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The Sun Parakeet or Sun Conure (Aratinga solstitialis) is a medium-sized brightly colored parrot native to northeastern South America. The adult male and female are similar in appearance, with predominantly golden-yellow plumage and orange-flushed underparts and face. It is commonly kept in aviculture. The species is endangered, threatened by loss of habitat and trapping for the pet trade.
On average, Sun Parakeets weigh approximately 110 g (4 oz) and are around 30 cm (12 in) long. They are sexually monomorphic. Adults have a rich yellow crown, nape, mantle, lesser wing-coverts, tips of the greater wing-coverts, chest, and underwing-coverts. The face and belly are orange with red around the ears. The base of the greater wing-coverts, tertials, and base of the primaries are green, while the secondaries, tips of the primaries, and most of the primary coverts are dark blue. The tail is olive-green with a blue tip. From below, all the flight feathers are dark greyish. The bill is black. The legs and the bare eye-ring are grey, but the latter often fades to white in captivity (so using amount of grey or white in the eye-ring for determining "purity" of an individual can be misleading). It is easily confused with the closely related Jandaya Parakeet and Sulphur-breasted Parakeet, but the former has entirely green wing-coverts, mantle and vent, while the latter has green mottling to the mantle and less orange to the underparts. The Sun Parakeet is also superficially similar to the pale-billed Golden Parakeet. Juvenile Sun Parakeets display a predominantly green plumage and resemble similar-aged Sulphur-breasted Parakeets. The distinctive yellow, orange, and reddish colouration on the back, abdomen, and head is attained with maturity.
The Sun Parakeet was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae. As Linnaeus did with many of the parrots he described, he placed this species in the genus Psittacus, but it has since been moved to the widely accepted Aratinga, which contains a number of similar New World species, while Psittacus is now restricted to the type species, the African Grey Parrot. The specific epithet solstitialis is derived from the Latin for 'of the summer solstice', hence 'sunny', and refers to its golden plumage. There are two widely used common names: Sun Parakeet as used by the AOU and widely in official birdlists, field guides, and by birders, and Sun Conure, used in aviculture and by some authorities such as Thomas Arndt. The Sun Parakeet is monotypic, but the Aratinga solstitialis complex includes three additional species from Brazil: Jandaya Parakeet, Golden-capped Parakeet, and Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. These have all been considered subspecies of the Sun Parakeet, but most recent authorities maintain their status as separate species. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the Sun Parakeet and the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet represent one species, while the Jenday Parakeet and Golden-capped Parakeet represent a second. Of these, the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet only received widespread recognition in 2005, having gone unnoticed at least partially due to its resemblance to certain pre-adult plumages of the Sun Parakeet. The Sun, Jandaya, and Golden-capped Parakeets will all interbreed in captivity (it is likely, but unconfirmed, that the Sulphur-breasted also will interbreed with these). In the wild, hybrids between the Jandaya Parakeet and Golden-capped Parakeet have been reported in their limited area of contact, but it has been speculated that most such individuals could be sub-adults (which easily could be confused with hybrids). As far as known, the remaining taxa are entirely allopatric, although it is possible that the Sun Parakeet and the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet come into contact in the southern Guianas, where some doubts exists over the exact identity.
Its exact ecological requirements remain relatively poorly known. It is widely reported as occurring in savanna and coastal forests, but recent sightings suggest it mainly occurs at the edge of humid forest growing in foothills in the Guiana Shield, and crosses more open habitats only when traveling between patches of forest. Like other members of the genus Aratinga, the Sun Parakeet is social and typically occurs in groups of up to 30 individuals. It has been reported as nesting in palm cavities. It mainly feeds on fruits, flowers, berries, nuts, and the like. Otherwise, relatively little is known about its behavior in the wild, in part due to confusion over what information refers to the Sun Parakeet and what refers to the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. Regardless, the behavior of the two is unlikely to differ to any great extent.
The Sun Parakeet occurs only in a relatively small region of north-eastern South America: the north Brazilian state of Roraima, southern Guyana, extreme southern Suriname, and southern French Guiana. It also occurs as a vagrant to coastal French Guiana. Its status in Venezuela is unclear, but there are recent sightings from the south-east near Santa Elena de Uairn. It may occur in Amap or far northern Par (regions where the avifauna generally is very poorly documented), but this remains to be confirmed. Populations found along the Amazon River in Brazil are now known to belong to the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. In the past, the Sun Parakeet has been considered safe and listed as Least Concern, but recent surveys in southern Guyana (where previously considered common) and the Brazilian state Roraima have revealed that it possibly is extirpated from the former and rare in the latter. It is very rare in French Guiana, but may breed in the southern part of the country (this remains unconfirmed). This species is very popular in captivity, and large numbers have been caught for the pet trade. Today it is regularly bred in captivity, but the capture of wild individuals potentially remains a very serious threat. This has fueled recent discussions regarding its status, leading to it being uplisted to Endangered in the 2008 IUCN Red List.
The term conure readily identifies the bird as one of the species of small to medium sized parrots with a long tail of the tribe Arini, that are mainly endemic to South America. They reach sexual maturity at around 2 years of age, and can live for 25 to 30 years. The hen lays a clutch of three to five eggs, with an incubation period of 23 days. The Sun Parakeet is noted for its very loud squawking compared to its relatively small size. It is capable of mimicking humans, but not as well as some larger parrots. Sun Parakeets are popular as pets because of their bright coloration though they have a very limited ability to talk. Due to their inquisitive temperaments, they demand a great deal of attention from their owners, and can sometimes be loud. Like many parrots, they are determined chewers and require toys and treats to chew on. Hand reared pets can be very friendly towards humans that they are familiar with, but they may be aggressive towards strangers.