Breeding the White-eared Conure (Pyrrhura leucotis)


Why aren't more people keeping and breeding White-eared Conures? I ask this question out of frustration as much as curiosity because as a Pyrrbura fanatic I am having a tough time coming up with a good answer. It certainly couldn't be a problem with the bird itself as it is hard to imagine a more complete package. White-eared Conures are a combination of beauty, charm, intelligence, and seemingly endless playful energy. It couldn't be due to a lack of money or space because what bird lover really needs a bank account or a dining room?

The answer, it seems to me, must live somewhere in the question itself. More people would breed them if more people bred them. HUH? In other words, White-eareds are suffering from a lack of press. They are one species of conure that is relatively unknown, unappreciated, and insufficiently represented in U.S. breeding programs. TI1e more direct exposure and information that breeders receive about this engaging, tiny bird with the giant personality, the more their popularity should grow.

In my opinion, of all the species of Pyrrbura conures currently available to U.S. aviculturists, the White-eared Conure is the hidden jewel of the group.


There are five recognized subspecies of the White-eared Conure, but only two of them P. l. leucotis and P.l. griseipectus have found their way into aviaries in the United States. Two other subspecies P. l. emma and P. l. pfrimeri have been introduced into European breeding programs in the last two years,


leaving one sub-species P. /. auricularis unaccounted for in captivity. As of the writing of this article, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a co-operative breeding program which will allow several lucky aviculturists, including myself, to import P. /. emma for the first time along with new bloodlines of P. /. leucotis from captive breeding programs in Europe and South America. Other species received USFWS approval as well including P. p. roseifrons, P. p. lepida and P. e. egregia. The approval of this program coupled with the imminent approval of several other Pyrrbura conure targeted breeding programs should make for an exciting start to the new millennium for all conure lovers.

In the wild, White-eareds live in widely distributed populations in both northern and eastern South America, represented hoth in Venezuela and Brazil. They are forest dwellers for the most part and seem most comfortable playing and feeding high in the forest canopy. They are strong, swift flyers, gregarious, and sometimes quite raucous. Their wild diet consists of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, some insects, and their larvae. They are typically seen traveling in small flocks of between 10- 20 birds and although most conures will interact with other species in the wild, White-eared Conures seem to be less interested in this and prefer the company of their own species almost exclusively. They are almost never spotted together with other local species such as Blue-throated P. cruentata or Red-eared Conures P. hoematotis.

While both of the Venezuelan subspecies, P. /. emma and P. /. auricularis, are still common in the wild, the population of the three Brazilian sub-


species, P. l. leucotis, P. l. griseipectus, and P. l. pfrimeri, has declined rapidly over the past 15 years. They are now considered rare in most areas. This decline in population can be directly linked to the ongoing destruction of their habitat. This decline is one more good reason to add White-eareds to your shopping list in 2000.

Since so many have never seen a White-eared Conure and because there are four sub-species currently available in captivity, I feel it is important to include a short description of each sub-species. For those few who are already familiar with this information or those who couldn't be bothered with the differences between the subspecies (and you know who you are), you can skip the next 453 words and then continue reading.

Pyrrhura leucotis leucotis

Pyrrbura leucotis leucotis is found along the coast of Eastern Brazil, from Sao Paulo to Bahia. It is considered the nominate species and is a small ( 9"), high-strung gem. It is predominantly Green with a band of maroon above the cere. The beak is a greyish brown as is the eye-ring. The upper cheeks, nape and crown range from brown to reddish brown. They have a blue suffusion on the forecrown. The lower cheeks are blue which sometimes extends around to the lower nape. The ear coverts are an off-white. The upper chest has a barred appearance and is green with dull yellow-orange edges and blackish tips. There is a maroon patch in the center of the abdomen and maroon that extends from the lower back to the upper tail feathers. The shoulders are splashed with scarlet. The primary coverts are greenish blue with the primary flights themselves being blue. The tail feathers are maroon marked with green and the legs and feet are gray.