I wasn’t attracted to conures when I first got into parrots more than 30 years ago. Perhaps it was the size thing. It took a wild-caught blue-crowned conure that I met back then to change my mind. He came to live with me on a temporary basis until I could tame him and find him a home where he would be appreciated.
After a few months, he went to live with a woman and her two sons who loved birds. It was a good match. He had all of the characteristics that people look for in a pet bird. He talked, he sang (albeit a bit off key), he danced, he liked everyone, and he was sweet and cuddly. He also didn’t scream except when he was happy, and who can complain about a happy-to-be-alive scream when a parrot is enthusiastic about playing?
The next conure that I fell for was a Patagonian conure. He was like a cuddly cockatoo in a conure suit and had a great personality. You could understand some of his conversation, but he seemed to mumble with more enthusiasm. It was fun to try to guess what point he was trying to make, as his mumbling was punctuated with a great deal of enthusiastic body language.
Years ago, I did a consultation with a woman who had a cherry-headed conure. Her daughter paid for the consultation because she wanted the bird to like her, too. Elvis was a one-person pet bird; perhaps because he had lived with the woman for close to 20 years, and the daughter hadn’t showed much interest in him before even though she had named him.
The name became quite appropriate since Elvis’s favorite behavior was to sing the words "Rock ‘n’ Roll” and dance to Elvis Presley’s "You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog.” The woman had played the song so many times that the conure also imitated the sounds of the scratches on the record.
After a year or so of living with parrots, I started to tame many of them for bird shops and buyers. It was easy to win a conure’s trust. If I could just gently get them onto a towel and then wrap it around them, I had it made. All I had to do was give them a good head "skritch,” and they were putty in my hands.
I was always amazed how easily they adapted to being handled when I slowed down my energy, approached them slowly and handled them gently. Many of them were even quite patient with the people in their lives even if the people didn’t get right the first few times.
Instructional Interaction For Conures
Over the years, I worked with just about every conure species that is popular as a pet bird. When there weren’t very many wild-caught conures to tame, I started working with those that had behavioral problems. Again, conures were easy.
The first sun conure I met took my breath away. He was fully flighted and was like a flash of sunlight. He had gotten into the habit of flying at people’s faces and needed his caregiver to provide more guidance, especially when her friends visited.
The vast majority of problems were caused by lack of guidance or a decrease in attention. If the pet bird was already tame, the best advice I gave was to start paying more attention to it; especially what I call "instructional interaction,” which was the guidance part of the equation.
This is the most important type of attention a person can give a parrot. It is in-your-face attention when you teach a new behavior, sing to the bird, talk to him, read him the news or play a special game with him. It doesn’t have to be more than 10 or 15 minutes, but there should be no distractions.
Conures: Rise In Popularity
For a while, it seemed that conures were losing popularity. Wild-caught conures had a reputation as being carriers of Pacheco’s disease. Not all of the species were a problem, but it became one of those generalizations. Pacheco’s disease is a horrible virus; I know because the person who was bird sitting for me in the late 1980s, when my father was very ill, put a wild-caught conure in the same room as my two yellow-collared macaws. Both of them died of it.
As breeders started raising hand-fed baby conures, Pacheco’s disease was no longer the concern it had been, and conures became more popular again.
However, conures do have the reputation for being horrible screamers. I really don’t think conures are any worse than many other parrot-family birds, and I believe that they are often easier to work with to keep the noise level acceptable. Some conures aren’t really noisy at all. While the littlest guys, the Pyrrhura family conures (such as the popular green cheek) can be chatty, their volume shouldn’t be a real problem.
I like to visit Avalon Aviary when my friend Susanne Cochran has green-cheeked babies. I usually become a playgym for them and love every minute of it. I just have to make sure that none end up in one of my pockets; I have enough curious avian explorers in my life.
I know one thing for sure about conures. Most of the people who have them think that they are incredibly wonderful. When it comes to my conure, Twiggy, I absolutely agree.