Sun conure (yellow conure) - Aratinga solstitialis

Sun conure close-upOrigins: Southwest Venezuela, Guyana, Guyana and northeast Brazil.

Length: 30cm (12in).

Appearance: Shades of yellow and orange, becoming a more fiery shade of orange over some parts of the body, typically on the sides of the head and underparts. Secondaries yellow and green; primaries dark blue. Tail olive-green, being bluish near the tip of the upper surface and dusky olive beneath; undertail coverts green with yellowish tinge. Naked circle of skin around the eyes whitish; iris greyish-brown; beak black; legs and feet greyish. Sexes are similar in appearance.

Sun conure plumageThe sun conure's appearance can differ quite markedly, with some birds being much more colourful than others, and this means that it is quite easy to tell individuals apart. Youngsters in particular tend to show more green plumage than adults, notably on the wings, although this colouration may extend more widely, and in some instances, can be evident on the body at this stage too.

History: Although first bred during the 1880s in France, sun conures were exceedingly rare in aviculture throughout much of 20th century, up until 1971. The stunning colouration of these conures and their readiness to breed in aviary surroundings have since ensured that these birds are now widely available.

Housing and breeding:
Highly social by nature, sun conures can be housed and bred in groups, provided that there is a good choice of nest boxes available, and the group is well-established. Do not try to introduce new individuals during the breeding period though, as fighting will then be very likely.

The major drawback of the sun conure is that it is a noisy species, with a relatively loud, harsh call, and pairs are likely to become very noisy at the start of the breeding period. This means that it is not a good choice for aviaries in suburban areas.

Sun conures are highly socialAlthough it is not possible to distinguish the sexes by differences in plumage, DNA sexing using feathers provides Sun conure chicka reliable means of recognising pairs. Sun conures rank amongst the most prolific conures. A pair in Zimbabwe, for example, is on record as laying four clutches, which yielded 17 chicks over a period of 18 months. The incubation period lasts 26 days, with fledging taking place about nine weeks later.

The young will then be independent after another two weeks or so. Some pairs may display a tendency to pluck their chicks in the nest, possibly because of a desire on the part of the adults to be nesting again. The plumage should regrow, however, once the young have fledged.

Sun conures in a groupCare: A mixed seed diet, augmented with plenty of fresh fruit ranging from sweet apple and grapes to pomegranates as well as greenstuff such as chickweed and fresh corn-on-the-cob (maize) suits these parrakeets well. Sprinkle a powdered supplement over their food.

Sun conures are hardy by nature, but should always have a nestbox available, where they will roost at night. This should be located in a sheltered part of aviary, preferably under cover. Be prepared to replace perches in their quarters regularly, as they are rather destructive by nature, particularly in the lead-up to the breeding season.

As pets:
In the home, sun conures can be kept as pets, but again, their calls may be an issue if you have near neighbours in adjacent apartments. They can learn to talk and whistle, but must have plenty of attention, and Pet sun conureshould not be left for long periods on their own. In fact, it will be better to choose two young birds at the outset, which will bond and keep each other company when you are out.

When obtained at this age, they will become tame and settle well, whereas adults birds will remain shy. Regular spraying and opportunities to bathe several times a week - in a heavyweight earthenware bowl, of the type sold as a dog drinking bowl - are essential in terms of keeping their plumage in top condition, and deterring feather-plucking.

Lifespan: Sun conures are long-lived birds, with a life expectancy of 20-25 years.