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Amazon Parrot Care

Bird Care and Bird Information for Amazon Birds

Hand feeding Amazon Parrots - Bird Care and Bird Information for all types of Amazon BirdsBaby Blue-fronted Amazon Parrot
(with Baby Severe Macaws)
Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

   Amazon parrots are delightful pets and beautiful birds!

Amazon Parrot Information and Bird Care:

   Amazon parrots are highly intelligent birds, very outgoing and renowned talkers.They adapt well to captivity, adjusting easily to their cage or aviary. Amazon birds are mostly a vivid green, but with vibrant splashes of color on or around their head, on their wings and on their tail feathers.

   A single bird will tame quickly, bond to its keeper, and may soon begin to mimic the sounds of its keeper's voice as well as many other sounds in its environment. They like to preen and be preened, and just enjoy your company in general. Males and females make equally good pets.

  A big question you need to carefully consider when getting an Amazon parrot as a pet bird is whether you will keep just one, or will eventually want to get two.

   Being very social, a single Amazon will make a wonderful pet bird as long as it gets plenty of attention. As they reach sexual maturity however, at about age 4 or 5, they often become restless. This is a time when general signs of psychological distress may occur, such as feather plucking or a female may start laying infertile eggs.

   In the wild, Amazon species live in a flock. At the onset of sexual maturity, the Amazon parrot begins to look for a mate. Once they find a mate, they pair up and live in a harmonious life-long partnership. Though they will live in a flock, living with a mate is part of their social pattern.

   A key component to keeping an Amazon bird as a single pet, or deciding to get a second, will depend on the amount of attention you pet needs. You don't need to decide this initially, but don't rule out the possibility. If your pet bird seems distressed you will need to spend a lot more time with it. If you are unable to spend enough time with it, or even if you do spend more time and it still remains distressed, that may be the time to consider getting a mate.

  Sometimes pairing is the only satisfactory solution.This will depend a lot on you and your bird. Getting a mate does not mean that a once tamed and "talking' bird will turn away from its keeper or that it will become dumb. And as their keeper, you will have many compensations in the fascinating behaviors of their companionship.

See different types of Amazon Birds in the Amazon Parrot Family

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Distribution
   The Amazon parrots are from South America and Central America, including the West Indies. Different species range in many different areas. Some range in the tropical forest climates, having constant high temperatures and humidity while others range in areas of the tropical savannah climates with short dry periods.

Description
   Amazon parrots, commonly referred to as the 'Amazons', are medium to large parrots belonging to genus Amazona. They were scientifically described for the first time by naturalist Rene Primevere Lesson in the 1830's. Various members of the Amazona group were later scientifically described by several naturalists. These naturalists, in about the 20th century, wanted to have their names associated with these species, though reportedly without any further evidence or specimens than the earlier descriptions.

  • Amazon Parrots Size and Shape:
       The Amazons are stocky green birds with a short, somewhat rounded tail.
  • Colors - Identifying Amazon Parrots:
       The identification of the different Amazon species is aided by the brilliant splashes of color you see on their heads, napes, necks, wings and tail feathers. The variations of these 'splashes of color' range from reds and yellows to blues and even lilacs. Each species has it own striking coloration. Amazon parrots are beautiful birds!
  • Amazon Parrot Sexing:
    Juvenile Amazons:
       Young Amazon parrots have a dirty gray brown iris. This will change within 2 to 3 years to a red, red-orange, or chestnut-brown. At that point, it is very difficult to determine the age of an Amazon.
    'Dimorphic' Types:
       Dimorphic means having some visual characteristics that may aid in determining sex. Though the sex cannot be reliably determined by physical characteristics of most of the Amazons, there are two species two species that are dimorphic. They are; the Yellow-lored Amazon, Amazona xantholora (rarely seen in the trade) and the White-fronted Amazon, Amazona albinfrons.
    'Monomorphic' Types:
       Monomorphic means having no definite differences that can be seen. The sex on all others Amazon parrots than the two listed above must be determined by either a surgical probe, endoscopy, which can be done by many veterinarians or by a DNA testing, usually a blood sample or a few plucked feathers sent to be diagnosed in a lab.

