An Amazon Parrot makes an affectionate loyal companion, with an amazing talking ability!
The Amazon Parrots, often simply called Amazons or Amazon birds, are some of the most popular pet birds. They are medium to large parrots belonging to genus Amazona, and originally called Green Parrots. They are mostly green birds, but with splashes of bright color on or around their head as well as their wings and tail feathers. They are long lived, up to 50 years or more in a good environment.
Amazons are intelligent handsome birds, renown for their talking ability, have outgoing personalities, and are very social. They adapt quickly to their cage and can be quite playful, with a dexterous agility for climbing about their cage or playpen. Their personality is such that they will form a close, loving bond with their keeper and become a life-long companion.
All these great qualities make Amazon Parrots highly sought after, but owners of these parrots need to be very committed. Amazons are generally calm and reasonable, but their personalities are quite complex. Living with an Amazon is similar to living a 2-year-old child in temperament and ability, and for 50-plus years. But they are not children, they are parrots with instinctive, natural behaviors developed to survive in nature. They need a stimulating environment that provides activities, such as climbing areas and chewing toys to keep them content. They can be quite vocal too, but normally as the sun is rising and setting. Amazons require a keeper that is willing to provide training, socialization, and a good amount of attention.
The list of Amazon parrots below includes popular Amazon birds as well lesser known species. Each bird guide provides in-depth information about them, and about living with them. Amazon care covers diet and feeding, housing needs, activity requirements, and bird behaviors; with tips for handling and training Amazon birds, along with breeding information.
- For more about Amazons see: Amazon Parrot: Information and Care
Amazon Parrots Origin
The Amazon Parrots, Amazona, are found in the Neotropical Region of Central and South America, including the West Indies. This region has both subtropical and tropical areas. It contains the largest diversity of parrot species, though in only 6 genera. The Amazona genus bears the name of the great river running through continent of South America, but has come to include this large number of parrots that are found throughout the New World. Amazons are found in mountains, wooded areas, tropical forests, and savannahs.
The Amazona genus is primarily birds that are green in color. They are stocky, medium to large sized parrots with short wings and short, rounded box-like tails. This group of birds was first called Green Parrots, Green Short-tailed Parrots or Short-wing Parrots.
Like Jaco, the name Portuguese sailors ascribed to the African Grey Parrots relating to the sound of their natural cries, seafarers began calling these Amazon birds Kriken derived from the French term criquer, meaning to screech. It was finally in literary works of the later 1800’s that they began to be referred as the Amazon Parrots. A notable example is found in a scientific manual of author Dr. Karl Russ, The Speaking Parrots (1884), where he describes them as “…the Green Short-tailed, or Amazon Pairots, from America”
Amazon Parrot History
With the discovery of the new world, Amazon parrots of Central and South America were brought to Spain, and from there to rest of Europe. In 1492, on his return voyage from the Americas to Spain, Christopher Columbus reportedly brought a pair of Caribbean Cuban Amazons to his patron, Queen Isabella. But it was the European naturalists of the 19th century, explorers with great geographical and zoological interests that expanded knowledge of Amazons and many other creatures. This was a romantic period where exotic birds became highly favored with British nobility and royalty. They found them enchanting, and their ability to speak startling.
In the 1800’s many volumes were written about birds and parrots. Yet the Green parrots, soon called Amazon Parrots, were often confused in early classifications. Amazons were less common and of higher value due to the long and arduous ocean voyage to bring them from the Americas. Early aviculturists found it difficult to identify them, there was such a variety of species and color variations. Even today experienced ornithologists are still scrutinizing and re-arranging their classification.
By the later 1800’s and early 20th century, ocean crossing became less expensive and more common. All sorts of people, from sailors and innkeepers to common and educated folks, were able to keep Amazons and other large parrots. Green Amazon Parrots as well as Grey parrots became the rage. These birds were displayed in parlors and places of social gathering. Amazons Parrots became even more popular in the United States than in Europe because they were more readily available here. This was due to their geographic origin and a shared Mexican border, which provided an easy access route for importation.
The first half of the 1900’s saw interest in large parrots fluctuate up and down with turns in national events. Parrot keeping was affected by the two world wars, as well as several periods of bird disease outbreaks. After World War II, with inexpensive air transportation, importation rose. Keeping large parrots again become highly favored. Parrots of all types arrived in abundance into the United States, spurring aviculture and captive breeding. Today bird importation is greatly restricted, but many parrot species (over 280) are successfully bred in captivity, and Amazon Parrots are readily available.
