The Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure: A Joy To Be Holding
The Green-Cheeked Conure (Pyrrhura molinae) is native to parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. They are usually found in forested areas, where they form big flocks and may be seen in the treetops. In the wild, the Green-Cheeked Conure feeds on seeds, fruits, and vegetable matter. This is a small parrot, up to about 10 inches in length, including the tail. It is considered to be a fairly quiet bird, even though it is a member of the conure family.
The Green-Cheeked Conure is primarily green, with a gray breast, darker gray head, maroon tail and blue flight feathers; it gets its name from the green patch just under the eyes, which have a distinctive white ring around them. What makes them such popular little birds—aside from their delightful personalities, of course—is their color mutations; even birds that are yellow, orange, red, or cinnamon colored are still classified as Green-Cheeked Conures. The color mutations are not subspecies; they occur spontaneously, and cannot be deliberately bred.
One of these mutations is the Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure. This bird looks very similar to the standard Green-Cheeked, but where the regular Green-Cheeked is green, the Turquoise Green-Cheeked is bluish-green, or turquoise. There is also a further mutation of the Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure known as the Yellow-Sided Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure, which looks very much like the regular Turquoise and may have a yellow patch on the shoulders, underbelly and/or trim across the tail feathers. This is considered an even rarer mutation than the Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure, and for that reason is a very sought-after bird.
Personality and Temperament
Like all parrots, Green-Cheeked Conures in general are very social birds. Because they live in the wild in large flocks, they will expect daily interaction with their human flock as well. It is best for them, and for you, if your conure is able to interact regularly with all members of your family, and as often as you can manage. These are active little birds, and they need plenty to do so that they don’t become bored and potentially develop behavioral problems for that reason.
Green-Cheeked Conures also have wonderful personalities; they are playful, affectionate, and—as is true of all parrots—very intelligent. They are an excellent companion for those who may never have had a companion bird before, because they appear to truly love being with their people. They can also be quite cuddly, even enjoying lying on their backs and being “scritched.”
If you are considering adding a Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conure to your family, consider first his emotional needs. Because direct interaction is necessary for a healthy and happy bird, you’ll want to plan to place your bird’s cage where family members often gather, such as a family room or living room. If you do choose such a location, remember that he’ll need to either have a second cage for sleeping in a quiet, darkened location, or you’ll need to move his cage there before his bedtime. But a lively part of your home is the best place for your conure; as long as you are interacting with him talking to him, petting him while you’re on your computer, even having him out on your lap while you watch TV, he’ll likely be content to be with you.
In fact, the more that goes on that includes him, the happier he’ll be. A well-socialized conure generally gets along with everyone in the family, although they may choose one person to be their favorite. (If it’s you, consider it a compliment.) Most conures love to be handled and played with, and they usually do quite well with children; of course, you’ll want to supervise your child when he or she is playing with any bird.
Remember too that when you welcome your avian companion into your home, you’ll need to establish a workable routine for his care and playtime. Birds tend to be creatures of habit, just as we are, and any routine you establish early on will help both of you to adjust to these new changes in your household. One important thing to remember is that lavishing attention and affection on your conure when you first bring him into your home will set him up to expect that level of attention forever. It’s natural to spend a lot of time with your new friend, but it may turn out to not only work against you but, down the line, to cause emotional damage to your bird when he no longer gets that level of attention from his human flock. When you come home from work, for instance, do other things first before you greet your bird or let him out of his cage. If you don’t, he will expect that immediate attention every time you enter the house. Remember that a happy and well-adjusted conure will be able to entertain himself while you’re gone.
Also, be sure you help your bird become acclimated to change. Introduce new people and new objects into his environment frequently, and expose him to new situations, such as company, traveling in a car, having his nails trimmed, and so on. Companion birds who are not exposed to different things often become skittish or even afraid when a new toy, for instance, is put in their cage, or when new furniture is placed in their room. Exposure to change is good for your bird and will go a long way toward keeping him calm and happy.
Your Conure’s Living Space
You’ll want a cage for your conure that has appropriately spaced bars so that your new friend can’t hurt himself by getting stuck between them. For this bird, the spacing should be one half-inch to five-eighths of an inch. And because conures are active little birds, they need the largest cage (with that spacing) that you can provide. In most cases, a conure is able to live quite happily in a cage designed for cockatiels, but you’ll still want to provide the biggest cockatiel cage that you can.
You’ll also want to provide either a separate play set or purchase a cage that has a play top attached. Your conure needs to be able to stretch his wings and get some exercise, just as any parrot does. Play sets come in numerous configurations, from a basic platform on wheels, with several perches at different heights, to elaborate designs with multiple levels and branches and plenty of toys and swings. Again, as with the cage, you’ll want to provide as much space, and as much to play with, as you are able to.
