Guest Author - Melissa McIntyre
Conures are relatively small, long-tailed Central and South American parrots. They are closely related to macaws, and share many macaw-like personality traits. Pyrrhura conures are one of the two major conure genera. Some of the most popular Pyrrhura conures are the confident green cheek, the sweet maroon bellied, the silly black capped, and the stunning crimson-bellied conure.
Pyrrhuras are generally smaller conures, ranging from about 20 cm to about 27 cm (8 inches to 11 inches). Almost all Pyrrhuras have beautiful scalloped chests and prominent eye rings. While they are not as brilliantly coloured as many of their other conures, their subtle shades can be breathtaking; for example, the Painted Conure is a truly spectacular bird. Like most conures, Pyrrhuras are “monomorphic”: the males and the females look the same. The only way to be 99.98% sure of your bird’s gender is to have a DNA test done, unless your bird happens to lay an egg.
All Pyrrhura species are very similar in personality, though individuals may vary. Conures are intense, emotional, intelligent and active birds. However, this can make them manipulative, and they do tend to play favourites if allowed to form sexual bonds with people. Conures are highly social and are capable of maintaining many complex relationships with a large number of individuals, so sexual behaviours should be prevented, if possible, or discouraged. Pyrrhuras are very physically affectionate, and generally love to be cuddled and scratched. Few Pyrrhura conures make excellent talkers, but many can mimic a few words.
Pyrrhuras must be watched carefully with other pets as they have no fear and seem to enjoy causing a ruckus. Larger birds may be tormented by the little green terror, and may retaliate if pushed too far- possibly seriously harming the smaller Pyrrhura. This is not to say the Pyrrhuras can't ever get along; there are many cases where conures have become very fast friends with other birds. It is best, though, due to their somewhat overbearing personalities, that all introductions are closely monitored for the safety of both birds.
Some Pyrrhura go through a difficult “terrible twos” stage as they reach maturity. It’s a good idea to start introducing hand-held perches and target sticks early on. If your bird hits a rough patch, you are still able to have positive interactions, and continue to work on increasing the “correct” behaviours, even if your conure becomes something of a monster for a little while. With care and patience (and treats!) even the wildest “teenage” conure can become a good friend.
An additional warning for Pyrrhura owners: these conures are drawn to water. While this makes bath-time a huge amount of fun (and mess!) for both birds and people, it can create a drowning hazard. To prevent a tragedy, make sure all sources of water- dog bowls, sinks, mop pails, toilets, etc- are well covered before allowing your conure to roam.
Minimum cage size for a Pyrrhura would be 18” x 18” x 24”, but larger is much better. Pyrrhuras love their toys; any that are safe and suitable for cockatiel-to-small-Amazon sized birds are enjoyed by these conures. They show particular joy in noisy toys and foot toys; they may even roll on their backs to wrestle with them. Wild Pyrrhuras sleep in next boxes all year round, and many captive birds like to do the same. However, beware of the sexual stimulation that possible next boxes can produce; snuggle huts or other “nest like” places may need to be removed during part of the year to reduce hormone-based possessiveness. Many young birds enjoy sleeping on their backs.
Pyrrhura do best on a varied diet of fresh foods, particularly foods high in vitamin A (like carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, mustard greens, etc), with some fresh grains and legumes (like cooked rice, whole grain bread, beans, etc), as well as pellets and some seed and/or nuts. They don’t tend to be picky eaters, particularly if they get to eat with their flock; either avian or human. Pyrrhuras do not do well on seed-only diets, as they tend to suffer from vitamin A deficiencies. They do go through a lot of food; they have to fuel that amazing amount of energy, after all!
These excitable, charming little conures are a fabulous addition to the family that had the time and energy to devote to such a good friend. They usually make good apartments birds- particularly the Rose Crowned Conures- as they are generally one of the (relatively) quieter parrot groups. They get along with most people in a wide variety of situations; they are the very definition of adaptable. When looking for a companion bird, it’s best not to over look the Pyrrhura Conures!