Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. The decision to purchase or adopt a parrot requires careful consideration. For all their wonderful qualities, these intelligent, social birds are very demanding of one’s time and finances, and not suited to all homes. One species, however, stands out as an “almost” safe bet. The Green-Cheeked Conure (Pyrrhura molinae) adapts well to many different situations, and is less likely to display the behaviors that frustrate so many parrot owners. Although not trouble-free, it may well be the best choice for many parrot enthusiasts.
The word “fun” invariably arises when Green-Cheeked Conure owners speak about their pets. Even by parrot standards, they are curious and playful. Their affectionate nature and willingness to be coddled is often compared to that of a well-socialized cockatoo. These qualities, along with their small size, have skyrocketed Green-Cheeks into prominence in the pet trade. When I first began working for NYC bird importers in the 1970’s, they were unknown, and were uncommon as recently as 20 years ago.
Despite being a mere 10 inches in length, Green-Cheeks are surprisingly bold. Yet while they will defend themselves, most are good-natured if handled properly. Many enjoy “wresting” with their owners, pets such as rabbits, and even “bird-safe” dogs. Their demeanor suits them well to active, noisy households. They definitely take and interest in nearby hustle and bustle; several kept at large in a friend’s store act more like staff than birds, no matter how crowded it gets!
Although Green-Cheeked Conures do not have a reputation as talented mimics, many do learn to speak reasonably well, and even to use words in context (i.e. “Hi, I’m hungry!” when owner appears). Like all conures, their voices are harsh, but definitely on the “soft” side (by parrot standards!), and they tend not to develop screaming problems.
Green-Cheeked Conures are highly social, and need companionship and interaction with other birds or people. An hour or so of contact each day is not sufficient. A pair will keep one-another occupied…considering their small size, this may be an ideal option for those with busy schedules.
Maroon, blue, gray and green all appear in the Green-Cheek’s plumage. Given the small natural range, there is a surprising degree of variation among the 6 described subspecies. Some ornithologists believe that their taxonomy needs revision, and that new species may be named in time. The Yellow-sided Conure, formerly classified as a distinct species, is now considered to be a color variation of the Green Cheek.
Fanciful names such as “Sun Cheek”, “Turquoise” and “Pineapple” describe the beautiful color morphs have been developed. Please see the article below for photos of each.
Range and Habitat
The Green-Cheeked Conure is limited in distribution to the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, northwestern Argentina and northeastern Bolivia. It generally stays within or near forested habitats.
Despite its popularity in the pet trade, the Green Cheeked Conure has not been well-studied in the wild. A 2007 study, one of the few that focused solely on this species, indicated that a flexible feeding strategy allowed it to survive in diverse, harsh habitats (Braz. J of Biology, 2007 67(2):243-9).
In regions where some trees retained their leaves throughout the dry season, resident conures fed upon the flowers, seeds, fruit and/or arils (tasty structures designed to lure parrots and other seed-dispersers) of 16 tree species. Figs comprised 70% of the diets of Green-Cheeks dwelling in forests in which other dry-season foods were lacking. Please see the article below for further information.
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