   The types of Amazon species, along with some Amazon birds that are commonly available in the pet industry include:

  • Blue-fronted Amazon - Amazona aestiva
  • Double Yellow-headed Amazon - Amazona oratrix
  • Green-cheeked Amazon or Red-crowned Amazon- Amazona viridigenalis
  • Lilac-crowned Amazon - Amazona finschi
  • Lilacine Amazon - Amazona autumnalis
  • Mealy Amazon - Amazona farinosa
  • Orange-winged Amazon - Amazona amazonica
  • Panama Amazon - Amazona panamensis
  • Red-lored Amazon - Amazona autumnalis
  • White-fronted Amazon - Amazona albifrons
  • Yellow-crowned Amazon - Amazona ochrocephala ochrocephala
  • Yellow-naped Amazon - Amazona auropalliata
  • Cuban Amazon or Rose-throated Parrot, Amazona leucocephala
  • Yellow-billed Amazon, Amazona collaria
  • Hispaniolan Amazon, Amazona ventralis
  • Puerto Rican Amazon, Amazona vittata
  • Yellow-lored Amazon, Amazona xantholora
  • Black-billed Amazon, Amazona agilis
  • Tucum├ín Amazon, Amazona tucumana
  • Red-spectacled Amazon, Amazona pretrei
  • Blue-cheeked Amazon, Amazona dufresniana
  • Red-browed Amazon, Amazona rhodocorytha
  • Red-tailed Amazon, Amazona brasiliensis
  • Festive Amazon, Amazona festiva
  • Yellow-shouldered Amazon, Amazona barbadensis
  • Kawall's Amazon, Amazona kawalli
  • Scaly-naped Amazon, Amazona mercenaria
  • Vinaceous Amazon, Amazona vinacea
  • St Lucia Amazon, Amazona versicolor
  • Red-necked Amazon, Amazona arausiaca
  • St. Vincent Amazon, Amazona guildingii
  • Imperial Amazon, Amazona imperialis

Care and feeding
   Amazon parrot care starts with providing a good diet. An Amazon diet consisting of a basic parrot feed mix with supplements is generally regarded as suitable. Different bird foods and bird mixes for Amazons are available.

  • Bird Food:
      Foods available for Amazon parrots include formulated diets, either pelleted or extruded, seed only diets, and parrot mixes which offer a mixture of both. There are pros and cons to feeding only a formulated diet as well as feeding only a seed diet. A seed only diet offers much more variety but requires additional vitamin and calcium supplements. Amazon parrots need not only nutritional requirements met but also variety for psychological enrichment.
    • Formulated Diet:
      A formulated diet provides a good nutritional base so does not require the addition of vitamins, however it does not contain the phytonutrients (antioxidant pigments) that are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and seeds. Phytonutrients are believed to boost the immune system, help a body to heal itself, and to prevent some diseases. Also Amazons can become bored with it due to the lack of variety.
    • Seed Diet:
      A seed only diet offers much more variety but requires additional vitamin and calcium supplements. Amazon parrots need not only nutritional requirements met but also variety for psychological enrichment.
  • Supplements:
        Supplements are very important and can be put in an extra dish and rotated for variety
    • Fruits and Vegetables:
      Supplements should include sprouted seeds, all types of fruits such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, grapes, oranges, bananas, mangos, papayas, and even berries such as strawberries and blueberries. Vegetables are also good supplements such as carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, many garden vegetables, and even dandelions and chickweed.
      NOTE: Amazons are prone to vitamin A deficiency so high foods like dark green leafy veggies, carrots, mangos and sweet potatoes will help insure a long life for your bird. Do not feed avocado as it may be toxic to birds!
    • Proteins:
      .Additional proteins can be offered about every 1 1/2 weeks such as cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and even canned dog food.
  • Water:
       Give your Amazon fresh drinking water every day.
  • Bird Baths:
       The personal hygiene of your Amazon includes a weekly shower to help keep it's plumage in good shape. This can be accomplished with either a hand held shower sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head and lukewarm water.
  • Bird Grooming:
    • Wings:
      The wings should be kept trim if you want to discourage flight and to prevent the loss of your pet through an open window or door.
    • Beak:
      The beak needs to be trimmed if it becomes overgrown or deformed. There are many mineral blocks, lava blocks, and other beak grooming items available at your pet store to help your bird keep its beak in shape.
    • Nails:
      A variety of concrete type perches are also available to help keep the nails trim, but they should be trimmed if they become overgrown. Bird nail trimmers and styptic powder to stop the bleeding are also available at pet shops and online.

