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Cherry-Headed Conure

Nicole Cosgrove

This festive-looking bird is also known as the Christmas conure due to its bright green coloring and red head. They are friendly, intelligent, and highly trainable.

The cherry-headed conure is a popular pet bird. They love being around people and need plenty of attention. You’ll love having them around for entertainment. The cherry-headed conure likes to perform tricks and is very vocal.

If you live in an apartment, this isn’t the bird for you. However, if you have a single-family home and are looking for an avian companion, read on to learn about if a cherry-headed conure is a good match for your family.

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Species Overview

Common Names: Cherry-headed conure, red-masked parakeet, red-headed conure, Christmas conure
Scientific Name: Psittacara erythrogenys
Adult Size: 13 inches
Life Expectancy: 30 to 50 years

Origin and History

The cherry-headed conure originated in South America, primarily in Peru and Ecuador. However, colonies of wild conures can now be found in Spain, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

In the wild, the cherry-headed parakeet can typically be found in jungles and thick forests. Their natural habitat has expanded with their colony movement and they are also found in urban areas.

This is not necessarily a good development for the conures. The destruction of their natural habitat has led them to seek out new homes. It has also destroyed a significant amount of the population. They currently hover just above the threatened level of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s classification criteria.

Temperament

The reason the cherry-headed conure is a popular pet is its friendly and outgoing temperament. These birds love being with people and entertaining them. They are outgoing and very vocal. They also don’t mind strangers and will try just as hard to act goofy for strangers as they do for you.

The conure loves to play with toys and will spend hours exploring your home. Just beware of its tendency to chew. You’ll need to provide it with toys to chew on or your red-masked parakeet will chew on your furniture instead.

The conure is also very affectionate and likes to be pet and cuddled. They hate being left alone for a long time and will become quite upset and destructive.

Pros
  • Entertaining
  • Loving and affectionate
  • Outgoing and friendly
Cons
  • Too loud for apartment living situations
  • Tendency to chew

Speech & Vocalizations

While the cherry-headed conure doesn’t generally have a very large vocabulary, they can learn a few words. The conure does especially well with short words and phrases that are repeated frequently.

Along with speech, conures are very vocal through their calls, chirps, and other sounds. They are one of the louder species of pet bird and will not endear you to your neighbors in an apartment living situation.divider-birdcage

Cherry-Headed Conure Colors and Markings

The cherry-headed conure is named for its distinctive look. This species is one of the more brightly colored conures. They have a bright green body with some lighter-colored feathers on their undersides. They have a scarlet head and a clear white ring around their eyes.

They have red feathers around the tops of their wings, giving the appearance of having shoulders. The cherry-headed conure has a beige beak and grey legs.

Caring for the Cherry-Headed Conure

The right environment is an important factor when it comes to keeping your cherry-headed conure happy. They need the correct size cage, toys, and perches. They also require some grooming to prevent infections.

Environment

The minimum cage size for a conure is 30” L x 24” W x 30” H. They should have several perching areas inside the cage where they can rest comfortably.

Toys are another must. A bored cherry-headed conure will quickly become destructive. Providing them with a wide variety of toys will keep them physically and mentally healthy. Good choices include wood chewing toys, tanned leather, sisal rope, corn cobs, balls, and any other parrot toys.

The temperature in the room where your cherry-headed parakeet is kept should be no less than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. A colder room will weaken your conure’s immune system and can lead to respiratory infections.

You may also want a cover for their cage if they have trouble sleeping. Conures need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep per day.

Cleaning

Your cherry-headed conure’s cage needs to be kept clean to prevent infections. You should wipe the cage, perches, and toys down with warm, non-toxic, soapy water daily. Fully disinfect the cage weekly.

Grooming

Your cherry-headed conure should have access to a shallow dish for bathing every day. They may also appreciate misting with a water bottle throughout the day. You don’t have to have your red-masked parakeet’s wings clipped, but it will help prevent escape. Finally, you will occasionally need to clip your conure’s nails or have your veterinarian do it.

Pairing

If you pair two conures together, they will likely bond with each other and be less likely to bond with you. Most conures can live together peacefully, but occasionally you will have a pair that isn’t compatible. If this is the case, you’ll need to separate them immediately.

If you have a breeding pair, you’ll need to be careful during the breeding season as they may become aggressive toward you at this time.

Common Health Problems of the Red-Masked Parakeet

Red-masked parakeets are generally hardy and healthy birds. The most common health problems are the result of neglect or poor nutrition.

Some of these include:
  • Feather picking – This issue can range in severity from mildly over preening to self-mutilation. It can have many causes, from disease to boredom, and can be serious if the root causes are not treated.
  • Depression – Frequently the result of not getting enough time outside of their cage or enough attending, depression can lead to feather picking, lack of appetite, and destructive behavior.
  • Bacterial infections – An improperly cleaned cage can result in a build-up of harmful bacteria that can sicken your red-masked parakeet.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, conures eat fruit, seeds, and insects. Pellets are a good substitute for their natural diet in captivity. Most cherry-headed conures should get about 80% of their calories from bird pellets. The remaining 20% should come from seed mixes, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Some favorite fruits and vegetables include:
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cooked squash
  • Cooked sweet potato
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Berries

Exercise

The cherry-headed conure is a curious and active bird. They will become depressed and destructive without enough exercise and attention. You should aim to give your bird at least 2 hours outside of their cage every day, if not more.

When they are not outside of the cage, make sure your conure has plenty of toys to chew on and amuse themselves with. This helps prevent depression and destructive behaviors common in unhappy conures.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Cherry-Headed Conure

You can easily find a cherry-headed conure in many pet stores. There are also many breeders across the country who sell these birds. If you do choose to get a cherry-headed parakeet from a breeder, you should do your homework on the breeder. Check their reputation by speaking with other people who have purchased a bird from them. You can also ask the breeder questions about the bird’s heath, parentage, and living conditions.

You can also find a cherry-headed conure through parrot rescue organizations. Other shelters and animal adoption agencies may also be able to help you find an available conure.divider-birdcage

Conclusion

If you are looking for a pet bird who will always be the life of the party, then the cherry-headed conure might be the bird for you! They are loving, friendly, silly, and intelligent.

Before committing to a pet conure, keep in mind that they have a long lifespan and need a significant amount of attention. If you can provide them with what they need to be happy and healthy, it’d be difficult to find a more entertaining avian companion.


Featured Image Credit: Gareth Bogdanoff, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.