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Green-Cheeked Conures – Captive Care and Natural History

Uroko viviThe decision to purchase or adopt a parrot requires careful consideration. For all their wonderful qualities, these intelligent, social birds are very demanding of one’s time and finances, and not suited to all homes. One species, however, stands out as an “almost” safe bet.  The Green-Cheeked Conure (Pyrrhura molinae) adapts well to many different situations, and is less likely to display the behaviors that frustrate so many parrot owners. Although not trouble-free, it may well be the best choice for many parrot enthusiasts.

Pet Qualities

The word “fun” invariably arises when Green-Cheeked Conure owners speak about their pets. Even by parrot standards, they are curious and playful. Their affectionate nature and willingness to be coddled is often compared to that of a well-socialized cockatoo. These qualities, along with their small size, have skyrocketed Green-Cheeks into prominence in the pet trade. When I first began working for NYC bird importers in the 1970’s, they were unknown, and were uncommon as recently as 20 years ago.

Despite being a mere 10 inches in length, Green-Cheeks are surprisingly bold. Yet while they will defend themselves, most are good-natured if handled properly. Many enjoy “wresting” with their owners, pets such as rabbits, and even “bird-safe” dogs.  Their demeanor suits them well to active, noisy households. They definitely take and interest in nearby hustle and bustle; several kept at large in a friend’s store act more like staff than birds, no matter how crowded it gets!

Although Green-Cheeked Conures do not have a reputation as talented mimics, many do learn to speak reasonably well, and even to use words in context (i.e. “Hi, I’m hungry!” when owner appears). Like all conures, their voices are harsh, but definitely on the “soft” side (by parrot standards!), and they tend not to develop screaming problems.

Other Considerations

Green-Cheeked Conures are highly social, and need companionship and interaction with other birds or people. An hour or so of contact each day is not sufficient. A pair will keep one-another occupied…considering their small size, this may be an ideal option for those with busy schedules.

Color Phases

Maroon, blue, gray and green all appear in the Green-Cheek’s plumage. Given the small natural range, there is a surprising degree of variation among the 6 described subspecies. Some ornithologists believe that their taxonomy needs revision, and that new species may be named in time. The Yellow-sided Conure, formerly classified as a distinct species, is now considered to be a color variation of the Green Cheek.

Fanciful names such as “Sun Cheek”, “Turquoise” and “Pineapple” describe the beautiful color morphs have been developed. Please see the article below for photos of each.

Range and Habitat

Uroko viviThe Green-Cheeked Conure is limited in distribution to the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, northwestern Argentina and northeastern Bolivia. It generally stays within or near forested habitats.

Natural History

Despite its popularity in the pet trade, the Green Cheeked Conure has not been well-studied in the wild. A 2007 study, one of the few that focused solely on this species, indicated that a flexible feeding strategy allowed it to survive in diverse, harsh habitats (Braz. J of Biology, 2007 67(2):243-9).

In regions where some trees retained their leaves throughout the dry season, resident conures fed upon the flowers, seeds, fruit and/or arils (tasty structures designed to lure parrots and other seed-dispersers) of 16 tree species. Figs comprised 70% of the diets of Green-Cheeks dwelling in forests in which other dry-season foods were lacking.  Please see the article below for further information.



Further Reading

Video: Cuddly Green Cheek

Color mutations

Breeding information

Field Research, Bolivia

Conure Care, Natural History (several species)

Uroko vivi image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Toumoto
Pyrrhura molinae image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Toumoto


  1. avatar

    In the early 90’s I had a green cheek conure. I was around 11 years old when I got him and what a great companion he was.

    Green cheeks can be fiesty and like to chew things, including fingers. So it is very important to raise and train them properly.

    They do require regular interaction or they will tend to lose their tameness.

    Great article!

  2. avatar

    Hello Eric,

    Thanks for your thoughts on this and the kind words, much appreciated.

    I think the continued interaction point is an important one that is sometimes over-looked once a bird is relatively tame; thanks for raising it.

    Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    Dear Frank, I have a pair of cockatiels who are almost 10, tame and friendly but not that tame because they are a pair. The female had a type of stroke and can hardly fly, but they are content and out of their big cage a lot of the day and very loved in our family. I have seen a sweet green-cheeked conure in a local shop. I’ve heard that if I were to buy it, I must keep them in separate cages and have different going out times because they can’t be together ( I have a separate big cage that my cockatiels sometimes visit). I know that parrots are territorial though. Do you think having a green cheek in the same room, which is my home-office, would be stressful for the cockatiels, all the same? Can the birds become jealous of each other in future. Do green cheeks socialise with several family members, not just one? I have a son of seven. What about bird illnesses?

  4. avatar

    Hi Daphne,

    Parrots vary greatly in their responses to other birds and people, even within the same species, but bringing a new one into the situation you describe will almost certainly be problematical, especially as the cockatiels are paired. Having them in the same room, or often even within hearing distance, will likely be stressful.

    Any animal, including dogs, can pass severe diseases to people. Fortunately, most are preventable if proper precautions are necessary. The following 2 articles will give you an overview, but you should speak with your doctor and veterinarian for specific information concerning yourself and your family:


    Please let me know if you need further info; best, Frank

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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