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Dusky Conures as Pet Birds: Affectionate and Clever Parrots

Linda Crampton is a former biology teacher, a writer, and a long-time pet owner. She has or has had dogs, cats, and birds in her family.

A Lovely Pet and Friend

Dusky conures can make lovely pets and companions. They are small and attractive parrots and are clever birds. My dusky conure is called Cece. She has been a member of my family for many years. I got her from a breeder when she was a youngster. She's an affectionate bird and has become a great friend, but she does have her feisty moments.

Wild dusky conures live in South America. Pet birds breed well in captivity. They are mainly green in colour but have a grey or blue-grey head. The abdomen and part of the wings may be yellow, and the edges of the wings and tip of the tail may be a beautiful blue colour. The birds have a white ring around the eyes, and their beak is black. Adult dusky conures are about eleven inches long.

This is a photo of Cece on my shoulder. She likes running my hair through her beak

This is a photo of Cece on my shoulder. She likes running my hair through her beak

Cece, My Dusky Conure

Cece is the only conure that I have ever owned. Many sources say that dusky conures are sweet, clever, calm, and relatively quiet compared to other conures, who are generally noisy birds. Cece is clever and is often very sweet too—when she’s in the mood—but she is sometimes the opposite of calm and quiet! She is strong-willed and is very assertive at times. She has a loud call, but she also makes gentle chirping sounds when she is happy and relaxed.

Cece loves to perch on me and walk over my clothes. She likes to investigate everything that I do. (Since she tries to help herself to my food, I have to put her on a perch attached to her cage while I'm eating.) Sometimes she decides to relax and preen her feathers while she's perched on me. At other times she decides to nestle under my clothes. She often becomes silent and motionless when she has settled under my sweater or shirt. I have to remember that I'm carrying an invisible bird around so that she doesn't get hurt by my movements.

Sometimes Cece turns upside down on my lap for a stroke. These moments are lovely. It's wonderful to have the trust of a bird. Some owners recommend that only the head and neck of a bird should be petted and that the rest of the body should be avoided. They say that stroking in certain places may be stimulating for the bird. If it becomes sexually frustrated, it may develop behaviour problems. This is something that a person should investigate and consider before they bring a new bird into their home.

Gender of a Conure

I don’t know Cece’s gender. Male and female conures look identical externally. I suspect that Cece is a male, based on certain aspects of “her” behavior, but when I first got her I referred to her as “she,” and I’ve got used to doing this. Her gender could be determined by looking at DNA from a blood test, but I don’t want to put her through this. I don’t intend to breed her, so it really doesn’t matter whether she’s a male or a female.

Food for a Pet Bird

The main food for a dusky conure should be bird pellets with good ingredients. The diet needs to be supplemented with pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Although some seeds in a conure's diet are okay, perhaps as part of the pellets, many pet experts recommend avoiding an all-seed diet. They say that seeds don't provide all the nutrients that birds need. Observers know that conures in the wild feed on more than just seeds.

Cece and Petra, my moustache parakeet, love cooked sweet potatoes and corn in addition to their pellets. Some other suitable foods for conures are carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, spinach, apples without the seeds, pears, oranges, and cooked grains such as millet and rice. Sugary, fatty, or salty junk food shouldn't be given to dusky conures. Avocado and chocolate must be avoided, since they contain compounds that are poisonous for pet birds. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided.

Life Inside and Outside the Cage

A cage needs to be big enough and interesting enough to keep a conure happy. (No matter how interesting the cage, the bird shouldn't be left in it all day.) My cage is thirty inches tall and twenty-four inches wide. Another factor to consider is that the bars of a cage should not be so far apart that a bird can get a head stuck between them.

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Cece spends the night in her cage but is free flying for most of the day, provided someone is home and nearby. Cece sleeps in a "hut" that hangs from the upper bars of the cage. The hut is a triangular enclosure that is open at both ends. Huts can be bought at pet stores.

Petra usually spends the night on a perch attached to the top of Cece's cage. Both birds are in an enclosed area at night. Petra and Cece do sometimes get into the same cage when the door is open, but I've never tried closing the door of a cage when both birds are inside.

