Conures in Australia

by Mick Blake

Sun Conures - Aratinga solstitialis. Photo courtesy of Garry & Shirley Walsh, Westbrook, Qld

In my opinion these three different families are well represented in Australia. The first group "Aratinga" with the Sun, Jandayas and Peach-fronted Conures being the most common members available.

The Nanday Conure is the only member of its genus. It is very well represented in Australia and it is one of the most beautiful Conures. A Cinnamon mutation of the Nanday is also being bred.

The last but not least group are the members of the Pyrrhuras. With the Green-cheeked and Maroon-bellied Conures the most commonly available here in Australia.

For a list of other Conures here in Australia write to A.N.C.A. National Exotic Bird Registration Scheme, GPO Box 1443, Canberra ACT 2601.

Peach-fronted Conures - Aratinga aurea. Photograph courtesy of Garry & Shirley Walsh, Westbrook, Queensland

Conures' range/habitats are quite large and varied, from dry semi-desert, savannahs, and woodland forests to equatorial rainforests. Stretching from Mexico in the north through to Argentina in the south plus east to include some Caribbean Islands, plus almost every country in between. Feeding on the wild blossoms, native and cultivated fruit, berries, seeds and insects. Some species cause the local farmers problems in eating seed and fruit crops and for over a hundred years have been exported to many countries (e.g. USA, United Kingdom and Australia) before the ban on importation of birds into Australia was put in place in 1945. This was lifted in 1990 with limited importation until 1994. We can only hope the ban is lifted again to allow more Psittacine to be imported, but that is another story.

I believe people interested in keeping Macaws would gain some experience with Conures first to save a lot of heartache and a lot of money. As Conures have a lot of similarities with Macaws etc. Diet, mating and vocalisation. As a good friend who keeps Macaws said to me "Mick, How can you hear yourself think". At that time we were standing in front of an aviary complex holding four pairs of Conures. But I suppose beauty is in the eye or should I say the ear of the beholder.

To me Conures are no more noisy then say Ringnecks and our Conures only screech out when there are strangers in front of their aviaries and young hand-raised pets are quite tolerable and very affectionate. A personality plus. They can be taught to talk and do tricks.

Queen of Bavaria or Golden Conure - Aratinga guarouba. Photograph by & courtesy of Peter Odekerken, Buderim, Qld

On a more serious note, we need to discuss the feeding, housekeeping and breeding of Conures. First on the list is housing. Nandays are not fussy, but the minimum size I would suggest is 900 mm wide x 900 mm high x 2400 mm long suspended aviary or 900 mm wide x 1800 mm high x 2400 mm long conventional aviary. Nest box 250 mm x 250 mm x 450 mm high with two or three hands full of small sticks 10 mm diameter x 100 mm long in willow, gum or peach or any non toxic tree. They chew this up to make their own nesting material and this stimulates them to breed and stops them from chewing up their nest boxes. The beginner must note that all Conures, and there are no exceptions, need a nest box all year round because they use it as sleeping quarters.

The diet of Conures should be varied and not too much oil seeds. We feed fruit and vegies every day of the year. Some of the fruit and vegies we use are: sprouted seeds, apple (only red), corn on the cob, oranges, pears, cherry tomatoes, peaches, sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, paw paws, Lilly pilly, grapes, passion fruit, prickly pears, celery, silver beet, peas, sugarloaf cabbage and bananas. Really any fruit or vegies in season. But do NOT feed them avocados, as they do kill birds.

The seed mix we use is Asiatic Mix. The recipe was taken from Syd and Jack Smith’s book "A Guide to Asiatic Parrots" by Australian Birdkeeper. Seed is available all day, fruit and vegies mix is fed fresh every morning about 7.30 am - 8.30 am. In the afternoon we collect the empty dishes and feed a couple of slices of apple. When young are in the nest we also give a dish of sprouted seed, about 1/3 cup full with apple. On the off season we cut the quantity of fruit back to about 1/4 cup per pair in the morning and 2 slices of apple in the afternoon per pair.

When eggs and then young are in the nest we increase their morning feed to 2/3 cup of fruit and vegies mix. Every second day when young are a few days old we give a 1/2 cob of corn as well with the fruit and veggie mix and apples. As the young grow we increase this to 1/2 cob of corn every day. The best measure of how much to feed is when you check your young and see how they are growing.

If you intend on hand-raising young, I would suggest to take them about 3 to 4 weeks old as they need less feed and are just as quiet. We have hand-raised them from the egg but it is a lot of work and sleepless nights.

Nanday Conures - Nandayus nenday. Photograph courtesy of Garry & Shirley Walsh, Westbrook, Queensland

Conures will start to nest from June-July through to November. Some pairs double brood if the first young are taken for hand-raising. From 3-5 eggs are laid with a two to three day interval. The hen incubates and starts when the third egg is laid. Incubation period is 26 days. Young are independent about 8-11 weeks. When young are feeding themselves you can put them in a separate flight, but do not forget the nest box for them to sleep in. Nanday Conures will start to breed from 24 months to 4 years of age. Sometimes the first one or two nests are clear eggs, but leave the eggs for the hen to sit on them and only remove the eggs after about 29-32 days from the last egg being laid. This teaches the young hen that she must sit for the right length of time. Conures make good parents whether they have been hand-raised or parent raised.

In summary, Conures are very pretty with personality plus. A little bit noisy. Suitable for beginner bird keepers who wish to gain experience in Conures and Macaws. Because the experience you get from Conures will hold you in good stead for keeping Macaws and as my wife, Karin says, "Mick you are crazy about Conures" and that is quite true.

So, I hope that someone has gained a little from this article and please remember Conures are not like Lovebirds. So be patient with them.

© Article under Copyright with the author, Mick Blake, and cannot be reprinted without written permission.


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