The black-hooded parakeet (nanday conure) is not a quiet bird, but they make fantastic pets. They are affectionate toward their owners and talented talkers, capable of learning several words and short phrases. It's a medium-sized parrot that is also very intelligent and thrives on being taught fun tricks that are sure to entertain. Since it's considered an invasive species in some areas, check local laws to confirm this bird is legal to own.
Common Names: Nanday conure, black-hooded parakeet
Scientific Name: Nandayus nenday (There had been some debate if it belonged to the conure genus of Aratinga. It is now classified in the Nandayus genus with a number of subspecies).
Adult Size: 11 and 12 inches, weighing about five ounces
Life Expectancy: 20-plus years
Origins and History
This bird has a vast natural habitat in South America that includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Their "nanday" name derives from the indigenous name for the bird.
They're most likely to be seen in flocks of at least 10 birds and prefer the natural food sources provided by agriculture. In the wild, you're more likely to hear their distinct call before seeing the birds because their green color blends well into the landscape.
Over the years, pet nandays were released to the wild. Flocks of these feral birds are found near metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, California, and Miami and St. Petersburg in Florida. They're a surprisingly hardy bird, and feral populations are found as far north as Canada.
The black-hooded parakeet is a brilliant bird that is outgoing. Their size, bright colors, ability to learn tricks and talk, as well as their social skills, make them a popular attraction for bird shows. One of their best-known tricks is retrieving dollar bills from audience members then finding that same person to return the money to.
These birds are curious and will explore their environment. They can be restless at times though you'll also find that they enjoy moderate petting and a snuggle session when they get sleepy. One of their more peculiar habits is falling asleep on their back with their feet sticking straight up in the air (as if playing dead).
Though generally affectionate, this bird has a strong beak and will use it on occasion. For this reason, it may not be the right choice for households with small children.
While black-hooded parakeets are one of the louder species, the noise level can depend primarily on whether or not the bird is getting adequate socialization. These birds do sometimes scream and screech for no apparent reason. However, most properly socialized nandays are too busy enjoying life to stop and scream.
Speech and Vocalizations
Nandays call out early in the morning and later in the afternoon, an instinct they use in the wild. They can also be quite chatty when perching, especially if given a person or another bird to talk to. If you are interested in a similar bird that is not as talkative, check out the jenday conure.
If they learn to talk, the black-hooded parakeet will have a slightly raspy voice that does not have the clarity of larger parrots. Some of these birds can develop a vocabulary of about 20 words.
Black-hooded Parakeet Colors and Markings
These birds are striking to look at. Their dark, black faces are their most distinguishing feature. Their bodies are mostly green with a grayish-blue patch on the chest.
The bird's blue tail feathers with dark colors underneath many feathers and a touch of red on their legs make them even more beautiful in flight. They have bare white rings around their eyes, black beaks, and flesh-colored feet.
This species is monomorphic, so you will not be able to tell males and females apart. They can be sexed with a DNA test or a surgical sexing procedure.
Caring for the Black-Hooded Parakeet
Since they're highly intelligent, black-hooded parakeets require a fair amount of socialization and mental stimulation. Owners should plan to spend a few hours every day interacting with their bird because it will need sufficient time outside its cage.
Nandays require a 3-foot-tall large cage which allows them to fly. If they have a larger cage, they can exercise when they are confined. At a minimum, a cage that is 20 inches square and 36 inches high is recommended, though larger is better because this bird really needs to stretch its wings.
They also enjoy bathing regularly. Your bird will be delighted if you leave a dish of water in its cage. Many owners say that a pie dish is a perfect size.
These birds do very well with multiple people and strangers. Introduce them early to new faces, and they will be very social with anyone who walks into your home.
Common Health Problems
Common ailments that this bird is susceptible to include conure bleeding syndrome (an unexplainable condition that leads to excessive bleeding), Pacheco’s disease (disease caused by the herpes virus), and respiratory problems.
If your bird feels neglected or lacks socialization, nandays can become depressed. and may start feather plucking and screaming out. To prevent depression, keep your bird well-rested and stimulated.
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, nandays eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries. For pet nandays, adding high-quality pellets and seeds to a daily diet of fresh fruits and vegetables should ensure your bird is getting all the nutrition it needs.
You can give them an unlimited amount of pellet food; they will only eat what they need. As for fresh fruits and veggies, offer about a 1/8 to 1/4 cup in the morning and at night.
Grapes, apples, broccoli, and tomatoes are favorite foods for this species. Include a daily serving of nutrition-packed leafy greens like spinach and kale. You can also add protein to a nanday's diet. They are omnivores, so bits of cooked egg, lean meat, or fish are okay on occasion.
Foods that are toxic to these birds include avocado, chocolate, coffee, and anything with salt.
Exercise is particularly crucial for black-hooded parakeets as they are an active, high-energy species. The bird should be allowed a minimum of four hours outside of its cage per day.
Since they are so intelligent, they require adequate mental stimulation as well. These birds need plenty of toys to keep them occupied. They like to chew, so be sure to have a good stock available when one gets used up.
You will enjoy training your bird to do tricks, it will be highly receptive. With positive reinforcement, nandays are quick to pick up new skills like turning around, waving, and dancing. This bird usually thrives stimulated by challenges.
Affectionate, known to cuddle and snuggle with its owners
Intelligent, can speak up to 20 words and learn many tricks
Smaller parrot with smaller cage requirements and in-home footprint
Can be loud, so not well-suited for apartments
May not be legal in some areas
Strong beak, not a good choice around small children
Where to Adopt or Buy a Black-Hooded Parakeet
Before you adopt a nanday, check your state and local laws to make sure that you are allowed to keep one. Feral nandays are considered invasive and a threat to native bird species in many parts of the United States, so they are banned in many areas.
Contact a reputable local breeder if nandays are legal as pets and set up an appointment to meet their available birds. Spending time with a few different birds before choosing a pet will help you pick the one that is the best fit for you.
These birds can be rescued, adopted, or purchased from breeders for $400 to $600. Some resources where you can find nanday conures include:
If you're going the breeder route, make sure that the breeder is reputable by asking them how long they've been breeding nandays and the breeding history of the bird. Also, make sure that the bird you want to take home is healthy. Make sure the bird is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
If you’re interested in similar species, check out:
Otherwise, check out all of our other small parrot species profiles.