Do they make good pets? What's their personality like?
Green cheeks usually make excellent pets!
But it also depends on who you're asking, and which particular green cheek
they've been caring for! With that said, I would say that green cheeks
make better pets in a wider variety of situations than many parrots, including
most other conures. Green cheeks can be kept happily in a a wider
variety of situations: apartments, houses, as family pets, as pets for
knowledgable beginners or experienced bird-keepers.
Green cheeks have BIG personalities, especially
for such small birds! This can be a good thing, because they're so
smart and interactive, but it can also be a bad thing, and green cheeks
are more prone to behavior problems than are cockatiels or budgies.
But for now, let's look at the good side!
When you're looking for any pet parrot, or pet at
all, you should also put together a list of which personality traits you'd
like to see in your pet. Some of the traits many people would like
include a cuddly pet, a playful one, and one which is intelligent and curious.
Green cheeks have all of these traits! Here's a closer look:
Cuddliness: Conures in general tend to be
very cuddly, like their larger cousins the macaws... I'd say the conure/macaw
group is second in cuddliness only to the notorious cockatoos! But
in all of these birds, including green cheeks, it depends a lot on the
individual. Most green cheeks just adore having their heads and necks
rubbed; many also like to be petted all over and some will allow you to
do things like flip them over on their backs and rub their tummies.
But, there are some individuals who will accept cuddling and touching only
on their terms, and may not want it that often... and there are a few who'd
rather not be touched a lot at all. Still, these are the exception!
Playfulness: Green cheeks do love to play!
Toys can be store-bought, or home-made, and they can also be things that
I bet you never thought were toys at all! Green cheeks like to chew,
they like to climb on and hang from things, and some like to climb into
and explore things, such as boxes, paper bags, or your sleeve! Green
cheeks will also play with you, initiating their own games.
One favorite is, "I drop it, you get it!". Young green cheeks will
wrestle like puppies, with each other or with you. A few continue
this into adulthood.
Curiosity: Green cheeks can be a strange
combination of very outgoing and curious, and flightly and phobic.
This depends a lot on how they were raised. A well socialized green
cheeks is afraid of almost nothing, and will love to go anywhere and do
anything with you. Many love meeting new people!
Intelligence: Intellgence is a hard thing
to define, but I will say that green cheeks have their share of it!
They may be a little less intelligent than the really large parrots, and
of course it depends a lot on the individual, but most will hold their
own with any of the mid-sized or medium-large parrots. They are also,
like most parrots, pretty high in "obediance intelligence," and can be
taught simple tricks pretty easily and more complicated tricks with some
Alright, so what's the downside?
Green cheeks may sound pretty good so far, but like
any pet there is a downside... or a few of them, if you must know.
These can be minimized with proper handling and socialization, and some
green cheeks are all "upsides" and no "downsides"! But here's a quick
look at some of the common problems:
Aggression: Nippiness and biting are probably
the most common behavioral complaint from green cheek owners. Like
I said, they have BIG personalities, and when they want their way, they'll
do their best to get it! The worst-case scenarios are birds which
have decided that humans are good for nothing but biting and ordering around
- they will sit in their cages and attack any hand that comes towards them.
Fortunately, these birds aren't common! There are exceptions, but
from what I can gather, most of these really bad cases were pet shop birds
that weren't sold right away, and gradually learned that all those annoying
fingers poking into their cages could be gotten rid of with a few well-placed
Aggression can show up in a wide variety of other
circumstances, and to any degree, and to try to go over it all would be
a FAQ in itself! I would say the average green cheek will have a
few circumstances under which they might bite: for some, it might be when
they're on your shoulder, or when there's a human or other animal that
they're jealous of. For the average green cheek, the aggression just
isn't a big problem and can easily be avoided, by just avoiding the circumstances
under which you know they might bite.
Fearfulness: Just because a bird may be prone
to aggression, doesn't mean they won't be scared to flight in the next
moment! In birds, I tend to define fear in two different areas: General
fear is fearfulness of almost anything unfamiliar, and is mainly seen
birds that weren't socialized properly. They may be afraid of new
people, new places, and new experiences in general. Preventing general
fear is fairly simple: socialize your bird well. "Curing" it later
in life requires more time, but can be done. Object fear,
is more instinctual. I see it a lot more in small birds than in larger
ones, and this holds true with green cheeks. It is a fear of certain
objects, or sometimes certain people or animals, especially naturally predatory
animals such as cats or dogs. Balloons are often the cause of object
fear, or balls being bounced around, or things being waved overhead.
Often anything large or brightly colored that is moving will be a cause
for fear in a green cheek. Most green cheeks will have a few things
like this that they are afraid of, and it's usually best just to avoid
bringing these things around your bird!
