Amazon Parrot: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Parrot standing on a branch and looking ahead.

Michel Gunther / Biosphoto / Getty Images

An Amazon parrot is a classification of several different kinds of parrots that originally hail from the Amazon. There are more than 30 different species of Amazons; 10 types are common as pets. These medium- to large-sized exotic birds can live for up to 50 years. They require consistent attention, exercise, and training, especially if you want a less noisy, gentle bird. Several species are pretty good talkers and mimics, too.

Species Overview

Common Names: Double yellow-headed Amazons, yellow-naped Amazons, yellow-fronted Amazons, blue-fronted Amazons, orange-winged Amazons, green-cheeked Amazons, Panama Amazons, white-fronted Amazons (spectacled Amazons), mealy Amazons, red lored Amazons, and lilac-crowned Amazons

Scientific Name: Amazona

Adult Size: Amazons are medium- to large-sized parrots. Depending on the species, they measure about 10 to 20 inches in length from beak to tail.

Life Expectancy: With good care, most Amazon species live 50 years or more.

Origin and History

Their natural habitat can range from South America to Mexico and into the Caribbean. In the wild, the Amazon parrot’s natural habitats include savannas, palm groves, scrub forest, and rainforest.

Because many were poached from the wild, some species have become extinct. Most of the remaining Amazon species are threatened by extinction due to the pet trade. An international treaty at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has made the capture of wild parrots for the pet trade illegal. If you are thinking of getting an Amazon, make sure you work with a certified parrot breeder, rescue, or adoption agency.

Temperament

Amazons are brilliant and playful birds that love being the center of attention. They need lots of affection and time with their owners. They are curious, athletic, and seem to enjoy entertaining their owners with clownish antics. Hand-fed Amazon parrots typically make loving, affectionate pets.

Amazon parrots are somewhat moody once they reach sexual maturity and can become fairly aggressive if not trained and handled correctly. Some male Amazon parrots may display "macho" behavior by strutting around, flashing their feathers, or making pinpoints with their pupils.

This adolescent, hormone-fueled bluffing stage is typical in all Amazons. The stage starts as they approach sexual maturity (age 4 months to 1 year). While the phase does pass, it can sometimes last for up to two years. During the bluffing stage, Amazons may bite and show other aggressive behaviors. It's more apparent in males, and some birds act out more than others. Because of this, you may want to consider a female parrot. In general, a young or adolescent Amazon is not the best bird for families with children.

An Amazon parrot uses body language to indicate its mood. For example, an excitable Amazon parrot might be indicating it does not want to be handled, and failure to recognize this might result in a bite.

Speech and Vocalizations

Blue-fronted, double-yellow headed, and yellow-naped Amazons are considered the best talkers of the Amazon family. The can speak with clarity and even understand the context. In general, most Amazon species can learn to talk, a majority of the species are mumblers or will jumble the words.

As for other vocalizations, Amazons can be quite noisy and loud. Amazons are also good screamers and screechers, though not as loud as cockatoos or macaws. These loud vocalizations are how the birds communicated with the flock—usually indicating danger, anger, excitement, or calling for attention.

Amazon Parrot Colors and Markings

Most Amazon parrots have a green body. Depending on the exact species, they have distinct feather colorings on their head and forehead. These colors can range from red, lilac, yellow, purple, blue, and more. Others display various colors on their shoulders, tail feathers, and beaks.

In general, Amazon parrots are monomorphic, meaning that you cannot tell males and females apart by looking at them. Some Amazon parrots are dimorphic, or physically distinguishable between male and females in subtle ways. The white-fronted Amazon and blue-fronted Amazons have slightly different coloration of their plumage. To accurately determine the sex, your bird would require a surgical sexing procedure or a DNA test; the latter is cheaper and less invasive.

Caring for Amazon Parrots

All species of Amazon parrots are long-lived as most large birds are. You can expect a healthy Amazon to live around 50 years or even longer with good nutrition and care, so plan accordingly.

An Amazon parrot needs a spacious cage. Included in the cage should be toys and swings spread out within the cage, as well as a play gym/play tree, climbing rope, or ladders to scale. This equipment will encourage movement and exercise. The minimum cage size should be 24 inches by 36 inches and 48 inches tall with bar spacing of 3/4 to 1 inch. An aviary or safe free flight area is ideal.

Besides the initial purchase of the bird, the cage, and food, the bulk of your remaining expenses will be for toys for your pet parrot. Being very playful, Amazons need lots of sturdy toys. Plan to go through a lot of toys over the lifetime of your bird. Think about bird toy safety when you choose toys. Amazons particularly like to chew toys and hold toys with their feet.

Most Amazon parrots love to bathe. Regular bathing helps to keep the bird's feathers in good shape. These birds enjoy joining their owner in the shower, getting a spray bath with a spray bottle, or jumping in a water dish and splashing water all around.

Common Health Problems

Amazons are relatively healthy, long-lived birds but are susceptible to the following conditions:

  • Feather-plucking behavior, usually a result of neglect or lack of mental/physical stimulation
  • Psittacosis, also called parrot fever, an infection caused by chlamydia bacteria
  • Poor eating habits and obesity, which are easily avoided with a healthy, balanced diet and regular, daily exercise

Diet and Nutrition

Amazon parrots eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and vegetation in the wild. As a pet, your Amazon should eat a balanced, formulated pelleted bird food and fresh fruits and vegetables. Feed approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pelleted food and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. You can offer more or less food, depending on your bird's size, activity level, and weight gain.

Seeds and nuts are too high in fat for Amazons. You can give them as treats, but they should make up no more than 10 percent of their whole diet. To keep your bird healthy, make sure you provide the right nutritional requirements daily. Always clean out water bowls every day and offer fresh water.

Exercise

An Amazon's love of food and its skills at begging often result in overweight pet parrots. An Amazon needs at least 3 hours of daily outside-the-cage time to burn excess calories and stretch his muscles. Expect your bird to get its exercise from a well-stocked cage and interesting play gym; these should encourage movement and activity.

They are very intelligent creatures and also need mental exercise. Puzzle toys are essential for a parrot's mental stimulation. If the bird feels neglected, it may resort to unwanted behaviors like feather plucking or excessive screeching.

Pros
  • Social, affectionate, loyal

  • Intelligent, most can be trained to talk

  • Long-lived bird

Cons
  • Can get loud when it wants to

  • May have biting, aggressive period during its adolescence; not recommended for families with young children

Where to Adopt or Buy an Amazon Parrot

Because these birds have a long lifespan, many owners cannot continue to care for them, and in some cases, the parrots may outlive their owners. Before reaching out to a reputable breeder, you might want to look at rescues and adoption centers that specialize in rehoming parrots. Some online sources where you can find Amazon parrots include:

Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and a full crop. They should provide you with information about the parent birds as well as give you plenty of information about the bird's current daily routine, diet, and answer all your questions without hesitation.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you are interested in learning more about other bird species, check out some other common bird groups:

Otherwise, check out all of our other large bird species profiles.