Funny and engaging, green-cheeked Amazon parrots can make wonderful pets for the right owners. Also known as the Mexican red-headed parrot, they are intelligent, affectionate, and playful, and some learn to become excellent talkers. These birds have a mild temperament compared to other Amazons and more than anything else will simply want to be near you and their human flock.
Common Names: Green-cheeked Amazon, green cheek Amazon, Mexican redhead parrot, red-crowned Amazon
Scientific Name: Amazona viridigenalis
Adult Size: 13 inches in length
Life Expectancy: 60 to 70 years in captivity
Origin and History
Northeastern Mexico is the green-cheeked Amazon's natural habitat. They primarily live in the woodlands and lowland forests of the area. Social animals, their flocks can grow to over 100 birds and you will know when one's nearby because of their loud calls while in flight.
In the wild, the green-cheeked is an endangered species with somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 known to remain. The population decline has been due largely to illegal trapping for the pet trade as well as habitat destruction. They have, however, been introduced to southern California where growing flocks can often be seen in urban areas. Feral populations are also known to live in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
Playful and sweet, hand-fed green-cheeked Amazon parrots are good family pets that enjoy interacting with everyone. They are mild-mannered and perfectly happy hanging out with their people around the house. They may join you for some TV time and many enjoy eating dinner at the table. Petting is also frequently welcomed.
These birds have a streak of curiosity that some owners say makes them more prone to mischief-making than some other Amazon species. They have been known to chew electrical wires around the house, so supervision and positive distractions are required when out of the cage.
While green-cheeked Amazons are known as comical, good-natured birds, some may go through a hormonal bluffing stage as they go through adolescence. It typically lasts for no more than two years, though the birds may become a little temperamental during this time. It will require patience on the owner's part but does pass.
Green-cheeked Amazons are not as independent or feisty as other Amazons, but they will have their moments. Luckily, they generally let you know when they want to be left alone. Watch for the bird's feathers to fan out and his pupils to constrict in an expression known as the "blazing eye."
For vocalizations, you can expect a 10-minute call every morning and again at sunset. It's in the bird's nature and generally something you have to deal with. Many green-cheeks can become good talkers with consistent training, though sound mimicry is their strong suit. Just be careful, some individuals can get sassy and owners have reported a little back talk at times.
Colors and Markings
Green-cheeked Amazons are primarily dark green with a bright red blaze that extends over their beak and forehead. There is a patch of brilliant blue behind their eyes that trails down the neck in some individuals. The undersides of the tail feathers are lime green to yellow, and they have horn-colored beaks and flesh-colored legs.
It is nearly impossible to distinguish males from females because this is a monomorphic bird species. If you can get two side-by-side, you might notice that a male is slightly larger and that the red and blue patches on his face are bigger. That said, the only way to ensure the sex of the birds is through DNA or surgical sexing.
Social interaction is necessary for any Amazon parrot and the green-cheeked is no different. Birds that don't receive enough handling and affection can develop destructive behaviors and even become depressed. This can lead to self-mutilation in the form of feather plucking or other physical and emotional health problems.
All of that can be prevented as long as owners of a green-cheeked Amazon are committed to spending time with their bird. Unlike other pets, parrots need daily one-on-one interaction that lasts at least a few hours. This will not only keep the bird happy and healthy in captivity, but it also establishes a strong bond that is personally rewarding to the owner and bird.
As a medium-sized parrot, the green-cheeked is going to require a substantial cage. They love to climb and should have room to stretch their wings while inside. A minimum size is 2 by 3 feet and 3 to 5 feet tall. The more space you can provide, the happier your bird will be.
Inside the cage, provide your bird with lots of stuff to keep him busy. Perches at various heights, ladders, and a variety of toys are necessary. A birdbath or water mister will also help keep the feathers from drying out and give him an extra place to play. Everything in the cage should be cleaned regularly to prevent diseases.
Keep in mind, too, that a parrot is not an inexpensive pet. They are exotic but their needs are great and they deserve the best you can give them. Between housing, food, toys, veterinarian bills, and everything else that comes along with adopting one, the cost can add up quickly.
To ensure that this is the right bird for your family, it's a good idea to visit them at a local breeder. You'll be able to observe and interact with the birds and learn more about their personality before making a final decision. In fairness to the bird, all prospective owners really need to contemplate if their lifestyle is a good fit for this species.
Like all Amazon parrots, green-cheeked Amazons do best on a high-quality pelleted diet, supplemented with seed mix and daily servings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables. A fresh and varied diet will help ensure that your bird maintains top nutrition.
A habit ingrained in the green-cheeked in the wild, these birds are known to be wasteful of fresh foods. They will pick a fruit, take a few bites, then drop it to the ground. This can create a big mess in the cage so owners will have to work with their bird. Chopping fruit and vegetables and providing a stimulating, diverse mix can help out a lot.
Amazon parrots are prone to excess weight gain, so it's important that they are allowed room to exercise every day. If you want a green-cheeked Amazon, you should be able to give it a minimum of three to four hours outside of its cage per day. This will allow the bird to burn excess calories and stretch its muscles, on top of providing essential mental stimulation.
Remember that these birds are very playful so they will do best with lots of activities. Training is a fun way to interact with them and their intelligence makes them quick learners for fun bird tricks as well as mimicry and speech.
Out of the cage, a play stand can let your bird enjoy the family's activities from a safe perch to call his own. This can also thwart naughty behavior, especially if he has toys that are more interesting than the things around your house.
These birds love to chew as much as they enjoy climbing. Placing toys at different heights in the cage and on the play stand will give your bird plenty to explore. Rotate toys regularly and replace any that become too worn. Having a ready supply of wood, leather, rope, bells, and other bird-safe toys will ensure your bird never becomes bored.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
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