Common Name(s): Sun Parakeet, Yellow Conure
The Sun Conure was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. Linnaeus placed this species in the genus Psittacus, but it has since been moved to the widely accepted Aratinga, which contains a number of similar New World species. The specific epithet solstitialis is derived from the Latin for 'of the summer solstice', hence 'sunny', and refers to its golden plumage.
The conure genus name Aratinga means “little macaw”. Besides the reference to macaws in their name conures bear many similarities to the macaws including a prominent beak and a long V-shaped tail.
The Sun Conure is monotypic, but the Aratinga solstitialis complex includes three additional species from Brazil: Jenday Conure, Golden-capped Parakeet and Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. These have all been considered subspecies of the Sun Conure, but the majority of recent authorities maintain their status as separate species. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the Sun Conure and the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet represent one species, while the Jenday Conure and Golden-capped Parakeet represent a second.
Small parrot, primary body color yellow with orange, red, blue, and green feathers. Bill is dark often brown, as is the iris. Bare legs. Long tapering V shaped tail. Sexes are similar but immature birds are generally duller growing more brilliant with each additional molt.
Size: 30 cm
Weight: 120-130 g
Wingspan: 146-162 cm
Distribution better understood than habitat requirements. Generally, found in North-eastern South America. Native: to Brazil and Guyana. Generally found in savanna or dry forest with palm groves. Sightings have been found in other habitats.
Sun Conures are social, usual flock has up to 30 birds. Conures are vocal with a high, shrill voice. Nonverbal communication is complimented with a variety of physical displays. Birds will rest, feed one another, preen, and bathe throughout the daylight hours. Slim bodied, these birds are fast direct flyers. Arboreal, they move through the trees using their beaks as a third hand. They have the ability to use their foot like a hand to hold, examine, or eat items, of interest.
There are approximately 19 species of conures. Many of which are currently endangered or vulnerable
Most species of conures are primarily green. Sun Conures are highly prized for pets because of their bright and colorful plumage. The rare Queen of Bavaria’s conure (aka Golden Gonure, Guaruba guaroubais) the only bird to compete with the sun conures plumage, being almost completely yellow.
Sun Conures are often obtained for one of 2 reasons, first their color. Second, their reputation for mimicking people. Neither of these traits usually creates a lasting companion pet relationship. Sun Conures are a commonly relinquished because of their noise. Their high shrill (often described as noisy and incessant) voices annoying their owners. Research and study of conure traits and care are highly recommended before acquisition so potential issues are acknowledged and solved before an individual bird is acquired.
Related species of conures all have compelling stories. This is an unfortunate tale of extinction of a relation to the sun conure one native to the United States.
The Carolina Parakeet
The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It was found from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf of Mexico, and lived in old forests along rivers. It was the only species at the time classified in the genus Conuropsis.
The last wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County in Florida in 1904, and the last captive bird died at the Cincinnati Zoo on February 21, 1918. Coincidentally he died in the same aviary cage as the last Passenger Pigeon had done nearly four years prior. It was not until 1939, however, that it was determined that the Carolina Parakeet had become extinct.
The Carolina Parakeet died out because of a number of different threats. To make space for more agricultural land, large areas of forest were cut down, taking away its habitat. The colorful feathers (green body, yellow head, and red around the bill) were in demand as decorations in ladies' hats, and the birds were kept as pets. Even though the birds bred easily in captivity, little was done by owners to increase the population of tamed birds. Finally, they were killed in large numbers because farmers considered them a pest, although many farmers valued them for controlling invasive cockleburs. It has also been hypothesized that the introduced honeybee helped contribute to its extinction by taking a good number of the bird's nesting sites. However, the last populations were not much hunted for food or feathers, nor did the farmers in rural Florida consider them a pest as the benefit of the birds' love of cockleburs clearly outweighed the minor damage they did to the small-scale garden plots. The final extinction of the species is somewhat of a mystery, but the most likely cause seems to be that the birds succumbed to poultry disease, as suggested by the rapid disappearance of the last, small, but apparently healthy and reproducing flocks of these highly social birds. If this is true, the very fact that the Carolina Parakeet was finally tolerated to roam in the vicinity of human settlements proved its undoing.
Nest in trees or palm cavities. They reach sexual maturity at one or two years of age. Breeding usually begin in the spring. The average clutch consists of 2 to 5 eggs, which are incubated for 23 to 27 days. While the female handles the incubation tasks, the male usually sits on or near the nesting box. Eggs measures 28.5 x 22.8 mm (1.12 x 0.90 ins). Fledging period 50 days; young can remain for some time with parents after leaving nest box.
Poorly documented, but most likely to consist of seeds, nuts, fruits, buds, flowers, and berries.
The following information is from the IUCN Redlist, listing the Sun Conure as Endangered according to BirdLife International 2008.
- This recently split species has been listed as Endangered owing to a very rapid reduction in its population size during the last three decades. Although it was formerly fairly common, trapping for the cage bird trade has extirpated it from much of its former range and it is now in urgent need of effective protection.
- Due to high demand in the pet trade this once common species has declined dramatically during the last twenty years. It has been heavily exported from Guyana during this time, leading its virtual extirpation from that country. Trappers from Guyana and French Guiana have since travelled over the border to Brazil to buy birds for export. An annual export quota of 600 birds was set by Guyana in the 1980s and it is thought that more than 2,200 were imported into the United States between 1981 and 1985. Trade is ongoing, and due to the ease with which birds can be attracted to bait (e.g. corn) and the large distances they will travel it is easy to trap all the individuals in an area.
BirdLife International 2008. Aratinga solstitialis. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 28 April 2009..
BirdLife International (2008) Species factsheet: Aratinga solstitialis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/4/2009
Juniper, T., & Parr, M. (1998). A Guide to the Parrots of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
Silverira, L., de Lima, F., & Höfling, E. (2005). A new species of Aratinga Conure (Psittaformes: Psittacidae) from Brazil, with taxonomical remarks on the Aratinga solstitialis complex. The Auk 122(1): 292-305.
BirdLife International (2008) Species factsheet: Conuropsis carolinensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/4/2009