Destructiveness: All parrots are, to some
degree or another, destructive, in the same way and for most of the same
reasons as small children are destructive: they are curious, they don't
know any better, and they are equipped with tools that allow them to destroy!
(Hands for children, beaks for birds!) However, green cheeks are
less destructive than most other conures - their beaks are smaller and
they don't have the same strength behind them. They will still take
great delight in chewing what they can! You cannot get angry at a
bird for chewing the edge of the panelling off your great-grandmother's
antique dresser: he was just doing what comes naturally to him, and should
not have had access to the dresser in the first case. Just be glad
he isn't a cockatoo, which would have chewed off the legs! Green
cheeks will chew on wood, they'll chew on paper, and they'll chew on anything
else that their beak can destroy. If you have something that you
don't want chewed, don't let the bird around it!
How much time and attention to green cheeks need?
One of the first mistakes beginning bird owners
may make, is to get a bird because they don't think a bird will require
as much time or attention as a cat or dog would. WRONG. Parrots
are highly social creatures... at least as social as a human or a dog,
and much moreso than a cat. In the wild, they would never leave the
company of their flockmates. In a captive pet situation, a hand-fed
green cheek transfers these loyalties from other green cheeks, to humans
- to you. You become his friend, his companion, even his entertainment!
If you are gone all day, and almost never spend
more than a few minutes at home except for sleep, than I do not recommend
a parrot. I would recommend that there be people at home, with the
bird, for at least several hours every day or the majority of days.
For many people, the solution here is to keep the cage where the center
of activity is, often the living room, and have the cage door open or put
the bird on a playpen whenever anybody's at home. This is "flock
time" for the bird and counts as attention. Hopefully within this
time, there will also be some direct interaction, such as talking to the
bird, petting it, or placing it on your shoulder while you surf the internet.
There should also be a few minutes everyday of "just for the bird" time:
times when you can sit down with the bird, and pet, cuddle, talk to, or
play with just him, with nothing else intruding upon your attention.
If you cannot provide this attention, than I do not recommend
adding a bird to your family.
Will two birds be happier together, and require less
attention than just one?
The answer to this one is yes and/or no! There are
a very few cases where this works out ideally: the two birds become friends
and keep each other company, so they don't need as much attention, but
they are still tame and loving when you do have time to handle them.
But these are the exceptions, and they're rare! One of two other
things may happen. First, the two birds find that they really like
each other, and the owner's first mistake is to put them together in the
same cage. The birds love it, but quickly decide that they don't
need the owner for attention anymore; they become aggressive or fearful,
and can't be handled.
The second possibility is that the two birds hate
each other: in many cases, the first is jealous and aggressive towards
the newcomer. The owner has to keep them far apart, and can't even
let them out of the cages at the same time: this means the owner has to
spend twice the amount of time giving them attention as he did with just
Most two-bird (or more) homes fall into a third
category where the birds are caged seperately, but get along well enough
that they can be allowed out of the cages together and may play and interact
with each other. They do enjoy each other's company, but they still
require more time and individual attention from their owner than a single
bird would. Having more than one bird will NOT lessen the amount
of time you need to spend with the birds... quite the opposite, in fact!
Of course, the only exception is when you have a
pair of bonded birds that neither need nor want your attention. They
will not be tame and friendly pets, but they can still be interesting and
entertaining members of the household. And, if they're male and female
and you can provide them with the proper set-up, they may even present
you with eggs and babies.
Are they "one-person" birds?
Any parrot might become a "one-person" bird, and
only want to be handled by and get attention from their "chosen" person.
They may be aggressive or fearful towards anyone else. But, as a
general rule, conures aren't prone to this, and green cheeks and other
Pyrhurras are less prone to it than some other conures.
To understand this a little better, let's look at
how the birds behave in the wild. Conures are social flock animals,
but they are also monogamous and will choose a single mate which they may
well remain with for their entire life. Most well-socialized birds
choose a favorite person to be their "mate", but will still be happy to
be handled and socialize with other family members and even complete strangers...
flock members. But a bird who hasn't been socialized to lots of different
people, may choose their favorite and not want to be handled by anyone
else. In other words, conures are not naturally one-person birds,
but they may become one-person birds in some instances.
Do they make good family pets? Do they get along
I do think that conures in general make good family
pets, especially compared to some birds (naming no names!). For one
thing, a well socialized conure does not mind a lot of activity... in fact,
many enjoy a lot of activity! They will often get along with all
family members, although again, they will probably choose a favorite.
Another point is that conures usually love to be
touched and handled. Many birds, such as most cockatiels, don't like
being picked up bodily, or petted and hugged in the way that kids like
to pet and hug - most conures don't mind!