Preventing Hazards for Free-Flying Birds

If your conure is free flying at any time, you need to plan where the bird is allowed to travel in order to keep him or her—and your furniture—safe. All escape routes must be blocked. Even if your bird can't fly, you need to decide where he is allowed to explore. You also need to keep your eye on him, especially if there are other pets or young children in the house. Even adults need to be careful if a bird decides to travel over the floor or a sofa where they may get accidentally hurt.

Games and Baths for Pet Birds

Conures need toys and activities to keep them physically and mentally happy. The toys need to be made of safe materials. The activities need to be changed regularly so that the bird doesn't get bored.

Conures like to take showers or baths occasionally. My birds love bathing in a dog food bowl and always get very excited during this activity. Some birds enjoy being sprayed with a fine mist. It's important that the water in the bath isn't too hot or too cold. If you decide to let your bird bathe under running water, it's also important that the flow isn't too strong. Although the bird in the video above is obviously enjoying the bath, I would personally prefer a gentler flow of water for Cece. A bird mustn't get cold after a bath when he or she has wet feathers.

A Conure in the Family: Some Drawbacks

In my experience—and in the experiences of many other dusky conure owners—it's definitely worthwhile getting one of these birds as a pet. Their advantages far outweigh their drawbacks as far as I am concerned. However, you should be aware of these drawbacks. They may be more important to you than they are to me.

1. Cage Maintenance and Veterinary Care

As is true for any pet, looking after a dusky conure requires time and money. The cage must be an adequate size for your bird and needs to be cleaned regularly. The bird's beak and claws need to be kept in good condition. Special perches, cuttlebones, and mineral blocks help to do this. You will need to visit the vet if necessary, carrying the bird in a safe container. An avian vet is the best kind to visit because he or she specializes in treating birds.

2. Personal Attention

Giving personal attention to a pet can be time consuming, especially when there are multiple pets in a family, but it's essential for the animal's well-being. In the wild, dusky conures live in pairs, small groups, and large flocks. They are social birds. As pets, they need company, even if their companion is a human instead of another bird.

3. The Price of Good Food

Another possible drawback for a dusky conure owner is the price of food. Good food is needed to keep your bird in top condition. You should probably try to avoid the bird food that most supermarkets sell. Pet store food may be more expensive, and the store may be located further from your house than your local supermarket. A good diet helps to keep the bird's immune system working properly, however, so it's worth searching for healthy food. You will also need to buy fruits and vegetables for your conure.

I have to travel quite a long way to buy my favourite food. Luckily, the specialty bird store that I visit sells the food in bulk, so I freeze some of it when I get home. I also appreciate the owner's extensive knowledge of birds. The store is associated with an avian vet. The vet's clinic used to be located right next to the bird store but is now found a short distance away. If you own a pet, make sure that you know the location, route, and open hours to your nearest emergency vet in case a visit is ever necessary.

4. Chewing

Dusky conures are chewers and complete their damage rapidly. I’ve got small holes in several items of clothing, since Cece spends a lot of time perched on me. I’ve learned to wear old clothes in the house because I’m not going to stop carrying her around. Cece does sometimes nip me when she is in one of her feisty moods, but she's never bitten hard enough to make me bleed.

It’s definitely not a good plan to wear anything valuable around a dusky conure, including jewelry such as earrings. Be very careful if you wear hearing aids and have a pet bird who perches on your shoulder, especially if the hearing aid has any visible parts that the bird could damage.

5. Noise

Cece can be noisy when she's excited, such as when she sees someone coming down the driveway or when she's interacting with Petra. I live in a house, not an apartment, but even so I can hear Cece and Petra shrieking together from outside the house. Luckily, the calls don't last for long. Cece may be noisier than she would normally be because she's copying Petra. I'm glad that Cece has Petra's companionship as well as mine. She enjoys his company even though he belongs to a different species.

A dusky conure at Beale Park in Reading, England

A dusky conure at Beale Park in Reading, England

Training a Conure

Conures aren't great talkers, which may be a disadvantage for some people. When the birds do produce words they are often indistinct—or so I've read. I've never tried to teach Cece to speak. Conures can be taught to perform tricks, however, although once again I've never tried this with Cece. She creates interesting behaviours on her own.

