Amazon Parrots

General Information

The colorful Amazon parrot (Amazona sp.) is the most common of all the pet parrots kept in captivity. They originate from Mexico, Central America, South America and the adjacent islands of the West Indies. There are numerous types of Amazon parrots. They are stocky, medium sized birds with a strong beak and short, rounded, blunt tail. These birds can be very personable and interactive. Amazons bond readily, often with one member of the family or specifically with males or females. This bond occasionally leads to aggression towards others. They are generally very affectionate and will often persistently solicit petting and head scratches. Widely recognized for their extraordinary ability to mimic, some amazons develop extensive vocabularies of words, songs, verses, whistles, sneezes, coughs and electronic sounds such as telephones and microwave oven beeps. Some species are prone to loud squawking, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. They are very playful and enjoy climbing and chewing. Providing non-toxic, washed, fresh branches and pet-safe toys will afford many hours of entertainment and exercise for this inquisitive pet. The Blue-fronted, Yellow-naped and Double Yellow-headed Amazons are best known for their talent to talk.

Some commonly kept Amazon parrots include the Double Yellow-head Amazon, Yellow-naped Amazon, Blue-fronted Amazon, Green-cheeked Amazon and Orange-winged Amazon.

Purchasing an Amazon Parrot

Amazons may be purchased from a pet store or a reputable breeder. When selecting an Amazon, try to choose a young bird, as it may be easier to tame and train. Older, wild, colony or parent raised birds may prove difficult to tame. Hand raised babies often make better pets since they have been completely socialized with humans. Young birds are easier to tame and adapt readily to new environments and situations. Your new bird should be exposed early to different events (young and old people, males and females, other pets, car trips, visits to the veterinarian, etc.) to help promote a calm, well-adjusted pet. After purchasing your new bird, have it examined by a veterinarian familiar with birds.

Veterinary Care

Amazons require regular, routine veterinary health check-ups. Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination, grooming (beak, nail or feather trim) and laboratory tests as needed. During these annual check-ups, health, nutritional, and maintenance issues can be identified and addressed. Veterinary check-ups help prevent disease and will aid in the maintenance of a long lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.

Color

Mature:
Green is the predominant body color with red, orange, yellow, white and blue adorning the head, wings and tail differently among the various species.

Immature
Somewhat less colorful

Sexing

Generally no reliable external sex differences

Weight

Average 10 - 20 ounces (300 - 600 grams)

Size

Average 10 - 20 inches (25 - 45 cm) in length

Life span

15 - 25 years (maximum 75 years)

Breeding

Sexual maturity at 3 - 6 years

Large environment is needed to breed this challenging bird

Brood Size

2 - 7 eggs hatch in 17 -31 days, young leave the nest in 4 - 8 weeks

Cage

Minimum 3 ft x 3 ft x 4 ft (60 cm x 90 cm x 120 cm) per bird

Feeding/Diet

Our knowledge of bird nutrition is constantly evolving. This is due to heightened awareness of the importance of nutrition plus increased research. As with all other animals, birds need a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. Different species of birds often require different foods.

Should I be concerned about what my Amazon eats?

Nutrition is commonly neglected with pet birds. Too often owners assume they are feeding a proper diet to their Amazon when in fact they are not. This is a common reason for many health problems. It is important to continually strive to improve your bird’s diet. This involves constantly educating yourself and a certain degree of common sense. It is not sufficient to feed an Amazon just to maintain life; instead, your goal should be to help it thrive and flourish. Your bird’s health depends on how well it is fed.

Discuss nutrition with your veterinarian!

What does an Amazon parrot naturally eat?

Amazon Parrots eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries and vegetation in the wild. They will clamber from branch to branch while feeding instead of flying. They especially treasure the fruits of the oil palm. Amazons are vulnerable to calcium and vitamin A deficiencies and obesity. A well balanced diet must be maintained at all times.

What should I feed my Amazon Parrot?

Seeds

Wild Amazon Parrots would have limited access to tropical seeds but a greater variety of seed types in the wild as different plants come into season. A commercial all seed diet tends to be high in fat and provides a decreased or imbalanced source of many nutrients that could lead to ill health and potentially shorten the life of your Amazon. Often, your bird will pick through a large bowl of commercial seed mix and selectively eat 1 or 2 “favorite” types of seeds. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are often chosen preferentially but are particularly high in fat and deficient in calcium, vitamin A and other nutrients. This leads to malnutrition. Seeds are highly palatable, preferentially sought after but nutritionally they are like giving candy to a child.

Seeds should only be a small part of a balanced diet, never the entire diet. A couple of nuts can be offered daily as well.

