Energetic, comical, loud, and beautiful; all of these words describe magnificent sun conures as pets. These birds can live up to 30 years with the right care, but you should know that they are much more demanding than the average parakeet or finch. Sun conures are boisterous, affectionate, and even a bit destructive if you don't channel their energy into acceptable activities. If you think you're up for the challenge, a sun conure just might be the greatest bird that ever owns you.
A Healthy Sun Conure Diet
A healthy sun conure diet consists of about 65 to 80 percent pellets, 15 to 30 percent vegetables, and about 5 percent fruits.
- Pellets: Pellets formulated for conures supply rounded nutrition in every bite. Keep them available at all times.
- Vegetables: Choose organic vegetables, and wash and chop them. Try kale, carrots, peas, corn, yams, and broccoli. Sprouts are also very nutritious.
- Fruits: Organic fruit is best if it's available, and the fruit should be washed before chopping. Try apples (no seeds), bananas, mangos, pears, and pomegranates.
- Nuts: Organic almonds and walnuts supply fatty acids. Offer a couple of shelled nuts each day as healthy treats.
- Eggs: Eggs provide extra protein. Offer a little-cooked egg with some vegetables, or add a teaspoon of commercial egg food to the pellets.
- Seed mix: Keep seed mix to a minimum and be especially careful about feeding sunflower seed since it's high in fat. You can offer a teaspoon of conure or cockatiel seed mix about three times a week.
Be sure to remove uneaten fresh foods after several hours so they don't have a chance to spoil. In addition to feeding a correct diet, you should also provide your pet with unlimited clean water.
What Not to Feed a Sun Conure
Certain foods are toxic to sun conures and can cause serious illness and death. Avoid feeding the following to your sun conure:
- Apple seeds
- Apricot pits
- Cherry pits
- Peach pits
- Plum pits
- Sugar-free candy that has xylitol as an ingredient
In addition to the specific foods listed, any type of meal that is high in fat, salt (sodium) or sugar is a bad choice for your sun conure. There are some other foods that may be ok for your sun conure in small amounts but you should be cautious feeding them and observe your bird for any signs of stomach upset. These foods are:
- Bell pepper plant leaves
- Dairy products, with or without lactose
- Eggplant leaves
- Potato plant leaves
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tomato plant leaves
Proper Housing for Sun Conures as Pets
The following guidelines will help you set up the right type of environment for a sun conure.
Lefeber Vet recommends housing a sun conure in a cage that is at least 20" L x 20" W x 36" H and has bar spacing between one-half to three-quarters of an inch wide. However, you can provide an even larger cage in order to have room for a lot of toys and sufficient perching areas. If the cage has a play top that will give your pet another area to play while he's out of the cage.
Door locks are a must with conures because they are highly intelligent and will figure out how to let themselves out of the cage if you give them the opportunity.
The minimum perch diameter for a sun conure is about three-fourths to one and a half inches, so offer several hardwood perches of varying widths in this range. It's also a good idea to place one cement conditioning perch in the cage to help keep your pet's nails from growing too long.
- Cage cover: Like all pet birds, sun conures need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep, and they need complete darkness to do it. Drape your pet's cage with a dark sheet or a fitted cage cover at bedtime.
- Water bottle: Suns are messy, and they leave a lot of food and droppings in their water dishes. Providing a water bottle will keep their drinking water clean. Check it several times a day to make sure it doesn't run dry.
- Swing: Every sun should have a swing to play on. Try to select one that also has wood blocks for chewing.
- Birdbath: These birds absolutely love to bathe, and they'll happily splash around in a birdbath or bowl of water placed in the bottom of the cage. Give them the opportunity to bathe every day.
- Toys: Your sun conure's cage should be equipped with a variety of toys to keep him active and busy. Consider a foraging toy, a wooden toy for chewing, a ladder for climbing, an acrylic toy that will last longer than his wooden toys, and perhaps a chew toy made of vegetable-tanned leather. Toys ensure a stimulating environment, so be sure not to skimp on them.
- Cuttlebone or mineral block: These items provide minerals and can also keep the beak from overgrowing.
Sun conures leave a lot of droppings, so it's important to clean your pet's cage on a regular basis.
- Line the bottom of the cage with newspaper and discard it and replace with fresh paper every other day.
- Wash your pet's food and water bowls every day. If you use a water bottle, empty it, clean it with a bottle brush, and refill it with fresh water every day.
- Once a week, wash the bottom of the cage and wipe down the cage bars with a bird-safe cleaning solution, such as Poop-Off, or a mixture of white vinegar and water.
Out of Cage Time for Your Sun Conure
Even the best cage is still a cage. Give your conure at least a couple of hours of supervised time out each day so he can exercise his wings and spend time with you.
Tamed suns love to cuddle with their special people and check out everything they do. Some will even lay down and fall asleep in their owners' laps. Suns also get along well with other conures, and they'll often hang out together when they have the opportunity.
