This is Lisa’s Sun Conure pictures and story.
Lisa has a lot of helpful information to share about her Sun Conure.
| Sydney with Michelle
|| Sydney getting Jo up
| Sydney after his bath
|| Sydney helps with math
I am Lisa and Sydney is our companion female Sun Conure. She has been with me since she was three or four months old. I got her from a pet store. She is now eight and half years old. Five and a half years ago we were joined by Joe, who is now my husband. Actually, Sydney thinks she is the one who married Joe.
There is so much I can share about life with Sydney. Writing about all of it would probably take a book. So I’ll share as much as the web site owner will allow space for.
Sydney is quite hyper and doesn’t sit still very often, other than when she is sitting on eggs. We don’t breed her and she doesn’t have a mate, but she lays the eggs anyways. She has lots of toys, but often prefers to get into other things. Her favorite toys are actually pretty simple. She likes to chew plain wood and we give her dowel rods and wooden clothes pins and other types of plain wood that I get from people that sell bird safe wood. She has chewed up the handle on one of my husband’s toothbrushes, demolished a bar of soap once, and my husband has a collection of T-shirts that have more holes than fabric. I call them T-shirts by Sydney. She used to like the colored wood bird toys, but at some point she switched to preferring plain wood. She explores a lot and we’ve had to teach her what she needs to stay away from. She knows the word “No” and she knows what I mean when I tell her “I’m watching you” in my ominous voice that lets her know I see her heading into trouble. That one is kind of funny. It’s just like having a small child that likes to test the adults in their lives. Sydney is often happy to entertain herself with toys when we’re all in the same room together. We can be reading or watching TV and she’ll chew on her toys somewhere else in the room, or even sit and look out the window. But she does like to be in the same room with us most of the time.
Sun Conures are supposed to be very noisy, but we don’t have too much trouble with that. Sydney will do her very loud bird alert scream if she sees something she thinks is a danger, such as a hawk, airplane, helicopter, kite, glider, or anything else that is up in the sky and looks like a predator; or when something unusual gets in the yard, or when a stranger is running around the house. By stranger I mean someone who is here to do work in the house. She is OK with friends and family. When she does bird alerts and I’m around, I go to where she is and look with her and let her know I see whatever it is and tell her it’s OK. Usually she stops screaming. Sometimes she’ll keep going for a while. Getting her to stop when a stranger is in the house is sometimes difficult. She screams with delight when we’ve been gone and come home. As long as we say hello and go see her she stops.
Other than the few situations in which she’ll scream, she is quiet or makes pleasant bird noises of various sorts, or tries to talk. She can even whisper. She doesn’t talk very well, but she tries. She often says things, but we have no idea what she is saying. She does communicate quite clearly in bird language. She answers me with various chirps and squawks when I ask her questions or talk to her, and she laughs with us a lot of the time too. She has all kinds of ways of letting us know things, and she understands many things we tell her. She knows what “treat”, “waffle”, and “almond” mean. When I ask if she wants her almond (she gets one a day, usually when we leave the house) she starts running around in circles on the top of her cage. She knows what “kiss” means and will give me a kiss when I ask for one. She knows what “come on let’s go” means--I say that when I want her to follow me out of a room or come to me--,and she knows what “go” or “go back” and “stay” mean. “With these commands I also use hand signals. She knows what “take a bath” means. I’ve had times where she has been upstairs with Joe, and I’ll call her and tell her it’s time to go to bed and she’ll fly down and go into her cage. I was actually somewhat amazed that she did this. I figured I’d try calling her just to see what would happen and was quite surprised at the response.
When Syd wants something she whines (makes a quiet annoying squawky noise over and over again—beats screaming) and/or she will lean in the direction of what she wants and flutter her wings. I think I taught her the whine when she was first with me. At that time I’d uncover and open her cage in the morning and then go into the kitchen to get her food ready. She would still be on her cage; she was clipped at the time, and couldn’t see me. So she would do her normal conure contact call, which is kind of loud. I always answered her by saying “what”. After a short period of time she started making a noise that sounded a lot like “what”, instead of doing the normal contact call. This noise became what I call her whiny noise.
Sydney is a snuggler. She decided about a year after I met my husband that he was going to be her mate and switched from me being her favorite person to Joe being her favorite person. For a few years after that she didn’t want a whole lot to do with me. She didn’t bite or attack me (much), but mostly ignored me. That kind of sucked since I’m the one that feeds her and cleans up after her. But after a while she started spending time with me again, and now she splits her time between the two of us. She prefers to have her snuggle time with Joe, though. She spends a lot of time hanging out in the front of his shirt or snuggled up against his neck. When she wants her new feather sheaths cleaned off on her head she comes to me. I do that better than Joe does.
She eats many different types of food. I think whoever weaned her did a good job. I’ve never had a problem getting her to eat different things. When I introduce something new it might take her a day or two of watching it before she tries it. She eats: seeds, sprouts, raisins, Grape Nuts, shredded wheat, organic pellets (she doesn’t eat a lot of these, but she does eat some), banana, mango, pineapple, apple, grapes, plum, dates, dried papaya, kiwi, beans, rice, pasta, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, scrambled egg, tofu, tomato, fig bars, licorice (has no sugar), and probably a lot of other things I’m forgetting. She likes chips and crackers too but we keep those to a minimum because they have too much salt. And she’ll eat most anything that tastes sweet. She’s not a vegetable eater. She prefers fruit. She always wants to see what we’re eating, even if she decides she’s not interested. Most of the food in our house is organic including Sydney’s food.
