Sun conures are found only in tropical habitats, preferring to live on open savannah or within dry savanna woodland. They are also commonly found in scrublands (usually along the Amazon riverbank) and forested valleys, as well as in coastal and seasonally flooded forests. Preferring an altitude of less than 1200 meters, these birds sometimes live in valleys or near mountain slopes. They tend to inhabit palm groves and anywhere where trees or bushes are fruiting profusely. They may require post-fire habitats and are sensitive to human activity such as cattle grazing. These birds have not been widely studied in the wild because they only reside in largely undeveloped parts of the country that are difficult to access. ("Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Forshaw, 1977; Joseph, 1992; Juniper and Parr, 1998; O'Shea, 2005)
Sun conures are considered to be “the most beautiful of neotropical parrots”. Adults are typically 30 cm in length and weigh between 100 and 123 g. The wings measure 146 to 162 mm in length and the bill grows to somewhere between 19 and 25 mm. They have medium-sized bodies and long, pointed tails. In coloration, these birds are bright yellow with red markings on the sides of their head and a red-orange tinge on their forehead, lower abdomen, rump, and lower back. The under tail-coverts are green and yellow with similar coloration on the mantle, lesser and median upper and under wing-coverts. The secondary coverts are green with the outer webs of primary coverts being blue. The primary and secondary feathers are green with the primaries becoming blue near the tips. The upper-side of the tail is olive and tipped with blue while the underside of the tail and the flight feathers are olive-grey. Their irises are dark brown with a naked, white eye ring surrounding both eyes. The bill and legs are both dark in coloration, a shade somewhere between grey and black. Older birds may have more of a flesh tone to their feet. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Forshaw, 1977; Höfling, 2005; Juniper and Parr, 1998)
Immature birds are duller in color with more green feathers on the head, throat and body. They may have some poorly defined orange-red on their rump, lower back, breast and abdomen and have lighter bills. The adult feathers develop quite late in these birds, juveniles usually do not attain full coloration until 18 months to two years of age. Some birds in captivity even leave the nest with green backs. (Arndt, 1982; Forshaw, 1977; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Low, 1992; O'Shea, 2005)
Females and males are very similar and are difficult to tell apart based solely on appearance. However, females tend to have shorter tails, measuring 121 to 146 mm compared to the 131 to 146 mm of males. The colors are sometimes brighter in males, especially around the face and abdomen, though this is not always the case because sun conures show wide color variation from bird to bird. Other anatomical differences can be used to help determine the sex of the bird, but none are completely reliable. The hen’s head, for example, is rounder and smaller than the male’s, which tends to be more square and flat. Males have longer, more rectangular heads when viewed from above whereas the female’s skull appears almost triangular, with the beak forming the apex. In general, male birds appear stronger and more massively built, looking more parrot-like than the slender, narrower females. Hens are proportionately lighter and have smaller beaks. They should also have a larger distance between pelvic bones than males, though this is usually only true after reaching sexual maturity or right before laying eggs. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Forshaw, 1977)
Sun conures are similar in appearance to the closely related species A. jandaya, A. weddelli and A. auricapillus. While they are all separate species, many have recognized them as forming a “super-species” because of their similarities and the fact that they have been known to hybridize in captivity. This hybridization has never been confirmed in nature, however, likely because their habitats do not overlap. Compared to these closely related species, is lighter in weight, more colorful and has light yellow down instead of white at the time of hatching. (Juniper and Parr, 1998; Low, 1992; Ribas and Miyaki, 2004)
Evidence suggests that dietary factors may affect the coloration of these birds as those in captivity are standard in coloration, but wild birds differ slightly depending on where they live. (O'Shea, 2005)