Housing
   Amazon parrots quickly adapt to their cage and environment. The majority of Amazons are kept in a cage in the home, in a bird room, or in an aviary. Amazon parrot cages must not be too confining, so get one that your pet will be able to feel comfortable in. You will need dishes for food, water, and treats.

  • Bird Cages:
       An Amazon parrots cage best suited to adequately house a single Amazon bird would be between 39"- 59" (100-150 cm) high and have a floor space of 23"x 39" (60 x 100 cm). This size will provide room for lots of movement as well as space for perches, food dishes and a variety of playthings.  
  • Aviary:
       As a minimum, amazon cages should be large enough so that the bird's head does not touch the top, its tail does not touch the bottom, and it has enough room for unrestricted movements.
    • Indoor Aviaries - Bird Rooms:
      A room to adequately house 2 Amazons needs a ceiling height of at least 70" (180 cm) and a minimum floor space of 39"x59" (100 x 150 cm) along with plenty of playthings.
    • Outdoor Aviaries - Breeding Aviary:
      An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary. It should be no smaller than 59" - 79" (1.5 - 2 m) high with a floor space of 39"x 39" (1 m x 1 m) and have an attached flight cage. The Amazon parrots flight cage should be 79" - 118" (2 - 3 m) long with a perch at each end. A climbing branch and a bird bath are nice additions too

Maintenance
   The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.

Social Behaviors
   Generally Amazon parrots are reasonably calm and peaceful, getting vocal only in the early morning and in the evening as it starts getting dark. They are very social birds and a single parrot will make a wonderful pet if it gets plenty of attention. But like all parrots, there are some unique characteristics of birds that are Amazons. Here are some facts on the Amazon parrot to be aware of.

  • Amazon Parrots at Sexual Maturity:
       A single Amazon bird can be a wonderful pet if it gets lots of attention. But this is until about the age or 4 or 5, when they reach sexual maturity. At this time if the parrot is left alone a lot it may become restless, may start feather plucking and in general show signs of psychological distress. A female may even start laying infertile eggs
       In their natural environment, this is the time when they would begin to find a mate and pair up. Living with a mate is part of the social pattern of the Amazon parrot. The key here is the amount of attention you pet needs.
  • Deciding Whether to Get a Mate for Your Amazon:
       As your pet Amazon reaches sexual maturity, this may be the time to consider getting a mate for your parrot. This is primarily true if it seems to be distressed and you cannot spend more time with it. Sometimes pairing is the only satisfactory solution even if you do spend more time with it and it still remains distressed. This will depend a lot on you and your bird.
  • Amazon Parrots and Children:
       Amazons and children can mix very successfully if the parrot gets used to the child, and the child learns how to interact with the parrot. However, sometimes a parrot can get very jealous of small children and so you should be on your guard.
  • Amazon Parrots and Other Pets:
       Amazons and other pets can also get used to each other and learn to accept each other. Again, however, be very careful to monitor all groupings of animals. An Amazon can be very dangerous to small pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and even small birds. Close friendships are just as possible as deadly enemy behaviors. You won't know until the relationship unfolds over time

Handling/Training
   The Amazon parrot is the most rapid of all the parrots at becoming accustomed to its new environment, its keeper, and ready to start bird training. Generally though, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and it's cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.

