Sun conures are some of the most visually attractive parrots of all, clothed as they are in rich yellow and gold feathers, with rich green tips to their wings.
Growing to a body length of around 30cm these are mid-sized members of the parrot family, offering all the intelligence of larger birds but without the need for excessive space.
Sun Conures hail from the northern areas of South America, where they may be found in large flocks. Here they chatter and squabble in the treetops, picking off fruit and seeds as they find them.
Unsurprisingly, the incredible appearance of these birds has long made them popular pets, and as such many are taken each year for the pet trade. What is more, habitat loss also seems to be affecting the wild population, as the forests they formerly called home shrink in size every year.
The message here is that you should only consider purchasing a captive-bred specimen, so as to maintain the ever-shrinking wild population. This works well for other reasons too; captive-bred birds tend not to be affected by parasites, and particularly if hand-reared can quickly tame down.
One of the more notable traits seen in Sun Conures is that they can become very confiding indeed in a single person. This bond remains so strong that, while it is not recommended, some keepers take their birds outdoors. Here they will happily fly off to explore, before returning to the safety of “their” person.
Sun conures are active, curious and playful birds and therefore require a suitably sized cage. These are not birds that will sit around motionless for long periods of time.
Most authorities recommend a cage of at least a metre in each direction, with regular daily exercise permitted outside the cage.
A sun conure’s cage should be suitably fitted out with a range of perches of differing diameters and hard-wearing toys. This combination will allow your bird to exercise their feet and bill, as well as providing ongoing entertainment in your absence.
Pleasantly, sun conures are not known for their destructive tendencies (unlike some other members of the parrot family) so one can get reasonably creative with cage furnishings. It is a wise area to swap round the toys provided, as well as their location, to provide variety over time.
Be careful when choosing where to place your conure’s cage. Direct sunlight through a window can quickly overheat caged birds, whilst drafts can cause respiratory problems. The best place for your bird’s cage is in a semi-dark corner away from windows and doors.
Sun conures feed mainly on a diet of seeds, and a range of premium parrot foods (such as the Kaytee range) may be provided. Whilst such diets offer complete nutrition, it is wise to supplement with a range of fruits and vegetables for interest.
Examples of acceptable food stuffs include carrot, peas, apple, banana and melon. Fresh food should be monitored carefully and removed after a few hours to prevent your bird from eating spoiled food.
Sun conures may live for 20-30 years in captivity, so it is critical to understand what you’re getting yourself into before bringing one home. While these conures have become very popular thanks to their intelligence and colour, it would be a mistake to think of them as perfect pets.
For one thing, sun conures can be very noisy birds indeed, and possess an exceptionally loud voice. For this reason conures are probably not the best option for those pet owners living in apartments (see some good pets for flats here) or those with more sensitive neighbours.
Additionally, potential owners should be aware that sun conures can, at times, be surprisingly aggressive. Specimens may nip and bite, seemingly without any provocation. It therefore takes time and effort to properly tame such a bird, and regular contact will be required to maintain this. Such surprising bouts of aggression also mean that sun conures may not be the best option for households with young children, who may inadvertently get bitten through no fault of their own.
Note lastly that the sun conure tends not to be a particularly good speaking bird. They may learn a few words, but these are seldom clearly spoken. Instead, many other cage birds, from African Greys to budgies, may prove to be better if you’re looking for a speaking bird.
That said, don’t let these potential weaknesses hold you back if a sun conure really is the bird you desire. The key, however, is to be aware of these shortfalls in advance, so that you go into pet ownership with your eyes open, rather than getting a nasty surprise a few days after they come home from the pet shop.