Like other pet birds, dusky conures can be messy, dropping food when it's only half eaten and pooping whenever they feel the urge. Newspaper or another covering below a popular perch can make clean-up easier. Some people say that they have been able to potty train their dusky conure, getting the bird to poop on command in a suitable place.

Should You Get a Dusky Conure?

One thing to be aware of is that conures can live for as long as twenty-five years. You need to think about the future. Is the bird likely to outlive you? If so, is there someone that you trust who will take of your bird when you are no longer able to? These questions are important to answer with respect to some other long-lived birds that people keep as pets in addition to dusky conures.

If you're prepared for the work involved in looking after a pet bird and for the other possible drawbacks, a dusky conure makes a great pet. I'm very fond of Cece. Her occasional bad moods are annoying when they happen, but her good moods are wonderful. It's lovely to have a close relationship with a parrot.

References and Resources

  • Facts about dusky-headed conures from the World Parrot Trust
  • Basic bird care from the Association of Avian Veterinarians
  • How to care for your pet bird from the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 10, 2019:

Hi, Jamie. I’ve only had one dusky conure as a pet, but I’ll try to answer your questions.

I’ve read that it is possible to potty train some birds, though I’ve never tried this.

Methods to encourage a noisy bird to be quiet do exist, which you should investigate.

My conure has a hut to sleep in, which she loves. It provides a nice enclosure for her. In addition, the room where she sleeps is shut up at night. She has no need for a blanket over her cage.

All of my birds have lived with dogs in the family. I wouldn’t say that the birds and the dogs have been friends, but they certainly haven’t been enemies. I expect this depends on the personality of the dog(s) in the family, though.

I expect with patience you could train your conure not to bite without reason. (This isn’t guaranteed, though.)

I suggest that you do lots of research before you buy your bird. I think it's great that you're thinking so carefully about what is involved in having a conure as a pet.

Jamie on September 05, 2019:

So I've been researching dusky conures a lot lately and just have a few questions. I am not in the process of getting a dusky conure and am choosing to wait until I'm old enough to get a part-time job to discuss adopting one into the family so as not to (in the possible event that my family allows a bird into our home) make the costs a burden to my parents. I've been fascinated with birds for a while now, researching as much as I can. So, I have a few queries:

1. Can I teach a dusky conure command words like "hush" or "toilet" (it sounds kind of silly) to help them learn when/where to go to the bathroom or when it's time to be quiet?

2. What exactly does putting a cloth over a bird's cage at night do? Does it help them sleep? Will they eventually learn that nighttime is quiet time?

3. Can a bird befriend a dog?

4. Can I teach a conure to not bite? Of course, a bird will bite when threatened or being playful/affectionate, but I'd like to know if I could teach them not to be aggressive without reason.

Sorry for the long list of questions! I hope it's not too much trouble...

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 24, 2019:

Thank you for the comment, Lory. The points that you’ve raised are certainly something for people to consider when they bring a bird into their family. I’ve added a note about this to the article.

Lory on August 20, 2019:

You DO NOT stroke a bird in ANY place except for the head! The ONLY other creature(besides the bird's self) that strokes it any place besides its head is the bird's mate!!

So first of you end up making the bird think youre its mate. Second you sexually frustrate the bird. The bird will end up masturbating its self on you,and that is just icky and just wrong,but NOT the birds fault..

Second of all birds are extremely territorial over their mate. And will attack others that go near you,and that beak cuts through skin like nothing. It will also make your bird overly reliant on you and screams their head off even morethan they usually would.

THIS is one of the main reasons why so many birds end up in shelters bc ppl didn't enough research,and mishandle the bird.

So,please only do head scratches.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 22, 2019:

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Anon on July 19, 2019:

As I was picking up pellets in petco for my ungrateful terroist cockatoo, a baby conure was in a nearby cage actively engaging, flipping, back laying, attentive, inquisitive, funny, cute and knowing full well it's cuddle capacity with all of the easygoing traits you look for in a lifelong companion... I stood there smiling and laughing which quickly turned a little teary eyed and then into full blown big, hot tears knowing what I was returning home evil and manipulative cockatoo. Please, folks...know your breeds and be careful of chemicals in their environment. No paint based beautiful cages made from china caninets or security in thinking the bird will not surface from its warm cover nestled in your jacket while outside. Lost 2 amazing and truly bonded birds this way and now am stuck with a brutal and completely manipulative "companion" who makes the terminology "walking on eggshells" make sense even in the avian world now. Conures are the best!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 16, 2017:

I hope your speech goes well, Kaitlyn.