Little is known about sun conure reproduction and nesting in the wild. There is no known courtship behavior among any species of conure. Most do not announce their intent to breed at all. However, paired birds can be seen feeding one another and will participate in intensive mutual grooming prior to breeding. Mating will last up to three minutes in a pair. After breeding, pairs become very affectionate with one another but very aggressive toward others, often attacking their keepers if kept in captivity. Before laying eggs, swelling of the abdomen is noticeable in females. (Arndt, 1982)
Females in the wild have been known to nest in trees or in cavities in Maurita flexuosa palms. They desire clean nests, free from any previously used nesting materials. The nest may be cleaned repeatedly up until egg-laying is complete. The average clutch size is 3 to 4 eggs, with eggs being laid one at a time in two to three day intervals. The eggs are round, measure about 26.7 to 29.5 mm by 22.0 to 23.5 mm, and weigh about 8.74 g. These eggs are incubated for 23 to 27 days, which is nearly forty percent longer than that of other birds when compared to egg mass. The young fledge 7 to 8 weeks after hatching and become independent after 9 to 10 weeks. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Bucher, 1983; Forshaw, 1977; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Voren, 2009; del Hoyo, 1997)
The eggs laid by (Bucher, 1983)contain more solids and less water than those of other species. The initial caloric content of the eggs is higher than is typical for equal size eggs of similar species. The rate of embryonic oxygen consumption increases throughout incubation. Embryos have a total metabolism of 18.029 kJ, which is greater than expected based on egg mass.
The fertility rate of all conure species is especially high. If a clutch does fail, the pair will breed again right away. Clutches can fail if the male is too young or too old or if the temperature is too low. Humidity does not seem to have any effect on hatching. In rare cases, conure pairs have destroyed and eaten their own eggs, usually as a result of a protein or calcium deficiency. This can quickly become habit. Clutches can also fail if the eggs are left to cool for too long, and individual eggs can fail to hatch if they become too dirty or if the young bird fails to break through the shell. Babies may also suffer from bone deformities if they are born to parents who survive on only seed. A complete failure to raise young is rarer in conures than in most other species. (Arndt, 1982; Lightfoot, 2010)
Sun conures reach sexual maturity somewhere around two years of age. However, a pair of birds must be approximately the same age for their eggs to be fertile. However, breeding is very common in captivity. While captive birds have no true breeding season, the increasing intensity of light and higher temperatures often stimulates them to breed in the spring. However, in their natural environment, nests have been found most often in February. (Arndt, 1982; Brightsmith, 2005; Forshaw, 1977; Joseph, 1992; Lightfoot, 2010; Voren, 2009; del Hoyo, 1997)
Females of this species handle incubation alone, only leaving the nest for brief feeding periods. Males usually guard the nests and remain nearby to keep the hens company. To protect the nest, birds may puff up their bodies, sway, and hiss at intruders. Hens may also retain their aggressive behavior after laying, screaming at and biting anything that gets too close. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Bucher, 1983; Forshaw, 1977; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Voren, 2009; del Hoyo, 1997)
It may take anywhere from a few hours to several days for a chick to completely escape from its egg. Chicks are born altricial, meaning they are blind, mostly naked, and completely dependent on their parents for food. At the time of hatching, they are incapable of even holding up their own heads. Although they grow comparatively slower than other birds, they fledge at ages similar to other species relative to their growth rate. Hatchlings weigh about 6.02 g, though the difference in size between the oldest and youngest is considerable. (Arndt, 1982; Bucher, 1983)
Hatchlings remain in the nest under the care of their parents for 7 to 8 weeks. Both mother and father feed the chicks. For the first few days of life, babies are turned onto their backs for feeding. After ten days, the babies begin to open their eyes and feather quills break through. It usually takes about forty-five days for the feathers to grow in completely, after which the young birds are able to fly. Weaning does not begin until a week or so after fledging. Weaning is assisted by the parents, who hold food in their beaks and feet for the babies. During the last few days before leaving the nest, chicks usually lose about ten percent of their body weight, developing a lighter, more aerodynamic, and streamlined figure. (Arndt, 1982; Bucher, 1983)
The lifespans of wild sun conures is currently unknown. Birds in captivity are expected to live 15 to 30 years.
