyone she sees eating.
species have been seen eating leaves, Many conures who eat “people food” will
which is unusual for a parrot, as most beg like this. Lucy is generally given her
will only eat leaf buds and not the fresh food during dinner time, so she
mature leaves, which are difficult to doesn't feel left out. She’s quite a messy
digest. eater (like most conures are) and tosses
a lot of food to the floor, so of course our
Much like their wild counterparts, pet smaller dog, Pharaoh, loves to hang out
conures appreciate and thrive on a under her playstand.
varied diet. Conures that were weaned
onto a varied diet are very likely to 2. Housing a Conure
accept a wide variety of foods. So, when
looking for a young conure to buy, pick Conures are generally very active birds
one that was weaned onto a pelleted with a lot of energy! As a result, they
diet supplemented with fresh foods. need relatively large-sized cages for
their size. For example, Pyrrhura ropes or swings. Many of them also
conures are about the size of a love to play on their backs, but Lucy
cockatiel, but I have noticed that most does not.
cockatiel cages are a bit small for them.
A cage intended for a slightly larger bird 3. Bath and Sleep Time
is best, as long as the bar spacing is
appropriate. Of course, the cage must Most conures enjoy bathing, and Lucy
be outfitted with a variety of perches and seems to have a bath in her rather large
toys. When looking for a conure cage, water dish almost daily, as evidenced by
choose one that will allow the parrot the fact that she, and the papers on her
enough room to move around in and cage’s bottom, are usually soaked when
flap her wings after it has been fitted I go to check them upon arriving home
with several perches (at least three), from work. I also frequently offer her a
about three toys, and food and water large, shallow container of water for her
dishes. to bathe in while she is out of her cage.
Lucy's cage contains wood perches, a A bathing container for a conure should
rope perch, and a cement perch. Her be big enough for the bird to get right
toys include a large bundle of twigs and into, and the water should be relatively
some branches for her to chew on, shallow - about an inch or so deep will
some peacock feathers for her to preen do; maybe a bit less for a small bird that
and destroy, and a ladder. She also has has never tried a bath before, and a little
a box of various store-bought toys I more for a large conure such as a
rotate in and out of her cage. Most Patagonian. The conure will likely
conures seem to enjoy chewing twigs splash the water around with her head
and taking the bark off of larger and wings so she gets wet all over.
branches, so I generally recommend Most conures prefer to bathe in a tub of
plenty of clean, non-toxic, unsprayed water over receiving a shower, but some
branches as an enrichment item for may appreciate a shower. Lucy seems
them. Many large conures are perfectly to hate being sprayed, so I do not
capable of reducing large branches to shower her as I do my other parrots.
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 Above: Lucy, the Maroon-bellied
and water bowls, and hooks that toys Conure, takes a bath.
can be hanged from. Beside the spot
her play stand is usually located hangs While they love to play and socialize,
a very large, coiled rope she loves to pet conures also need plenty of quiet
climb and swing on. Conures are very time to sleep. About 10-12 hours each
acrobatic parrots, so they often night is needed, and most will also
appreciate the opportunity to play on appreciate the chance to have an
afternoon nap. Many of them enjoy enjoy receiving physical affection from
sleeping in cloth huts, which is fine as their owners, particularly in the form of
long as the bird doesn't start treating it head scratches.
as a nest area. I offered one of these to
Lucy after seeing another conure Lucy also enjoys sitting on my shoulder
sleeping in one, but I eventually took it while I type or read. However, when
away since she ignored it for many she gets bored of that, she climbs down
months. Always check cloth sleeping and often starts to peck at the computer
huts frequently to be sure that there are mouse or keyboard or shred papers.
no loose threads that the parrot could When she does this I calmly put her on
get his toes stuck in. her play stand where she can play with
something more appropriate. Most
conures love to chew and shred paper,
and get into things they shouldn’t. For
their safety, supervision is needed when
a conure is out of her cage. These
clever parrots are very curious and may
go exploring and create mischief or hurt
themselves when not being watched.
The most common problem faced by
owners of these 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.
Conures in general are not overly
aggressive, but potential owners should
be willing to work around any nippiness
that could occur. Luckily, Lucy rarely
Above: Patagonian Conures. nips, and has never broken my skin.
Overall, she is very good natured. Her
Conure Behaviour body language generally lets me know if
she's likely to nip which helps me avoid
Among the most gregarious parrots I being bitten. This is true for most
have ever met are several conures. parrots in general – animals rarely bite
These parrots, if treated gently and with or act aggressively without warning.
affection, can be very sociable. When The key is to learn to interpret the
handled frequently from a young age by animal’s body language. For example, if
a number of people, most will not Lucy is standing upright with her nape
become "one-person birds" that attack feathers erect, I wait for her to relax
all but the favored person. Of course, before picking her up. When on her
every parrot is an individual, and some cage or play stand, she also sometimes
conures do have a favourite person they does what I call the "conure strut,"
try to protect from others. Lucy is not a where she slowly struts back and forth
one-person bird, as she will step up while striking at the air with her beak.
nicely for almost anyone she meets… This little display basically means, "Back
most of the time. She is also quite off!" Once she stops strutting, she's
affectionate and allows me to preen the again safe to pick up. She was quite
feathers on her head. Conures often cage territorial when I got her, so I had
to wait for her to come out on her own Further Reading
before asking her to step up, although
she now allows me to place my hand in Watkins, Anne C. 2004. The Conure
her cage with no problems. Handbook Barron’s Educational Series
Inc., Hauppauge, New York, USA.
