The South American genus Pyrrhura contains various beautiful parakeets, also known as conures. The green cheek conure is the most well-known, but there’s more! Today, let’s have a look at one of my personal favorites: the pearly conure (Pyrrhura lepida).
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the pearly conure in the wild, its ideal diet and how to care for it as a pet.
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Pearly conure, pearly parakeet, Pyrrhura lepida|
|Natural habitat||Brazilian forests|
|Adult size||Up to 25 cm/10″ in length and 80 grams/2.8 oz|
|Lifespan||20 years, up to 30|
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Pearly conure appearance
The pearly conure looks like a typical member of its genus. A small parakeet of around 25 cm/10″ in length and weighing up to 80 grams/2.8 oz, it sports a green back, wing tops and belly, with slight hints of blue.
The species’ common name refers to its neck feathers, which are two different shades of grey and look almost scaley or pearly. The head is dark grey, and there’s a beautiful pop of bright red hidden under the wings. The eyes are circled by white eye rings.
It’s not possible to visually tell the difference between male and female pearly conures, nor apparently between younger birds and mature ones.
Did you know? Because there are a few Pyrrhura lepida subspecies, not all individuals look exactly the same. For example, P. lepida anerythra has green underwings rather than red ones.
Pearly conure taxonomy (naming and classification) is a total doozy. For those interested, let me try to explain! Buckle up, Psittacologists…
The species was first scientifically described by Johann Baptist Von Spix, the German biologist who also had the now nearly extinct Spix’s macaw named after him, in 1824. He called it Aratinga perlatus.
In later years, the bird’s name was changed various times, with one ornithologist stating it should be called Psittacus lepidus. Eventually, scientists settled on Pyrhurra perlata, with Pyrrhura lepidus as a valid synonym.
In 1864, a similar species was described and called Conurus rhodogaster (later Pyrrhura rhodogaster). Two subspecies of P. perlata were also named: P. p. coerulescens and P. p. anerythra.
It all went back and forth for a while, with subspecies being added and separated, until someone finally figured out in 1893 that the specimens on which Spix based his original description weren’t actually pearly conures. Whoops! They were crimson-bellied conures.
As a result, the scientific name Pyrrhura perlata went to the crimson-bellied conure, even though the denomination “perlata” means “pearly”. Pyrrhura lepida was accepted for the pearly conure as a replacement.
Even nowadays, confusion persists. There are currently three accepted subspecies for Pyrrhura lepida: P. l. lepida, P. l. anerythra and P. l. coerulescens. However, a 2015 study discovered that some of the specimens upon which their descriptions were based were actually hybrid birds. As of now, this has not led to any official changes in naming.
Pearly conure range & natural habitat
Like other conures, this one is naturally found in the Americas. Specifically, it inhabits northeast to central Brazil. Here, it inhabits terra firme rainforest (ie., forests that don’t flood seasonally as is common in these regions).
Pearly conures are also sometimes spotted in secondary forests, which refers to areas where forest was previously cleared by humans but has now regrown. They definitely prefer zones with dense trees, but are also occasionally seen in clearings.
At least one small feral pearly conure population appears to exist. A 2008 study found twelve individuals in the Atlantic Rainforest zone of Pernambuco in Brazil, a spot where they don’t actually naturally occur. It’s thought the birds escaped or were released from the pet trade.
The IUCN considers Pyrrhura to be a Vulnerable species whose population is in decline. The coerulescens subspecies in particular is thought to be in deep trouble and nearing extinction.
Tree cover loss is cited as the main issue affecting this species in the wild. The forests it inhabits are almost completely gone in some areas.
Pearly conure diet
Because the pearly conure mostly inhabits very densely forested areas, not that much is known about its diet in the wild. It’s just really difficult to spot them in their natural habitat.
We do know this species feeds on fruits. The aforementioned 2008 study that described a feral population in the Atlantic Rainforest mentions the pearly conures eating Trema micrantha (Jamaican nettletree) and Didymopanax morototonii (yagrumo macho) fruits.
A recording also exists of a pearly conure feeding on fruits of an Erythrina (coralbean) tree, over at Birds of the World. It’s not much info, but it’s something!
Despite the fact that Pyrrhura lepida is known to feed on fruit in the wild, you shouldn’t put yours on a diet of apples and bananas. After all, the fruits these parrots encounter in their natural habitat are often unripe and not sugary at all. A big difference compared to the super-sweet fruits cultivated for human consumption!
A proper diet for a captive pearly conure should be varied. You can go for a mix of the following:
- A high-quality parrot pellet as a staple
- A high-quality conure seed mix
- Daily servings of fresh veggies
- Regular servings of fresh fruit
- Occasional cooked grains like whole-wheat pasta and rice
- Occasional treats (like for training), such as sunflower seeds
- Occasional proteins like boiled egg or freeze-dried mealworms (especially for molting birds and laying hens)
- Foraged foods like pesticide-free and parrot-safe flowers and branches
Pearly conure housing
Although pearly conures are by no means large parrots, that doesn’t mean yours will thrive in a small cage. It still needs plenty of room to stretch its wings, particularly horizontal flying space.
