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Sun Conure

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Is the Sun Conure right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Sun Parakeet

Scientific name: Aratinga solstitialis

The basics:
The popular Sun Conure is usually considered to be the most beautiful of the Aratinga conures, and an adult Sun Conure in fresh plumage is without a doubt one of the most magnificent of all of the smaller parrots. Alas, it is also one of the loudest of the small parrots. This species cannot be recommended for apartments unless you have great sound-proofing and steady nerves.

This beautiful conure has a fairly small range in South America from Guyana to northeastern Brazil and, perhaps, nearby. According to the World Parrot Trust, Guyana allowed the legal export of 600 Sun Conures per year for several years in the 1980s, to the point where the population has collapsed in that country. There are probably only a few hundred Sun Conures remaining in the wild, causing the International Union for Conservation of Nature to red-list the Sun Conure as an endangered species in 2008. As pet owners, we have a responsibility to treat the Sun Conure as the rare treasure it is.

Appearance:
An impressive long-tailed American parakeet dressed in the colors of the setting sun, the adult Sun Conure is a mostly deep yellow bird with a red-orange face and belly.The young birds start with substantially more green in their plumages, allowing unethical sellers to sometimes sell related Aratingas as baby Sun Conures. Know your breeder.

Weight:
120 - 130 grams (4.2 - 5.3 oz.)

Average size:
30 centimeters (12 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
Like other Aratingas, the Sun Conure is an active, intelligent bird who likes to play. This curious, energetic pet demands attention. You will want to provide lots of toys for the bird to explore and then chew to matchsticks, but it would be wise to channel your pet's energy into tricks or games as well. Keep this bird busy and well-entertained with positive activities. Because they are naturally vocal, you may be able to teach your Sun Conure to say a few words or to imitate an interesting sound like a ringtone. However, no matter how wisely you channel the bird's energy, it's possible that there will be times of the day that the bird will be extremely loud, no matter what you do.

Two possible times when it's natural for these birds to be really loud will be at sunrise and again when you get home from work. You need to be realistic before you get the bird about how much time you can spend with your pet and how much vocalizing you can tolerate. A neglected Sun Conure can really raise the roof. Most re-homed/rescue Sun Conures lose their first homes because the owner was simply not realistic about the vocal cords on this species. In short, this beautiful bird with an alert, intelligent personality is, ounce for ounce, one of the noisiest birds out there for its size, so be aware.

Housing:
A single pet Sun Conure should have a powder-coated metal cage that is at least 24” wide by 24“ deep by 24“ 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.

If you place a pair in an outdoor aviary, you should include a sturdy roostbox made of a wood which is safe for a strong beak to chew. Check the box often to make sure that your Sun Conures are not chewing through the wood. For the safety of the birds, you need a double screen system for any outdoor aviary – 1) hardware cloth to keep rats, raccoons, cats, and other pests from entering the aviary, and 2) mosquito netting to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne disease such as West Nile Encephalitis.

Diet:
Like all Aratinga conures, the Sun 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 Sun 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 Sun Conures may be susceptible to Conure Bleeding Syndrome, caused by a lack of vitamin K, it is crucial to include K-rich sources in the diet such as chopped turnip tops and other dark leafy greens.

Written by Elaine Radford

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