The Green Cheeked Parakeet (Pyrrhura molinae) is more commonly known as the Green Cheeked Conure (GCC) in aviculture. It is a small parrot of the long-tailed group of the New World parrot family and is native to South America. Their average lifespan in captivity is 30 years.
The GCC is generally around 26cm long and weighs around 60-80g. their feathers are mainly brownish black with green cheeks and blue primary wing feathers as well as maroon tail feathers and a grey beak. The birds cannot be sexed visually.
In the wild, they occupy western and southern areas of Mato Grosso, Brazil through to northern and eastern Bolivia, north-west Argentina and north Paraguay. They live in the forests and woodlands where they are found in flocks of 10-20 birds in the trees or larger flocks where there is plentiful food. They will travel up to 100 miles a day to find food or a nesting site.
The GCC is a popular aviculture birds who are known for having a big personality in a small bird. They can learn to mimic speech and are playful and affectionate. They are also intelligent and enjoy learning tricks like lying on their back, giving kisses and even potty training. Some of their favourite types of toys are balls as well as things they can chew and interact with.
The Green Cheek is quieter than many of its conure cousins so can live in built up housing areas with less concern about noise for neighbours.
They can go through biting stages but with proper training, this can easily be overcome. The best way is to learn them the difference between a gentle bite, which can be affectionate preening, and a hurtful bite. When these stronger bites are used is a tell-tale sign. Never strike the bird and avoid pulling your hand away as this may cause them to bite harder or become scared.
Conures still enjoy a good chew of whatever they are provided with, though are less destructive than some of their bigger cousins. They will hang upside down in their cages to attract attention, dance around on their perches and generally make a fuss to gain attention. They will occupy themselves in their cage with proper toys when left alone but when people are in the house, will prefer to be out of the cage and interacting with the family.
Exercise is very important for these birds, as in the wild they will fly a great deal in search of food or nesting sites, so in captivity this cannot be duplicated, nor would it need to be as these are captive bred birds. However for the psychological well-being of the bird, it best to let them out of their cage and to exercise as much as possible, at least 2-4 hours a day is deal.
Favourite seeds including sunflower, safflower and hemp, which are all found in their wild environment. Favoured fresh fruits include apples, grapes, berries, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, melons, peaches and pears. Vegetables such as beans, carrots, broccoli, greens such as spinach, cabbage, watercress and kale are enjoyed. They will also feast on weeds such as chickweed, dandelions and chicory. Conures will also eat grains and cereals such as oat, cooked rice, spray millet and buckwheat.
Conures will enjoy dried fruit and vegetables, as long as they have no artificial coatings, and will often toss them into the water to make them moist and then eat them. Sprouting seed is another very nutrient rich food source, and special mixes can be obtained from pet suppliers designed for this purpose.
They will also enjoy cooked potatoes and pasta and will happily join their humans at the table for a meal. They can become obese from too many fatty seeds so watching their diet is always wise. A small calcium supplement may be needed occasionally but not in large amounts.
Conures will need access to fresh water daily and will enjoy being sprayed with warm water or even joining you in the shower with a special bird shower perch.
There are several mutations which have been bred in captivity reliably. These include
Conures are sexually mature at around one year, and while they can be ready to breed before this, it is advisable to wait. They typically like a nest box around 16-24inches in depth with a three inch entrance hole at around 5 feet off the ground. Around 2 inches of material is added to the bottom, usually non-toxic sawdust, shredded newspaper, clean straw or wood shavings. The larger the bedding material, the better to avoid the chance the parents may accidentally feed it to the chicks.
The average clutch is 4-6 eggs and are incubated for 22-25 days by both parents. They can be defensive of the nest, so it is best to inspect when both parents are out feeding.
These are active and intelligent little birds who need less space to be happy than the bigger parrots such as an African grey, but who can still bond to their humans in a similar manner. They are still in need of interaction and exercise but will occupy themselves when alone as long as provided with the right toys. They come in a variation of colours from the natural, wild colour and breeding them is considered less complicated than with some other parrot species. They enjoy a wide variety of food so have little specialist needs and are less noisy than some of their relations. So as a start-up parrot for someone with a little experience of parrots, these little characters are a great place to start.