Conures: The Little Clowns from the Americas
Conures are large parakeets native to Central and South America. The extinct Carolina Parakeet was the exception, as it was the only parrot species that was indigenous to the United States.
For parrots, conures are lightly built, with long tails (Conure literally means ‘cone tail’) . They come in a diverse range of colors. Their beaks always have a small cere and are usually horn-colored or black.
They reach maturity at 1 to 3 years — the smaller species mature more quickly. In a safe, healthy environment, they can expect to live up to 35 years.
The more common, or well-known, species are the following:
- Blue-crowned / Sharp-tailed Conures
- Green-cheek Conure
- Jenday Conure
- Nanday Conure
- Sun Conure or Sun Parakeet
- Complete listing of conure species
Prices range from $75 to several thousands for larger and rarer genus members.
Personality / Pet Potential
Conures are clowny birds. We love them for their great sense of humor, their fun-loving personality. With a little training, they usually can easily be trained to do tricks. Most may learn to talk. These birds, in general, love to snuggle under things, so providing them with a tightly woven wash cloth, soft piece of fabric, or fuzzy toy will be appreciated. A bird tent as a place to sleep and hand out is usually eagerly accepted and treasured. As they like to climb under pillows and blankets, care needs to be taken not to accidentally smother them.
They make great birds for those who don’t mind the occasional (or NOT so occasional) screeching outburst. This is something to be considered when thinking of adding one to your family. They can be VERY noisy and can also be nippy, if not trained and socialized properly. They do enjoy learning new tricks and can be very entertaining. They love to dance and can also be taught to go the toilet with a simple command such as “toilet” or “poop” .
These parrots do require more time and effort than say a cockatiel or budgie. Please keep this in mind. Owners report that they are smart and interactive, but are also more prone to behavioral problems than are cockatiels or budgies. They all require a committed owner who will work with their pets to guide their behavior, while cockatiels and budgies are “beginner birds.”
They are known for their cuddliness.
However, individual differences do exist, as some will accept cuddling only on their terms. But these are the exception to the rule. Most seem to thoroughly enjoy cuddling whenever their favorite human is available.
They love to play!
These parrots are very active and like to play, explore and chew. Lots of toys are recommended to keep their beaks from “getting busy” on your furniture.
- Toys can also be things that I bet you never thought were toys at all! Please refer to the foraging page for easy, inexpensive or FREE tips to entertain your pet.
They are Smart!
Most will hold their own with any of the mid-sized or medium-large parrots in terms of smartness. They can be taught simple tricks pretty easily and more complicated tricks with some training.
How much attention do they need?
Like all parrots, they are social birds. They do require daily interaction with their social group, entertainment, things to do — or else they will become bored and develop behavioral problems. In the wild, they would never leave the company of their flockmates. In a captive pet situation, a hand-fed bird requires the same social interaction from you and your family.
If you have little time to give, a parrot would not be a good choice for you.
You would need someone at home several hours a day at a minimum, preferably someone should be home most of the day. I would recommend that there be people at home, with the bird, for at least several hours every day or the majority of day.
It’s best to keep your pet where the center of activity is, usually the family room, and leave the cage door open or allow your pet to be on a playpen whenever someone is at home. During this time some direct interaction should be provided, such as talking to your pet, petting it, or placing it on your shoulder while you surf the internet, watch tv or go about your other activities. My parrot even joins me in the gym!
Most appreciate a daily misting / being lightly sprayed with warm water. Additionally offering a shallow bowl of water for them to bathe in will also help keep the dander down in the environment.
One has to remember that in the confinement of our homes, pollutants will collect in much greater density than they ever would in the wild. Especially in small, poorly ventilated spaces pollutants – such as dander, dried droppings and skin/feather mites – can be a major issue, daily ventilation (opening windows and doors) is the best and cheapest way to get fresh air into your home.
If that is not possible — an air filtration system should be considered for those who are concerned about their pets as well as their own health.
Do they make good family pets?
In general, conures make good family pets as long as they have been well socialized. They don’t mind a lot of activity – in fact, the more “fun stuff” is going on, the more entertained and happier they tend to be.
They usually get along well with all family members, although they are likely to eventually choose a favorite; but as long as they are exposed to, and socialized by, other family members, they should maintain their friendliness with the others. They love to be touched and handled – another reason why they often do well with kids.
However, they go through nippy phases that can be hard on children as well as on adults. Teaching the child appropriate handling of the parrot will help prevent some painful experiences – however, it will never entirely eliminate them. The tamest pet bird gets startled and bites – without this being a true reflection on its personality.
It’s a natural reaction. Experienced pet owners learn to read the body language of their pets and can avoid most of these “accidental encounters.” Training is important to prevent an accidental bite from turning into a behavioral problem.
It is difficult to instruct smaller children on proper parrot handling, and their interactions with these birds should always be supervised.
But children who have learned to handle the pet gently and confidently usually don’t have a big problem with aggression. How well the child-parrot interaction goes really depends on the maturity level of the child, as well as the proper socialization-level of the parrot.
Admittedly though, some genetics come into play as well. Some individual parrots are more aggressive than others. Often this is a family trait and one parrot pair produces sweet babies, while others produce nippy offspring. Sweet babies can turn nippy, if not socialized well, and nippy (usually nervous / fearful birds) can be taught to be good family pets.
Birds do pick up on stress and anger that we humans may feel and this can impact their personality and likelihood to be aggressive towards us. It is always best to approach a bird calmly and focus on, and enjoy, the interaction with the parrot rather than reflecting on problems in your life.
Doing so will actually be conducive to your own health, as it will help you relax.
There never will be a guarantee that a meaningful relationship between the children in the family and the pet parrot develops and if things don’t go well, it may end up being a pet for the adults only. For this reason, it is not recommended to buy a parrot as a pet for the kids – this needs to be a family pet, with the adults taking on most of the responsibility.