Sun conures live in pairs or in small flocks varying from 3 to 15 individuals, although groups of smaller than 5 are most common. Large flocks of 20 to 30 birds can build up where fruiting trees and bushes are abundant. Highly social birds, sun conures will never leave their flock. Their movements may be nomadic or seasonal and based on food availability, although some populations are present year round. Flocks are surprisingly quiet while feeding but are extremely noisy in flight, usually heard long before they are seen. Their flight is swift and direct, and entire flocks easily melt into the foliage despite their bright coloration. Flocks often fly many miles every day, making exercise vital for birds in captivity. ("Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Forshaw, 1977; Höfling, 2005; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lightfoot, 2010; Low, 1992; O'Shea, 2005; Restall, 2006)
Young conures pair off at around 4 or 5 months when possible. Unlike similar species such as jandayas and golden conures, pairs are clearly distinguishable and take precedence over group relations. In captivity, however, pairing can be deceiving as birds of the same sex will often act like a pair, feeding and mating with one another. They are naturally very sociable creatures and, if kept alone, will bond very closely to one person. (Arndt, 1982)
Before opening their eyes, chicks are very responsive to light. Designed to live in dark cavities, babies will react to bright lights by flinching, hiding, and trembling. Intense light at this stage can be harmful to the development of the eye and can cause psychological distress. Upon first opening their eyes, nestlings are nearsighted and will blink, recoil, and seek a dark corner if they are given the opportunity to see distant objects. They will, however, move toward and touch objects that are nearby, which helps to develop their vision. Prior to weaning, fledglings tend to obsess over learning to fly to the extent that they will often lose interest in eating. (Lightfoot, 2010)
Molting birds often become irritable because they are uncomfortable. This discomfort can be eased by bathing or by exposure to warm rainfall or humidity, which enables the sheaths of pin feathers to open more easily. (Lightfoot, 2010)
Sun conures are very smart, curious birds that require mental stimulation and social interaction. Though they can be taught simple tricks and have some talent for talking, they are prone to behavioral problems such as screaming, biting and chewing. They also have an impressive ability to manipulate their feet, bills, and tongues and tend to be more wary than other conure species. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Bucher, 1983; Watkins, 2004)
Currently, exact territory size for sun conures is unknown.
Sun conures have a harsh voice. While in flight, their call is a very loud, high-pitched ‘screek-screek’ repeated rapidly three to six times. Like other parrot species, they also make high-pitched wheezy sounds and quieter chuckling noises while perched. Despite their loud flight calls, they are usually very quiet while feeding. Baby sun conures can only be heard when they are hungry, though they quickly develop the loud, repetitive adult call, which they use to induce feeding by the parents. Like most birds, sun conures perceive their environments through visual, auditory, tactile and chemical stimuli. (Arndt, 1982; Forshaw, 1977; Joseph, 1992; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lightfoot, 2010; Restall, 2006)
Little is known about the actual diet of these birds in the wild. The stomach contents of examined birds have indicated that they feed on ripe and half-ripe seeds of various fruits and berries. They have also been known to eat nuts, blossoms, buds, fruit pits, wind-dispersed seeds and insects. Some groups of sun conures have also been known to devour and destroy entire crops near human habituation. Red cactus fruit is also a likely food choice among these birds as well as Malpighia berries and legume pods. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Brightsmith, 2005; Forshaw, 1977; Höfling, 2005; Joseph, 1992; Juniper and Parr, 1998; del Hoyo, 1997)
During the breeding season, more protein is required in the diet to keep these birds healthy. Similarly, long flights and young rearing call for more carbohydrates and egg production and skeletal growth require a higher calcium intake. (Arndt, 1982)
