(Guaruba guaruba)

It seems that the Latin name, Guaruba, is of Indian origin; it means yellow bird, which describes this yellow-feathered parrot quite accurately.

Its lemon-yellow plumage accentuated by dark green primaries and secondaries, large beak, and brown eyes with orange highlights make the Golden Conure a spectacular bird measuring about 36 cm (14Ē). This bird has a pale beige bill, skin-colored feet, and a relatively short tail that gives it a solid and stocky look. It bears the distinctive features of the Aratingas (small Macaw) family: a ring of bare skin around the eyes, a voice thatís especially piercing, and a playful, curious and bold temper. Friendly, gentle and confident, this bird is impressive because of its large bill and massive head; it looks a lot like the Macaw, of which it is likely is a distant cousin.

Native to the North-Eastern parts of Brazil, the Golden Conure lives in an East-West strip of the tropical forest parallel to the Amazon River. This bird can be seen in flocks of 6 to 30 individuals, except during mating season when pairs stay in their respective nest. The nest is often perched at a height of 10 m in a tree hole. The hen lays 2 to 3 eggs that she will brood alone most of the time; the rooster sits on the eggs when the female briefly leaves the nest. The rest of the time, he watches over the site and feeds his mate. Both parents feed their clutch for some 12 weeks till weaning is complete, after which period the whole family joins the flock. When Golden Conures call each other, their high-pitched screech can be heard from far away in the jungle foliage.

Despite its stocky and somewhat clumsy look, Guarouba guaruba is an agile parrot, and uses its powerful beak to move around, play, chew, and build its nesting hole. This species mostly eats fruit, berries, seeds and nuts. Unfortunately, because of deforestation, the Golden Conure is getting scarcer in its natural habitat and is thus listed as an endangered species in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Due to importation restrictions laid down by CITES, the Golden Conure is rarely found in breedersí facilities. The lucky few who own these exceptional birds breed and sell them to other breeders to increase the population of captive-born Golden Conures. Itís a pity to keep these birds as companions when their numbers are rapidly decreasing. Born in captivity, the Golden Conure is a real bundle of joy: this parrot truly shows exceptional confidence, social skills and demeanor. It readily accepts parrots of others species; this truly gregarious bird suffers a lot if kept alone, as the company of other birds fills one of its most important needs.

A renowned breeder of Golden Conures, Nancy Speed keeps all her juveniles and single birds in large aviaries so they can interact and flourish in captivity. As for paired birds, she says she canít see any difference between birds fed by their parents or by humans; both are confident and playful, and they reproduce just as much when the situation and their age allow them. She let a weaned fledgling live with its parents although they were ready to have a second clutch: the threesome slept in the nest, and the juvenile got a feeding once in a while and played with its parents until the first egg hatched.

As gentle and confident as they are, Golden Conures can become fierce during mating season: both the rooster and the hen get very territorial and will fight tooth and nail to defend not only their nest but the whole cage, which becomes very difficult to clean. Inspecting the nest is also very difficult if not impossible most of the time, and insisting in doing so would puts the eggs at risk of being trampled or abandoned by the parents. Many breeders take the eggs away to hatch them in incubators and hand-feed the chicks. They manage this way to save all the chicks, but the parents do not get the opportunity to fulfill their role and complete their reproductive cycle, from laying to weaning. For quite a long time, the Golden Conure was reputed to lack parenting skills. This opinion is being revised: all the pair needs to breed and raise their clutch as efficiently as any other parrot is an adequate nesting area and plenty of food.

It must be understood that the resounding voice of parrots can become somewhat of a problem in closed quarters: what is a normal sound in the jungle becomes hardly bearable in a house. Golden Conures are chatterboxes; they are very expressive and can become very noisy when excited. Golden Conures need toys to destroy, branches to chew on, and swings to play with; in short, they need to keep busy otherwise they will start to pluck. These parrots are known to pluck each otherís feathers when they are stressed