Pyrrhura molinaegreen-cheeked parakeet

Geographic Range

Green-cheeked conures (Pyrrhura molinae) are native to dense forests throughout Paraguay, northwestern Argentina, and Bolivia. They have also been observed in several parts of Brazil but in fewer numbers. Green-cheeked conures have been found in the western portions of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, two neighboring states of Brazil. These birds have been observed in each of these locations year-round. However green-cheeked conures that live at higher elevations are known to migrate, descending farther south within their range in fall and winter (March to August). ("Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2018; Ragusa-Netto, 2007)

Habitat

Green-cheeked conures hatch in nests made in the holes of various trees throughout the dry forests of western Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. These birds also nest throughout deciduous lowland woodlands, secondary forests, gallery woodlands, and humid subtropical forests of Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. Once they grow their flight feathers, green-cheeked conures are able to fly throughout the South American forests they inhabit, reaching elevations up to 2,600 m. They spend most of their lives in the treetops of these forests and woodlands. ("Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2018; Collar and Boesman, 2019; Traylor, 1950)

  • Range elevation
    2600 (high) m
    8530.18 (high) ft
  • Average elevation
    1500 m
    4921.26 ft

Physical Description

Green-cheeked conures are distinguished from other conure species by their signature green coloration, specifically on their cheeks. There are six subspecies of green-cheeked conures including Pyrrhura molinae molinae, P.m. phoenicura, P.m. sordida, P.m. restricta, P.m. australis, and P.m. flavoptera. Each subspecies has a few different characteristics regarding coloration and feather patterns. The following description describes Pyrrhura molinae molinae which is considered the signature green-cheeked conure: from forehead to nape, adult green-cheeked conures have brown or gray feathers, followed by a variation of gray, white, and brown feathers down their chests. Their eyes are brown and surrounded by bare, white eye rings. Their beaks are a gray or brown color. Their hindnecks are covered in mostly gray feathers but there are occasionally a few blue feathers. There is a variation of yellow and orange feathers on their lower abdomens. Green-cheeked conures have long red tail feathers occasionally tipped with blue. Their feet are most commonly gray, however some have a mutation that results in pink feet. Juveniles have many of these characteristics, however their blue flight feathers, long tail feathers, and the colorful feathers on their abdomens do not develop until they mature. (Collar and Boesman, 2019; Pollock, 2012; "GREEN-CHEEKED CONURE (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2019)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    62 to 81 g
    2.19 to 2.85 oz
  • Average mass
    72 g
    2.54 oz
  • Average length
    26 cm
    10.24 in
  • Range wingspan
    15.24 to 17.78 cm
    6.00 to 7.00 in
  • Average wingspan
    16.5 cm
    6.50 in

Reproduction

Male green-cheeked conures court females by puffing up their feathers to make themselves appear larger and more attractive. Males also lift their tail feathers up and back into females to display their affection. If a female accepts this courtship display, she will also stick her tail feathers up toward the sky and wag them at her new mate. During courtship, green-cheeked conures also exhibit regurgitation and burrowing behaviors. During their breeding season, male and female green-cheeked conures copulate in small, dark tree holes, where they eventually prepare nests. (Jordan, 1996; Pollock, 2012; Thompson, 1994)

Green-cheeked conures are known to breed in February throughout their geographic range. After copulation, females gestate for a couple of days before laying three to eight eggs. Weaning of hatchlings occurs after 45 to 70 days. After weaning, young green-cheeked conures only live with their parents for another three to six weeks before becoming independent. These birds reach sexual maturity between the ages of one and three. Once they are sexually mature, they search for a life-long mate. (Jordan, 1996; Pollock, 2012; Thompson, 1994)

  • Breeding interval
    Green-cheeked conures breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Pyrrhura molinae are known to breed in mid-to-early spring and are most commonly observed breeding in February.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 8
  • Average eggs per season
    5
  • Range time to hatching
    22 to 25 days
  • Average time to hatching
    23 days
  • Range fledging age
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    10 to 25 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 3 years

