Sun conure by Cioli/Bowtie Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Baby conures learn life skills from their parents and members of the flock.
Most conures forage for food in family groups or flocks of up to 30 birds or more. As with most parrot flocks, they start out at sunrise to fly from their roosting areas to find areas with abundant food. Conures are opportunistic omnivores, (they will eat about any food they find while foraging). They eat includes fresh seeds and nuts, fruit, leaf matter, flower buds, insects and grubs.
Years ago, when I was in Costa Rica, I watched a small flock of about 15 or so orange-fronted conures fly into a flowering tree. They climbed along the branches making quiet vocalizations as they ate. I often wonder if they were telling each other how good the food was. A few birds would occasionally squabble with each other about a tasty tidbit. They also seemed to play with their food and particularly loved to rip apart small twigs and branches. As we watched them, the conures would also suddenly twirl around on the branch and hang from one foot and swing for a little while. There seemed to be no real purpose in some of this behavior since they weren’t reaching for food, so my guess is that they were either playing or showing off their acrobatic skills.
I knew that my parrots were wasteful when it came to food, but watching these conures discard many of the flowers they ate was the first time I realized being wasteful was also a trait of wild birds. Flocks of conures also raid corn fields and other agricultural crops, which makes them unpopular and often persecuted by farmers.
Parents feed their babies a semi-digested “pabulum” from their crops. As the chick develops, the parents start to feed food somewhat chewed, but resemble the food source that they are being fed. This way the babies start to learn the foods that they will eventually forage for on their own. When the chicks fledge and learn to fly with their parents and/or other members of the family or flock, they learn from example about good food sources and foraging techniques. Conures at this age are learning sponges and quickly learn social and survival skills. Once they learn these lessons, they know how to forage and manipulate foods on their own. In the wild, the only difference between baby food and adult food is that when the conures are babies, their parents forage for food and “prepare” it so it will be easily digestible. When the youngster starts eating on his own, it is the same food but he has to learn to forage for it and chew it with his beak to prepare it for digestion.
The same thing should be true for domestically-raised conures. The hand-feeder starts out by feeding them pabulum-like formula but as the baby matures, fresh foods can be prepared so they are easy for the baby to digest. When conures start eating on their own, they can be weaned to or transitioned to a diet of fresh foods in their food bowls. A nutritious diet for conures can include a quality natural pellet, a variety of high vitamin A vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and various greens, a small amount of fruit and a few seeds or nuts. As with the macaws, most conures love nuts, but they should be fed in moderation with their size in mind. I don’t feed peanuts to my parrots because of my concern about aflatoxins in them. My parrots love almonds, pecans, and pistachio pieces. Twiggy, my slender-billed conure looks forward to the two to three daily nut pieces I give her. As she takes them from my hand, she says, “Is it good? Is it good?”