Cherry-headed Conure

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Is the Cherry-headed Conure right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Red-masked Parakeet; Red-headed Conure; Red-masked Conure

Scientific name: Psittacara erythrogenys

The basics:
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.)

Average size:
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

Cherry-headed Conure Training Tip

Cherry-headed Conure

From pslove Jun 1 2014 5:06PM


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