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All About Amazon Parrots

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I. What is an Amazon Parrot?
II. About Species Classification
III. Review the 27 Amazon Parrot Species
IV. View Anatomy of a Parrot

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Come back soon. Pete's Amazon World has many tips and bird information to follow.


Of the 332 species of parrots, 27 are commonly known as Amazons. The term Amazon refers to the scientific group they are collectively housed in; the genus Amazona. These parrots are distributed widely throughout Central and South America and the island groups of the Caribbean Sea.

In size, they range from 25-46cm (10-1 8in), so are a medium-sized bird. Although some are quite colorful, none can be said to compare with the birds of Australia. Most Amazons are basically green, with other colors on their head and wings. Their particular claim to fame is that they are the best mimics of the human voice among all of the parrot species, apart from the Arican Grey. However, this reputation can be the source of great disappointment to a potential owner if the bird fails to live up to this.

In order for any bird to become a good mimic, a number of factors must come together at the same time. Very often they do not and the bird never talks, so becomes neglected by its owner. If a person is obtaining a parrot simply as a potential talking bird, they may end up being disappointed.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an avian extrovert that will make a super companion, then you could not have any better than the Amazon. If you devote much time to one of these birds it will reward you with amusing antics, obvious devotion, and as a consequence, is more likely to become a mimic as a bonus. Amazons are also excellent birds for the person who would like to try and establish breeding them. Like many parrots, these birds are greatly under threat of extinction in their native habitats. This is due to deforestation and the general disturbance to their lifestyle by humans for many reasons, chief among them the desire for personal wealth regardless of what this does to the environment.

The Family of Parrots
Parrots form a quite readily identifiable group of birds by virtue of their beak shape--they are often referred to as hookbills. Of course, birds of prey also have a similar shaped beak, but parrots are always more colorful and have zygodactylous feet. Zygodactylous means that two toes face forwards and two face backwards.

Amazon parrots are found in a wide range of habitats from rainforests to open savanna. They live in groups that may comprise of just a few individuals, or larger flocks of maybe one hundred or more. All are stocky and possess short tails and powerful beaks. Their diet consists of a wide range of seeds as well as fruit. Fruits are very important to these birds' livelihood, as they come from regions where many fruits are plentiful year 'round. Although a few species perch on the very brink of extinction, hopefully most Amazons will still be with us in the years to come. Simply by ensuring that you know how to care for these birds will help in this direction. It means that you will not so readily need to replace a bird because of its untimely death resulting from improper care-a fate that many parrots have endured.

Please visit the "Bird Care/Buying Info." on Pete's site to find all the basic information you will need to provide the perfect home for one of these avian jewels. Such a pet may well live for 50 or more years with you, so its proper care will be well-rewarded by the companionship it will surely give to you.

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Species Classification

Before describing the Amazon species it will be useful if you have a basic understanding of what a species actually is, and how the system of scientific naming is effected in order that every living organism can be referred to quickly, and without any confusion as to which animal is being discussed. This just could be very important to you when it comes to purchasing your Amazon.

A species is any group of animals that, in their wild habitat, will freely interbreed and produce offspring that will ultimately resemble themselves, or their gender if there is a visual difference in the sexes. When, for reasons of some physical barrier (river, mountain), or other cause of separation, a group of animals lose contact with their own kind,they may, over many, many years, and through mutations that are constantly happening, begin to change in both their appearance and lifestyle. At this point in the formation of new species(speciation), such animals are identified as subspecies.

When the differences between the subspecies of a species become more obvious and constant, they can then be said to have formed a new species, and the process of evolution marches on. Within a species there is always some variation in the appearance of individuals. The line that separates individuals of a species as being just that, and those which can be regarded as a subspecies is a fine one. The same may also be true even of species. You may find one authority regards a given bird as subspecific to another, whereas another expert may feel the two birds are quite distinct species.

Scientific Nomenclature
All animal organisms are identified in scientific circles by being given two names that together create a binomial name that is quite unique to that species. These names are in Latin, or a Latinized name if it is of another language. The first name indicates the genus the species is in and always commences with a capital letter. The second name always commences with a lowercase letter and, if it is translated, is an adjective, or a noun treated as an adjective (as when a person's name or a country is featured in the species name). This second part of the binomial is called the trivial or specific name. A subspecies is identified by the use of a trinomial. This is done by adding a second trivial name to that of the species. At the same time the original form on which the species was based becomes the nominate form or race. Its trivial name is repeated in forming the trinominal. This then indicates it was the form on which the species was based (but note that this does not always imply it is typical of the species because time might show it was actually rather untypical when compared to the other subspecies as they are discovered and identified).