Kaitlyn on May 16, 2017:

Hi,I am doing a speech on conures for my english class and your page helped a lot!Thank you!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 19, 2016:

Thanks for the comment and for sharing the information and your point of view, Caty. It sounds like you have an interesting bird family!

Caty Snell on December 19, 2016:

Wonderful insight into life with a dusky! We've just added a rescue one to our flock (joining 3 other conures, 2 eclectus, 2 pionus and a grey).

However, one thing I would disagree with is DNA sexing. It's a tiny amount of blood and knowing a bird's sex can be extremely important if they get sick. For example 6 out of 9 of our birds are male so things like egg binding are immediately ruled out if they're sick, which, of course, leads to faster diagnoses. We did the DNA testing as part of all of our birds initial blood work (except for the 2 eclectus naturally) and it didn't have any adverse effects on them. The less expensive they've become the more I recommend people do it!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2016:

Hi, Candice. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of Dustin. It sounds like she was a wonderful friend. I can understand why you are missing her. I know that you are sad right now, but it's wonderful that Dustin had such a great life with you.

Candice on December 16, 2016:

Thank you so much Linda for posting this info along with all the pictures. It brought smiles and giggles just remembering how wonderful a pet they are.

I had a Dusky Conure named Dustin. She just passed away this past Monday, December 12, 2016. She was 25 years old. I got her from a breeder when she was 3 months old. She ended up being one of 5 birds. At the time, I had 3 cockatiels, 2 of which lived to 25 years each, and a parakete that lived to 13 years old.

I was told she was a boy. Yes, you cannot tell with this breed like you can with cockatiels. When she was 10, she walked out from behind my sofa with a llittle white thing between her legs. It turned out to be an egg. So I knew right then and there that she was no longer a boy. She was my only bird at the age of 12. She did not want another bird in the house. She wanted me all to herself and that is exactly how it has been all these wonderful years. She was potty trained when she was little. It just happened that way. It wasn't anything I planned. It really worked out well for all of us. She is missed more than anyone can possibly know.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 04, 2016:

Thank you for sharing your experience, Robert. It sounds like you have a wonderful pair of birds!

Robert on May 04, 2016:

My girlfriend has a dusky and a green cheek. People say they don't talk. WRONG! These 2 will drive you nuts. They can talk very well. They actually make sentences. The green cheek is named baby. The dusky is egor baby. I've never been into birds but I am now. These 2 birds will steal your heart. The reason we got 2 is they had them side by side at the pet store. She wanted the little one and I noticed the dusky trying to get her attention. After a little it just went to the side of its cage like it was sad. I felt sorry for it,so I told them you make me a good deal I'll buy both birds. Guess what I did. This isn't the first conures she has had. She lost 2 in the past. That was the best thing we could have ever done is to have 2 at the same time. I love these birds like I have never loved another pet. They are so cool and loveable.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 27, 2016:

Thanks, lrdl3535. Sun conures are attractive birds. I'm glad to hear that your bird is a great pet despite her noise!

Richard Lindsay from California on April 27, 2016:

Great post, my wife has a Sun Conure and she is a great pet. But she can get a little loud at time.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on January 29, 2016:

Hi, Tess. It's great to hear from another dusky conure owner! Your bird sounds a lot like Cece. Thank you very much for the comment.

Tess on January 29, 2016:

I loved this article, I just got a dusky conure about 6 months ago and she is so sweet and fun, I love her so much!, She also has her feisty moments just like your Cece. They are great little birds thanks for the wonderful and informative article.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 21, 2013:

Hi, Paul. I hope Cece lives to be thirty, as long as she's happy. It's wonderful that Connie is still active! Thanks for the visit.

Paul on April 21, 2013:

My Connie is 30 yrs old. It looks like she's developing cataracts in both eyes. She is still active and a very loving bird.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 15, 2012:

Hi, Fennelseed. Thank you for the visit and the votes. Yes, Cece is certainly a character. There's a lot of personality packed into her relatively small body!

