Red-crowned Amazon Amazona viridigenalis, also called Green-cheeked Amazon and Mexican Red-headed Parrot
Amazona viridigenalis

   The pretty Red-crowned Amazon is one of the most agreeable of the Amazon Parrots!

   The Green-cheeked Amazon Amazona viridigenalis is a very attractive parrot originating primarily from Northeast Mexico. Overall it is a darker green Amazon, though a paler green underneath, and has iridescent light green cheeks circled in lilac. Its other descriptive names, Red-crowned Amazon and Mexican Red-headed Parrot, are derived from its vibrant crown of bright scarlet.

   The Green-cheek Amazon is definitely a more amenable Amazon. It is a pleasant, social Amazon that enjoys its human companions and is not as independent nor as feisty as its cousins. Once in a while it will assert its independence, and when it does it will be obvious. The pupils of their eyes will constrict and light up like little flashlights, this is referred to as the “blazing eye”. Its head will come down, the tail feathers will fan out and the wings will extend. This is the Green-cheek Amazons way of saying “just leave me alone”, and this usually occurs in breeding season.

   This is a favorite among bird lovers for its calm but playful nature. These Red-crowned Amazons loved to have the top of their head and the sides of their face petted, and will frequently just lay their head down for you to provide them with this attention. Some of them are talkers, but most are better at mimicking sounds.

   Green-Cheeked Amazons travel in large flocks in the wild. They are very gregarious, and require regular involvement in the routine of their human flock. Keepers will need to make some adjustments when they add an intelligent creature like this to their home as these parrots will become depressed if neglected. They need to be included. With this pet bird you have a companion for meals or watching television, yes, they do watch television.

For more information about Amazon Birds see:
Amazon Parrot: Information and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Genus: Amazona
  • Species: viridigenalis

Scientific name

   Amazona viridigenalis


   The Green-Cheeked Amazon Amazona viridigenalis was first described by Cassin in 1853. It is also known as the Red-crowned Amazon and Mexican Red-headed Parrot. It is native to the lowlands of Northeast Mexico, and has been introduced into Puerto Rico and the United States. There are feral flocks surviving quite well in California, Florida and Texas.

   In the wild they live in large flocks of between twenty to over a hundred birds which are quite conspicuous and noisy. They inhabit forests and wooded areas in lush lowlands and foothills. There they feed on fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, and the blossoms and leafy buds of foliage. They are said to rather wasteful, taking just a bite of a piece of fruit and then letting the rest fall to the ground.


   The Amazona viridigenalis is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Endangered (EN).


   The Green-cheeked Amazon is primarily a darker green color with paler green and more yellow on the under parts. The feathers are edged in a dusky black, particularly on the neck. The color of the crown is a bright scarlet with the bases of those feathers edged in yellow. There is a violet blue band going from the eyes down. The checks are an iridescent light green and there is a lilac coloring behind the eyes. There are colors of violet blue and red on the wings.

   This is an attractive amazon and its coloring is reflected in the name Green-cheeked as well as its other common names, Red-crowned Amazon and Mexican Red-headed Parrot. For some reason the Green Cheek appears to be a little smaller than many of the other amazons, however, they measure about the same in length as the other mid-sized Amazons. Mature birds are about 13 inches (33 cm) long from the head to the tip of the tail. They are sexually mature at around 5 years old and have a life span of several decades.

Care and feeding

   In the wild, the diet of the Green-cheeked Amazon consists of fruits, plants, seeds and nuts, but will frequently take a bite of something and then just toss the rest. When food is plentiful they are known to waste, just looking for something they like better. Of course, during breeding season, everything is eaten and used. A pet bird will enjoy a varied diet, including a quality seed mix or a pelleted diet, and many fresh fruits and vegetables. Pellets will work if started at an early age. Plenty of human food that is nutritious can be offered.

   Fruits and vegetables are great but a little chicken or meatloaf is good too. Sweet potatoes provide Vitamin A. Peanut butter or honey at the bottom of a Dixie cup or on a cracker brings them happiness. It will also bring you laughter. Amazons also love pasta but can make a real mess with spaghetti and sauce. They like to eat at the table and enjoy eating with their family. They will let you know when it’s dinner time. Avocado and chocolate are toxic to any parrot.


