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8:02 AM   April 27, 2015
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Pretty, Playful Green Cheeks

This quiet conure packs plenty of personality.
By Angela Davids

Until you’ve met a green-cheeked conure, you may not believe that such a small bird can pack this much personality. With a variety of toys and human interaction, these parrots can keep their owners—and themselves—entertained for hours.

“They are fabulously feisty, charming, goofy, playful, snuggly, silly little birds,” says Joi West of Joyful Feathers Aviary in Wenatchee, Wash., who has been breeding green cheeks for more than 15 years. This well-rounded personality can make nearly anyone a conure lover, and the fact that the Pyrrhura molinae is one of the quietest conure species makes this parrot even more desirable.

Because they are small in size and relatively low volume, they are ideal pets for people who live in apartments or condos. Green cheeks are louder than budgies, lovebirds or finches, for example, but certainly quieter than any of the Aratinga conure species. West describes their volume as quieter than a male cockatiel and not high pitched, and says sometimes their calls can be repetitive.

“But it rarely lasts very long,” West says.

Breeder Dawn Adley of Adley’s Bird House in Dixfield, Maine, says she has had one green cheek returned to her for being too high-pitched.

“He was housed by a window and he was mimicking a blue jay,” she says.

Adley has been breeding green cheeks for more than 20 years, and her favorite word to describe green cheeks is “comical.” They are active and energetic and absolutely love their toys, which they will “attack” and wrestle with gusto. Hanging toys, swings and foot toys will give them plenty of exercise, and sturdy toys made of acrylic, leather and strong natural woods will let them use their strong beaks and natural chewing tendencies appropriately.

Like most parrots, a green cheek left to wander the home unattended will certainly find trouble, possibly chewing furniture, books or electrical cords. No parrot should be left unsupervised.

Green cheeks will be on the go much of the time, so even though they measure just 10 inches including the tail, the cage should offer plenty of space to stretch and play. Green cheeks need a cage measuring at least 20 by 20 by 30 inches for a single bird. Two birds that get along well or that are in a breeding setup would also do fine in a cage of that size. Bar spacing should be 1⁄2-inch or smaller, with plenty of horizontal bars for climbing. There should be room in the cage for a water bowl that the bird can’t tip. Green cheeks love to bathe in their drinking dishes as well, so owners should check those a couple of times a day to be sure all the water hasn’t been splashed out.

In the wild, green cheeks eat a range of South American seeds, berries, fruits, nuts, flowers, grains and insects. As pets, a well-rounded diet can be provided through pelleted diets manufactured specifically for conures. Healthy table foods like raw broccoli, carrots and beans can be fed for variety, along with occasional seeds and nuts.

The Ideal Owner
Along with those with limited space or close neighbors, the green cheek can be a good option for people with young children. Its small size and small beak aren’t as intimidating as a larger bird’s, and a tame green cheek will enjoy time spent snuggling with its junior companion—with adult supervision, of course.

“A hand-fed, hand-tame bird will thrive on being cuddled and held,” Adley says. “They should be held daily to be kept tame.”

West says they do love being with people and are very friendly birds if raised properly. “Some love their heads scratched and rubbed and some don’t,” she says. “When they have new pin feathers growing in, those feathers can be pretty sensitive to touch and they’ll give a nip if it hurts, but most of them do love their head rubbed.

It is important for pet store employees and then the new owner to keep up with the socialization process after weaning or the birds risk becoming nippy.

Adley recommends that everyone in the family handle the bird so that it does not bond just to one person.

“Take turns picking the bird up and touch the feet, under the wings and all over the bird so that it does not become skittish of anyone,” Adley advises.

The green cheek isn’t the best option for someone dead-set on a talking parrot. Breeders describe the green cheek’s talking ability as minimal, though there are exceptions.

“I’ve had some that talk quite well and others that don’t say more than a few words, and those words are garbled and hard for others to understand,” West says. Their inflection can be excellent though, West says, so even if they don’t actually say the word, you know what they are trying to say.

A Splash of Color
There was a time when the green cheek wasn’t a top pick for someone looking for a brilliantly colored parrot, but the popularity of green-cheek mutations has changed all that.

“As a breeder, I am interested in all the colors that they come in,” says June Diciocco of Hideaway Farms in North Augusta, S.C., who has been breeding green cheeks for more than 10 years. “Few people want the normal color anymore.”

She says the cinnamon yellow-sided mutation—also known as pineapple—is the most popular right now. Its pale yellow and red feathers give it an almost “peachy” appearance. There’s also the yellow-sided (with bright yellow and red) and the cinnamon (a lime green and pale yellow) and an almost unreal-looking turquoise mutation.

But even the standard green cheek has its appeal. Something about that face is adorable—perhaps it’s the white rings around their eyes that make them appear alert and interested in whatever their owners are doing, and the curve of the lower beak that sure can look like a sly little grin. <HOME> 

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