There are several reasons for their popularity. They can be noisy pets and do not learn to “speak” very well, but they are incredibly beautiful and can be affectionate, amusing and intelligent companions. The young do not go through the “teething” stage of Green-cheeked Conures when young and even as adults tend to be much more tractable. If they were not noisy, they would be much more popular than the Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandiscus) as a companion bird.
As aviary birds, Sun Conures can be prolific. Pairs will produce multiple clutches yearly. Pairs lay 3-4 egg clutches. Incubation ranges from 22-26 days, with ambient temperature having a significant effect. In the heart of summer, I have recorded 22 and 23 days incubation in our birds while in winter, when temperatures can drop into the 50s°F the incubation period can extend to 26 days. The natal down is yellowish. The secondary down is greyish-white. Young fledge between 81-88 days after hatching. They are duller versions of their parents, with significant green in the plumage.
This makes them quite similar to the Sulphur-breasted Conure. Adult coloration is acquired by a year of age and young only two years old are capable of breeding. In decades of intermittently keeping and breeding this species, the average age of first breeding has been 17.3 months for a female and 21.9 months for a male at the earliest to 34.1 months for a female and 33.5 months for a male at the latest. Early breeding has invariably been attributed to rearing the young in groups and then placing pairs that had nexused together in a breeding cage containing a nest and immediately offering the diet described below.
Pairs that are mature can be induced to breeding by feeding them primarily a balanced seed mix for 6-8 weeks. No fruits, vegetables or other dietary item is fed during this time. The intention is to provide a diet that will thwart breeding. After the 6-8 weeks, a complete and abrupt change to the diet takes place. The birds are then fed chopped fruits, raw peas and corn (both can be purchased frozen and allowed to thaw), chopped steamed carrot and sweet potatoes, sprouted seeds and pulses (safflower, small sunflower, popcorn, various types of peas, lentils and mung beans) and a piece of wheat bread. This is offered in the morning. In the afternoon, a small amount of pellets can be provided. In a collection containing 32 pairs, which had only 5 pairs breeding, this dietary changed induced 27 pairs to nest. The enriched diet is then fed throughout the nesting period. (Note: This same regimen can be used to induce many conures into nesting.)
Like all conures, the nesting box should be offered throughout the year for sleeping. Removing the nest to stop nesting is thus not an option to force a pair to rest. Providing an abrupt change to the diet is thus the best option. The birds are switched to the dry diet and allowed to rest. They can then be placed in a flight cage with other pairs and allowed to rest. Placing all of the pairs in the flight cage at once or separating the sexes is recommended to deter fighting. I would not allow the pair to produce more than three clutches if the young are taken before they are two weeks of age for hand-rearing. If they are allowed to rear the young to weaning, no more than two clutches should be permitted. This is to prevent over breeding from sapping the stamina of the pair.
When Sun Conures were rare, buyers always wanted young with brighter colors. I would give the young .10 cc of cod liver oil daily in the first feed from the time they were removed from the nest (on average at 7 days of age) and this induced them to have much brighter colors. I learned this trick from Amazonian Indians, who would hand-rear young parrots (i.e., Festive Amazons Amazona festiva festiva, Sulphur-breasted Conures, etc) and add fish oil to the food. The birds invariably weaned sporting adult coloration. This technique is differed from “tapiragem” whereby the indians would extract feathers and rub into the open shaft secretions from small frogs, this to produce mottled feathers for insertion into headdresses.
Two mutations in the Sun Conure have been reported.
The best-known mutation is the “red factor”, a form in which the bird has a distinctive reddish wash over the body. The differences between a normal and a red factor are significant and is easily understood when a bird is seen.
The red factor appeared in the early 1990s in Hawaii. The youngsters have distinctive reddish heads when feathering out. Once they acquire their adult coloration, the bird is stunning. Most do fade in intensity as they age, but even as adults the red factor is easily distinguished from a normally colored individual.
The red factor is dominant, meaning that either parent can carry the genetic ability to produce reddish colored young. On the other hand, I have never seen red factor young produced from normally colored siblings. The mutation has a lethal gene when two red factor individuals are paired together. The young will prosper until they approach weaning, when they begin to lose body motions; some become very unstable and will appear dead as they lay prostrated on the cage floor. They can be kept alive for weeks by hand-rearing them but they invariably perish. Prevention is here clearly easy: pair a red factor with a normally colored Sun Conure, allowing red young to be produced while and avoiding the lethal gene.
At the other end of the spectrum are the so-called “pied” Sun Conures. These birds have a reduced presence of red and appear almost yellow (except for the head, which retains the reddish or reddish-orange hint); the green in the wings is greatly reduced and flight feathers not uncommonly are white in color. One advantage of this mutation is that the young sport much brighter colors on first feathering out, having considerable yellow in the wings; in normal Sun Conures, the young have predominately green back and wings.
The mode of inheritance in the pied is recessive.
In the US, Kevin Clubb produced a yellowish form through selective breeding. I once kept these birds and they were primarily yellow, having the appearance of a small Golden Conure (Guaruba guarouba). They bred to phenotype, though in my birds only the females appeared yellow.
The Sun Conure has proven to be an incredibly welcome addition to aviculture. They are an undemanding, beautiful and prolific species that can safely be recommended for the novice hobbyist. The more experience aviculturist can also find joy in this imposing parakeet.