Amazon:Family- Psittacidae-Genus-Amazona, several subspecies
There are several different subspecies in this category with marked coloration and anatomical differences, but the most common found in captivity are the Double Yellow Head, Yellow Naped, Blue Fronted and Lilac Fronted. They can be gregarious and social. They love interaction, especially noise, and can be a great companion. People are often intimidated by the large size of the majority of these birds. It is important to understand that while they are not outwardly aggressive they can unintentionally inflict significant damage with their large beak.
Natural Habitat: Caribbean, Central and South America
Body Weight: can vary according to subspecies
Age of Sexual Maturity: 2-5 years old
Life Span: 30-60 years old
Clutch Size: varies
Incubation Period: varies
Husbandry (the general care, necessities and special considerations) and dietary requirements are very important for these parrots.
Enclosure/Cage (i.e., size, perches and substrates/bedding, etc.)
This is a very important consideration and limiting factor for many hobbyists as the larger species will require a significant amount of space and cost for their enclosures. The cage should be large enough for the bird to have adequate mobility and be able to spread the wings out completely without coming into contact with the cage bars. Multiple perches of varying diameter should be available and positioned to prevent food and water contamination with fecal material. This will inevitably happen regardless of our efforts, so it is important to change water and food daily if possible. The positioning of the perches is also very important. Most birds like to spend the majority of their time on the highest perch. Be sure not to make this perch the widest or largest perch, as this can lead to pressure sores over time. Ideally it should allow for 3/4 of the birds foot to wrap around the perch. Note: Avoid birdy buddies, happy huts, tents, boxes or any other structure that may mimic/resemble a nest or cavity. These structures will only stimulate unwanted and unhealthy reproductive behavior in both male and female birds.
The recommended cage bedding should consist of newspaper or other paper product. Newspaper is inexpensive and readily available, in addition the ink is soy-based and non-toxic. We discourage the use of grates in the cage since birds are rarely found at the bottom of the cage (e.g., if a bird is found at the bottom of the cage this is usually an indicator that they are sick). While grates may prevent contact to bedding, they can accumulate a significant amount of fecal material if not cleaned/checked daily. Keeping the environment clean by changing papers at bottom of cage, and cleaning bowls is of vital importance as unsanitary conditions provide ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus. This is one of the principal reasons why organic substrates (walnut shells, corn cob, etc.) are NOT recommended.
Toys and other enrichment may be placed in cage, but the furniture should not prevent adequate movement around the cage. Be sure to avoid objects that may contain zinc or lead as these metals are toxic to birds. Mental enrichment allows for a better socialized and interactive pet. Birds spend the majority of their day foraging and looking for food. Therefore, it is important to encourage captive birds to occupy their time with healthy, beneficial and natural activities. Failure to do so may result in difficult situations, including feather destruction, mutilation, biting/re-directed aggression, etc. For an example of foraging toys click here or visitwww.birdsafestore.com.
An adequate diet should consist of a primarily pelleted ration (Harrison’s Bird Food, Zupreem, Roudybush, etc.) and supplemented with vegetables rich in vitamin A, and calcium. Fruits such as berries and melons can be offered in moderation. Try to avoid: white breads, white pasta, white rice, corn, potatoes or anything else of a soft consistency as this can mimic regurgitated food from a mate. Foods rich in simple sugars should also be given in small quantities (e.g., apples, oranges). Foods high in fat contribute to a hormonal elevation since fat stores are built up just prior to their reproductive season in the wild.
Both preening and bathing are natural behaviors inherent to all birds. In addition to being a normal behavior, it serves to occupy their time and improve the general condition of skin and feathers, as well as providing hydration to their nares (i.e., nostrils). Amazons come from a naturally humid environment. If we do not attempt to mimic this in captivity problems can develop such as dry skin, feather destruction/over grooming, rhinoliths or nose stones and obstructed nares. It is recommended that your bird should receive or at least be offered a bath 2-3 times a week if possible. Baths are especially important during the dry winter months and should not be skipped.
Nail Trims: Even if rough, sand or concrete perches are provided often birds require routine nail trims. The tip of the nail should be even with and form a straight line with the toe pad. Failure to maintain this could result in improper stance causing sores on the bottom of the feet (“bumble foot” or pododermatitis).
Wing Trims: It is always a good idea to maintain your birds wings trimmed. This is solely for the safety of both you and your bird, it does not hurt and should not be considered cruel or inhumane. Feathers are like hair and will eventually grow back. Birds can become spooked or excited and fly out an open door or window. Once outside the bird may become disoriented in the new environment and seek the highest perch, which is often a tree branch well out of reach, or just continue to fly/glide away. Since they have never been outside and in an unfamiliar environment they will not know how to find their way back home. Some owners may desire to keep their birds fully flighted. Keeping your birds fully flighted is a personal decision, but owners should use caution and be aware of the potential consequences. In certain circumstances not trimming the wings may be recommended by your veterinarian.
