As my personal experience breeding Golden Conures is admittedly minimal, I have been corresponding with several larger breeding facilities. There is still much I need to gather and document about the breeding behaviors of captive Golden Conures, which I have been working on as time permits.
Golden Conures seem to be prolific once they get started breeding. On average they lay 4 eggs and up to as many as 3 consecutive clutches per year. They are known for not being good parents, but I personally think their rarity and monetary value make some breeders quick to make judgment about them. From my own observations and correspondences with other breeders, I have found that if they are given enough opportunities they learn to sit eggs very well and raise their own young. My pair produced their first clutch at the age of four. They laid 3 consecutive clutches of 6 eggs, but none were fertile. At the age of 6 years they laid their first fertile egg, but it didn't develop past the first couple of days.
I find my pair to be very nervous and protective of the nest even though they were domestically raised and are very familiar with me. In my observations the female will avoid eating and drinking, if necessary, in order to protect her eggs. I have noticed a visible loss of weight in the female while she is sitting eggs. The pair will scurry into the nest box, when I enter the room. Because of this they tend to crack or break many eggs. I found that my pair broke all of the eggs in their first few clutches. I used an egg from the third clutch to make a plaster mold and subsequently produce fired ceramic eggs. Moreover, I designed a nesting box that would prevent them from jumping directly on the eggs. I replaced their next few clutches with ceramic eggs. The following year they sat their eggs without breaking any.
Carlos Yamashita has stated that wild Golden Conures are very nervous around the nesting tree particularly when the size of the family clan gets larger than 7 to 9 birds. He notes a great deal of aggression between the older birds, which may indicate that this is the time that the older birds may leave the family clan to mate and form their own family clan. He also notes that there are a lot of broken eggs in the nesting cavities and suggests that it may be beneficial for captive breeders to pass their eggs off to other similar species with better nesting habits if the pair doesn't grow out of being rough with their eggs.
Carlos Yamashita has been able to trap twenty-two adult birds from several of the active nesting sites. He is documenting anatomical data, taking blood samples for genetics testing, banding the birds, and then releasing them.
Golden Conures have always been observed in small groups of as few as five birds to as many as thirty, when observed ground feeding. Because of this observation many have thought that the best way to breed golden conures in captivity would be to flock breed them. It has also been assumed that since these birds are conures that, like other conures, they will readily propagate at the early age of two to three years. Both observations are reasonable ones but are based on speculation. Now that we are studying these birds we are finding evidence that suggests both observations are completely false.
The results of the genetic testing, so far, suggest that all of the birds within a given group are closely related with the exception of a young unrelated female. This completely changes the way that aviculturists should be looking at Golden Conures. This means that what was previously misconstrued as flock-breeding behaviors in wild Golden Conures was falsely interpreted. These are not flocks of unrelated birds producing concurrent clutches of offspring in a common area. These are multigenerational family clans of related birds, which share a nesting cavity, the duties of protecting the nest, and possibly assisting in the raising of subsequent clutches of young from the adult pair. Nesting cavities are being found that are twelve to eighteen inches in diameter and as deep as fifteen feet. Cavities of this magnitude would support numerous birds the size of Golden Conures.
Yamashita suggests that captive breeding of Golden Conures may prove to be more fruitful if adolescent birds are left with the adults for several years to simulate these instinctive behaviors. Because we are finding evidence of a young unrelated female in these family clans, it may also prove beneficial to try and simulate this behavior after the first few years by adding a young unrelated female.
These behaviors also disprove the myth that Golden Conures normally breed at the age of two to three years. This may rarely occur in captive breeding situations, but now we know it is not the norm.
Yamashita recently sent me a photo of one of the family clans in our initial research area. There are six birds in this clan, two of which were very dirty that he identified as being the adult male and female. This is known because they would be the birds that are actively working the nest, which is why they are so dirty. I noted that the one he identified as the female appeared to be thin, and her tail feathers are almost completely gone. I have noticed that my female visibly looses weight while attending to the eggs and almost always emerges from the nest box with tattered tail feathers. The male commonly over grooms the feathers on the back of her head and neck, while she is in the nest box.
Young Golden Conures are streaked with various patterns of green, which remain until completing their first molt. Yamashita pointed out that none of the other birds in the photo had green streaking in their plumage. This suggests that either the pair didnt nest the previous year, or that the young were poached or predated. Golden Conures normally lay three to five eggs but most often raise only two chicks. This would indicate that two of the remaining birds were at least three years old and the others would be at least two years old. Moreover, this indicates that it would not be natural for these birds to breed at two to three years, since this seems to prove that they remain with their parents for at least that long.
Carlos Yamashita and Gil Serique have both supplied me with photos of family clans from different regions of the Golden Conures range, some of which include family clans of as many as twelve to sixteen birds. None of which were in adolescent plumage. By applying the observations from the situation above, this would indicate that young Golden Conures might stay within the family clan for as many as six to seven years under the best of circumstances. If the pair didnt nest for one or more of those years, or if clutches were lost to predators or poachers, we could assume that the adolescents may stay within the family clan for even longer.
I have surveyed several large Golden Conure breeders from around the world and have found that the average age for first successful breeding in captivity is between six to eight years. This seems to be a much more reasonable age to expect captive Golden Conures to breed, than the two to three years that so many breeders in the US claim, when trying to sell their offspring.