  • Taming Basics:
       Though an Amazon parrot is quick to adapt to its new home, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.
       To be able to handle and train your parrot depends first on trust, so go slowly and be consistent. Amazons are most receptive to bird training in the evening and each session is best if limited to under 20 minutes with about an hour rest in between.
       Remember that bird taming and bird training takes patience, never 'punish' you parrot! This only serves to destroy the trust you've spent so much time building.
  •  Initial Training: 
      Your first goal in bird training is to get the parrot to accept a treat from you, which will lead to it allowing you to gently scratch its head. Then you can begin to work on getting your parrot to step up on your hand. Depending on the tameness of the bird, these two steps can be instantaneous as in a hand fed baby or take several weeks or longer for an untamed bird.
  • Advanced Training:
       Once your Amazon parrot has gotten over its shyness, then you can work on speech training. Repetition and frequency are the keys here to get your Amazon parrot talking. Almost every Amazon parrot can learn at least a few words, although unlike the African Grey, the Amazon's mimicry sounds rather 'parrot-like'.

   For an extensive parrot training system that potentially turns your bird into a fun, loving companion as well as learning lots of cool tricks, try Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course.
  

Activities
   Exercise and play are important activities for the physical well being and psychological health of your parrot. These activities help deter distress and prevent the problems of screeching and feather picking. Provide your parrot with lots of activities in the form of bird toys such as large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, fresh branches for gnawing and chewing, and rotate new bird toys on a regular basis.

Breeding/Reproduction
   Because the Amazon parrots belong to a bird group that is threatened with extinction. Today breeding amazon parrots is helping to preserve the species and reduce the number of wild caught birds. There are no breeding regulations in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom, though other countries might have restrictions. You should consult with the authorities in your country before undertaking breeding Amazon parrots.

  • Sexing Amazon Parrots:
      Most Amazon parrots are not dimorphic and you will have to have them sexed by either a surgical probe, endoscopy, a DNA test, or a chromosomal analysis. The sexes must be confirmed and the pair must be harmonious, bonded with each other.
  • Breeding Environment:
      To breed Amazon parrots, they will need a nest box that is 31"-39" (80-100 cm) high with an inside diameter of 12"-14" (30-35 cm) and an opening of 4"-5" (10-12 cm). Provide some soft bedding material inside on the bottom of the box.
  • Egg Laying and Hatchlings:
       In general the courtship will begin with the beginning of the warm season, generally in April or May, with the laying and brooding in the early summer. An Amazon female will lay between 2 to 4 white eggs and she will brood for 26 to 28 days.
       The hatchlings are almost naked, barely fluffy, blind and very helpless. It will take them between 70 and100 days to develop to the size and weight of their parents, have their complete plumage, and be ready to find their own food. Be sure to remove the nest box after the brooding until the next breeding season.

Potential Problems
   As with all parrots, Amazon parrot problems will be averted if you offer them a good environment and get familiar with your pet so you can spot any signs of illness. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
   Signs of illness to be aware of are ruffled plumage, resting often with their head turned back, having no appetite, sneezing, discharge from the nostrils, cloudy eyes, and any change in the feces. Some of the common illnesses your Amazon could contract are internal parasites, intestinal influenza, coccidiosis, respiratory ailments, feather picking, and parrot fever also known as psittacosis.
   Behavior problems usually stem from something missing in the bird's environment. Boredom, lack of trust, lack of interaction with other birds or people can lead to problems like biting, feather plucking, and screaming. Amazon parrot problems can also stem from restlessness as they reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age. Developing a bond of trust and spending time with your bird helps to avoid these problems.

   We have also had good success with Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course. He offers free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.

Availability
   Amazon bird breeders are some very dedicated individuals, and though not all Amazon species are widely bred, today there are a number of different Amazon parrots for sale. There are many hand fed baby Amazon birds for sale with more becoming increasingly available. You can also find Amazon parrots for sale that are breeding stock.

References

Author: Clarice Brough, CAS