Origin: South America
Order: Psittaciformes (parrots)
Family: Psittacidae (family of true parrots)
Subfamily: Arinae (New World parrots)
Species: A. Solstitialis
Weight: 110 - 130g
Height: 12in / 30cm
Wingspan: 146 – 162cm
Appearance: The Sun Conure is a medium-sized parrot that stands out for its bright colours. The male and female are sexually monomorphic – similar in size and pigmentation coloured in golden-yellow with orange-flushed underparts and face, red around the ears. The wings and tail are green or olive-green with dark blue to dark greyish tips. The beak is black and the legs are grey.
Procreation: Sun Conures are extremely social parrots. In the wild, they can be seen in groups of up to 30 birds. They build their nests in palm cavities. Females lay 3 to 5 eggs after reaching sexual maturity at around 2 years of age. The incubation period is around 20 – 23 days.
Temperament: Sun Conures are very loud, active, playful, intelligent and fun. As pets they love toys that are easy to chew or make noises, they love bells. They also like to climb, hang and swing. When a parrot of this species is not well-socialised, it is most likely to be a one-person bird. Towards people they know, Sun Conures are very friendly, but towards strangers they can become markedly aggressive.
Talkativeness: Sun Conures have a limited ability to talk, but they stand out for the volume of their squawking which is more typical of large-sized parrots. Still, they can mimic humans and imitate sounds. They are also clever enough to learn tricks, which makes them some of the most preferred parrot companions.
Environment: As Sun Conures are very active and playful, they need large cages with a lot of toys. They are not suitable for apartment living because of their nosiness. As pets they feel most comfortable when living in a big house with plenty of space for them.
Preferred Food: Fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, dairy, meats, grain products, buds, flowers, berries.
Relationship with People: As social birds, Sun Conures require a lot of attention. They like games, they are friendly and want their owners to spend a lot of time with them. When they are left alone for a long time, they are likely to scream and become louder than usual.
Common Health Problems: Chlamydiosis, diarrhoea, feather plucking, polyoma virus.
Lifespan: 25 – 30 years.
Training a Sun conure will be easier if you start early – somewhere between two and six months of age. Given their reserved and cautious behaviour towards strangers, it is essential that you first earn your parrot’s trust. Place its cage in proximity to you when you go about your daily routine so that the bird can get used to your presence. You can try gently scratching its head and neck, but be careful and use gloves or a towel at first to avoid bites. Don’t make sudden moves around your parrot, or it might decide to defend itself, prompted by natural instincts. Start with hand-feeding by offering nuts and seeds, juice or bird milk in small cups, with the one hand, and petting the bird on the head with the other. A widely used method in bird taming is using hunger as leverage – if your bird hasn’t been fed for a couple of hours, place the bowl with its food near you and let it approach you for food. The parrot might be anxious at first, but once it gets used to you, it will be confident about approaching you and being close to you.
Once you’ve got yourself a tamed, hand-fed conure, you will see that these birds are devoted to their owners, seeking their attention and cuddling in the palm of their hands for head and neck scratches. Now that your parrot is used to you, you can start with simple training sessions. Host your training sessions in a quiet peaceful space, free of visual and noise distractions. Conures have an elevated environmental orientation level and can get jumpy, stopping their activity to look around and listen; be patient with these impulses. It is important to break the training into short sessions, such as 5 minutes two to three times a day, instead of holding a prolonged excruciating session of 20 minutes that will make the bird anxious and unresponsive.
Teach your sun conure verbal and visual commands. The conures are visual birds and will remember and mimic things demonstrated to them. Gentle physical guidance at first will also help. Reinforce the visual cue with a verbal command. When the bird acts out the command, praise with an enthusiastic verbal acknowledgement and a bird treat, a pumpkin seed, or a peanut. Never shout or reprimand your pet parrot if it doesn’t comply with the commands. Always end training sessions on a high note. Don’t stop the session if the parrot can’t follow a new command or trick. Have it perform an easier one and praise and reward, so that it will be happy and excited for the next training sessions.