Green-cheeked conure parents build their nests in tree holes about 18 inches deep using a variety of materials, including twigs, leaves, and dry wood chips. These materials prevent fungus growth inside nests. Green-cheeked conures have been reported to be outstanding parents. After female green-cheeked conures lay their eggs, both parents take turns incubating them. As green-cheeked conure chicks grow and develop, parents feed and protect their young until they become independent. There is typically no post-independence association between parents and their offspring, even if they remain within the same flock. (Jordan, 1996; Pollock, 2012; Thompson, 1994)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

On average, green-cheeked conures, both in the wild and in captivity, are expected to live between 25 and 30 years. Interestingly enough, they have must shorter lifespans in captivity than expected. This is often due to owner neglect and poor diet in pet green-cheeked conures. (Collar and Boesman, 2019)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    25 to 30 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    25 to 30 years

Behavior

Green-cheeked conures are highly mobile and social birds. They typically form flocks of 10 to 20 birds and are rarely observed alone or far from their flock. There is no known social hierarchy or particular social system in green-cheeked conures. They are known to remain within dense forests and jungles of Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil year-round. In general, green-cheeked conures are not a migratory bird, however some are known to be altitudinal migrants. Green-cheeked conures are active during the day and spend the majority of their time in tall trees in the forests and jungles they inhabit. ("Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2018; Waller, 2019)

Home Range

Green-cheeked conures do not have a fixed home range and are not considered territorial birds. ("Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2018)

Communication and Perception

Green-cheeked conures rely heavily on their eyes to perceive their environment. They are well-known for their sensitive olfactory and respiratory systems, which also affect how they perceive their environments. To communicate between one another, green-cheeked conures use a variety of high-pitched and low-pitched chirps, whistles, screams, chatters, and tongue-clicks. They use posture, head bobbing, feather ruffling, and tail-wagging to communicate with each other as well. Green-cheeked conures may also communicate with one another through physical contact, typically with their heads or beaks, as a way of showing affection. They are skilled at mimicking the noises of other birds and objects in their environment. In captivity, green-cheeked conures have been reported mimicking the sounds of household items and human voices. (Pollock, 2012; "GREEN-CHEEKED CONURE (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2019)

Food Habits

As fledglings, green-cheeked conures eat what their parents provide them. This includes a combination of fruits, seeds, nuts, and bits of flowers. Adult green-cheeked conures have an incredibly diverse and flexible diet. They eat fruits from the deciduous and semi-deciduous trees in their habitats, including figs, mangoes, papaya, and oranges. They also consume the seeds and pulp from these fleshy fruits. Green-cheeked conures are known to sometimes consume flowers from the trees they inhabit as well as the nectar from those flowers. They enjoy a variety of seeds and nuts including sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, paradise nuts, and cashews. (Ragusa-Netto, 2007; Thompson, 1994)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers

Predation

False vampire bats (Vampyrum spectrum) and ornate hawk-eagles (Spizaetus ornatus) are two known predators of green-cheeked conures. When green cheeked conures are in groups, these predators often do not attack, likely because they are confused by the large numbers. If either of these predators decided to attack a flock of green-cheeked conures, several green-cheeked conures would first alert the rest of the flock, after which the group would immediately disperse. Despite their colorful feathers green-cheeked conures are able to hide from predators in the areas they inhabit. Green-cheeked conures make their nests within tree holes, which protect their young from predators. The small openings to their nests are too small for common green-cheeked conure predators to access. Flocking has proved to be the most effective anti-predator adaptation that these birds have. (Waller, 2019)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • mimic
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Green-cheeked conures play an important role in the dispersal of seeds for many seed-bearing plants throughout the rainforests and deciduous forests of Bolivia, northwestern Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Green-cheeked conures cannot digest the seeds of fruits they consume. Therefore, through defecation while flying, they spread seeds to new areas. Although they are difficult to catch when in flocks, they are nevertheless preyed upon by false vampire bats (Vampyrum spectrum) and ornate hawk-eagles (Spizaetus ornatus). (Waller, 2019)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Green-cheeked conures have become much more popular as pet birds in the United States in recent years. They are raised on bird farms in the U.S. or are illegally traded from Mexico and other South American countries and imported to pet stores in the U.S. (Waller, 2019; "GREEN-CHEEKED CONURE (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2019)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The trapping, transport, and lack of sanitary conditions connected with trading and breeding green-cheeked conures has resulted in the exchange of diseases like Polyoma virus, Psittacosis (or parrot fever) and Chlamydiosis. Although it is rare for humans to contract Polyoma virus, Psittacosis and Chlamydiosis are more commonly contracted by humans. These diseases can also be passed along from parents to their young and can result in deformities. Disease and deformities in green-cheeked conures have a large negative impact on the green-cheeked conure trade and bird sales in pet stores. ("Psittacosis - parrot fever", 2014)

