This medium-sized parrot with the lengthy name is one of the most popular pet species of the Amazon parrot group, thanks to its striking color and its unsurpassed mimicry ability. The double yellow-headed Amazon parrot can even learn to mimic opera singing, which may be why it has been a popular pet for centuries.
Common Name: Double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, yellow-headed parrot, yellow-headed Amazon
Scientific Name: Amazona oratrix
Adult Size: From 14 to 16 inches, one of the larger parrot varieties
Life Expectancy: 60 years old on average; some can live 80 years or more under ideal conditions
Origin and History
Native to Mexico and Central and South America, this parrot's natural habitat is forests and woods near water. Habitat destruction and trapping for the pet trade have severely compromised the numbers of the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot in the wild; only a few thousand wild birds remain.
The International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources classifies this bird as an endangered species. International treaties now make it illegal to capture, export, or own wild-caught birds. Captive-bred birds can be legally sold and owned, though documentation is required.
A few introduced wild groups of double yellow-headed Amazon parrots live in diverse locations, including Stuttgart, Germany, and several locations in southern California.
When hand-fed from a young age, these birds can be affectionate pets. They're intelligent, have remarkable "speaking" ability, and they love to be the center of attention. However, problems may occur when an owner is unwilling or unable to give the parrot the attention it demands.
Like many parrots, double yellow-headed Amazons may go through a hormonal bluffing stage as they approach sexual maturity (age 4 months to 1 year). They can become aggressive and may lunge and bite at people during this phase. The bluffing behavior can last for several months (and sometimes up to two years). If you have small children who will be interacting with the bird, it may be better to choose a different species if you plan to get a young or adolescent parrot.
The double yellow-headed Amazon tends to bond with one designated family member. You can avoid this by making sure that multiple family members handle the bird regularly, especially when it is young. Hand-feeding by all family members will reduce the bird's tendency to bond with only one person.
Speech and Vocalizations
This species is the best mimic of all the Amazon parrots and is second only to the African gray parrot in its ability to learn words and phrases.
It is also a noisy, boisterous bird, prone to screaming sessions twice a day, at dawn and dusk. These loud vocalizations are normal for this species. Screaming can become a problem if the bird screams all day long, which can happen if the bird is bored due to a lack of attention or mental stimulation.
Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Colors and Markings
As its name suggests, this bird has a yellow head; the rest of its body is green. There is a ring of white around the eyes, and the beak is horn-colored. In young birds, the head includes some dark gray, but gradually, the crown becomes steadily more yellow with each molt. In young birds, there are small areas of red on the shoulder. The adult head color does not fully set in until the bird is at least 6 years old. The ratio of yellow may gradually increase as the bird ages.
Males and females look the same. To tell them apart, your bird will need genetic testing or surgical sexing procedure.
Caring for the Double Yellow-Headed Amazon
The double yellow-headed Amazon is an athletic bird that likes to clamber around its given area, and it loves to fly if there is enough space. It is a strong bird that can be destructive; cage materials should be sturdy steel. Give your bird the largest cage that is practical and fill it with toys. At a bare minimum, a cage should be 3 feet square with a play gym on the top. Equip the cage with perches of various dimensions.
Make sure to provide this bird with toys that can be joyfully torn apart, such as items made from wood, leather, and acrylic. An obliterated toy equals success to a bird; it's satisfying to them. Without enough toys to shred, this bird may set its sights on furniture and other belongings. Challenging toys are a must for this bird: a bored double yellow-headed Amazon will quickly become a destructive one.
All Amazon parrots thrive on social interaction, and they need it to remain healthy and happy. Neglected birds can become destructive and depressed, which can manifest itself in various physical and emotional problems. To establish and maintain healthy bonds, you must set aside time each day for one-on-one interaction. The double yellow-headed Amazon is capable of learning many words and phrases and is notable for learning songs, especially opera.
Allow the parrots to shower or soak in a birdbath at least weekly to ensure skin and feather health.
Common Health Issues
Amazon birds are generally healthy, long-lived birds, but they are prone to several diseases:
- Polyomavirus, a viral infection that can cause anorexia and weight loss
- Chlamydiosis, a bacterial infection that presents with fluffed feathers and nasal discharge
- Nutritional deficiencies (vitamin A) or obesity; a balanced diet and regular exercise can keep this in check.
Diet and Nutrition
Amazon parrots eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and vegetation in the wild. In captivity, a double yellow-headed needs a high-quality pelleted diet supplemented with seed mix and daily servings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables. A varied diet will help ensure that your bird is getting the balanced nutrition it needs.
Feed approximately 3/4 cup of pelleted food and 1/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. A raw and varied diet will help ensure that your bird maintains top nutrition.
Make sure the bird is offered foods high in vitamin A; this bird is prone to deficiency. Calcium is also vital for the double yellow-headed Amazon parrot.
Amazon parrots are prone to excess weight gain, so they must be allowed daily exercise. To properly care for a double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, you should be able to give it a minimum of 3 to 4 hours of supervised outside-of-cage time per day. As with any species, regular exercise will allow the bird to burn excess calories and stretch its muscles; it also provides essential mental stimulation.
Social, affectionate, loyal
Intelligent, a great mimic and talker
Can get loud when it wants to
Needs at least 3 to 4 hours of socialization, exercise daily
Where to Adopt or Buy a Double Yellow-Headed Amazon
If you're interested in owning a double yellow-headed Amazon, contact local bird breeders to see if you can schedule a visit with them and their birds. It's unlikely you'll be able to find a healthy (and authentic) double yellow-headed Amazon at most pet stores. If you can get to know the bird a little before bringing it home, you'll gain a little insight into whether it will be a good fit for your lifestyle.
Before purchasing a double yellow-headed Amazon from a bird store or breeder, check animal shelters and rescue organizations. They can cost from $2,000 to $3,000 from a breeder. Online resources can point you in the right direction of breeders or rescues:
If buying through a breeder, make sure you interview the breeder, look at the general health of their birds, check out their living conditions, and talk to past customers. Signs you should avoid the breeder include cramped living conditions, inactive birds, and breeders who avoid your questions or do not seem to have much information on their birds.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
The double yellow-headed Amazon parrot shares similar characteristics with other Amazon parrots, including the:
Otherwise, check out all of our other Amazon parrot species profiles.
Yellow-headed Amazon. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Parrots Are Forever. University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
Bathing Birds. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Disorders Affecting Multiple Body Systems of Pet Birds. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Amazon Parrots - Feeding. VCA Animal Hospitals.