Good "Starter" Birds
Many general books and websites on Gypsy, the Gold-capped Conure
parrots comment that Pyrrhura conures
can make excellent pets for first-time
parrot owners. They do have many
characteristics that make this true - they By: Linda Loerzl, Safe Haven Aviary,
fit into almost any living situation http://members.shaw.ca/safehaven/
because of their small size and relatively
quiet voices, they are easy to train, and Gypsy is a Gold-cap Conure with
they are generally friendly. However, do such a loving personality - she loves
not let their “starter bird” status fool you to nestle in your neck and to have
into thinking that these are low- her stomach rubbed. We have
maintenance pets, as they are not. I like recently done a DNA test on Gypsy
to think of them as tiny macaws, which to confirm her gender but have not
isn’t too far off, as the conures and had the results returned to us yet.
macaws are closely related. A Pyrrhura
conure kept as a pet will need as much
Gypsy is a little bigger than a Sun
attention and care as many of the larger
birds. Conure. The body is mostly green
with a beautiful red under the wings
The larger Aratinga conures can be a bit and her tail feathers have some navy
more expensive to keep than the on them. The face has red directly
Pyrrhura conures because of their need above the cere and a bright orange
for larger toys and cages. Some are behind that. The breast feathers are
also unsuitable for apartments because a red and green mix.
of their voices, but this depends on the
individual bird. Her approximate length is 11 to 13
inches in length. Gypsy does not
Conclusion stand still long enough to get the
length. The average lifespan of a
I would recommend a conure as a pet to
anyone who is interested in having an Gold-capped Conure is 20 to 30
active, friendly bird with a lot of years.
personality and who doesn’t mind
keeping a high maintenance pet and Gypsy loves food. Like many
putting up with a bit of noise. My own conures who like to pick and choose
conure, Lucy, is a lot of work, but has their food, Gypsy just loves food.
made a wonderful addition to the family She loves to take a bath in her water
with her sweet-natured temperament. dish even though she is offered a
bathing unit for the cage. Gypsy
Note: The conure paintings were done
also loves a water spritz and we
by William T. Cooper and are from
recently got a water mist from Carol
Parrots of the World by Joseph
Forshaw. and this is just the craze for all the
birds that did not like getting wet
before. Conure Trivia
Gypsy has a plastic fetish. Anything The United States was once home to a
plastic is gone immediately as she species on conure, the Carolina Parakeet.
will chew threw it just like we are This parrot, which was bright green with a
eating toast; GONE in no time. She yellow and red head, was widespread
chews wood. Between playtime and across the eastern United States. The last
known specimen died at the Cinncinati Zoo
chewing keeps most of the day going
in 1918. The last Carolina Parakeet spent
for Gypsy. time living with the last known Passenger
Pigeon, which died in 1914.
Gypsy is a love and a good
companion for us and fits in nicely Some Pyrrhura conures may be cooperative
into our household. breeders in the wild. Young conures have
been observed feeding the young of an
older pair; it is possible that juvenile conures
stay with their parents for a year to help
raise another generation of siblings and
learn parenting skills.
“Conure” is a word used primarily by
aviculturalists and pet owners. In many
scientific publications and birding books,
they are referred to as “parakeets.”
Member Classifieds/Ads Marie (780-688-2120) has two military
macaw babies left ($2000 each). She
Deb Brown has Pearly Conures ready also has green baby Quakers ($250
for new homes. Hatched now and will each). The Quakers will be ready in
be ready to go late Feb. - early March March. Coming up are budgies,
will be Maroon-bellied Conures. cockatiels and lovebirds. All Marie’s
Please check out Deb's website to read babies are hand fed and extremely well
the profiles written on living with a socialized. They can be seen on her
conure. www.sweetietweeties.com. I web site at www.aparrot4u.com . Click
also have many wonderful Lovies, one on D&M Aviaries.
female parrotlet and two wonderful gray
Indian Ringnecks looking for homes. Sonia can baby sit small parrots for
Contact Deb at 973-3267. short time periods. Birds will need to be
picked up and dropped off. Located at
Carol Murphy has White-bellied the north end of Edmonton, near the
Caiques weaned and ready for new Namao center. Free if food is provided.
homes. Also being handfed at this time Sonia_k@shaw.ca
are Black-capped Caiques. They will
be ready end of February - early March.
You can contact Carol at 475-6723.
Contact David & Louise (466-7273) for – just the birds and some of their toys.
bird sitting services. We have extra Complimentary toe and wing clipping
cages so you don’t have to bring cages provided.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this newsletter by submitting photos or
stories! I hope to do the next newsletter for March. If you have ads or other things
you’d like to submit, please Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call
Additionally, if you have any ideas for guest speakers/activities for club meetings,
or if you’d like your parrot to be “parrot of the month,” or if you’d like to give a
presentation related to some aspect of parrot care, please let Louise know @
Finally, don’t forget that we have a good selection of parrot books and
DVDs/videos in our library. These are listed on the club website, eppa.ca.
Contact Petra at email@example.com to request a book and she can bring it to the next