Catering to Conures
With their big, playful personalities, conures can make an excellent pet for both experienced and first-time bird owners.
Although parakeets and cockatiels are the most popular parrot species sold as pets—most likely because they are small and fairly inexpensive—a variety of other smaller to mid-sized parrots are also commonly kept as pets, including the very popular conures. This group encompasses more than 60 different species, of which about eight to 10 are regularly seen in the pet industry.
Conures are a great choice for bird owners looking for the next step up from parakeets and cockatiels in terms of intelligence and personality, but they can be fantastic as a first pet bird as well. Choosing the right conure species for a potential owner will depend on factors like looks, noisiness and the individual bird’s personality.
Of the many conure species available, some of the most popular include the jenday, nanday, blue-crowned, peach-fronted, Patagonian, maroon-bellied, green-cheeked and the sun—which, with its bright orange body and yellow and green wings, is one of the most beautiful. All of these species make wonderful pets that can live for more than 25 years. They usually start in price around $250 at wholesale for a hand-fed baby bird, which is basically guaranteed to be a very tame and friendly pet.
Most of the conure species sold in pet stores run from cockatiel-sized to approximately twice that size, so the cage doesn’t have to be very large. However, as with any parrot species, their habitat needs to be at least big enough for them to flap their wings freely. The cage must also have very durable bars to withstand their strong bills, therefore conures cannot be kept in cages with thinner bars meant for parakeets or cockatiels.
Retailers should be sure to offer cages for conures with play gyms built into the top, as these active and energetic parrots love to play. That playfulness demands toys, and conures love all sorts. Whether made of wood, metal or plastic, bird toys can offer both mental and physical stimulation for pet conures, with some meant to be chewed apart while others can hide treats or provide a puzzle for the bird to work out. At least three to four should be offered at a time, and they should be changed out every month, or sooner if they have been chewed apart. It is best to start switching toys when they are younger so they get used to having new items. The toys, like the cage, must be durable and made for a medium-sized parrot, which means no small pieces that could be swallowed. Although large toys made for big parrots are not usually given to mid-sized birds, conures are rather fearless, so larger toys can generally be used with them as well.
Additionally, many conures love to have a hut or tent to sleep in. These huts, usually made with a fuzzy, soft material, are open in the front and sometimes the back and hang from the top of the cage or attach to an upper, sturdy perch. Conures seem to love to cuddle up to these tents, so it is worth getting them one as part of the cage setup.
Unlike parakeets and cockatiels, conures rarely eat seeds in the wild, so it is imperative to give them a conure-specific pellet diet. Pellets should make up about 60 percent of any parrot’s diet. Another 25 percent should consist of fresh dark vegetables and grains, and the rest should be made up of meat proteins, like egg food, nuts and fruit. If the bird is eating at least 50 percent of its diet in pellets, it doesn’t need supplements.
The one downfall of keeping conures is that they can be very loud. Although all parrots are capable of being noisy, conures can be especially so, with squeaky voices that are sometimes downright screechy. They should be kept in a place where people will not be disturbed by their loud calls, especially after sunrise and before sunset, and retailers can help potential owners pick a pet conure that is usually a quieter species. If a customer is looking for a conure that is not quite as noisy, the popular Pyrrhura parrots, such as the green-cheeks, are the best choice. This species is now available in many color variations as well.
Although conures are known to have big, playful personalities for a mid-sized bird, they can be left alone for longer periods of time during the day, whereas large parrot species need a lot more attention. Conures are also great for families, as they love to be out to play. If many people handle them while the birds are young, they generally will not become too bonded to one person, unlike large parrots that may only let one person handle them. For a customer looking for a smaller parrot with a big and bold personality, conures can make fantastic pets.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 40 years of pet industry and retailing experience.