A guide to Maroon-bellied Conures
Unique and an often underrated Conure in Australian Aviculture, these energetic and relatively easy to keep Conures are from the Pyrrhura genus. The specific name frontalis is a reference to its dark maroon belly, a feature which separates it from similar species. Often confused with the ever popular Green-cheek Conure, they are an entirely different species.
The most obvious features of a pure Maroon-bellied Conure is a solid green head that extends down the nape to the back and a green tail fading to a maroon tip. Tails coverts are also maroon coloured. A good way of remembering is green on top and maroon underneath.
Found in woodland and forest edges of south-eastern Brazil to north-eastern Argentina, including eastern Paraguay and Uruguay. Often reported to live in parks in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo feeding on fruits, flowers and is sometimes fed by locals. Maroon-bellies like to forage with their own kind so mixed-species foraging is rare. Flocks can range in numbers from 4 -30 birds.
Maroon-bellied Conures can be entertaining and affectionate companions. They relish any food put in front of them and are always eager to investigate and explore anything new. They do though have a limited attention span so from our experience training can be a challenge. We have never noticed any significant differences between the sexes when it comes to companions pets. There are no obvious visual differences between the sexes (Monomorphism) so they should be DNA or surgically sexed.
We feed our Maroon-bellied Conures a staple pellet diet of Vetafarm Parrot Essentials, Nutriblend Mini and South American. We alternate Vetafarm with Black Parrot 15% and Zupreem.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, Peanuts, Macadamia Nuts, Almonds and Peacans are offered in the mornings, leftovers are removed in the afternoon so birds do not eat spoiled food.
During breeding birds are additionally offered sprouted seed and egg and biscuit twice a day. Supplements like Vetafarm D'Nutrical Powder or Passwells Liquid Gold are added once a week.
We have housed pairs in both large and small aviaries, breeding well in both, we wouldn’t house them without a safety flight as they are very strong flyers and will not hesitate flying past you to escape. A suspended aviary no smaller than 180 x 70 x 90 is recommended. A single pet bird should be housed in a spacious cage with adequate room for exercise and foraging toys.
Maroon-bellied Conures are not often raised for companions for a few reasons:
- There are viable numbers in Australia but, only a few Aviculturalist want to keep them or will only have one pair;
- There are no well-established and affordable mutations that fuel demand as companion pets. There are only a few mutations, Cinnamon and Fallow. There is also an "Advanced" Fallow that is completely yellow with contrasting red/maroon belly and cere brow. Breeders are working to establish new mutations; and
- They still have strong natural instincts, we wouldn't consider them as domesticated as the Green-cheek Conure. Sourcing pure birds can also hamper people finding breeding stock.
Maroon-bellied Conures reach full sexual maturity at two years, but have seen young pairs eager to breed at only a year. They rarely suffer from infertility and are excellent parents with both parents taking equal responsibility raising young.
Breeding can start as early as July (QLD) with the hen laying 4 - 6 white eggs and incubation lasting 25-28 days. We find all pairs have different clutch sizes, some pairs will successfully raise 5-6 chicks while others happily raise only 2-3. Rings should be placed between 10-12 days.
Chicks will fledge at around 6-7 weeks, don't be tempted to separate the young too quickly as we have seen parents feeding babies for up to 12 weeks. Parents will tolerate young for quite some time once weaned.
Every pair has different breeding habits, only some pairs are happy to double clutch. It is worth noting some pairs will double clutch even if young are not removed for hand rearing, extending their season well into February/March.
A common vice is hens sitting too tight on young, causing splayed legs. Although they will use Cockatiel sized boxes, they will definitely benefit from tall cosy nestboxes.
We often pound peat moss into the bottom with a layer of wood shavings on top to help cushion young under a tight sitting hen. Hens are good mothers and will line the nest with a lot of feathers.
Hand rearing is much the same as other Pyrrhura species, easily taking four feeds a day well into fledging. During the early stages 3-5 weeks old they can seem quite, but once they find their wings you can never turn your back without them getting up to mischief. We have found they will continue taking large amounts of formula well into the late stages of weaning. Young birds are always eager to try new foods and there is not much they won’t eat.
Growth of a Maroon-bellied Conure
They can form a strong bond with their hand raiser however we have found that around one in five young once weaned will completely reject any further interaction and become “wild” almost overnight. In our first few years of breeding this species we found this dramatic change in behaviour baffling, you raise a bird from a young age (and treat it like your child) to have it completely reject you once weaned. We have come to accept this and not offering these birds as companion pets. Hand reared birds that are returned to aviary still make excellent birds for future breeding.
Maroon-bellies benefit greatly from socialisation and few extra weeks learning basic flock manners. We sometimes compare them to Kakarikies, they never stop, which can be embarrassing when people come to view young hand raised birds.
They do settle down quite quickly and adapt well to change. Birds that remain tame after weaning continue to form strong bonds with their hand raisers and then new owners and are particularly affectionate.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of Maroon-bellied Conures that feather pluck. They are well known for this behaviour, feather plucking is though sometimes considered okay when birds are breeding as they use them to line the nest. Breeding from birds that out rightly pluck should be discouraged, as we find future generations will also display the trait.
There are a lot of dietary and environmental factors that can influence a bird to pluck. Some birds when moved or sold can stop, but excessively plucked birds should be avoided.
Maroon-bellies are no more susceptible to disease than other other bird. Newly acquired birds should be tested for disease and quarantined for no less than six weeks before adding to one's collection.
In conclusion, Maroon-bellied Conures are a delightful addition to any collection and a personal favourite. They should be seriously considered as they have a progressive and exciting future ahead.
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