Species group: Conures
Other common names: Red-masked Parakeet; Red-headed Conure; Red-masked Conure
Scientific name: Psittacara erythrogenys
The handsome, adaptable Cherry-headed Conure has become famous as the subject of Judy Irving's movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, based on the true story by Mark Bittner. Although Bittner didn't keep the feral colony birds as pets except when they needed rescue, his story of the joys and sorrows of life with these parrots touched millions of hearts. As all the world knows, these birds are tough, adaptable, and bold. However they can get loud and rowdy, so be realistic about whether or not you can handle the noise. If so, your reward is a playful bird with lots of personality.
The Cherry-headed Conure's natural habitat is the lowland and Pacific slope region of the western Ecuador and down into northwestern Peru. The species was once heavily collected for the pet trade and has been ranked as “Near Threatened,” although it may still form communal roosts with up to 200 birds. While there are many introduced flocks around the world – most famously, the expanding population of San Francisco featured in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill – no one really knows if these colonies will become established residents that survive the decades. But, at least for now, anyone can travel to San Francisco for themselves and follow their ears to observe these playful, active, and talkative birds. The take-away lesson from observing them in the wild is that they are both social and loud.
A graceful green parrot with a bright red forehead and mask over the eyes making it obvious why this bird is called the "Cherry-headed Conure."
165 - 200 grams (5.8 - 7 oz.)
33 centimeters (13 in.)
20 - 30 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Cherry-headed Conure would never be alone in the wild. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your pet, and have play gyms set up for the birds in places where you spend a lot of time, so that the bird won't feel obligated to make a loud contact call because you ducked out of sight. Be realistic about how much noise you can tolerate, because they can be very vocal. If socialized properly, they enjoy the company of the owners and are quite charming and comical. Give these energetic pets puzzle toys or foraging toys to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. A lonely bird can start to pluck, and the habit might be very difficult to break, so consult with a vet or a bird behaviorist right away if you have any evidence of trouble.
A single Cherry-headed Conure needs a powder-coated metal cage of comfortable dimensions, maybe a minimum of 24”wide x 24”deep x 36”high. Use a manzanita perch in any area where you don't want to have to replace the perch too often. Any other perches or toys should be rated as safe for a strong chewer such as a large conure or an Amazon. These energetic birds should also have a playpen outside the cage, where they can explore, investigate other perches and toys, and indulge in foraging for hidden treats. Train your Cherry-headed Conure to step up on a handheld perch on command, so that you can easily remove the bird from its cage to the play area. In that way, even if the bird becomes somewhat territorial about its cage, you can still enjoy the bird on neutral territory.
The Cherry-headed Conure demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. There are several diets that work for this species. A good pellet-based diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, is fine too. Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it.
Small, high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix. Larger “treat” oil seeds like sunflower can be given by hand. A variety of nuts can also be given by hand or hidden around the bird's playpen to encourage the Cherry-headed Conure to forage. Crack any nuts that are too hard for your pet to crack by itself. No conure should be allowed to eat avocado or chocolate.
Important Note: Since the Cherry-headed Conure may be at risk for Conure Bleeding Syndrome, they do need vitamin K rich sources in the diet, such as turnip greens and other dark, leafy greens.
Written by Elaine Radford
sociable personality, wonderful companion bird, funniest sound imitations, beautiful cherry head
apartment living, oneperson pet, screamer
wellestablished feral flocks, Telegraph Hill, lifetime commitment, Wild Parrots, fifty words
Berry, my cherry headed Conure
Berry is our cherry headed Conure. He is a testy animal. In fact, for a long time I was terrified to feed him. When we first brought him home, he picked his favorites and I was not one of them. He loves my husband. He will step up on him. In fact, he will sit on my husband's shoulder forever. I even caught him giving my husband bird kisses. I never have to this date, six years after bringing him home this sort of affection. The breeder told us this is common behavior. They are have one person or bird they bond to typically.
He is a loved pet, and we will take care of him until he dies. even though he is not sweet to me I love watching him in his cage and play ground. I love seeing him interact with my husband. I highly recommend this bird to anyone..
From cwilliams8676 Sep 25 2013 11:28AM
Red-masked parakeet - The Cherry on Top
The Red-masked parakeet, also known as the Cherry-headed Conure, is a parrot that may demand a love-hate relationship. As a previous owner of two of these birds I’ll share my personal experience and let you be the judge.
The Cherry-headed Conure is a very energetic species; it’s highly vocal and secure enough to make its presence noticed. If you like sleeping in the mornings then this bird might not be for you as they can be up-and-early starting at 5:00 am. They are a rather high pitched vocalist with a not so rich vocabulary, so expect the volume level of your house reaching 11 once you adopt this bird. Taking that into consideration I do have to bring attention to their wonderful coloring. Its deep jade green is reminiscent of a thick jungle, and the red spot over its eyes, their namesake, is thick and enamoring.
The diet of this species is very important. You could maintain a normal pellet diet, but I found that a rich fruit and vegetable diet works best; it keeps their energy at optimum levels and helps maintain their plumage in tip-top shape. Waste disposal should not be a problem as they are small in size.
One curious note is that these birds are able to reproduce in captivity, granting some privacy and an exceptionally large cage or habitat (a meter or more in width, depth, and height)..
From Macpui Jul 6 2014 8:35PM
Has Its Own Way
If you are interested in learning more about Cherry Head Conures, you should pick up a copy of the book, "Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." You will fall in love with them. It is a true story of someone who got very involved with the ones that live wild in San Francisco. They became his life.
My experience with the Cherry Head is in fostering. I fostered one that was partially plucked when the family couldn't keep him anymore. The bird had one horrible bite. You haven't lived until you hear the crunch of a conure's beak break into all layers of your skin and get down into the muscle. He is very proud of himself afterwards.
Aside from the awful bites, he was a doll. My African Greys didn't care for him because he was a noisy conure. When he was trying to sing with my greys one day, one turned to him and said, "That's not singing! That's just screamin'!" So, I guess my birds are elitists and had no room in their hearts for conures.
Against my better judgement, a boy of eleven years old wanted to adopt him and his parents agreed. I nervously let him pick up the bird and that bird was the gentlest thing on early with that boy. It blew our minds. The boy adopted him and they were instant best friends. He never had a problem with the bird.
Cherry Head Conures have lots of energy and love loud music and screaming. They are truly heavy metal birds, the noisier and crazier things are, the happier they are. They sing (not attractively), they dance and they talk.
They can feather chew and pluck their feathers on their chest and shoulders. So, sooner or later you might have one that has a bald spot on its belly. It is fairly certain at this point that a few will do this in the wild also..
From pslove Jun 1 2014 5:06PM