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Red-fronted Conure

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Is the Red-fronted Conure right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Wagler’s Conure ; Wagler’s Parakeet; Red-fronted Parakeet; Scarlet-fronted Conure ; Scarlet-fronted Parakeet

Scientific name: Psittacara wagleri

The basics:
The Red-fronted Conure is one of those confusing green conures with some varying amount of red on its face and head. Some people who have this species probably don't know it, because they have it mixed up with other species such as the Mitred Conure. To add to the confusion, the scientists have changed the taxonomy of this bird and its relatives. A lot of information about Red-fronts might be found under the old name of Aratinga wagleri. If you plan to breed a conure in this group, you will need to consult with an expert to make sure you pair your bird properly.

Like other Psittacara, Red-fronts are intelligent, active, and capable of being loud, and they do occasionally learn to speak.

Red-fronted Conures seem to particularly enjoy moist, humid areas at moderate to relatively high elevations, so they're well adapted cloud forest. In some areas, where there are plenty of nest sites in the cliffs, the Red-fronted can be the most abundant parrot present. They're noisy, adaptable, and somewhat cautious of human disturbance, but they've been seen on agricultural fields, and they may occasionally help themselves to grain or fruit.

Appearance
Let's say you have an adult conure in the red-headed group, and you want to find out if it's a Red-fronted Conure. We'll assume that you're starting with a green conure with at least some red on the forecrown, not just a few red speckles like a White-Eyed Conure. First, look under the wing. Is there a small patch of bright red and yellow? You have a Finsch's Conure. If there is no such mark, look more carefully. Does the red completely surround the white eye ring? You have a Red-masked Conure or the nominate subspecies of Mitred Conure. Does the bird have only a tiny red patch on the forehead, not extending to the crown or touching the forehead? You have a bird called Psittacara (mitratus) alticola, which may be either a subspecies of the Mitred Conure or a full species known as Chapman's Parakeet, depending on how the science ultimately shakes out.

At this point, you should be left with birds where all adults will have red forecrowns and some red on the crown of the head. A former subspecies, now called the Cordilleran Parakeet, is a full species split off from Wagler's in 2014. These birds are larger and have red in the bend of the wing. If there is green in the bend of the wing, you have a Red-fronted Conure subspecies. As for identifying the babies in this group, the non-expert will simply look at the parents, since the juveniles are very easy to get confused.

Weight:
180 - 260 grams (6 - 9 oz)

Average size:
36 centimeters (14 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Red-fronted Conure is noted as one of the more confiding, easier to tame species. This self-confident bird would never be alone in the wild. Have play gyms set up 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. Since they can learn a few words, try to channel some of that vocal energy into teaching the bird to talk.

If socialized properly, they enjoy the company of their owners. 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.

Since you will be handling a larger conure, brush up on your best parrot psychology. As a pair-bond species, the Red-fronted Conure might become very possessive of its favorite during the breeding season. Be aware of your pet's body language. Some conures, particularly males, will bite a mate to drive it away from a rival, so you need to be aware if someone is about to enter the room when you're playing with your parrot. Distract a bird that looks like it might be ready to nip by quickly putting a chew toy in that busy beak.

Housing:
A single Red-fronted 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 Red-front to step up on a 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 Red-fronted Conure is a rather powerful bird with a formidable chewing beak. One breeder stated that they can chew up a small house “in a single afternoon.” Although she was exaggerating to make a point, please consider yourself warned. Provide this energetic, capable bird with plenty of toys and bird-safe branches that your pet can chew to destruction. The bird will go through plenty of chew and foraging items.

Diet:
The Red-fronted 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 Red-fronted 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 Red-fronted 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

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