Pelleted Diets

Pellets have been developed to meet all your bird’s nutritional needs. Different formulations are available for different life stages and for the management of certain diseases. Hand raised babies are the easiest to start on a pelleted diet. Pellets are the ideal diet, therefore you are encouraged to slowly wean seed eating birds onto a pelleted diet. Pellets should ideally represent approximately 75-80% of the bird’s diet. There are many good brands of pelleted foods in the market place. Pellets come in different flavors, colors and shapes. Avoid highly colored pellets; food coloring is added to visually appeal to owners, it adds nothing to the nutritional value of the pellet, and occasional birds may develop allergies to these artificial coloring ingredients.

How do I convert my bird to a pelleted diet?

Converting seed eating birds (seed-aholics) onto a formulated diet is not always easy. Initially, pellets are not likely even identified as food. Slowly wean the bird off seeds over a period of 4-8 weeks while having pellets constantly available in a separate dish. Some people mix the pellets in a reduced amount of seed to aid its acceptance in the cage, but be aware that the bird will not accidentally eat a pellet. It may take days, weeks or months to modify a bird’s diet. NEVER withdraw seeds entirely without first being certain the bird is eating the pellets plus some fruits and vegetables. Birds are stubborn, but can be trained. This can be a stressful time for you and your Amazon.

Consult your veterinarian if encountering any problems with this transformation or the health of the bird.

Remember that you train the bird, do not let it train you.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits, vegetables, and greens should account for approximately 20 - 25% of the daily diet. Pale vegetables, with a high water composition (i.e. Iceberg lettuce, celery) offer very little nutritional value. Avocado is reported to be potentially toxic.

Fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly to remove chemicals. Cut them into manageable pieces depending on the size of the bird. It is not necessary to take the skin off. Offer fruits and vegetables in a separate dish. If your bird appears to develop a particular fancy for one food item, reduce its volume or stop feeding it temporarily to promote the eating of other foods.

Treat your bird like a small child; offer a small piece of a variety of food items daily and never stop trying.

Water

Fresh clean water must be available at all times. Depending on the quality of your tap water, consider the use of bottled water. Dishes must be cleaned thoroughly every day with soap and water.

What about people food?

As a general rule any wholesome, nutritious food that you and your family eat, your bird can eat. Follow the general guidelines discussed above and use your common sense. Some birds even enjoy a small amount of lean cooked meat, fish, or egg occasionally. Dairy products should be consumed only in moderation, if at all. It is common sense that junk food, chocolate, products containing caffeine, and alcoholic beverages be avoided.

Will my bird have any different needs throughout its life?

Birds that are extremely young, stressed, injured, laying eggs, or raising young may have certain special requirements. There are specially formulated pelleted foods available for birds with specific nutritional requirements. Consult your veterinarian regarding these situations.

Do I need to use a vitamin-mineral mixture?

Does your bird need extra vitamins, minerals or amino-acids? The powdered supplements are often regarded as more stable. Mix these supplements in water or preferably apply directly onto moist food. Placing these powders on seeds or dried foods is of little value since it will ultimately end up on the bottom of the food dish and not in the bird. A bird eating 75 - 80% of its diet in the form of pelleted food may not need supplements. Specific vitamins or minerals may be more important at various times during a bird’s life (e.g. egg laying requires calcium supplementation). Calcium supplements are available if your Amazon is determined to be deficient.

Your veterinarian can help you assess your bird’s diet and its particular needs.

Does my bird need gravel or grit?

Controversy exists over the need for gravel. It was once believed that grit was necessary for the mechanical breakdown of food in the gizzard as an aid to digestion, but most birds do fine without grit. Some birds will in fact have problems if grit is over eaten.

Tips

  • Always monitor the amount of food eaten every day by each bird.
  • Offer fresh water every day.
  • Offer a variety of fresh foods every day.
  • Offer fresh fruits and vegetables every day
  • Clean all food and water dishes daily.
  • “No” to a food item one day does not mean “no” forever – keep trying!
Some suggested food items include:
appleapricotsasparagusbanana
beetblueberrybroccolibrussel sprouts
cabbagecantaloupecarrotcarrot tops
cherries (not the pit)bok choycoconutcorn
cucumberdandelion leavesdatesendive
figgrapesgrapefruitkale
kiwimelonsmangonectarines
orangepapayaparsnippeaches
pearpeaspeppers (bell and hot)pineapple
plumpomegranatepotatopumpkin
rappiniraspberryrice (cooked brown)romaine lettuce
spinachsprouted seedssquashstrawberry
sweet potatotomatozucchini
beans (cooked)
chic peaskidneylentilslimamungnavysoy

For general questions, or to sign up for email reminders for your pet's vaccinations, please feel free to contact us at inquiries@chewelahveterinaryclinic.com.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Rick Axelson, DVM & Shawn Messonnier, DVM © 2005 Lifelearn, Inc. Used with permission under license.