Amazon Parrot Taxonomy
The Green Parrots, commonly referred to as the ‘Amazons’, are medium to large parrots belonging to genus Amazona. Amazon parrots are stocky birds, primarily green in color, with short wings and short, rounded box-like tails. There is great variation both in size and variety. Identification of the different Amazon parrot species is aided by the colorful accents like yellow, blue, lilac, and red found on or around their heads, their wings, and their tails. Each species has it own striking coloration.
Naturalist Rene Primevere Lesson scientifically described Amazon parrots for the first time in the 1830’s. Several naturalists later scientifically described various members of the Amazona group. A number of early naturalists simply wanted to have their names associated with these species. So some were reportedly named without any further evidence or specimens, other than earlier, often confusing descriptions.
More recently these birds have been under review, with some classification adjustments being made. For example, a recommendation to reclassify the ochrocephala group was made by the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1991. This has resulted in the Amazona ochrocephela now being identified as the Yellow-crowned Amazon only. The Yellow-naped Amazon is now described as Amazona auropalliata, and the Yellow-headed Amazon is now Amazona Oratrix.
There are 31 described species of Amazon parrots in existence today, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. Six of these are considered endangered and another 4 are considered threatened with extinction. Another 10 are listed as vulnerable, leaving 11 in the category of least concern, but with a stable population. Some of the most popular pet Amazons are among those that are endangered, but captive breeding efforts today allow ownership without infringing on natural populations.
Types of Amazon Parrots
Types of Amazon Parrots vary in a number of factors. These include size, coloration, sexual dimorphism, and ease of breeding. Most of these factors make only a slight difference when determining which species makes the best pet bird. All the amazons are intelligent and have, depending on the individual bird itself, an excellent ability to talk. They can all be affectionate, loyal companions, and they are all long-lived. However, there are some interesting differences that are worth noting.
In size Amazon birds range from a medium to a fairly large parrot. The White-fronted Amazon Amazona albifrons, is the smallest, reaching only 10″ (25 cm) in size. That is quite petite when compared to a number of the larger types of Amazon Parrots, like the Mealy Amazon Amazona farinose which reaches 15″ (38cm).
Many Amazons are threatened with extinction, and breeding Amazon birds is helping preserve some species and also helps reduce the number of wild caught birds. However, some species breed more readily in captivity than others. The White-fronted Amazon is the only species in this genus that is sexually dimorphic, with males and females being distinguishable visually. The other types of Amazon parrots will need to be sexed by 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.
Amazon parrots are mostly green birds, but many species have incredible color accents. A list of Amazon parrots that are highly popular and sought out include:
- Double Yellow-Headed Amazon or Yellow-headed Amazon Amazona oratrix
- Blue-fronted Amazon Amazona aestiva
- Lilac-crowned Amazon Amazona finschi
- White-fronted Amazon Amazona albifron
- Green-cheeked Amazon Amazona viridigenalis
- Mealy Amazon Amazona farinose
- Orange-winged Amazon Amazona amazonica
- Red-lored Amazon Amazona autumnalis
- Yellow-crowned Amazon Amazona ochrocephala
- Yellow-naped Amazon Amazona auropalliata
Amazon Parrot Behavior
Amazon Parrots are very social birds and a single parrot will make a wonderful pet if it gets plenty of attention. They adapt well to captivity, adjusting easily to their cage or aviary. These birds will tame quickly, bond to their keeper, and may soon begin to mimic the sounds. They enjoy interaction and like their human companions.
Although Amazons make affectionate and loyal companions, they are not for everyone. They have a very long life span, 50 years (or more) in captivity. Most Amazon birds available as pets are only a generation or two away from their wild counterparts. These parrots still have their wild nature intact and can be unpredictable at times. Though they are desirable pets they require devotion and commitment from their keepers.
Amazon parrots need good socialization and training when young, and regular ongoing interaction and training. 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. A bond of trust, providing a stimulating environment, and spending time with your bird can help avoid these problems.
Amazons can mix very successfully with children if the parrot gets used to the child. However some Amazons can become extremely jealous of small children. It’s best to always be on your guard and supervise them when together. The same is true for other family pets, they may do very well, but again be cautious. Small pets and small birds can especially be at risk.
In the wild, Amazons live in colonies, but mate for life with just one other bird. Living with a mate is part of the social pattern of the Amazon parrot. To live well, they need close companionship. They go through a hormonal stage as they reach maturity, generally starting at about 4 – 5 years and lasting for a couple of years or longer. During this period they can become restless or distressed, and may start demonstrating undesirable behaviors like feather plucking or screaming. This period will require even more personal attention from their keeper, or perhaps pairing it with a mate.
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. A mate does not diminish the bond of trust formed with its keeper, but provides a new experience for both. Overall Amazon birds are very affectionate loyal companions, but definitely require devoted, experienced parrot owners.
Featured Image Credit: Fine Art Photos, Shutterstock