Small South American parrots, Blue-crowned conures
(Aratinga a. acuticaudata) in the wild are found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Uruguay, and Venezuela. When the exportation of wild-caught parrots ended during the early 1990s, domestic breeding programs were established in the United States for the many conure species that had been previously brought into the country. Once trapped by the thousands in their native locales and exported in great numbers, Blue-crown conures adapted successfully to domestic breeding situations. Handfed and hand-tamed Blue-crowned conure babies make exceptionally good pets. Thought to be one of the most intelligent of all conures, the Blue-crown is quieter and of a gentler temperament than some of the other Aratinga species.
Blue-crowned conures aren't as exotically colored as some of their relatives, but their emerald green bodies, the soft dusky blue of their head feathering, and the red shades on the green tail feathers give these birds a quiet beauty all their own. Some subspecies have a pale blue wash over their chests, and some birds may display a maroon tint to the edges of the feathers on the backs of their heads. The irises are bright orange, centered with black pupils, and there is a circle of bare, white skin surrounding the eyes. Their powerful hookbills feature an upper beak or maxilla, that is horn colored, with the lower mandible being black. It is not unusual for the tip of the maxilla to grow to a long, sharp point on some Blue-crowns. The bird's feet are a pale pinkish with black toenails. Blue-crowns usually reach sizes of nearly 15" in length from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. They have the typical slender, streamlined Aratinga body shape, and they resemble macaws in miniature.
There are several subspecies within the genus, including the Bolivian Blue-crowned conure (Aratinga a. neumanni), the Venezuelan Blue-crowned conure (Aratinga a. koenigi), and the Margarita conure (Aratinga a. neoxena). The Blue-crowned conure (Aratinga a. acuticaudata) is also often identified as the Sharp-tailed conure. There are slight variations in size, feather coloring, and mandible coloration among the subspecies, but the differences are minimal and can be difficult to spot unless you have several specimens to compare.
In their native habitats, wild Blue-crowned conures eat fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, flowers, and often pilfered grain from agricultural areas. Many farmers consider them to be pests. Usually found in large flocks, it is not unusual to see hundreds of Blue-crowns feeding, flying, and living together. At night they seek the security of wooded locations, where they roost in the branches of trees. They are cavity breeders and prefer to lay their eggs in the holes in trees, or in hollowed out branches.
Blue-crowned conures have voices that can be loud and unpleasant. All conures tend to squawk, and that tendency is one of the few drawbacks associated with living with a Blue-crowned conure. Given their intelligence, these birds can be trained not to screech as frequently. Kept as single conures, they tend to be quieter, but if kept in pairs the noise can be deafening. Blue-crowns can learn to speak, and their voices often have a comical, cartoonish quality. They sometimes learn to mimic their favorite humans so well that they can repeat sentences with the same inflection, tone, and voice quality that leaves no doubt whose voice they are copying. Most Blue-crowns will at least learn to say their names, the names of their favorite humans (especially the names of children in the household), and occasionally the names of other pets.
Clownish, playful, and active, tame Blue-crowned conures need large cages, and big cages meant for parrots make excellent homes for them. These energetic birds love to climb and chew, so cages with horizontal bars are more suitable than those with vertical bars. The cage bars must be sturdy enough to withstand the gnawing of the Blue-crowned conure's strong hookbill, and the cage should be tall enough to give the birds plenty of head and tail room. Ideally, the cage should allow enough space for the conure to fully extend its wings with a few inches of room on both sides, have room enough so that the long tail feathers aren't crushed against the bars, and be wide enough to allow for vigorous climbing. Blue-crowned conures appreciate bird-safe wooden blocks or chunks to satisfy their urge to chew, and plenty of freshwater for bathing. Most conures are fanatics when it comes to playing in the water, so be sure to replenish any water splashed out during bath times.
A good diet for the pet Blue-crown would include a wide variety of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, seeds, whole grain bread, and the occasional serving of â€˜people' food. Should you decide to provide a well rounded, mineral, and vitamin-enhanced seed-based diet, avoid mixes that contain a lot of sunflowers, as sunflower seeds are too fattening to be fed on a regular basis. To avoid Vitamin A deficiencies, don't restrict your conure to a seed-only diet. It's a good idea to have your veterinarian recommend a pelleted diet. These formulated diets contain all the minerals, vitamins, and other items needed to keep caged birds in premium health.
While you can occasionally share your food with your conure, never offer avocado, caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol. These substances are toxic to birds and can cause severe intestinal distress, breathing difficulties, and in some cases, death. Also avoid feeding your conure foods that are too greasy, sugary, or salty. Rice, pasta, oatmeal, cornbread, low-fat cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, and pizza are a few foods that can safely be fed to pet Blue-crowns.
Conures enjoy warm food, so if you plan to heat food items for your conure in the microwave, check the temperature before serving by stirring the food around with your finger. Food that is too hot can result in crop burns, burns to the esophagus, or other injuries.
Blue-crowned conures are bright, beautiful, affectionate, and playful. With good care, a well-balanced diet, and lots of exercise and playtime, they will thrive. Healthy Blue-crowned conures can live to be 15 years old or older.