Breeding

Conure, Patagonian (Cyanoliseus patagonus)

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Patagonian Conure

by Jim Hayward

Original homeland 

Central Chile, Argentina and southern Uruguay.

Natural habitat 

Dry scrub and grasslands; they nest in communities, in burrows dug from dry riverbanks and soft limestone cliffs.

Status in the Wild 

In Chile they are rare and - for the present - a protected species, however fat young conures are a traditional seasonal delicacy in Chile. They are dragged out of their deep nests with hooked poles - eggs, young and presumably sitting hens are all destroyed in the process. In Argentina their range is shrinking; they are a great pest to agriculture, relentlessly persecuted, trapped and destroyed as part of official government policy.

Status in Aviculture 

Well established due to regular imports in previous years.

Level of keepers experience 

Novice, with experience of keeping the commoner, large sized parakeets.

Hardiness 

Patagonians are perfectly hardy birds if they are British outside aviary bred or, if imported, once fully acclimatised. An enclosed shelter is not necessary.

Type of Accommodation 

With long wings and swift flight, they need an aviary of at least 15 x 3 x 6 feet high to enable them to exercise and maintain their usual robust and healthy condition. Though not as destructive as many of the Aratinga conures, Patagonians can easily destroy woodwork and thin wire mesh; the aviary and shelter must be constructed with this fact in mind. No less than 16 gauge welded mesh is advised with the aviary frame made of metal pipe or galvanised angle-iron. If wood must be used then vulnerable sections should be covered with metal sheet.

Type of Diet 

A basic seed mixture consisting of sunflower, safflower, canary mixture, 50/50 budgie (millet and canary), and a little wheat and maize. Pine nuts and peanuts are enjoyed but great care must be taken to see that the latter are completely free of mould (fit for human consumption) and that the former are mould free, fresh and not rank. Peanuts should be strictly rationed - a surfeit has been known to cause a blockage of the digestive system. Pulses (for extra protein) can be offered but in my experience are steadfastly ignored, along with greenfood of most types (even the usually highly favoured chickweed). A fruit and vegetable mixture which includes apple, orange, peas (fresh or frozen and thawed with boiling water), grapes, sweetcorn, carrot, celery etc., can be offered but seems to provide only spasmodic temptation - like pulses and greenfood, it must be persevered with. Budding branches and twigs of non-toxic species can be offered, as well as the usual berries of summer and autumn - rowan, elder, hips and haws. Cuttlefish bone should be always present but is often ignored by this species; food can be sprinkled with a little scraped cuttlefish powder and a good mineral/vitamin powder at the manufacturer's recommended level.

Sexing 

There is little visual difference between cocks and hens, and surgical sexing is relied upon, but an experienced breeder will be able pick out hens by their slightly smaller body size, more slender shape, less massive head and bill, and smaller area of orange-red on the lower abdomen.

Sexual Maturity 

Fledglings are only slightly duller in colouration than their parents, but have dark eyes and mostly pale horn coloured upper mandibles which are blackish on the sides. They should not be expected to be mature enough to attempt to breed until around three years old, however one reported example says that one year old birds have hatched young.

Nesting season in Britain 

Commences in late spring and early summer.

Type of nest

A suitable nest-box measures 9 inches square inside by about 2 feet high. It can be made of 1-inch thick exterior plywood and strengthened with pieces of sheet metal, but with destructive birds it is a good idea to make a box of galvanised sheet metal and line it with a wooden sleeve and false bottom of one-inch thick ply. When gnawed too badly, the sleeve and bottom can be easily replaced; the gnawed wood adds to the original nest litter which can be made up of crumbled, well rotted wood and soft sieved sand. Walls rendered in stucco with burrows leading to nesting chambers have often been constructed by breeders, especially as exhibits in bird gardens and zoos. Even so, such elaborate arrangements are not required in order to persuade Patagonians to produce young.

Usual number of eggs 

Three, four or five eggs is usual in a clutch.

Incubation period 

From 23 to 25 days depending on the weather and temperature and steadfastness of the hen.

Usual number of young 

Three or four young is an excellent nest.

Fledging age 

Depending on the depth of the nest, the young fledge at between eight and nine weeks

Usual number of clutches 

One - a second brood in a season is unlikely in our climate.

Nesting habits 

Part of the Patagonian's courtship display includes beak clicking or snapping, posing and strutting. Though often regarded as a colony species, individual pairs are more successful and reliable breeders without the competition and interference from others of their species in a confined area. Unlike all the other conures I have bred, these birds were never found to roost in the nest-box but ignored it completely until coming into breeding condition - even then the cock was never seen to enter the nest.

Special considerations 

Patagonians can often be seen feeding and ferreting about on the ground, from where they also obtain grit by crushing small stones. However, this ground feeding habit does make them prone to internal parasites and like most psittacines, they must be de-wormed periodically.

Noise factor 

Their exuberant calls resemble those of Macaws or Thick-billed parrots and are unmistakeable by their peculiar raspy, gargling - almost choking - throaty quality. The noise of their calls could draw complaints from some neighbours; they usually only give cry at morning, before dusk or when alarmed.

Colour Varieties 

As far as is known the only colour variety to appear in the Patagonian Conure is the Dilute, the first of which was bred at Chester Zoo from amongst a colony of normally coloured birds; I believe that others have since arisen from the same stock. The Dilute Patagonian is mainly creamy yellow with orange-red areas retained. Because a remnant amount of melanin pigment is retained in this variety, the blackish frontal band of the wild type is left as a smutty forehead. The bill is horn or flesh coloured.

 

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