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Choosing a Sun Conure

By: Virginia Wells

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The colorful sun conure (Aratinga solstitialis) was not named for the sun, but rather for the sunset. Considered the most beautiful of all conures, these golden beauties make excellent pets. The sun conure is found in the northeastern coast of South America. They are approximately 12 inches in length, including their long tail. Their body build is slender, and their feathers are bright, iridescent shades of orange, blue, yellow and green in combination over almost any part of their bodies.

Sun conures are inquisitive and playful, active, spunky and curious. They love to play with toys and are entertaining as they jump, swing and have a wonderful time. Suns are active climbers and will often hang by one foot from the top of the cage while swinging back and forth.

Sun conures are friendly and love to be cuddled and handled by their owners. Tame, hand-fed suns are devoted to their owners and have a reputation for being the "sentinels" of their human's home. They often stop their activity to listen intently if they hear any noise, and are quite adept at notifying their owners of any perceived "intruders."

Suns can sometimes learn to speak a few words clearly, but their talking ability is limited. Their natural call is typically loud and raucous but hand raised suns often do not learn the scream associated with the conure family.

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 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 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 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, 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 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 sun 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 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 and 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

Sun 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. 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 5 eggs, with a normal incubation period of 23 days. Babies usually fledge with no problems at around 50 days of age. 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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