Fresh start for friendly conure parrots

Almost as soon as Parrot Garden caregiver Matthew Ross walks into the aviary, Strawberry flies over to him and lands expertly on his head. First, she does a happy little dance, and then she begins tenderly preening Matt's hair.

That might not seem like unusual conure behavior. But the fact that this little rose-crowned conure parrot is so friendly, outgoing and happy around people is amazing when you consider how Strawberry’s life began. She was brought to Parrot Garden along with 26 other conure parrots following their rescue from a terrible hoarding case.

Strawberry the conure parrot climbs on Matt

Rescued from a hoarding situation

Strawberry and her friends were just a few of the more than 300 birds living in cramped, dirty quarters in a house in Georgia. The birds’ feathers were in rough shape, and they had no room to stretch their wings or fly. The poor birds didn’t get nearly enough loving attention or proper vet care. Worst of all, they were exposed to a potentially deadly beak and feather disease.

Luckily, the birds were all rescued last summer and since some of them had been ill, a two-month quarantine was required before the healthy birds could be transferred to rescue organizations like Best Friends. When they were finally ready to move on and begin their new lives, a volunteer drove Strawberry’s group to the Sanctuary.

Conure parrots test their wings

When the conure parrots arrived at Best Friends in October, Parrot Garden staff set them up in a comfortable, specially prepared flight. Though they had to wait another two months before they could interact with visitors and volunteers and potentially be adopted, they finally had good food, fresh water, excellent care and — perhaps most exciting of all for them — room to fly.

For many of them, that meant for the first time in their lives they could enjoy one of the most natural activities for birds in the wild. They could finally test their wings after having lived in cramped cages for the first year or two of their lives. During their first few days in their aviary, they were a little wobbly and had some landing issues. Soon, however, they were soaring around and landing like pros.

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Strawberry didn’t waste any time. As soon as the birds started getting new visitors in addition to their regular caregivers, she figured out that people’s shoulders (and their heads) made good landing pads. And when she landed on people, they noticed.

Strawberry quickly realized that landing on people's shoulders got lots of attention

Conure birds will make great companions

Not all of Strawberry’s friends are as outgoing and comfortable with people as she is. For example, caregivers have been working hard to help Butch, a brown-headed parrot who was incredibly shy when he first arrived, become more confident around people.

But that shouldn’t take long. Like all of the birds, Butch has youth on his side. Most conure birds can live for about 30 years, and these little guys and girls are all only a year or two old. Besides, they’re all so cute and curious (even the shyer ones) that they should have no problem making friends when they are ready.

“They all have the potential of being really great companion birds,” says Jacque Johnson, Parrot Garden manager. And Strawberry? She’s already well on her way. It’s no wonder she’s doing a happy dance.

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Strawberry has no problem making new friends

Photos by Molly Wald