Mitred Conures aka Red-headed Conures
Mitred Conures (Aratinga mitrata) - also known as Red-headed Conures, or Mitred Parakeets - are the second largest of the conure species.
- Similar species: The Cherry-headed / Cherry-head or Red-masked Conure (Aratinga erythrogenys)
- Sub-species, Ranges & Identifications
Mitreds are endemic to the Andes from north-central Peru, south through Bolivia, to north-western Argentina. Introduced populations exist in California, Florida and Hawaii.
The Mitred Conure is a relatively long-tailed species with a total length of 13 to 15 inches (34 to 38 cm).
They are amongst the most beautiful conures. Adults are mainly green with varying amounts of red to the face and thighs. They have relatively conspicuous bare white eye-rings and heavy, pale bone-colored bills.
Unlike its relatives, the Red-masked, White-eyed and Cuban conures - adult mitred conures at most show one or two red feathers at the bend of the wing. Mitred conures may have red feathers scattered variably on hindneck, mantle, throat and thighs.
Immature birds show little or no red to the plumage. Mitred Conures can take up to ten years to develop their full red-headed coloration, hence the drastic difference between individuals. Even with adult, fully-colored birds, there is a great variance in the amount of red they end up with.
Personality / Mitreds as Pets:
The Mitred Conures are popular pets as people enjoy their clowny and inquisitive disposition, in addition to appreciating their excellent talking ability.
However, they can be nippy at times (as is the case with most conures) and they tend to be noisy, also a trait shared with the other conure species. These personality traits make them unsuitable for inexperienced owners who are looking for an easy pet.
How much attention do they need?
Like all parrots, they are social birds. They do require daily interaction with their social group, entertainment, things to do -- or else they will become bored and develop behavioral problems. In the wild, they would never leave the company of their flockmates. In a captive pet situation, a hand-fed conure requires the same social interaction from you and your family.
If you have little time to give, a parrot would not be a good choice for you. You would need someone at home several hours a day at a minimum, preferably someone should be home most of the day. I would recommend that there be people at home, with the bird, for at least several hours every day or the majority of day.
It's best to keep your pet conure where the center of activity is, usually the family room, and leave the cage door open or allow your pet to be on a playpen whenever someone is at home. During this time some direct interaction should be provided, such as talking to your pet, petting it, or placing it on your shoulder while you surf the internet, watch tv or go about your other activities. My parrot even joins me in the gym!
Do they make good family pets?
In general, conures make good family pets as long as they have been well socialized. They don't mind a lot of activity - in fact, the more "fun stuff" is going on, the more entertained and happier they tend to be. They usually get along well with all family members, although they are likely to eventually choose a favorite; but as long as they are exposed to, and socialized by, other family members, they should maintain their friendliness with the others. Conures love to be touched and handled - another reason why they often do well with kids.
However, they go through nippy phases that can be hard on children as well as on adults. Teaching the child appropriate handling of the conure will help prevent some painful experiences - however, it will never entirely eliminate them. The tamest pet bird gets startled and bites - without this being a true reflection on its personality. It's a natural reaction. Experienced pet owners learn to read the body language of their pets and can avoid most of these "accidental encounters." Training is important to prevent an accidental bite from turning into a behavioral problem.
It is difficult to instruct smaller children on proper parrot handling, and their interactions with the conure should always be supervised. But children who have learned to handle the conure gently and confidently usually don't have a big problem with aggression. How well the child-parrot interaction goes really depends on the maturity level of the child, as well as the proper socialization-level of the parrot. Admittedly though, some genetics come into play as well. Some individual parrots are more aggressive than others. Often this is a family trait and one parrot pair produces sweet babies, while others produce nippy offspring. Sweet babies can turn nippy, if not socialized well, and nippy (usually nervous / fearful birds) can be taught to be good family pets. Birds do pick up on stress and anger that we humans may feel and this can impact their personality and likelihood to be aggressive towards us. It is always best to approach a bird calmly and focus on, and enjoy, the interaction with the parrot rather than reflecting on problems in your life. Doing so will actually be conducive to your own health, as it will help you relax.
There never will be a guarantee that a meaningful relationship between the children in the family and the pet parrot develops and if things don't go well, the conure may end up being a pet for the adults only. For this reason, it is not recommended to buy a parrot as a pet for the kids - this needs to be a family pet, with the adults taking on most of the responsibility.
Conures, albeit their smaller size, do present their challenges, and they are not the best "starter" birds, although some species are easier to keep than others. It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established.
Conures are known for their loud and harsh calls, which is a natural way of communication and social interaction and shouldn't be "trained away" -- however, they can develop into excessive screamers, which really requires early intervention.
Even a young bird that has not been neglected and abused requires proper guidance; this becomes even more challenging when it involves a rescued bird that may require rehabilitation. Behavioral challenges that conures present include:
- Excessive Chewing: Any parrot will chew. In nature, they use their beak to "customize" their favorite tree, to enlarge the size of their nest in a tree hollow. Doing this keeps their beaks in good condition. The problem is excessive and undesirable chewing. Undisciplined conures will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires. The owner needs to provide plenty of "healthy" chewing opportunities (bird toys, natural wood branches, etc.) and training is necessary to teach your pet what is "off-limits."
- Biting: Conures can become nippy. Like most parrots they are likely to discover their beaks as a method of "disciplining us" once they are out of the "baby stage." It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established.
- The "Noise" Factor: As is the case with all conure species, the Mitred Conure can be noisy. Not everybody can tolerate their high-pitched screech that can be annoying. However, even though it can't (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your conure.
