Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding Sun Conures. PART I

February 11th, 2015 | by Tony Silva
Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding Sun Conures. PART I
Tony Silva NEWS

Read also the second part of this article:

Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding of Sun Conures, PART II


I can recall that day in the 1970s as if it were today. I had walked into a quarantine station to see several pairs of a new species… a species that was commanding a hefty price – $800.00 per pair. The “pair” concept was a literal interpretation of just that—any two birds. As I walked to the cage containing them, they were typical of wild caught conures: they rushed to the farthest corner and hid in a clump. They were, even in that position, stunning: green, yellow, red and orange intermixed. I had previously only seen that species as taxonomic skins in a museum. The stuffed birds did not do justice to the birds before me. They were more beautiful that I had imagined. The birds were Sun Conures (Aratinga solstitialis).


File:Colorful flight (6838387723).jpg

(c) Takashi Hososhima. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


The taxonomy of the Sun Conure has always been of interest. Some regard it as monotypic, meaning that it is a separate species from its allies the Jenday, Golden-capped and Sulphur-breasted Conures. These individuals, however, believe that the four species form a complex grouping, a closely related set of species that are separate but allied as a result of sharing certain features. I have long felt that the four forms are best treated as subspecies, the birds replacing each other geographically and in more than one case interbreeding where the ranges (historical or actual) converge. The theory behind a subspecies is that they should hybridize when they come n contact with one another and this is certainly the case here. Not only will they interbreed but the young are fertile. The Sun, Jenday, Golden-capped and the Sulphur-breasted Conures are in my opinion subspecies.

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The Sulphur-breasted Conure was common in Brazilian aviculture many years ago. Indeed, during multiple conversations during the 1980s and 1990s with Nelson Kawall (a prominent aviculturist from Brazil and whom the Kawall´s Amazon (Amazona kawalli) was named after), we discussed how poorly colored were the Sun Conures kept in aviaries in Brazil and how they had to be bred to birds from the Guyanas to improve their color. In 2005 when the Sulphur-breasted Conurewas finally named, the puzzle of the poorly colored birds was solved: they were a new form that had not been previously officially recognized.


File:Aratinga solstitialis -Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany-8.jpg

(c) Michael Bieniek. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


That discovery, confirmed the subspecies concept that I endorse. The Sulphur-breasted and Sun Conures hybridize in the southern part of the Guianas, where the two meet. The Jenday and Golden-capped Conures also hybridize in the contact zone. I saw hybrids that had been taken from the wild at the home of Mauricio Ferreira dos Santos many years ago.

The contention as to the taxonomic status of the Sun Conure and allied species is common in the ornithological sciences. The Sulphur-breasted Conure is exemplary. This species was named maculatain 1776, but was dismissed as invalid; its coloration bears a semblance to the immature Sun Conure and museum specimens and individuals seen in the wild were suspected of being immature Sun Conures. It was not until 2005 that it was recognized that the birds were not immature solstitialis but a distinct form, which was named Aratinga pinto i(after Olivério M. de Oliveira Pinto, a Brazilian ornithologist). Four years later, it was discovered that maculataand pintoiwere the same. In taxonomy, the first used name take precedence and thus the conure became known as Aratinga maculata. Initially it was believed to occur only in the Brazilian state of Pará, but its range has been extended to the Guianas (there are skins in the Netherlands collected in the Sipaliwini Savannah in Surinam) and thus it may be more widespread than believed. I have seen birds that were poorly colored in the Amazon, some distance north of Manaus, which I thought were immature Sun Conures but in retrospect were probably this species and this suggests that its range probably extends further than currently believed.

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The Sun Conure occurs in Roraima, Brazil, north to the southern part of the Guianas and adjacent sections of Venezuela, with recent records from Santa Elena de Uaréin. Its Brazilian range is poorly understood and it appears to come in contact with the Sulphur-breasted Conure in various locations. This is where the aforementioned hybrids originate.

Up until the turn of the century, the Sun Conure was regarded as locally common in the wild, with the bird becoming rarer towards the Brazilian portion of the range. Its current status is believed to have changed. The Sun Conure is currently regarded as declining and possibly extirpated over large parts of its range. The bird trade has been implicated but changes to the habitat should not be discounted, as wild birds have not been traded for decades and yet the populations have not responded. (Generally when populations have declined as a result of trapping experience a reprieve, they respond. This is especially true of an ostensibly prolific species.)

In the wild, Sun Conures inhabit open forest, savannahs, palm groves and seasonally flooded scrub. They nest in narrow tree cavities. I was surprised the first time I peered inside an active nest. The tree trunk was not much thicker than my thigh. Inside a hollow approximately 17 inches deep there were two chicks and remnants of two eggs. The original wild birds did not nest for me until I provided them with a nest only 20 cm (8 in) square and 45 cm (18 in) deep. Today my Sun Conures readily accept nests 30 cm (12 in) square and 35 cm (14 in) deep. Interestingly they are only one of two species that I keep that will not accept a metal nesting box. They therefore have nests available made from plywood and encased in a wire enclosure to prevent escapees should they chew through the nest walls.

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File:Aratinga solstitialis -Baltimore Aquarium, USA-8b.jpg

(c) Chris Williamson. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


While the modern Sun Conure is a relatively recent introduction, the species was known long ago. The first breeder was Madame de Kerville in France in 1883. In the US, R. Schmidt claimed the first breeding in 1932. I do not question the French breeding, as birds from French Guyana for many years reached France, but the US breeding probably pertains to a JendayConure—if the photographs shown to me by the late Dave West in fact represented the birds bred by Schmidt.

The Sun Conure proved an incredibly welcome addition to aviculture. Interest in the birds was immediate. The young found a willing market in the pet buyer, who became mesmerized by the beauty; to many the vocal powers were not a consideration. By the early 1990s young were selling for between $700.00 and $1000.00 each in retail stores. One store that acquired the young from me, told me that he always had waiting customers and that the young were sold before he even collected them.

Today the Sun Conure is with the Green-cheeked Conure (Pyrrhura molinae) the most commonly bred and popular neo-tropical parakeet. I know of many collections with hundreds of pairs that produce young to satisfy the demand for a pet.

Title photo: (c) Daniel Ramirez. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



  1. Pingback: Tony Silva NEWS: Breeding of Sun Conures. PART II | Parrots Daily News

  2. RANJITH KUMAR says:

    hello sir. this is Ranjith from tamil nadu india,just now i go through the breeding sun conures article….i have a doubt ” Pairs that are mature can be induced to breeding by feeding them primarily a balanced seed mix for 6-8 weeks” what should be the balanced seed mix contains, what are all the seeds should to provide please let me now…. thank you sir…..

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  4. ROSSI KHAN says:

    Your every article’s very helpfull….i am from Bangladesh and i also want to know the procedure of breeding sun conure and balance seed mix that “RANJIT KUMAR” asked to you.please let me know about it.Thank you sir

  5. donna hurley says:

    when is the breeding cycle of the sun conure? Beginning to end.

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