WIth their playful characters, conures can be quite entertaining to watch – jumping, swinging, and generally having a wonderful time. They can, however, get aggressive at times, disobeying commands, screaming and even biting. Usually, the reasons for such destructive behaviour are that the bird hasn’t been handled enough, it has been out of its cage all day, or is bored. What you should never do in such cases is scream back at the parrot, put the bird back in its cage, and cover the cage. Create a situation that is fun for the bird and try target training. Target training is a positive reinforcement training method that can help when the parrot is reluctant to interact with people or won’t go into its cage. Target training can be part of teaching behaviours such as stepping on a scale, going into a travel cage, and bathing. It is also used to teach spinning in circle, climbing ladders and ringing a bell, which provide mental stimulation and physical exercise. The best target is a stick – chopstick, coffee stirrer, a straw, etc.This item should be used only for targeting (touching with beak), not for other purposes such as a perching.
Choose a treat of a favourite activity as a reward. Present the target to the bird and ensure it feels comfortable with it. Once it touches the target, use the reinforcers – a treat, a clicker sound, or a head scratch and praise. Once the pet bird is touching the target without hesitation, start moving it around so that your parrot has to move to touch the target. Hold it left, right, high, low, closer and further away. Targeting is an important behaviour for all companion parrots. With targeting, parrots can easily be discouraged of destructive behaviour, such as chasing and biting, and taught to move in ways that protect, manage and enrich their lives without force or coercion of any kind.
The Sun Conure or Sun Parakeet (Aratinga solstitialis) is considered to be native to north-eastern Roraima, Brazil, adjacent Guyana, and extreme western Suriname, and hypothetically – Venezuela. Since the 1970s when it was widely spread throughout Guyana and Roraima, is in now scarce or absent due to trapping for the pet trade and loss of habitat. The total population currently is estimated at no more than a couple of thousand individuals at the very most, but probably fewer. At least 90% of these are in Brazil, within a restricted, decreasing and fragmented range.
Recent records from Roraima suggest the total population numbers less than 2500 individuals and there are no recent records in all other localities in Brazil where the species was found in/before the 1990s. There are two widely used names for the Aratinga solstitialis – Sun Conure and Sun Parakeet. Although popular and relatively common in the pet trade, these birds have not been widely studied in the wild since their habitat are largely undeveloped parts of the country that are difficult to access. The birds have been reported to nest in palm cavities. They occur only in dry, semi-deciduous forests on the slopes of north and north-eastern Roraima and use savannah only while flying from one hill area to another.
In captivity, Sun Conures have a lifespan of about 20 to 30 years, given the proper care. In the wild, it is usually shorter, due to predation, accidents and adverse environmental/climatic conditions. Conures reach maturity and can reproduce when they are about 1 to 2 years old and typically lose fertility as they age, becoming no longer productive at an age of 9 or 10 years. The birds are social and live in flocks of up to 30 individuals, with one flock in southern Guyana reported to number up to 200 individuals.
A cage measuring around 2 x 2 x 3 feet (60 x 60 x 90cm) is the minimum, but bear in mind the basic rules of thumb that “bigger is always better” and “one size larger than the pet store recommends”. Choose a cage with some horizontal bars in it, to allow for climbing exercise. Do not choose a bamboo or wooden cage. The only places to keep your bird away from are the kitchen and the bathroom, as these areas can produce chemical fumes dangerous for your conure (Teflon, hairspray, air freshener, etc.). Add essentials such as a feeding bowl (stainless steel), seed guard, water container, etc. Safe toys include ones made from untreated wood and rope toys (just be sure that the rope cannot fray; if it does, remove frayed edges to prevent the nails from catching on it). Avoid any toys that are brittle or easily broken. Anything that can catch on beaks, tongues, or toenails should also be avoided.
Sun Conures need plenty of entertainment and interaction. Sun conures are susceptible to feather picking and common psittacine diseases.
A diet of manufacture food can meet the basic nutritional requirements of a Sun Conure but it doesn’t provide the phytonutrients which fresh vegetables, fruit, seeds and grains contain. A formulated diet can also make the bird bored; it may refuse to eat or display unwanted behaviour. A seed diet allows for more diversity but you will need to add vitamin and calcium supplements. A healthy well-balanced diet must include: 50% grains, seeds, cereals and breads, 45% vegetables and 5% fruit and protein. Feed the Conure oyster shell or gravel in a separate dish, add vitamin supplements to their drinking water or sprinkle them on the food. Provide fresh water several times a day. It is a good idea to keep two bowls of water, as the Sun Conure will probably want to have a bath first thing each morning.