Conservation Status

There is currently little concern for native green-cheeked conure populations. Populations are decreasing, but not at an alarming rate. However, this will change as deforestation and habitat fragmentation gradually destroy the forests that green-cheeked conures inhabit. In an effort to prevent severe damage or loss to native green-cheeked conure populations, their entire geographic range has been designated as a conservation site. South American countries included in this range are working to protect the water resources and other resources that green-cheeked conures use. ("Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)", 2018; "Species factsheet: Pyrrhura molinae", 2019)

Contributors

Ana Horvath (author), Colorado State University, Kate Gloeckner (editor), Colorado State University, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

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.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

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.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

choruses

to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
duets

to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate

endothermic

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

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).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

mimicry

imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

rainforest

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.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

World Parrot Trust. 2019. "GREEN-CHEEKED CONURE (Pyrrhura molinae)" (On-line). World Parrot Trust: Parrot Encyclopedia. Accessed February 10, 2019 at https://www.parrots.org/encyclopedia/green-cheeked-conure/.

BirdLife International. 2018. "Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)" (On-line). IUCN Red List. Accessed February 07, 2019 at https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22685820/130103512.

Victoria State Government. 2014. "Psittacosis - parrot fever" (On-line). Accessed March 21, 2019 at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/psittacosis-parrot-fever.

2019. "Species factsheet: Pyrrhura molinae" (On-line). BirdLife International Data Zone. Accessed February 07, 2019 at http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/green-cheeked-parakeet-pyrrhura-molinae/details.

Collar, N., P. Boesman. 2019. "Green-cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae)" (On-line). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Accessed February 11, 2019 at https://www.hbw.com/species/green-cheeked-parakeet-pyrrhura-molinae#Taxonomy.

Jordan, R. 1996. Pyrrhura Conures: Status in Aviculture. Journal of the American Federation of Aviculture, 23(2): 8-11. Accessed February 11, 2019 at https://journals.tdl.org/watchbird/index.php/watchbird/article/view/1004/984.

Pollock, C. 2012. "Basic Information Sheet: Conure" (On-line). LafeberVet: The resource for exotic animal veterinary professionals. Accessed February 25, 2019 at https://lafeber.com/vet/basic-information-sheet-for-the-conure/.

Ragusa-Netto, J. 2007. Feeding ecology of the Green-cheeked parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae) in dry forests in western Brazil. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 67(2): 243-249.

Thompson, D. 1994. The Joys of Conures in Aviculture. AFA Watchbird, May/June 1994: 39-42. Accessed February 11, 2019 at https://journals.tdl.org/watchbird/index.php/watchbird/article/viewFile/786/769.

Traylor, M. 1950. Altitudinal Variation in Bolivian Birds. The Condor, 52(3): 123-126.

Waller, A. 2019. "Green Cheeked Parrot" (On-line). Accessed February 11, 2019 at http://www.gambassa.com/public/project/2876/GreenCheekedConureBirdResearchReport.html.