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The conure is one of the most diverse commonly kept companion birds—with forty-two distinct species and numerous subspecies, there’s a conure for everyone. The most popular conures are the most free-breeding of the family—the green-cheeked and the maroon-bellied, the sun and jenday, and the nanday—for obvious reasons: supply for these birds equals or exceeds the demand and they are affordable for the average bird owner who wants an affectionate bird with a huge personality and plenty of love for everyone in the family.
The movie, “Paulie,” about an exceptionally intelligent talking blue-crowned conure made that bird popular for many years and explained why a previously overlooked species suddenly became more available in the marketplace. “Paulie” showed the general public how much fun a conure could be. But conure enthusiasts knew that already. Despite the tendency to wake up the neighbors and to chew their way down the new mahogany banister, conures have remained an unwavering favorite for many years.
Conures are beautiful and various, but it’s their personality and intelligence that makes them a favorite of novices and bird experts alike—from the giant Patagonian conure to the little maroon-bellied, conures are amiable, highly trainable pets, easy going in general (with the proper socialization) and bond fiercely with their owners. Who could ask for more?
There are several new interests on the horizon for conure enthusiasts. No, scientists haven’t discovered a new species of conure, and no one has figured out how to stop conures from leaving “presents” on your shoulder yet, but there are several new ideas about conure ownership springing up among fanciers, and new mutations have conure breeders bustling to keep up with the demand for new conure colors.
The buzzword is going to be “responsibility” when it comes to bird guardianship. Conures have a reputation for being noisy, which can lead an owner to rethink its quality as a pet. Persistent attention-getting squawk and chatter often gets a conure less attention and more owners. Conures, like cockatoos and Amazons, are quite frequently given up because of their volume, especially when the owner’s lifestyle changes, such as moving to a condo or having a baby needing to sleep in peace and quiet.
You can guess the volume of a conure based on its size. The smaller the conure, the smaller the noise, and vice versa. A green-cheeked conure will be less noisy than a Patagonian conure. But volume doesn’t have anything to do with persistence.
Conures, especially the aratinga group, will continue their shrill calls until their owners are searching the Web for bird adoption agencies. Nandays are especially notorious for noise, though they make up for it with a dazzling personality.
Conures are also known for chewing anything that comes into their path. Nothing is sacred. Everything wooden, plastic, drywall, or paper is fair chewing material. Again, the size of the bird will match the size of the destruction to your home (should you be so silly as to turn your back). However, what the little conures lack in beak-size they make up for in slipperiness, and will find a way to chomp things you had no idea they could get to.
In terms of personality, a hand raised and well-socialized conure of any species can make a great pet if you take the time to interact appropriately with it. Basically, your choice comes down to availability, budget, visual preference, room in your home, and how much noise and chewing you can stand. And be sure that you’re going to keep your conure for the duration of its life, which can be over 30 years.
You have to allow your conure some vocalization. Keeping a conure quiet 24 hours a day is an unrealistic goal. Use your bird’s natural instincts to help keep your space squawk-free some of the time. Birds thrive on routine. Most will vocalize heavily at dawn and at dusk—just like roosters. No, it’s not nice to wake up at dawn to a sun conure screeching its little orange head off. Simply cover the cage with a heavy, dark cloth (or several) and let your bird scream when you remove it. He’ll think it’s time to crow and you’ll get your sleep. It’s best if you do this regularly and start when your bird is young—birds have great internal clocks and may not let the dark cloth hinder their morning vocalizations.
Make a “squawking schedule” setting down times when you—and your neighbors—won’t mind the noise. A few hours out of the day should do the trick. During the times when you want your bird to be quiet, you will have to either interact with it, or find something it likes to do, like tear apart a wadded up ball of tissue paper with a nut inside, or dissemble Popsicle sticks you’ve glued together (with a small dab of non-toxic glue). You can make these things in advance and offer them to your bird at the same time each day. It will begin to look forward to the treat. But you will hear some squawking if you’re late with it!
If you can’t get your precious baby to stop its infernal screeching, think about soundproofing your home before you drive him to the local shelter. Take a look at the acoustics of the room where your conure lives. A room with a linoleum or tile floor, hardwood or metal cabinetry and furniture and four empty walls will not absorb the sound as would a carpeted room with plush furniture and drapery.
There are two issues to conure noise: owner disturbance and neighbor disturbance, both of which can be solved with soundproofing. Hearing-protection headsets for the conure owner, as well as simple home soundproofing anyone can do. There is a super soundproofing absorbent mat that can be used. It’s a unique foam that doesn’t absorb odor or moisture and it can be washed.
Placating the neighbors is a little more involved. You can block sound from going out of their windows with soundproofing foam cut to the size of the window and pushed in place.This reduces the sound level 50% to 60%. Or, you can put up acoustical curtains over the walls and windows to help block sound. There are also have some clear heavy plastic that can put over the window to block the sound and still let light in.
Birds make loud discordant cries that are hard to predict, unlike traffic sounds that are at a low level. “Bird cries are at a high frequency, passive sound control like the mat, foam, and barrier materials work very well. If you use the proper materials in the proper way, you can cut down a lot of the sound. If you reduce the sound by 50% you will detect a difference, but the sound itself is still quite loud. Every time you reduce it a few percentage points, it goes down another 50%. The best way to understand this is to think about turning the dial on your radio—every time you move it a smidgen, you’ve actually increased the volume 50%. A reduction of 70%, 80%, 90% is going to be a level you can live with.”
Conures are busy birds. In the wild, a conure would have plenty to do. In the average home, a conure is not going to be nearly as busy as it would be flying through the rainforest looking for food, nesting sites, and watching out for predators. Your conure lives a life of leisure in comparison, but it still has all the energy and get-up-and-go as its wild cousins. Keeping your conure entertained is one of the keys to keeping it happy, quiet (some of the time!), and keeping it physically fit.
Standard wooden toys are a must for the conure, which is a bird that lives to chew, but there are several new types of toys on the market that will draw your conure’s interest. “Jukebox” toys that play a song are becoming popular as more song titles are available—your sun conure might like playing “You are my sunshine.”
Build-your-own commercial bird toys are making their way into the mainstream, and are as fun for your conure as they are for you. Of course, you can always knot some sisal rope around an empty toilet paper roll and watch your conure try to take it apart. Sometimes the most entertaining toys are the least expensive.
Food can be fun too. String a few seckel pears on to some sisal rope and hang it in the cage. Or you can use lady apples, kiwis, or large grapes—any kind of whole fruit that your bird will have to work at to eat. Popcorn and nuts wrapped in tissue paper and tied like a bon-bon with sisal rope is a rewarding toy. An almond can keep a smaller conure quiet for at least ten minutes—enough time for a squawk-free phone call!