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Choosing a Maroon-bellied Conure

By: Virginia Wells

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The colorful maroon-bellied conure (Pyrrhura frontalis) has the reputation of being the quiet member of the conure family. Relatively speaking that may be true; however, it is only in comparison to other conures. These sweet birds are loud, especially in the early morning; they get very excited when they see the sun rise, and they express their excitement with a series of loud, shrill screams.

The maroon-bellied conure is found in southeastern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and northern Argentina. They are smaller birds, approximately 9 to 10 inches in length. They are similar to the green-cheeked conures and are often identified incorrectly. Maroon-bellied conures are primarily green and have a golden barring on the chest and distinct heart-shaped maroon shading on the belly. The flight feathers are blue and the tail is green with a dull reddish color. The beaks and feet are dark grey or black. Their color comes in after the first molt.

Maroon-bellied conures are inquisitive, playful, active, spunky and curious. They love to hang upside down and clamor along the cage bars, while waiting for you to play with them. They have a sweet personality, and because they are small and not very messy, they are the perfect pet for people living in apartments.

Maroon-bellied conures are loveable and friendly and love to be cuddled and handled by their owners. They love to see their owners come into the room and will greet you in grand fashion. And one thing is for sure: Unless you wear ear plugs, you will never oversleep in the morning.

Maroon-bellies have the ability to learn to talk, although they usually don't. However, they have their own language and you can learn theirs. Certain chirps mean certain things, such as "feed me" or "play with me" or "thank you" and especially "GOOD MORNING – EVERYBODY UP!" Some have learned to mimic other human sounds as well, like sneezes and coughs.

Most conures live 15 to 35 years.

Housing

Conures do best in a large cage that is 20 inches by 20 inches by 36 inches. Conures are active and playful birds, who need space to scramble around in. The cage should be large enough so that your bird can spread his wings without touching any wall or the roof.

Perches should be of different shapes and thickness and should be kept clean. You might want to place one near the door to allow your pet to come out easily on his own. Do not place perches directly over food or water.

Conures love to play and can become bored quickly if they don't have anything to amuse them, so provide at least three toys and switch them around often, so they'll keep your pet more entertained. They love wooden toys that they can chew up and these birds can reduce a wooden toy to shreds in a matter of hours. They enjoy pieces of balsa wood, clean Popsicle-type craft sticks, tissue boxes, paper towel cores and short pieces of knotted string to untie. They also love swings, rings and long plastic chains to swing from, and bells to ring – the louder the better.

Your conure will also appreciate a large play stand on top of the cage, again, equipped with lots of toys. These can be purchased or you can construct one of your own from dowel rods and a board. And don't forget to take your pet out to play everyday.

Feeding

Maroon-bellies are amazingly willing to try new foods, and they adapt to a pelleted diet with remarkable ease. Being very curious and playful, they like a varied diet, which in addition to a pelleted diet should contain nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Food should also offer a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Pellets of different shapes and colors are often preferred over plain pellets. Conures are prone to conure bleeding syndrome, which is thought to be caused by a lack of Vitamin K, found in foods like broccoli.

Conures also enjoy extra treats such as shredded meat or pasta, hard boiled egg, peanut butter, bean sprouts, and torn up bread moistened with fruit juices. Anything you eat is pretty much okay with your conure, except for avocado, which is toxic to birds. Be sure to remove perishable food after a couple of hours so that it doesn't spoil.

Birds that don't get enough calcium get soft bones, and females who are calcium deficient may die if they try to lay eggs. Calcium is a necessity and you can offer this in the form of a cuttlebone or calcium block. If your conure does not take to these, you can scrape the soft surface of the cuttlebone with a knife over the dish of food every day.

Grooming

In the wild, conures bathe by holding their wings open to catch the drops of rain. Bathing keeps the feathers glossy and beautiful. You can spray your maroon-bellied conure with warm water from a misting bottle. Your pet may like to take a complete bath and will step into a dish of warm water and splash around like children. They like getting themselves and their surroundings wet.

Conures are curious birds who get in enough trouble when they can't fly, much less when they can. So for their safety keep their wings clipped at all times. Keep the nails clipped, too. Nails that are too long can get caught and break. Have your veterinarian show you how.

Your conure needs something hard to chew on to wear the beak down or it will eventually become overgrown and make eating difficult. Cuttlebones and mineral rocks work well.

General Care

Conures are fairly easy to care for. Clean the cage often, and the food and water dish. Many conures like to dip their pellets and other foods in their water dish before eating, which usually means a very dirty water dish. Try moving the water dish to the other side of the cage, and if that doesn't work, try converting him to a water bottle. Otherwise, plan on cleaning that dish several times a day.

Breeding

Maroon-bellied conures are physically able to reproduce and raise young at the age of 2 years, though their first clutch is often infertile. They do well in a large cage, although some breeders prefer a large flight cage. A nesting box should be 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches and can be placed either inside or outside the cage. The nesting box should be wired on the inside to prevent the conure from chewing through the wood, and a door or cover should be built into the box in case the eggs or chicks need to be removed.

Once the birds adapt themselves to their surroundings, they are likely to breed continuously for years. They must be well fed and in good health, and their surroundings must be clean. The parents should be fed food that is enriched with calcium and mineral supplements, such as wheat bread soaked in milk, vitamins and alfalfa cubes.

Clutches usually consist of 4 to 6 eggs, with a normal incubation period of 26 to 28 days. The female conure is the only one that incubates the chicks. The male sits next to her for company and feeds the chicks after hatching. Babies usually fledge with no problems at around 6 to 8 weeks of age and are taken care of by the male. A few days before the eggs are due to hatch, the hen will begin taking baths, so the humidity must be kept high. Soon the chick will peck the shell with an egg tooth, which will later fall off. The shell will either be thrown out or eaten by the parents.

Chicks must be kept warm and fed within twelve hours of being hatched or they will die. Some parents feed only those chicks that appear strong and lively, so if a chick appears neglected, cold or hungry, it must be pulled and placed in an incubation box.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Conures are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

  • Conure bleeding syndrome
  • Aspergillosis
  • Pacheco's disease
  • Psittacosis
  • Proventricular dilatation disease
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease

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