A conure that will get to spend most of the day outside of its cage will be able to make do with a cage that’s at least 24″ x 24″ x 24″ (60 x 60 x 60 cm).
If your bird will be inside its cage for most or all of the day, you’ll need something significantly bigger, like a flight cage or indoor aviary. I wouldn’t go below 60″ (150 cm) in length if this is the case.
The cage should have multiple perches, particularly near the top. Go for natural wood perches, as plastic and dowel sticks can hurt your bird’s feet. Include a food bowl, multiple water sources and lots of fun conure toys, ladders and other objects to keep your pearly busy.
Pearly conure enrichment
I just mentioned pearly conures need toys, but this isn’t the only form of enrichment your bird will require. These parrots are very smart, and their little brains need lots of stimulation to keep them from getting bored.
A bored and/or lonely parrot can become prone to depression, noisy outbursts, biting and even auto-mutilation in the form of feather plucking. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep yours entertained.
Be sure to provide the following:
- Social enrichment: if you work a regular 9-5 and can’t spend most of the day with your parrot, it needs a friend. They’re flock animals that wither away when left alone.
- Toys: parrots love to play. Foraging toys make a particularly good choice, as they stimulate your conure to work for its food and keep busy.
- Out-of-cage time: unless it’s in a flight cage, your pearly conure needs multiple hours to stretch its wings daily. You can install a playground on top of the cage for it to hang out on.
One great way to spend time with your pearly conure and get it to put its smart brain to work is to do one or multiple short training sessions a day. Start with taming your bird and then work from there.
Lastly, most parrots love to bathe. Once a week (or more frequently in summer), offer your conure a water-filled dish to splash around in, let it bathe in a clean sink or gently mist it with a spray bottle.
Pearly conure temperament
Although pearly conures can be a little temperamental if they’re not entirely tame (and even sometimes when they are!), they’re generally friendly and not overly bitey.
You’ll never be bored with one of these conures around. They’re always ready to party, explore, and discover new things. Easy to train and goofy, yours is sure to make you laugh.
Once they’re all played out, most pearly conures will appreciate being able to snuggle up with their owner to nap and receive head scratches. This varies between individuals, though: some are just not cuddly at all.
Pearly conure sounds
In terms of noise level and sounds, the pearly conure is quite similar to other conures from the genus Pyrrhura, including green cheeks. You can expect a variety of cheeps, whistles, louder flock calls, and even “purrs” when your bird is displeased with something.
Pyrrhuras, including this one, are considered to be among the least noisy conures. Although they’re still parrots and parrots will always be loud, they’re much less extreme in terms of screaming than their cousins from the genus Aratinga.
If you’d like to have a listen, you can do so over at xeno-canto.
Can pearly conures talk?
Although pearly conures are able to pick up household noises, basic melodies and even simple words like their name, they’re not among the best talkers in the parrot world.
Safety & emergencies
It’s not something we want to think about, but keeping safety in mind is crucial for us parrot owners. Our birds have a penchant for getting themselves in trouble and are often too curious for their own good. They’re also very sensitive.
Here are some of the basics you should always have covered:
- Parrot-proofing: any room your pearly conure has access to should have the windows and doors closed. No toxic houseplants or other dangerous objects, no cables to chew through, no places to get stuck or even drown.
- Fumes: birds have extremely sensitive lungs. Your parrot’s cage should be away from the kitchen. You shouldn’t use perfumes, air fresheners, pesticides, scented candles or the like anywhere near it. No cigarettes either, please!
- Vet: you should take your conure to the vet after acquiring it and on a yearly basis after that. Keep the number for an avian vet handy at all times.
- First aid kit: put together a box containing items like blood clotting powder, small bandages, an antiseptic and similar first aid items.
- Symptoms: learn what a sick parrot looks and sounds like (fluffed up, wheezing, lethargic, etc.) so you know when to act if something is wrong.
You should likely be able to find a pearly conure between $200-500. Keep in mind that it’s best to buy from a responsible breeder, not a pet store. Check exotic animal rescues as well.
Honestly, it pretty much only depends on which you find more visually attractive. They’re very similar in terms of personality. It’ll likely be easier to find a green cheek, as pearly conures aren’t quite as common.
Sources & further reading
Pereira, G. A., Periquito, M. C., & Albano, C. (2013). Note on the occurrence and observations of-pearl Tiriba Pyrrhura lepida (Aves, Psittacidae) in the state of Pernambuco, Northeastern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia-Brazilian Journal of Ornithology, 16(35), 3.