   A roomy cage is needed for the Mexican Red-headed Parrot. Amazon parrot cages must not be too confining, so get one that your pet will be able to feel comfortable in. It is their territory and their safe place.This parrot likes to climb and play, and enjoys expanding its wings. It is recommended that a cage be 2 x 3 feet wide and between 2 1/2 to 5 feet high, preferably with a play pen top. Red-crowned Amazons also like to climb so a hanging perch above its cage is a wonderful addition for your friend.

   These Amazons can tolerate varying temperatures, but they need to be kept away from any drafts. They love to be out of their cage on a playpen, and will enjoy interacting with their human as well as playing with toys. A variety of perches should be used of varying size and texture. A rougher textured perch instead of the smooth, doll-rod types, makes it easier for them to perch and is better for their feet and legs. A concrete perch can be placed as the highest perch in the cage and next to a toy. At times during the day they will perch there and it will save them (and you) from the ordeal of having their nails filed.

  Don’t forget bathing.  Spraying your amazon with warm water or a commercially available bird bath is necessary to keep the feathers from drying out.  .


   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.

Red-crowned Amazon Amazona viridigenalis, also called Green-cheeked Amazon and Mexican Red-headed Parrot“Chico” Green-cheeked Amazon Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy David Brough

Social Behaviors

   In the wild, Green-cheeked Amazons gather in large flocks from twenty to a hundred individuals. Pairs are not necessarily discernable. The flock remains active throughout most of the day and takes a rest if necessary in the treetops. Their flight is in a compact formation. They are found in pairs or in colonies.

   These parrots enjoy human interaction as well as interaction with other birds. They like to be greeted when you come into the room. They like to eat at the table and will let you know when it’s dinner time. They are quite content and comfortable to be on a perch and in the company of its humans. Whether watching TV or eating dinner, the Green-cheeked Amazon wants to be with you. A greater attachment also develops between you and your feathered friend the more you are together.


   The Green-cheeked Amazon quickly becomes accustomed to a new environment and its keeper, and is then ready to start bird training. Generally though, 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.

   For information about training your Green-cheeked Amazon see: Amazon Parrot Care: Handling and Training


  The Green-cheeked Amazon is a more contented amazon and will just enjoy being around you. He likes plenty of toys, wants new toys, and will play with his toys.  A perch made available to him so he can watch TV with you and eat dinner with you is wonderful.

Sexing – Sexual Differences

   It is said that the males have larger areas of color in the scarlet and lilac on their heads but the only way to be certain of the sex is through sexing the bird. If gender identification is important (for example for breeding birds) DNA / Feather or surgical sexing is recommended.


   The Green-cheeked or Red-crowned Amazons have been breeding successfully in captivity since the 1970’s. They are sexually mature at around 5 years old, but the sexes must be confirmed and the pair must be harmonious, bonded with each other. 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.

   The hen will lay two to four eggs (sometimes 5) which she will incubate for about 29 days. The young will leave the nest at proximately 9 weeks old. In some cases the female will not feed all the chicks so a breeder will be feeding some from day one.

Potential Problems

   Most birds will call out to other members of the flock first thing in the morning. They call out again right before sunset. This is their good morning and their alert that night is coming. The Green-cheeked Amazons are no exception to this. They will make noise first thing in the morning and right before the sun goes down.

   “Sometimes they will even let you know about 15 minutes before a major storm comes in. That is the nature of an amazon and many other birds. It is just something you adjust to. The alert cries and squawks last about 10 minutes. One time I yelled back at my Panama Amazon to “SHUT UP” and he just yelled back “NO”!”… Cheryl Galloway.

   A Green-cheeked Amazon when well cared for will seldom become ill. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:

  • ruffled plumage
  • listlessness
  • drooping wings
  • sagging body
  • extreme mood changes
  • having no appetite
  • bulges in feathering
  • partially closed or watery eyes
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • rasping
  • difficulty breathing
  • excessive saliva
  • dirty vent
  • any change in the feces not apparently diet related.

   Some of the more common illnesses are:

  • Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
  • bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • feather picking (results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, lack of bathing)
  • allergies
  • chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
  • beak malformations in chicks
  • Papillomas
  • kidney disease (gout)
  • toxicity
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • lipomas in older birds.

   If you notice any of these bird illnesses in your Green-cheeked Amazon, immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.


   The Green-cheeked or Red-crowned Amazon is readily available and it should be easy to find one in a pet store or from breeders in your area. They are not as expensive as most of the other amazons, probably because they do not speak as well. However, their affectionate nature certainly makes up for that.


 Grünwangenamazone Kopf (Image Credit: 3268zauber, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)