That said, the nippy phase that green cheeks have
a tendancy to go through can be hard on kids. They're especially
likely to get nipped because they're small and because they tend to react
in the way that the bird wants them to react - by pulling away and making
For this reason and others, it depends a lot on
the kids involved. They have to be mature enough to be able to handle
the bird gently and confidently.
Keeping birds with kids is never a "sure thing".
If things don't go well, the bird may end up being a pet for the adults
only. For this reason, I don't recommend buying a parrot as a pet
for the kids - this needs to be a family pet, with the adults taking on
most of the responsibility.
Are they loud birds?
Conures have a reputation as being some of the loudest
parrots. For the larger conures, this is true! But the smaller
Pyrhurra conures, green cheeks included, are relatively quiet. Please
make note of the word "relatively"! Green cheeks do have their noise
- mainly squeaks and squawks. These are very quiet compared to the
ear-splitting screams of their noisy cousins, but some people still find
it bothersome. It should also be noted that noise is a very individual
trait in green cheeks - some call to their owners all the time, others
are nearly always quiet.
Do they talk?
Green cheeks are not considered good talkers.
I would say that the majority of green cheeks say only a few things, if
they talk at all. They also have soft and gravelly voices, so even
if they try to talk, they may not say anything understandable! But
there are also a few green cheeks who talk a lot. They're also smart
little birds, and if you talk to them in context they often learn to speak
in context (i.e. "good night" at night, "hello" when they greet you).
Are they "one-person" birds?
To begin with, let's start with a look at a parrot's
natural social situation. They are flock animals, so they interact
with their group of familiar friends and relatives all the time.
But they are also monogamous, so they have a single mate which they look
to for much of their cuddling and close interaction.
Parrots in a captive setting will follow this pattern.
Most parrots choose a "favorite person" whom they prefer to be with.
Usually this is the person that handles them most often, but sometimes
the bird has a favorite that they like for other reasons (often because
one person is more comfortable and confident handling them). If this
favorite person is the only person that handles them, then the parrot is
very likely to become a one-person bird, simply because it will not be
familiar with anybody else. The key to avoiding "creating" a one-person
bird is socialization. If the bird interacts with several different
people on a daily basis, and strangers or other new people on a fairly
regular basis, than it is quite unlikely the bird will ever decide to cut
off these "relationships".
All of this holds true for any parrot. Green
cheeks are somewhat less likely to become one-person birds than some parrots
such as Poicephalus parrots or African greys, so with proper socialization,
you can expect to have a social green cheek!
Are they nippy birds?
Green cheeks do have the reputation of being nippy
birds. It is deserved to a limited extent. I will say in biting
or aggressive behavior is the most common behavioral complaint from green
cheeks. Some green cheeks never bite a person in their lives.
Most green cheeks bite very rarely, but may do so during certain periods
in their lives or under certain circumstances. And unfortunately,
there are a few green cheeks who are very aggressive and will bite quite
a lot. It depends on the individual, and also a great deal on how
that individual was raised and socialized.
How do they compare in personality with other conures?
Compared to the larger conures, green cheeks are
somewhat scrappier in personality. I think of them as being a bit
like terriers - small in size, but overflowing with personality!
Also like terriers, they lean a bit more towards the aggressive side than
some of their more laid-back larger cousins.
Within the Pyrrhura group, there is very few differences
in personality. The average green cheek is much like the average
maroon belly, the average black capped, or the average painted conure.
Individual differences are a lot more noticible than species differences
How do they compare in personality to other parrots?
Dispite being a great fan of the smaller birds,
I will say that green cheeks are more intelligent and interactive than
cockatiels, budgies or lovebirds. This translates into "big bird
personality"! It can also be a problem, because it means that green
cheeks are more prone to behavior problems and easier to "mess up" if you
don't treat them right. The smaller birds have more than enough intelligence
and personality (and behavior problems) for most people, especially inexperienced
owners, but green cheeks have some extra! But, green cheeks also
less of this "big bird personality" than do the really big birds such as
Amazons, greys, macaws or cockatoos. This makes them much easier
to live with, especially in the average household!
Many have asked for comparisons between the conure
and Poicephalus personalities (Poicephalus being the small African parrots
- Senegals, Meyer's etc.). This can be a hard difference to describe,
because although there undoubtly is one, the descriptions on paper are
quite similar - they both can be described as playful, active, assertive,
cuddly etc. But, I will say that Poicephalus are more dignified and
sensitive, and they're also more independant thinkers. They're quieter
and softer in personality as well as voice. Conures are more baby-like
in personality, tend to be more dependant, and have "loud" personalities!
You could roughly compare them to cats and dogs. If you're choosing
between the two types, I highly recommend meeting a few of each.
The personality difference is usually easy to appreciate and most people
immediately decide they like one better than the other - also like cats
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