Experiences in Breeding the Golden Conure

Ron Schoenwald, Joanne Schoenwald

Abstract


Our first introduction to the Golden Conure, also known as the Queen of Bavaria, was through Bill Wilson, previous owner and operator of Norshore Pets (Marengo, IL). We would visit him twice a year to purchase our breeding supplies and to admire his Golden Conure hatchlings. Bill, a regional vice-president of the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), raised many varieties of parrots but was especially proud of his Golden Conure breeding pair which he purchased as a young s/s pair in 1984. Their first eggs in 1983 (at age three) were infertile, but since then these particular birds have been an extremely prolific breeding pair. Their clutches have contained two to four eggs twice a year with the exception of one year. To our knowledge, only on occasion would the last egg to be laid not hatch, otherwise, all hatchlings were healthy. They have always laid their eggs between October and March of each yearthrough 1987.

In May of 1988 we purchased a 12 week old female from Bill Wilson and in one year introduced her to a one year old male which we acquired from the San Antonio Zoological and Botanical Gardens. At age 1 year and 9 months (October 1990) she laid her first eggs; however, all three were infertile. We decided to let her sit on the eggs and develop her nurturing instincts. Her mate was also less than two years old, therefore, the likelihood of her laying a fertile clutch by removing the eggs immediately was not much of a possibility. We let her sit on the eggs for 30 days before we removed them. She immediately joined her mate to play with the wooden toy and bell in their flight, and at the risk of anthropomorphic simplicity, we observed her to be relieved and happy at shedding the responsibility of parenthood at such a young age. Apparently, early breeding runs in the family; of course, geneticists have known for years that reproducibility (and longevity) are inherent in gene transfer.

In October of 1989 we received a distressing telephone call from Bill Wilson that because of his terminal illness he could no longer care for his breeding birds. He asked if we would purchase his Golden Conure breeding pair from him and continue their care. We agreed but considered them "a loan" until he could recover (which as many readers know, he did not).

The birds were transported by van about 230 miles. We decided that the best chance of not stressing the pair was to allow them to remain in their California breeding cage and to continue using the same wooden nest box (12" x 12" x 24"). They remained in their nest box for the entire trip. Within about 5 hours, we were able to relocate their cage in a well-lighted, temperature controlled daylight basement. Their cage was placed next to their daughter and her mate's flight cage which measured 3' x8' x 6'.

 

As most breeders know, whenever birds are relocated, no guarantee can be given regarding future breeding success. In fact, as the sale was completed and we were loading the birds onto the van, Bill Wilson told us that there was only one year in which they didn't breed. That was the year he moved the cage and nest box to another room in his house. After hearing this, the next few months were spent anxiously peeking into the nest box anticipating their next scheduled clutch of eggs.

When their next clutch hatched on schedule, we contacted Bill Wilson to tell him the good news. His first words were: "Aren't they ugly?" However, true to the children's fairy tale about ugly ducklings becoming beautiful swans, Golden Conure hatchlings likewise develop a striking appearance when fully feathered.

In 1991 the breeding pair that we acquired from Bill Wilson laid only one clutch for the season. But what a surprise! They laid five eggs and, to our delight, all five eggs hatched. Golden Conures rarely lay five eggs and with a clutch size this large, it would be expected that one or two eggs would not yield hatchlings.

Counting five hatchlings in a nest box is not an easy task and it took a few days after the last egg hatched before we could confirm the headcount. The two youngest hatchlings cried during the night leading us to believe that five hatchlings was beyond the rearing capabilities of the parents. We therefore decided to remove all five for hand-feeding; their ages at this time varied from 9 to 28 days old.

Figure 1 is a chart of their growth rate from this early period to the time when they weaned and their weights stabilized. The graph shows that the two youngest were indeed small in size, but eventually with handfeeding, they reached the same size as the other birds. At ages 3-1/2 to 4 months they were surgically sexed; GC# in figure 1 is a male and the remaining birds are females. It is interesting to note that the male peaked in weight at 40 to 43 days old, whereas, the females peaked about a week later. Also, this male is about 10% lighter in final weight compared to the females. We have noticed this trend with our other breeding Golden Conures. We have also noticed that the females are more aggressive in feeding and less shy in seeking human contact. Clearly, we have not raised enough Golden Conures at this time to extrapolate to the species in general. We observed that two of the female birds (GC#l and GC#3) have darker eye rings, a slightly dark mottling feature on their toes and a greater tinge of green on the tips of their yellow feathers. However, this appears to be a genetic trait that is not related to either growth rate or sex.

The youngsters were hand-fed with Lake's Hand-Rearing Formula until they weaned, at which time they were gradually introduced to various fruits (1/3), vegetables (1/3) and seeds (1/3). The seeds consist of a parrot mixture that is supplemented with 15% sprouted sunflower. At the present time we have a total of four breeding pairs of Golden Conures, all of which receive the above food mixture.

 

 


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