Phone Interview with Howard Voren

Judi Robben


On November the 1st of 1999 I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Howard Voren by a phone conversation.  My original reason for contacting Mr. Voren was to request permission to reprint the article that he had written for BIRDTALK magazine in 1996.  The article was entitled The Black-capped Conure and it’s Magnificent Mutations.  I found Howard to be very personable and helpful in my questions in regards to the first

Black-capped Conures that were imported into the US.  This information was shared from Howard’s memory of the events of 1982 or 1983 when the birds were actually imported. Using his old passports he pinned down the time of when he had visited Bolivia and saw his first Black-capped Conures.  The above mentioned article is reprinted in this newsletter for your reference.  Steve Retherford has also been doing some research and talked with others about the origins of the Black-capped Conures.  There are some differences of opinions about the first import birds.  So please read all three articles and keep in mind that we are human and our ability to recall information may be different as time passes.

As reported in the 1996 article, Howard Voren made a trip to Santa Cruz, Bolivia and saw his first “rock parakeets”.  There was a ban on exporting during his visit and he returned to the US without the birds.  The birds were then imported into the US were sold after the quarantine period to a competitors company (Last Chance Pet Farms-Bernie Levine).  Mr. Voren told me that Bernie Levine brought them into the US and that he kept one pair.  In this group of imported birds there were only four females and many more males.  (He stated that there might have been a fifth female that possibly had gone to Matthew Block).  Of the four known original females that were paired up with males, Mr. Levine (owner of Last Chance Pet Farm) kept one pair, Mr. Tom Ireland got two pair, and he thinks the fourth female/pair went somewhere to the Midwest or west coast.

Mr. Voren also stated that he thought Davis Koffram at some point in time had birds that came from this possible fourth female.

At this time Susan Clubb was the veterinary for the import facility and Last Chance Pet Farm.  During her overseeing period at the Pet Farm, she noted that some of the young birds produced by this original pair were throwing babies that appeared to be a mutation with an increase in yellow on some feathering and more extensive red on the belly.  When surgically sexing the young birds, she noted that the mutation effect was noted to be all female birds.

During this period of time Mr. Voren purchased some of the “normal” colored Black-caps and also some of the birds with the mutated coloration.  One hen that had a great level of mutation did not produce for him.  He found that it had a chronic psittacosis infection and after being treated this hen did begin to produce for him.

Howard stated that as he developed the mutation and the coloring increased that he needed a name for this mutation.  Since the yellow sided Green-cheek was already accepted as a name for that mutation, he named the black-capped mutations the “Howard Voren” strain.  He laughingly stated that there was a bit of ego involved in the naming also.  Questions have been asked - whether there was any crossbreeding with another species in his development of this mutation.  He stated “definitely not!” that the only Pyrrhuras that he had on his place were the Black -caps and the fallow Green-cheeks.  So this should put to rest the rumor that they may have started out as hybrids.

Howard rates his Black-caps on a scale of one to ten.  The more red on the eyebrow and ear coverts, more scalloping with yellow or apricot, more extensive bright red on the body then the higher rating he gives them.  He states - as they mature, most will “step down” in color, as the first set of feathers are usually the most brilliant.  A bird may step down one or two notches when maturing. Birds with high coloring and rated at the level

of ten have fertility problems, they do not produce.  Better production is obtained from a bird rated around five.  Birds rated in the middle range may very well produce a bird rated in the high range.  Birds that have pink feet usually darken with age.

In closing, I realize that the articles here in this newsletter do contradict each other, so please keep in mind that history is recorded in our human minds and we all remember things differently or have different facts placed before us.  Maybe we can take all this information and have a better understanding of our Black-capped Conures that we all love and hope to breed.

My thanks go to Howard for taking the time to talk with me about his recollections of the events and sharing information about the mutations.

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