Green-Cheeked Amazon (Mexican Red-Crowned) Parrot: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Red-crowned Amazon parrot staring at the camera.

Heather Paul / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Funny and engaging, green-cheeked Amazon parrots can make excellent 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. More than anything, they want to be near you or their human flock.

Species Overview

Common Names: Green-cheeked Amazon, red-crowned Amazon, Mexican red-headed parrot, red-headed Amazon

Scientific Name: Amazona viridigenalis

Adult Size: 11 to 13 inches with a wingspan of 15 to 16 inches

Life Expectancy: 50 years with proper care, and sometimes as long as 70 years

Origin and History

Northeastern Mexico is the green-cheeked Amazon's natural habitat. The birds primarily live in the woodlands and lowland forests of the area. Social animals, their flocks can grow to more than 100 birds. You can often hear a flock is nearby before you can see it; it makes loud calls while in flight.

In the wild, the green-cheeked is an endangered species with only 3,000 and 6,000 left. Its population decline is due primarily to illegal trapping for the pet trade as well as habitat destruction. This species also lives in urban areas of southern California, and feral flocks exist in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.

Temperament

Playful and sweet, hand-fed green-cheeked Amazon parrots are good family pets that enjoy interacting with everyone. They are mild-mannered and appear content when they spend time with their handlers. They may join you while watching television or at the dinner table and are fans of handling and petting.

Curious and nosy, they are prone to mischief-making more than some other Amazon species. They may chew electrical wires around the house. 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. This period can last for up to two years; the birds may become a little temperamental during this time. Be patient; it will pass.

Green-cheeked Amazons are not as independent or feisty as other Amazons, but they will have their moments of wanting to be left alone. Signs to watch for include the bird's feathers fanning out and "blazing eye" constricting pupils.

Highly intelligent, they can quickly learn entertaining bird tricks, as well as words and phrases. They are also very noisy.

Speech and Vocalizations

Expect a loud 10-minute announcement every morning and evening. It's in the bird's nature to call out to its flock at those times. Many green-cheeked Amazons can become good talkers with consistent training. They are excellent mimics. Just be careful, as some individuals can get sassy, and owners have reported a little backtalk at times.

Green-Cheeked Amazon Parrot 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 or yellow. They have horn-colored beaks and flesh-colored legs.

It is nearly impossible to distinguish males from females. 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 its face are more significant. That said, the only way to be sure of the sex of the birds is through DNA or surgical sexing.

Caring for a Green-Cheeked Amazon Parrot

Social interaction is necessary for any Amazon parrot; the green-cheeked is no different. Birds that don't receive enough handling and affection can develop destructive behaviors and become depressed. Emotional distress can lead to self-mutilation in the form of feather plucking and skin picking.

Unlike other pets, parrots need one-on-one interaction for a few hours every day. This activity keeps the bird happy and healthy in captivity, and it establishes a strong, rewarding bond for the owner and bird.

As a medium-sized parrot, the green-cheeked Amazon requires a substantial cage. They love to climb and should have room to stretch their wings while inside. The minimum size is 2 feet by 3 feet and up to 3 or 5 feet tall; the more space you can provide, the better.

Inside the cage, place the bird's perches at various heights and provide ladders and a variety of toys. At least once a week, your bird will appreciate a bath to help keep its feathers from drying out. A birdbath gives your bird an extra place to play. A handheld mister or spray bottle counts as enjoyable interaction time with your feathered friend.

A parrot is an expensive pet. It is not only the initial cost of the bird, but also factor in cage cost, toys, food, and annual visits to the avian veterinarian. The costs can add up quickly.

Common Health Problems

Most parrots that are stressed will feather-pluck out of boredom or lack of interaction. Inadequate diet, toxic exposures, and infections can also cause feather plucking.

In general, Amazons are prone to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections like psittacosis and aspergillosis. Also, this species will become overweight and can develop fatty liver disease if it does not get sufficient exercise or if it does not have a well-balanced diet.

Diet and Nutrition

A green-cheeked Amazon's diet in the wild consists mainly of seeds, fruits, berries, flowers, and nectar. As pets, green-cheeked Amazons should have a high-quality pelleted food supplemented with a seed mix and daily servings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Pelleted food is specially formulated to contain most of the bird's daily nutritional requirements; make it 75 percent of your bird's daily food intake. Provide at least 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pellet food per day. You can give more or less depending on your bird's appetite.

Chopped fruit and vegetables provide a stimulating, diverse mix of nutrients. This "chop" should comprise at least 20 percent of the bird's diet. These birds are known to be wasteful with fresh foods, which is a habit they have inherited from living in the wild. They will pick a fruit, take a few bites, then drop it to the ground. This bad habit can create a big mess in the cage. Food should not be left to linger in your bird’s enclosure. Any fresh foods that you place in your Amazon’s cage should be taken away after an hour or two.

On occasion or rotated every other day, you can provide a seed mix or treat the bird to a few nuts. Most Amazons love seeds and nuts, but this is a high-fat food to give sparingly.

Exercise

Since Amazon parrots are prone to obesity, you must make sure your bird gets 3 to 4 hours of daily exercise. This enables the bird to burn excess calories and stretch its muscles. It also provides essential mental stimulation.

These birds are exceptionally playful, so they will thrive on a schedule of activities. Training is a fun way to interact with them.

Out of the cage, a play stand will let your bird enjoy the family's activities from a safe perch. This perch can also thwart naughty behavior, especially if it has toys that are more interesting than the things around your house.

Green-cheeked Amazons love to chew as much as they enjoy climbing. Place toys at different heights in the cage and at the play stand. When you provide an interesting play gym atmosphere, the bird can entertain itself. Rotate toys regularly and replace any that become too worn. Having a ready supply of wood, leather, rope, bells, and other bird-safe toys reduces the risk of boredom.

Pros

  • Intelligent, can talk and learn tricks

  • Affectionate, likes petting and holding

  • Long-lived species

Cons

  • Requires at least 3 to 4 hours of daily exercise, socialization

  • Can be noisy

  • Requires a large cage

Where to Adopt or Buy a Green-Cheeked Amazon Parrot

To ensure that a green-cheeked Amazon is the right bird for your family, visit a local breeder. Observe and interact with the birds to learn more about their personality before making a final decision.

When choosing a bird, it is best to select a hand-fed baby or at least a young bird accustomed to hand training. Look for a bird that is bright, alert, and active. Avoid a bird that is sitting quietly with puffed feathers; it might be ill. A well-handled young green-cheeked Amazon parrot can cost $250 to $2,000, depending on adoption fees or breeder price.

Online rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find green-cheeked Amazon parrots include:

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you’re interested in similar species, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other larger parrot species profiles.