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Choosing a Nanday Conure

By: Virginia Wells

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If you're thinking about a conure for a pet, you may want to think twice if you have neighbors close by. The occasional ear-splitting screech can also be painful when the bird's sitting on your shoulder. Even if you live in an isolated part of the country, you will need to be able to put up with a lively bird who knows his mind and isn't afraid to show it. On the other hand, if you want a sweet, adorable, affectionate, intelligent bird, and you don't mind some noise, take a closer look at the Nanday conure.

The Nanday conure (Nandayus nenday) is a hookbill found in South America. Nandays are gregarious and found in loose groups of 6 to 40 birds. They are sociable birds, even with other species, and they often hang out with monk parakeets. Not shy, they spend their day on trees and palms or foraging on the ground, low bushes or tall grass. They are difficult to detect because they are well camouflaged by their colorful green plumage, although their loud screeching sometimes gives them away.

Nandays are beautiful birds, especially when out in the sunlight. The head is black, along with the cheeks and throat, which gives the appearance of a cap. The throat and upper breast is a pretty faded light blue, the flight feathers are bluish green, and the lower legs are red. The colors are less pronounced on a young bird less than a year old.

Conures are active, playful, bold, and affectionate, and they make great pets. One minute they'll be playing, climbing on their toys and screeching in mock anger; the next minute they'll be curled next to you, begging to be scratched. They're great at learning tricks, and many will lie on their back and "play dead," or hang upside-down from your finger. Some conures are one-person birds, while others more outgoing. Some can be nippy, especially with people they don't know, although a little careful training can help with that problem. Overall, conures are a whole lot of fun to own.

Most conures live 15 to 35 years.

Housing

Conures do best in a large communal aviary, allowing 20 square feet per pair. If kept in a cage, choose the largest you can afford, as conures are active and playful birds that 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.

There should be at least two perches in the cage: one up high for night roosting and one near the food and water cups. 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 the door 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 lots of toys and switch them around often, so they'll keep your pet more entertained. There are countless types of toys on the market and most are inexpensive. They like toys they can destroy, but make sure there are no small parts they can swallow or openings where they could catch a claw or beak. Conures enjoy pieces of balsa wood, clean Popsicle-type craft sticks, tissue boxes, paper towel cores, short pieces of knotted string to untie and bells.

Your conure will also appreciate a large play stand, 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

Conures aren't picky about their foods, but being very curious and playful, they like a varied diet, which should primarily be nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables, and a commercially prepared pelleted diet. Foods 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 salt, butter and avocado, which are 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, Nandays bathe by holding their wings open to catch the drops of rain. Bathing keeps the feathers glossy and beautiful. You can spray your Nanday 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 throw water over his body with his beak.

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.

Care

Conures are fairly easy to care for. Clean the cage, the food and water dish often. 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

Nanday conures are sexually mature at 3 years of age. They do well in a large cage, although some breeders prefer a large flight. 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.

The hen will lay two to six eggs, one every other day, which incubate for 24 to 26 days. The cock usually sits on or near the nesting box, but does not take part in incubation, although he feeds the chicks after hatching. 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 12 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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