Before you let your pet out of his cage:
- Make sure all windows are closed.
- Confine other pets that might injure your conure.
- Let other family members know so they don't open any doors your pet could fly out of.
Interacting With Your Sun Conure
Sun conures are social animals and need lots of simulation to remain happy. If they don't get enough interaction with you, as well as toys, they can become bored and stressed and develop behavior problems. This can include screaming and feather picking behaviors. Therefore they are not a good choice if you don't have a lot of time for a pet. Keeping them in an area of the house where there is a high activity level will help your bird feel like he's part of the action and give him mental enrichment.
Handling a Sun Conure
When you first bring your sun conure home, he probably will be anxious about his new environment. Birds can be easily stressed so you want to give him some time to get used to you around his cage before you try to handle him.
- Keep your hands outside the cage in the beginning until your bird appears calm. You can talk to him in a soothing, friendly voice.
- Always move at the pace your bird is comfortable with and always retreat if he becomes stressed out. You want him to be completely relaxed with your presence.
- When he is calm with you near his cage, slowly move your hand in the cage while talking to your bird in calmly. If become scared back off. Continue this process over several days until he is fine with you moving things about his cage. Now you can move on to handling him.
- A common method is to use a towel for handling. You can use this method to check him out for illness and general care and to do nail trims. If you feel uncomfortable doing this at any time, talk to your veterinarian. Most will be happy to show you how to handle your bird at home.
- The towel should cover the wings to keep him from escaping and hurting himself. Make sure the towel isn't too large so you have any extra length to deal with.
- Use the towel to wrap around the bird to hold it. Do not cover his head with it so he can't see what's going on.
- Use gentle pressure to hold him but do not squeeze tightly and never press on their chests as this can injure them. You can cradle them in your arms with the bird's belly up to you like a baby and work with him from that position.
- Also, remember not to stroke his belly or back as this can be stimulating to a parrot.
Training a Sun Conure
Like most parrots, sun conures are very intelligent and can be taught a wide variety of tricks like bowing, stepping up, flying to people and more. They adapt very well to clicker training and teaching them tricks provides much needed mental stimulation. They also can be taught to talk although you may not find them as loquacious as other parrots.
Sun Conure Health Care
Lefeber Vet recommends an annual check-up, including a physical exam, complete blood work-up, and testing for a number of common diseases, including polyomavirus, beak and feather disease, and psittacosis.
Take your pet to the vet immediately if you ever notice any signs of illness, such as
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Changes in the droppings, such as very wet and/or foul-smelling droppings
- Sitting with feathers fluffed up for long periods
Common Sun Conure Illnesses
Conures are at risk for several health conditions during their lifetime that you should be aware of:
- Conure Bleeding Syndrome (CBS) is a problem found mostly with babies where the bird bleeds from the mouth and cloaca as well as internally. It can be fatal if not treated. It's also known ashemorrhagicc conure syndrome or erythremic myelosis.
- Feather Picking is a behavioral disorder that can be caused by boredom, environmental toxins or underlying medical conditions. The affected bird will pluck out his own feathers and requires behavioral and medical intervention.
- Pacheco's disease is a serious, infectious disease that can lead to death within a few days. It is caused by the herpesvirus and leads to significant, irreversible damage to the kidneys and liver.
- Polyomavirus is most often found with younger birds and most often is fatal. It is highly infectious and symptoms take up to two weeks to become noticeable at which point treatment will be too late.
- Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), also known as wasting syndrome or macaw wasting disease, is an illness affecting the conure's nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. There is no treatment for it but your veterinarian can help you with providing supportive care until the bird ultimately passes away from PDD.
How Much Does a Sun Conure Cost?
Sun conures typically cost around $300 to $450 through breeders and pet stores. You can also find them up for adoption in shelters and bird rescue groups for a smaller adoption fee. Along with your conure, you'll need to buy a cage which can range in price from about $100 to $3,000 or more for high-end models. You'll also need to buy accessories for the cage such as perches and toys such as
- An A&E Cage Company Java Wood Branch for around $17.
- A pack of Living World Cuttlebones for around $6.00.
- A bag of Kaytee Spray Millet for treats and training for $6.00
- A Birds Love Bird Feeder for about $24.00 and a Mrli water dish for about $14.00.
- Food such as Sun Seed Vita Prima Sunscription Conure Food which sells in a three-pound bag for about $13
- A regular supply of toys which can run as low as $2.00 up to around $50, or you can make your own.
Sun Conures Are Great Birds, but Not for Everyone
Sun conures are not the ideal pet for every bird lover. Their tendency to screech loudly makes them unsuitable for apartment dwellers, and it can try even the most loving owner's patience. These birds demand a lot of attention, so they're also not the best choice for someone who is seldom at home. If you're serious about getting a sun conure, spend time visiting breeders so you can get an idea of what life with one of these birds is really like. Remember that you'll be committing to a lifetime of care, so don't take that commitment lightly.