You’ll want to choose the location for his cage based on several criteria. First, you don’t want to choose a location that is subject to drafts, either from a window or door or from an air conditioning or heating vent. Locating his cage so that he has a partial view from a window usually works well; if something is frightening to him, he at least will have the option of moving so that he can’t see it. In any case, the location you choose must be safe. You will never want to put his cage in the kitchen, or even adjacent to the kitchen, for many reasons; should he decide to go exploring on his own, the kitchen is the worst place in the house for your new companion. The second worst place is the bathroom (except for showers, which will be discussed later on). Because of cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, and even chlorinated water, the air in the bathroom may very well irritate your bird’s delicate respiratory system.
Then, make his environment a fun place to be when he’s not able to interact with his humans. Toys are absolutely essential for a healthy, happy bird. You may want to set up a toy box near his cage so that you can swap out the ones in his cage every few days, to keep him from becoming bored. Of course, any toys you buy should be the appropriate size for conures—not because they might not like smaller or larger toys, but because they can actually be dangerous for a small conure. Rings, for instance, should be either too small to allow your bird’s head to become caught, or very large, so he’d have no chance of becoming stuck.
Remember that Turquoise Green-Cheeked Conures are parrots, and as such like to chew—a lot. He’ll need plenty of wood to tear up, and of course it should be bird-safe wood and not simply branches cut from trees in the neighborhood. The wooden toys found in most pet supply stores are safe for your new companion. Other materials are fine, as well, but remember that string and cord can become frayed and trap a toe or even your bird’s head, so you may want to stick with leather strips instead.
Next, you’ll need to know a few things about perches. All birds require variety in the size, shape and texture of their perches; without such variety, your bird will likely develop foot problems. Both in his cage and on his play set, make sure that you’ve provided different shapes, widths and textures, so that your conure will be able to not only exercise his feet but be comfortable at all times, including sleep time.
Most important, remember that your bird’s cage should be as pleasant for him as your own home is for you. If you’ve attended to all of these details and have decided to allow him as much space as possible, and as many things to play with as possible, your Green-Cheeked Conure will absolutely appreciate all that you’ve done for him to make his living space a great one.
Diet and Health
Equally important for keeping your bird happy and healthy is his diet. The most important rule is that whatever you feed him, it should be fresh. Packaged seed mixes are often awful and full of junk and chemicals, but even the good ones are best if they form only part of your conure’s diet. An “all birdseed” diet is unhealthy and will very likely lead to distress for your bird. Remember, these conures are native to forests where they forage for food, including fruit and vegetation; the closer you can get to that diet, the better your bird will feel.
Most conures love fruits such as apples (but not the seeds), pears, bananas, and berries, and if you don’t mind the mess, a chunk of pomegranate with the seeds is a welcome treat. And vegetables such as carrots, green beans, peas in the pod and sugar snaps are not only tasty, they’re good for your avian companion. As far as greens, most birds love them; try Swiss chard, dandelion, and lettuce mixes such as spring mix. Also, for even better nutrition, either buy or grow your own sprouts, such as sunflower seed, mung beans, garbanzo beans, even green peas. In general, if it’s healthy for you, it’s healthy for your bird. They also are sure to love any nuts that you offer them; remember, unsalted only, and because these conures don’t have the extra-large beaks of their parrot relatives, the larger nuts will need to be shelled for them. But pistachios, almonds, filberts—any nut, really, as long as they can get it open—will usually be quite the treat.
Most importantly, you will never want to feed your avian companion anything alcoholic, any carbonated drinks, any salty snacks, or anything containing chocolate or avocado, all of which can make your conure very sick indeed and even kill him.
Another very important consideration for any parrot is bathing. Conures love to take baths, and if you don’t provide a separate place for them to do that, they are likely to bathe in their water dishes. Many people simply bring their bird into the shower with them, once the bird has become accustomed to doing that, but for a smaller parrot like a conure, you may just want to give him a place in a warm room and use a spray bottle. Be sure you use only plain, clean water, with nothing added, and that his shower room isn’t in any drafts. And also be aware that wherever your bird is when he takes a bath, you’ll most likely need to spend some time cleaning up afterwards, because you’ll have water everywhere.
Why Choose a Companion from the Green-Cheeked Conure species?
To sum it up, all of the wonderful qualities of the Green-Cheeked Conure have made it a very popular companion for many people. When asked, many people say they chose to adopt one because they are quiet birds, unlike the much more vocally expressive Jenday or Sun Conure. For that reason, they’re usually suitable for apartment or condo living. These birds are also a very good choice for those who may suffer from allergies, because they produce little or no dust, as some of the larger parrots, such as Cockatoos and African Greys, do.
These conures are also not as destructive as many of the larger parrots, again because of their size. Where having a cockatoo, for example, or a macaw, decide that your dining room table looks like a really big chew toy can be an unfortunate mistake (and a costly one for you), these conures are usually quite happy to chew on the toys you will, of course, provide for them. They are also much easier to set up a suitable living space for, because they do not take up as much room or require the very costly cages that a larger and more aggressive chewer will need.
And, finally, these little birds are quite simply beautiful, affectionate, intelligent beings. Their personalities are every bit as colorful as their feathers, and the whole package means an avian companion you’ll be glad to welcome into your life, and will cherish for decades.