In captivity, their diets should be varied and include seeds, grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Often times, however, they prefer to eat what tastes best to them over what they actually require for a healthy diet, often leading to malnutrition. In rare cases, these birds can eat large amounts of food and still die from malnutrition if they are not getting all of the nutrients that they need. Despite this, they are not picky eaters and can live primarily on grass seed. However, a diet of seeds alone can have a significantly negative effect on breeding. These birds really enjoy a variety of foods such as spinach, Chinese cabbage, cress, roquette, kale, broccoli, carrot tops, alfalfa, peas, endive, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, currants, rowans, elderberries, hawthorn berries, rose hips, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. These foods can be given fresh, dehydrated or in the form of baby food. Dandelions and chickweed are also occasionally fed to these birds as well as soaked corn, germinated sunflower seeds and spray millet. Buds from fruit trees, elderberry bushes, willows, hawthorn, and aspen branches are suitable as well. While insects are not a wise choice in captivity, some people may include mealworms in their diet. Others substitute the mealworms with hard-boiled eggs, bread, biscuits, hard cheese and low-fat dry cottage cheese. Ant eggs, though expensive, are also sometimes included in the diet. Finally, cuttlebones, mineral blocks and gravel or ground oyster shells should be given to aid in digestion. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Low, 1992; Soucek, 2000)
Because of an adaptation in the wild, conures will not eat anything they haven’t had before unless they see another bird eat it first. In captivity, some birds then want to try what their keepers are eating, which can be dangerous to their health. Spicy foods and salami are particularly bad for these birds. Lettuce, while definitely healthy for them, can cause intestinal problems and should only be fed in moderation. Peanuts, though acceptable, can be contaminated with fungal toxins that cause liver damage and cancer. They should never be given caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, fruit pits or avocado. (Arndt, 1982)
Predation in the wild has not been observed, though many cavity nesting species are vulnerable to predators such as snakes or terrestrial mammals during the breeding season.
Sun conures are seed dispersers, meaning that they transport seeds away from the parent plant by eating the seeds in fruit and later excreting them, unharmed, in their stool. The harvesting of Mauritia palms in which sun conures nest may eventually damage the ecosystem because the birds will no longer be assisting in the transport of seeds where these trees no longer exist. (Brightsmith, 2005)
Popular as pets, sun conures are a major source of income for the international pet trade. (Arndt, 1982; "Sun Conures or Sun Parakeets", 2010; Gaskin, 1989; Joseph, 1992; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Low, 1992; Watkins, 2004; del Hoyo, 1997)
The trapping and transport of these birds as pets has led to the exchange of infectious disease in and among the captive population. Some of these diseases include Inclusion Body Hepatitis, Feather and Beak Disease and Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome as well as infection by Reovirus, Poxvirus, Papovirus, Herpesvirus, Adenovirus, and Paramyxovirus. Many of these are capable of being passed on to the eggs which inhibits hatching and are most commonly spread among the populations by humans. Bad breeding may also lead to illness and deformities among birds. Disease and deformity can harm the availability and popularity of these and other birds and therefore may actually be of great harm to the pet trade. (Arndt, 1982; Gaskin, 1989)
These birds have also been known to cause major crop damage within their range. It is thought possible that the Mayas of Central America may have abandoned their own villages suddenly because of the continuous crop devastation brought on by these and other voracious birds. (Arndt, 1982)
The Psittacidae family is considered the most endangered large avian family in the world. Sun conures as a species are also considered endangered due to the rapid reduction in its wild population size over the last three decades. While once believed to be fairly common, it is now believed that the supposed large population numbers may have simply been the result of a few populations occupying large ranges. Trapping for the pet trade has also played a significant part in reducing the species population by removing it from most of its former range. In 1988, this species was first recognized as near threatened. By 2004, it was considered of least concern but is now once again considered endangered and is in need of effective protection as the population continues to decrease. (Brightsmith, 2005; "Aratinga solstitialis (Sun Parakeet)", 2010; Joseph, 1992; Juniper and Parr, 1998; O'Shea, 2005; del Hoyo, 1997)
Patricia Pongratz (author), Northern Michigan University, Mary Martin (editor), Northern Michigan University.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
parental care is carried out by males
imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
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