Annie Fenn from Australia on February 15, 2012:

HI Alicia, Cece sounds like a real character, he/she must be so centent nestling in your sweater. I would love to stroke her, if she would let me. Thank you for this interesting hub and for introducing Cece here. My votes to you!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2012:

I am very much looking forward to reading your hub, Eddy! The only conure that I know much about is the dusky conure, and I'd love to learn about the other kinds. Thank you for the comment.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 14, 2012:

You will never know how many brilliant memories you have brought back.

A few years ago now we had a Red Hooded Conure called Brad in the family ;he was such a character and so loved by all.

I wrote a hub on him if you would like to read ;

I have to vote this one up up and away plus bookmark.

Thank you so much for sharing;take care and enjoy your day.


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 12, 2012:

Wow - thirty five years is a long time to own a pet! That's a sizable chunk of a human's life! Thank you for the interesting and kind comment, b. Malin.

b. Malin on February 12, 2012:

Hi Alicia, my sister has had her "Dasy" the Parrot for about 35 years! That crazy bird can say, "I'm a pretty good girl" and Whistles at you. I really Enjoyed your Hub and those Interesting Fact that only you can weave so well!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 12, 2012:

Thanks, Nell. Yes, Cece is a good companion and it is fun to carry her around, unless she starts interfering with what I'm doing, which she does sometimes because she's very interested in what's going on! She often likes to examine what I'm touching or pick up things that I'm trying to use, like a pen or a pencil. Sometimes I just have to put her back on a perch and shut her up in the room which has her cage just so I can get some work done!

Nell Rose from England on February 12, 2012:

Hi, Alicia, the name Dusky Conure is new to me, I never realised that parrots had different names, but how lovely! there used to be a parrot in the pet shop near me, I loved going in and being greeted with good mornin'! even though yours doesn't speak much it must be great fun carrying one around on your shoulder! I bet you get called long john silver! haha! thanks for sharing!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 12, 2012:

Hi, Lesley. Yes, sometimes people don't realize that even though a dusky conure is a small parrot he or she can live for many years. That certainly is something to think about! Thank you for the comment and the votes.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on February 12, 2012:

Hi Alicia, wow they can live up to 25 years! that's definitely something to be considered if you're thinking of having one!

Cece is certainly a very handsome bird.

Voting up and interesting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 12, 2012:

Thank you, drbj. I've never had a bird that can talk in my family or tried to teach one to talk. I'm sure that a talking parrot would be very entertaining, though, just like your grandmother's was!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 12, 2012:

I can well understand your attachment to Cece, Alicia, since my grandmother owned a parrot when I was very young. It was a very clever bird and could imitate my mother's and grandmothers's voices so well, I would always think they were calling me. It was the bird! Thanks for the sweet hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2012:

Thanks for visiting and for the comment, Maren Morgan!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on February 11, 2012:

Wow - nice information!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2012:

Hi, Prasetio. Thank you very much for the comment and the rating. I hope that you have a nice day, too!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 11, 2012:

I love bird and I learn many things here. Thank you very much for detail information about Dusky Conure. It's new for me. Alicia, you have done a great job here. Rated up and have a nice day!


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2012:

Thanks for the visit and the votes, Peggy. Yes, it is very important to think about the potential lifespan of a pet before bringing him or her into the family. It's possible for some pets to live for a very long time.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2012:

Hi Alicia,

Enjoyed reading about and seeing your Conure bird. Nice that you mentioned their longevity because that should always be taken into consideration when adopting any kind of pet. Useful, interesting and up votes.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2012:

Thank you for commenting and for the votes, alocsin. I appreciate your visit.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 11, 2012:

Good info for those wanting to take care of this clever bird. Voting this Up and Useful.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 10, 2012:

Taking care of four parrots must keep you very busy, FishAreFriends! I would like to own more birds, but I already have seven pets in the house and know that I wouldn't have time to look after any others. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

FishAreFriends from Colorado on February 10, 2012:

I love parrots, I have four. This hub has a lot of information, nicely done. I've always wanted to have a conure, as I like their personalities. Cool hub I especially like the videos!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 10, 2012:

Thank you very much for the lovely comment and the votes, writer20! I'm sure that Cece would appreciate the comment too. She has a very high opinion of herself!

Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on February 10, 2012:

You have a very cute parrot and great information. Voted up and awesome.

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