As an example of scientific nomenclature we can look at the Blue-fronted Amazon. This has the scientific name of Amazona aestiva, which is the species. As soon as a subspecies was recognized the trinomial was needed. The original form identified is thus named Amazona aestiva aestiva, while the subspecies received the name of Amazona aestiva xanthopteryx. The Amazon breeder, especially, should be conversant with scientific names because these overcome any risk of confusion with regard to which species or subspecies is being discussed (as when buying or selling stock).

Common Names
All Amazons are given common names in the language of any given country. However, because there are no guidelines and regulations which control these names (as there is with scientific names) they can often be confusing and misleading. An animal can be given any number of common names. Only tradition may associate one common name with a given species. For example, the common name Blue-fronted Amazon is "correctly" only applied to A. aestiva, but using that alone for species identification could result in confusion. If you saw the Orange-winged Amazon, it may have more blue on the forehead than the Blue-fronted. Further, the Orange-winged is often advertised as being the Blue- fronted. Because of the possibility for confusion between common names, you should make sure that the bird you want to purchase is the exact species that you desire.

If an Amazon is labeled as a given species in a pet shop do not assume this is correct. The pet shop may not be aware of what species they have. They are not always experts on this subject. They may label the bird based on what it was sold to them and it may be named incorrectly. You should be aware of the full description of your favored species (and of its juvenile plumage) so you can check for yourself that it is, or isn't, what it is being sold as.

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The 27 Amazon Parrot Species

All twenty-seven Amazon species are described in the following text. However, less than half of these are readily available to you to choose from as pets. The scientific name is followed by the person who first described the species and the date this was published. Parenthesis around the author indicate that they placed it in a different genus. The common names are cited, the first of these being the one most generally used. In all instances the sexes are similar except, possibly, in A. albtfrons (Spectacled Amazon). The basic plummage color of all species, with the exception of the A. guildingii (St. Vincent or Guilding's Amazon), is green.

1. Amazona coflaria (Linne)1758; 28cm (1 lin):Yellow-billed, Jamaican, or Red-throated.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: Jamaica.
Juveniles: A paler version of the adult.
Comment: Exports from Jamaica are banned, but illegal shipments have provided a nucleus of stock outside of that country. Although many breedings have taken place in captivity, the first being in 1963 (USA), this is not a commonly available species, nor a popular choice as a pet. This, no doubt, is due to its rather bland coloration.

2. Amazona leucocephala (Linne)1758; 28-32cm (11- 12.5in); Cuban or White-fronted.
No. Subspecies: Five.
Distribution: Bahamas, Cuba, Cayman Islands.
Juveniles: Similar to adults but less extensive red and white.
Comment: This is a very pretty Amazon but not one that is readily available. It was first bred in 1956 (UK), but most success has been achieved in Florida and what was formerly East Germany. Stock from former Soviet countries may start to filter into the Western countries, so the situation with this species is promising.

3. Amazona ventralls (Muller)1776; 29cm (11.5in); Hispaniolan, Salle's, San
Dominican, White-headed.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: Dominica, Haiti, and nearby islands.
Juveniles: Similar to adults.
Comment: Not an especially sought after Amazon due to its bland colors. First bred in 1971 (UK) but much more regularly bred in the USA.

4. Amazona albrfrons (Sparmann) 1788; 26cm(1O.25in); White-fronted, Spectacled.
No. Subspecies: Three.
Distribution: Mexico to Costa Rica.
Sexes: Primary coverts of male are red, but this is not always a reliable guide. Red of lores is less in the female, and she is often smaller, but these too are unreliable guides.
Comment: The Spectacled has become progressively more popular as a pet over the years. It is one of the less costly species, at least in the the USA. First bred in Japan (1922), its small size makes It a good pet candidate, with nice colors to add to its appeal.