Beak Trims: In most circumstances birds do not require beak trims. They may be required if your bird has a malocclusion (e.g., scissor beak), abnormal growth as a result of previous trauma or some other pathologic condition.
There are three components to bird droppings. There is a liquid portion – urine, a white paste – urates, and feces – typically the largest portion of the dropping and will be either a green or brownish tubular shaped substance. NOTE: a quick way to tell if your bird is eating is to observe the droppings. The stool/fecal component should be the largest portion. If there is consistently more urates and urine, then it is a good indication that your bird may not be eating as well as you would think.
Common Disease Syndromes
Chronic Egg Laying:
Females may interpret a toy, mirror or even you or other member of the household – “flock.” Like chickens they are capable of laying eggs without the presence of a male. These eggs are not viable as they have not been fertilized, but the risk is still the same. Chronic egg laying is a significant drain on energy and calcium stores and can lead to pathologic fractures and the life threatening condition referred most commonly to as “egg binding.”
Respiratory infections can be common. Decreased humidity and poor nutrition can lead to this condition. Rhinoliths (nose stones – severe accumulation of debris) are the most common condition associated with the decreased humidity and infrequent bathing. Treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying cause and elimination of any bacterial or fungal infection present.
A condition common among Amazons. It consists of benign epithelial tumors that grow in finger-like projections on internal mucosal surfaces primarily within the gastrointestinal tract and urogenital system. These finger-like projections cause significant discomfort when the animal defecates and can even inhibit the ability to defecate. Symptoms include: straining to defecate, vocalizing when passing stool, large infrequent stool, blood in stool, etc.
A high incidence of tumors is commonly seen in older birds. Some common tumors include tumors of the liver and skin. Lipomas, fatty based tumors, are commonly seen in Amazons. Surgical removal may be discussed as a treatment option.
This condition results from too much pressure being placed on certain areas of the feet and is exacerbated by obesity. The tissue, muscle and skin in these areas are not designed to sustain the entire weight of the body. As a result, the area initially becomes red and inflamed, then can become an open wound and eventually infected. This condition can usually be attributed to incorrect perch size, obesity, arthritis, anatomical abnormalities, trauma, etc.
Internal and external parasites are relatively uncommon in Amazons. If you are concerned about parasites contact your veterinarian.
Birds may vocalize for a number of different reasons. In the wild, vocalization may be used to locate flock members and warn of potential dangers. Amazons are known for their extensive vocabulary and ability to speak and will spend a good portion of their day vocalizing. Often owners believe their parrot is vocalizing excessively or due to pain. To properly deal with this issue, a thorough evaluation of the patient, home environment, and social interaction with family must be conducted before specific recommendations can be made.
Physical violence between birds is almost non-existent in the wild. Birds rely heavily on non-verbal communication and various display behaviors to resolve issues within the flock. In captivity, biting is mainly a learned behavior in response to a negative stimulus. Some species learn to bite readily and care must be taken to avoid re-enforcing this behavior. For extremely aggressive birds, stick training and other positive re-enforcing activities may be used to help alleviate this undesirable behavior.
An uncommon problem among Amazons. Feather destruction is also known as feather picking, feather chewing or feather mowing. This can be a very complex and multifaceted issue. While it can initiate as a result of a medical condition it does have a large behavioral component as well, which makes treatment and diagnosis very difficult. If it is not solely related to a medical problem it is most likely that it will only be controlled but never completely resolved. It can become an extension of normal grooming/preening, in addition to becoming an attention grabbing behavior (e.g., bird picks or mutilates, you come running or yell, to the bird this is a positive reaction and well worth the damage).
Amazon Foot necrosis is a poorly understood condition consisting of a dermatitis (inflammation or irritation of the skin) with resulting self mutilation of the feet. The disease is frequently seen with birds housed in smoking households. Recurrence of the disease can also be related to seasonality, typically during the warmer months. Like feather destruction it can be a very difficult condition to diagnose and treat.
Blood feathers are a normal stage of development for every feather on the bird’s body. As a new feather grows there is a purple/blue shaft that contains a blood supply. Some birds will injure these shafts either by falling or thrashing in the cage. The blood-filled shaft is broken/cracked and bleeding occurs. These immature feathers are sensitive and can be painful when broken. The largest feathers on the body are wing feathers and tail feathers. These are the blood feathers most often broken by birds. Frequently, broken blood feathers need to be pulled out in order to stop bleeding. A clotting surface such as flour, cornstarch or styptic powder will aid in the hemostasis and stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure to any blood feather that has been pulled out. Pain management is also an important part of blood feather treatment. If left untreated, the blood feather may continue to bleed and cause discomfort.