Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Conures are a loosely-defined group of large New World parakeets. They are loosely-defined in that they do not currently constitute a natural, scientific grouping as all species of macaw are closely related and can be seen as conures by descent too.
The word "conure" is an old term and was originally used as a descriptive name for the members of the now-abandoned genus Conurus, which included the members of Aratinga and Pyrrhura . The name conure is usually replaced among laymen and in children's books by "parrot" or "parakeet."
Conures are essentially large parakeets, the western hemisphere's version of the Old World's ringneck parakeets or the Australian parakeets . With the exception of the now extinct Conuropsis carolinensis or Carolina Parakeet, all conure species are found in Central and South America. Conures, despite being large for parakeets, are lightly built with long tails and small (but strong) beaks. Conure beaks always have a small cere and are usually horn-colored or black.
Trying to characterize all conures would be like trying to characterize all African Parrots including the African Greys and the Senegals. Yet one can say that most conures prefer to live in flocks of greater than 20, and that they enjoy eating grain, an action which causes them to be shot in some countries.
Conures are a very popular group of parrots in aviculture. Due to the popular label as "parrot" or "parakeet," people may assume that they're getting a little macaw or a large budgie.
The most popular conure by far has to be the Quaker parakeet, a bird which is generally not sold or listed as a conure, despite a consensus that it is one. After that the sun conures and Nanday conures are also very popular, as are many of the Pyrrhura and the Jenday conure.
One of the first questions that many people ask about parrots of any kind is "Can they talk?" Although conures are not as good at talking as African Grey Parrots or Amazons, many conures can learn to talk quite well, although it depends on the individual bird.
What generally attracts aviculturical enthusists to conures, though, is their personality. Very intelligent, hyperactive, playful, affectionate, and often noisy birds, they provide what most people are looking for in a large parrot without the problems associated with size … except in the noise department.
Conures, as the term is used by aviculturists , include only the genera Aratinga and Pyrrhura , as well as several single-species genera and one double-species genus*. These other genera are listed below:
- Conuropsis: Carolina Parakeet (extinct)
- Cyanoliseus: Patagonian Conure
- Enicognathus: Austral and Slender-Billed Conures
- Guarouba: Golden or Queen Of Bavaria Conure
- Leptosittaca: Golden-Plumed Conure
- Nandayus: Nanday Conure
- Ognorhynchus: Yellow-Eared Conure
Latin for "little macaw," the Aratinga conures generally seem to have a more mischievous personality than the real little macaws or mini macaws . The Aratinga conures are generally larger with brighter plumage, and are generally the noisier, more outgoing, more demanding of the two primary conure genera. The sun conure and Jenday conure are among the species of conures more commonly kept as pets.
See also Aratinga and Cherry-headed conure.
The generally greenish Pyrrhura conures including the very common green-cheeked conure and are the other large genus of conures. Usually smaller, duller-colored, and quieter than the Aratinga conures, the Pyrrhura conures contain almost every conure species with a hyphen in the name, and the majority of Pyrrhura species names are hyphenated.
See also Pyrrhura
The Nanday conure, Nandayus nenday is the most commonly kept pet conure species outside of the two main genera. Nanday conures have a distinctive black head, and wings and tails tipped with dark blue feathers. They have a light-blue scarf and bright orange feathers on their legs. Although often said to be extremely noisy, they are also extremely intelligent birds, capable of learning tricks, mimicking sounds, and learning a small vocabulary.
The Golden conure or Queen of Bavaria Conure, Guarouba guarouba (recently reclassified from Aratinga guarouba) is, as the name implies, covered all over with bright yellow feathers, except for the green wing-tip feathers and the greyish-horn-colored beak. Golden conures are among the most expensive conures both to purchase and to care for, although many owners feel that the benefits outweigh the cost.
The Patagonian conure, or Cyanoliseus patagonus, is a large conure found in the Patagonia region of south-central Argentina and Chile. Drab on the top, brighly colored underneath, the Patagonian conure has exploded in popularity in the last decade, leading to an increase in illegal importation which threatens the wild populations.
The dusky red-tailed and green Austral conure and the descriptively named Slender-billed conure make up the genus Enicognathus. Although both birds in the genus are available in aviculture, neither is especially common in captivity.
The Golden-plumed conure, Leptosittaca branickii, is a small Andean conure not found in aviculture and endangered in its own habitat.
Conuropsis carolinensis, the Carolina Parakeet, was the only parrot species indigenous to the Eastern United States. The Carolina parakeet was an incredibly social bird that would return to mourn dead members of the flock, making themselves easy targets for sport hunters. Considered a pest, popular in the pet trade, and bearing valuable plumes, this conure was hunted to extinction around the turn of the last century.
The parrot order Psittaciformes is a rather confusing tangle of genera, many containing only one species. For this reason, rather than try to sort parrots into families and subfamilies, biologists currently clasify all parrots under the family Psittacidae.
Internal relationships of conures are poorly understood though it seems evident that, to make them a natural grouping, the Quaker parakeet1, the thick-billed parrot , and Brotogeris 2 should be included, and often are. Neotropical parakeets , macaws, and other are also candidates potential for inclusion. In this context, "conure" potentially constitutes members of the genera:
- Rhynchopsitta: Quaker parakeet
- Myopsitta: Thick-billed parrot
In addition the caiques and the hawk-headed parakeets have also been proposed for exclusion. Both the caiques and the Hawk-headed parakeets have a heavier build and different tail structure from traditional conures.
1The Quaker or Monk parakeet is technically a conure by almost anybody's definition, but due to its popularity in aviculture and its uniqueness, it is generally considered in a category of its own. 2Brotogeris are not only often counted as conures, but as parrotlets as well, and it is not clear precisely which one, or both, or neither, they belong to. Certainly the tail structure is different from that of the parrotlets, although the basic body structure seems to be analogous with both groups.
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