Training and behavioral guidance will help your pet be the kind of companion you want it to be ...
- AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit this website for valuable tips on parrot behavior and training. If you found a way to resolve a "parrot behavioral issue" please share it with others.
- If you are, as I am, a visual learner and prefer step-by-step instructions to train your pet, I recommend:
- Procuring your Parrot
- Housing & Caring for Your Conure: Conures love to climb and play and need to be provided with a cage that allows them to move around freely and toys to entertain themselves with. Please refer to the following websites for information:
Breeding / Reproduction:
These conures are fairly easy to breed. Below are the dimensions of nesting boxes usually used for these conures. However, the dimensions can vary widely, as they are influenced by the owner's and the birds' preferences. The preferences of the breeding birds can also be influenced by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared.
If space allows, offering a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, and placed in various locations within the aviary, can allow the parent birds to make their own choice. Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box/log and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season. Try and keep that one for their exclusive use. Once a pair has chosen its log or nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed. If the "spare" boxes are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure the log / nest-box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.
Log / Nest-box:
- Marcy Covault from Feathered Companions Aviary suggests using a deeper box, either a bootbox or a vertical grandfather box (18" - 24" deep). Some conures do accept cockatiel-sized boxes, but using a deeper box will reduce the conures' tendency to remove the shavings and lay their eggs on the bare wooden base.
- Diameter of entrance hole: approx. 3 inches ( ~70 - 80 mm)
- Inspection hole: Can be square or round. Diameter: ~4 inches (100 mm)
- A Removable top / lid can be a useful access point for inspections and for cleaning.
- Location and height of log / nest-box: Install in a sheltered part of the aviary at about 5 feet (~1.5 - 1.8 meters) height, but not too close to the roof to cause heat problems in the hotter months.
- Angle of log or nest box: 45 degrees through to vertical. Most boxes are vertical.
- Nesting log / nest-box material: Add about 2 inches of decomposed suitable nest box litter to the bottom of the box to help stabilize the eggs and absorb the droppings from the chicks.
Options for suitable nesting material are decomposed non-toxic saw dust, corn cob, shredded newspaper, clean straw / dried grass or wood shavings (i.e., Aspen shavings or wood chips). The larger wood chips the better, so the parents don't feed it to the babies or the chicks accidentally ingest it.
Please note that some wood shavings - such as pine, cedar and redwood - give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic and can cause dermatitis, allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. They should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nestboxes.
- Incubation: Both hen and cock share in incubating the eggs.
Nest inspection is generally not tolerated. If nest inspection is necessary, wait till both parents have left the nest. They can be aggressive and protective of the nest area when breeding.
For additional breeding-related information, please visit this website.
Genus: Scientific: Aratinga ... English: Conures ... Dutch: Wigstaartparkieten ... German: Keilschwanzsittiche ... French: Aratinga
Species: Scientific: Aratinga mitrata mitrata aka Psittacara mitrata mitrata ... English: Mitred Conure ... Dutch: Roodmaskeraratinga ... German: Rotmaskensittich ... French: Perruche à masque écarlate
- Aratinga mitrata:
- Mitred Conure, A. m. mitrata (nominate - described above):
- Found in most of its range.
- Forecrown, lores and extensive mottling to face red.
- Chapman's Parakeet / Conure, Aratinga alticola (proposed as monotypic species):
- Found in the Cusco Region of Peru at higher altitudes than the nominate.
- Red virtually restricted to forecrown and lores, with little or no red mottling to face.
- Mitred Conure, A. m. mitrata (nominate - described above):
Taxonomy as proposed in 2006:
- Aratinga mitrata:
- Mitred Conure, A. m. mitrata (nominate) - described above.
- From the Peruvian region of Ayacucho, south through Bolivia, to the Salta Province in Argentina.
- Forecrown, lores and extensive mottling to face (mainly around eyes, though not forming complete eye-ring) red. Thighs red.
- Northern Mitred Conure, A. m. chlorogenys:
- Found in the Peruvian regions of Amazonas, Cajamarca, Huánuco and Junín.
- Red of head virtually restricted to forecrown and lores, with little or no red mottling to face. Thighs red.
- Tucumán Mitred Conure, A. m. tucumana:
- Found in the Argentinian provinces of Tucumán and Córdoba, and probably also in Catamarca and La Rioja. The introduced Californian population likely belongs to this subspecies. Forecrown and extensive mottling throughout face red. Mottling forms a complete eye-ring, and often also with a few random red specks to neck and chest. Thighs red.
- Mitred Conure, A. m. mitrata (nominate) - described above.
- Chapman's Parakee, Aratinga alticola - proposed as monotypic (one single) species:
- Confirmed for the Peruvian regions of Huancavelica and Cusco, and the Bolivian department of Cochabamba.
- Red only to forecrown and lores, with few red feathers in the face. Thighs green.
- Hocking's Parakeet, Aratinga hockingi (described as new monotypic species):
- Endemic to Peru in the regions of Amazonas, Ayacucho and Cuzco, and in central Peru in the Carpish mountains and adjacent ridge south of the upper Huallaga River.
- Relatively large red forecrown patch, but no red to face or lores. Thighs green.
High Quality Species Photos, Videos and/or Articles Contributions are welcome! Click here to upload articles and images.
Please Note: The images on this page are the sole property of the photographers (unless marked as Public Domain). Please contact the photographers directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.
The Avianweb strives to maintain accurate and up-to-date information; however, mistakes do happen. If you would like to correct or update any of the information, please send us an e-mail. THANK YOU!