For the first five years I had Sydney I kept her wings clipped, but I hated doing it. So I finally let her grow them out. And it made a big difference in her personality and confidence levels. She seems smarter and happier to me now, and it’s nice that she can go where she wants to go in the house and we don’t always have to take her. We have a perch or play stand of some sort in most rooms of our house. We have a cat walk that goes across our upstairs and looks over the downstairs. Joe made a custom play stand for her that sits on the railing of the cat walk. We call that Sydney’s command and control post. She loves to sit up there and rule the house. She mostly lands on her various perches or on us, but she has one or two favorite pieces of furniture she thinks are also her perches and I haven’t been persistent enough to keep her from landing on those.
It’s a big risk allowing her to fly. I’ve lost a few birds in the past and it’s an awful experience that I don’t plan on repeating. We hope that we are careful enough not to lose her. I’ve decided it’s worth the risk. One of the birds I lost in the past was clipped, so to me clipping is still no guarantee, but it certainly makes it a lot harder for them to reach an open door. We do not have any children or other pets in the house, which makes it safer than it might be in some environments. Sydney is also not locked in her cage other than at night. We leave her out when we’re gone. So far we’ve not had any major issues. When we leave the house we either leave the TV on or we leave a radio on, or both. I usually put the TV on the sleep timer so it goes off after a while. Syd likes the KPBS kids shows. When I first brought Sydney home I did lock her in her cage when I left the house. I stopped when I felt comfortable that she knew which space was hers and that she wouldn’t get into any danger. With some birds doing this might never be safe. So far it’s been OK for us. I think letting her have free access to the house is one of the reasons she isn’t territorial.
Sydney is mostly potty trained. It didn’t take too long to teach her where she was allowed to poop. I use the command “go potty” and praise her a whole lot when she goes in the right places. She still messes up at times, but not all that often. When she has been sitting on eggs and stops her sitting, she seems to forget her training and I have to retrain her. It usually takes about a week for her to get back in the groove.
Building the relationship that we have with Sydney has taken a long time and sometimes a lot of patience. It’s a lot like raising a child that never gets beyond the age of 4 or 5. It took a lot of consistency. I’ve always talked to her in context. I used the same phrases to mean the same things in the same situations, again and again and again. And she learned. When I’ve had to leave the house or leave her in another room I’ve always said the same things to her. So she seems to have learned that I’m leaving and will be back when I say those things, and doesn’t throw temper tantrums. That wasn’t always the case. I got into the habit of giving her an almond when I left the house because that worked to get her not to scream. She learned to associate something she liked with me leaving. When she gets into bad things she gets a loud and stern “No” and I usually try to give her an acceptable alternative. This distracts her from what she wants and can’t have, and teaches her what is OK. When she does things we want her to do we praise her a lot. I’ve never used treats as a reward as I didn’t want that to become a habit. Only loud, happy verbal praise and that has worked well.
Sydney takes pretty well to other people. I think Sun Conures are better at this than some other types of parrots. But it also has a lot to do with how they are treated and socialized. I always tell people that come to our house to just do their thing and ignore Sydney and let her observe them. I tell them not to get too close, and not to try to touch her or pick her up. People that follow this advice are often rewarded--unless they are afraid of birds in which case it’s not much of a reward--with her going to them at some point. I’ve provided a couple of pictures of her on Joe’s sister and on Joe’s niece. Joe became quite ill a few years ago and was in the hospital for a month. A lot of Joe’s family and my family stayed at our house with me during that time and Syd liked and spent time with everyone.
The only time Sydney bites us is if we’re handling something she thinks is dangerous (the list is quite long and includes the broom, paper bags and boxes, the laundry, hummingbird feeders, etc:-)), or if we pester her and she wants to be left alone. I’ve learned how to avoid being bitten. If I’m going to be handling something or moving something around she doesn’t like then I keep her off of me while I’m doing it. And she’ll usually warn us in some way if we’re annoying her, before she’ll bite. We did go through a few years of hormonal outbursts with her. I think it was around ages 4-6. She was a bit weird then. She’d be real sweet one minute and then turn around and bite me the next minute. This would go on for two or three months in the spring and summer. I learned how to deal with it, which often meant just leaving her alone, and after a few years she stopped behaving this way during mating season. Now she just lays eggs :-). When she lays them I get out a nesting box for her and let her sit on the eggs until she’s ready to give up. We miss her when she does this, but it seems to work best this way. She comes out of the box multiple times a day to eat and poop and visit with us for a minute or two and then goes back.
Sun Conures are great companions. They are quite affectionate and entertaining. They do want to be with their “flock” most of the time. I believe that many of the people that give them up due to screaming are people who leave them locked in a cage by themselves too much of the time. That doesn’t work for this type of parrot. Well, it probably doesn’t work for most parrots, but Sun’s need a lot of time with the people in their lives. Maybe more than other parrots might. Sydney is OK even when we leave her alone for full work days as long as she has toys, windows to look out of, and the TV or radio. When we’re home she’s almost always allowed to be with us. If we want her to leave us alone for a while we’ll put her on her cage, turn on the TV, give her a treat and tell her to stay. Then we’ll go in another room and close the door and she’ll usually settle down and entertain herself for a while, or take a nap. I can’t imagine life without her.
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