Housing Cherry head conures (also known as Red Masked or Christmas conures) are one of the larger species of conures and should be provided with a cage that is a minimum size of 30"L x 24"W x 30"H. The larger the cage, the more comfortable for the bird. A good cage should have horizontal bars on at least two sides, as conures are very active and love to climb. Horizontal bars help to make climbing easier. Bar spacing should be no more than 1" apart to prevent injury.
Conures can be kept at room temperature. Be sure to place your bird and its cage off of the floor and away from hot places or drafty areas like open windows, air vents, and doorways. Most tropical areas have a daytime temperature in the mid to high 70s and aren't colder than 65 degrees at night. Parrots should not be kept in areas that are constantly below 65 degrees, as this can wear down their immune system. An important thing to remember is that birds are most vulnerable to drafts when they are wet. If the room the bird lives in is 65 degrees, it should be moved to a warmer area to dry after a bath. Birds which habitually bathe in their water should be kept in a warmer area at all times.
Your conure's cage should have at least two or three perches of various sizes, shapes and textures so that its feet stay healthy and strong. Make sure the perches are thick enough for the bird to stand comfortably on them without losing balance. For cherry heads this is usually between 3¼4" and 11¼2" in diameter. Some materials to consider are natural wood branches (like manzanita), concrete, pumice or bonded sand perches (for trimming nails) and rope perches.
Every bird, no matter the size, should have toys in their cage to prevent boredom. Parrots especially need these distractions, as they are very intelligent and in the wild would be solving many problems each day just to find food, create nesting sites and avoid predators. Provide at least three toys of different materials to begin with: wood (for chewing, an important part of beak health), plastic/acrylic (to make sure they have a toy just in case they destroy their other ones) and some other material or combination of materials such as vegetable-tanned leather, sisal rope, woven palm leaves and/or corn cob.
If your bird is housed in a quiet room, you may want to get a cover for your bird's cage to help it sleep at night. In most tropical regions the amount of daylight hours is constant throughout the year and your bird will require a consistent 10-12 hours of sleep at night to remain healthy. If your bird lives in a more active room, it may be kept awake by even low volume sounds and will not get the proper rest that it needs. In this case, you may want to get a smaller cage for your bird to sleep in and place it in a quieter room, such as a guest room or home office. Using a smaller sleep cage will give your bird a safe, quiet place to get a good night's sleep.
Diet The natural diet of cherry head conures consists of fruit, seeds, and insects. At home, conures will thrive on a variety of foods. Pellet foods and seed mixes can be fed as a daily base diet. We are currently feeding our birds Kaytee™ Rainbow Exact and Kaytee™ Forti-Diet. It is better not to feed pellets or seeds exclusively because it often does not provide proper nutrition and is boring for the bird. Pellets should comprise 80 percent of the diet (once the bird has been successfully converted to them), with the rest being made up of seed, fresh fruits & vegetables, and the occasional treat.
It is important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's diet. Vegetables are more nutritious than fruit and should be given in greater quantities. Healthy vegetables to offer are dark leafy greens (romaine, kale, chicory, collard, and turnip greens), carrots, broccoli, and cooked sweet potatoes & squash. Just make sure whatever cooked foods you offer are not salted or spiced in any way.
Healthy fruits include papaya, mango, small amounts of apple, pear, plum or grape, and berries when in season. Be careful not to feed fruit pits or seeds (with the exception of berries) because many of these can be poisonous. When feeding fresh foods, it is important to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again. Other healthy foods include cooked whole grains, pasta, multigrain breads & cereals, and occasionally, cooked eggs and un-spiced lean meats. If feeding fruits the stool may become runny for a while. Many birds cannot tolerate too much acid that is in many citrus fruits, therefore we recommend limiting the amount of citrus you feed to your bird.
When changing the food your bird is given (if trying to convert birds to pellets or to a new brand of food, for example), do so gradually. A sudden change may upset your bird's digestive system, or the bird may refuse to eat the new food. We currently feed our birds Kaytee™ seed and pellets along with many fresh fruits and vegetables.
Grooming and Hygiene Birds like to bathe, but different individuals prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist and still others like to get in the shower with their owner. Since many parrots come from regions of the world that get a great deal of rainfall, it's important to give birds a chance to get wet every day as long as they are in good health.
Clipping your bird's flight feathers is not necessary but usually helps in taming your bird. It also helps to prevent escape and injury. Birds like parrots cannot survive in the climate of most US states and even in warmer areas would not survive without a flock (a flock protects them from predators as there is safety in numbers). For this reason, please consider carefully before allowing a parrot to remain flighted. Consult your avian vet to have the wings clipped by a qualified professional. Nails should also be trimmed by a qualified person if they get too long, unhealthy, and hinder the bird's movements.
Maintenance Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water and change the paper in the tray. Use a non-toxic cleaner (such as mild dish liquid) and make sure that the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water regularly (about once a week or so) while keeping the bird in a seperate room. Bleach fumes can kill your new pet. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is completely gone before you place your bird back inside the cage.
Rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them. Remember, never place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. Some birds are more frightened of certain objects or colors. Keep their stress level low by introducing something new very carefully. Mirrors can be confusing for birds and are best introduced after the bird has bonded with their owner. Otherwise, birds tend to bond to the bird in the mirror as opposed to their owner.
Behavior and Interaction Cherry head conures are very social birds who form colonies of 6-10 birds in the wild. For this reason, Cherry heads need a lot of social interaction with their owner or with other birds in order to stay happy and healthy. It is necessary for them to have multiple hours of time outside the cage socializing each day to keep them friendly and well-adjusted. A playstand where the parrot can play with a different set of toys than it has in its cage is ideal for this, as the bird can be occupied and out of the cage and its owner can complete other household tasks without the bird on their shoulder.
If you would like your bird to bond with you, it is best to keep one bird per cage. Conures that are housed together may bond and form a mated pair or possibly fight and injure one another if they are incompatible. Also, if you intend to keep a mated pair of Cherry heads, keep in mind that they are likely to become aggressive toward you during the breeding season.
Cherry head conures are very vocal birds that can easily develop screaming habits if not cared for properly. You can prevent this problem by providing daily companionship outside the cage as well as plenty of toys inside an appropriately sized cage. Their call is lower in pitch than the calls of other Aratingas like Sun conures, but it can be considerably louder. Anyone living in an apartment or attached/semi-detached house should consult their neighbors before bringing home these beautiful birds, as neighbors will be able to easily hear their calls. Also, anyone considering the purchase of these birds should hear them at their loudest a few times to make sure that the noise level is acceptable to them.
Helpful Hints When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. Do not try to handle the bird for at least the first few days or at least until it is eating and drinking well, as the bird needs time to adjust to the new home. At the same time, do not shelter your bird from your normal routine or bring it home during a vacation from work. If it is going to adapt to your routine, the bird needs to be exposed to it immediately.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home.
With a well-balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin or mineral supplements. If your veterinarian advises you to use supplements, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups and purchasing a book about your new pet.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get your bird to the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.
Signs of a Healthy Animal:
• Active, alert, and sociable
• Eats and drinks throughout the day
• Dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes
• Beak, legs, and feet appear normal
• Clean, dry vent
• Smooth, well-groomed feathers
Signs of an Unhealthy Animal or Other Red Flags:
• Beak swelling or accumulations
• Fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers especially around the vent
• Constant sitting on floor of cage
• Wheezing or coughing
• Runny or discolored stools
• Favoring one foot when not asleep it is normal for birds to sleep on one foot
• Eye or nasal discharge
• Red or swollen eyes
• Loss of appetite