5. Amazona xantholora (Gray) 1859; 26cm (10.25in): Yellow-bred.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: SE Mexico, Belize and Honduras.
Juveniles: Blue (but occasionally green) replaces whlte on the forehead and crown. Lores contain green feathers. Cheeks green with some red feathers.
Comment: Rather rare, the species was only first bred as recently as 1980 (Switzerland) but, as with most Amazons, should become more readily aviailable with the passage of time.

6. Amazona agilis (Linne) 1758; 25cm (lOin); Black-billed, Active, or All Green.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: Jamaica.
Juveniles: No red in wing edge, and generally paler green.
Comment: One of two Amazons native to Jamaica, this species is very rare outside of its homelands, First bred in 1978 (USA). Even if the species were to become more readily available (through breeding in captivity) it is doubtful that it would attain any degree of popularity as a pet due to its rather somber coloration. Juveniles similar to adults but with primary coverts green.

7. Amazona vittata (Boddaert) 1783; 29cm (11.5in); Puerto Rican, Red-fronted.
No. Subspecies: Two.
Distribution: Puerto Rico.
Juveniles: Similar to adults.
Comment: You are unlikely to ever get the opportunity to purchase this bird, which is arguably the most endangered Neotropical parrot. It still remains to be seen if the present gene pool in Puerto Rico, which is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is large enough to enable the species to survive.

8. Amazona tucamana (Cabanis) 1855; 31cm (12in); Tucaman. No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: SE Bolivia to N.Argentina.
Juveniles: Forehead is green flecked with red or orange.
Comments: Once quite scarce, this species is now much more readily available in all forms-meaning hand-reared pets, breeding pairs, and unproven birds of both sexes. First bred in 1981 (USA), it has proved to be an excellent pet and a reliable breeder once established. Not the most glamorous of Amazons, it makes up in chacter what it may lack in color.

9. Amazona pretref (Temminck) 1830; 32cm (12.5in); Red-spectacled, Pretre's.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: S.Brazil, N.Argentina, N.Uruguay.
Juveniles: Less red on head, no red on wing edge.
Comments: Not well known in aviculture, the species has, in the wild state, declined dramatically in recent times. This is largely attributed to deforestation. It is a quietly attractive species, and is certainly in need of being established in breeding aviaries.

10. Amazona viridigenalis (Cassin) 1853; 33cm (l3in); Green- cheeked, Mexican Red-headed Parrot.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: NE Mexico.
Juveniles: Red of head restricted to forehead or with some scattered red on the crown.
Comment: Frequently for sale in the USA, but less so in Britain. This is a very colorful-looking bird that achieved a high level of popularity before losing some devotees when it gained a reputation as being too raucous. This is unfortunate because it is hardly more true of the species than of any other Amazon. First bred in 1970 (USA).

11. Amazona finschi (Sclater)1864; 33cm (l3in); Lilac-crowned, Finsch's.
No. Subspecies: Two.
Distribution: W. Mexico.
Juveniles: Similar to adults but with brown irises.
Comment: Like most Mexican species the Lilac-crowned has been imported into the USA in large numbers, but is less frequently seen in Britain. First bred in 1951 (USA) this is an attractive Amazon that is quite well established in aviaries, so should not be unduly difficult to obtain. These are trusting birds that leard to imitate sounds. The quality of their voices ins't considered as good as some of the other Amazons. Some are good talkers and some do not speak at all. They are gentle birds with a quiet demeanor.

12. Amazona autumnalis (Linne) 1758; 34cm (13.25in); Red-bred, Yellow-cheeked, Salvin's, Lesson's, Lilacine, or Diademed, according to subspecies.
No. Subspecies: Four.
Distribution: E.Mexico to Ecuador, Columbia and NW. Brazil.
Juveniles: Less red on forehead. Iris dark brown.
Comment: This is a deservedly popular Amazon much admired as a pet. It is colorful in plumage and character. In A. a. hiacina the yellow is much paler, verging light green, and the bill is all black. This is advertised as Lilacini or Lesson's. In A. a. salvirn the yellow of the cheeks is absent This is sold as Salvin's. The Diademed, A. a. diadema, is similar to Salvin's.

13. Amazona brastliensis (Linne) 1758; 36cm (l4in); Red- tailed, Brazilian Green.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: SE Brazil.
Juveniles: Undescribed.
Comment: Although not rare in Brazilian aviaries, the species is almost non-existent outside of its native homelands, so is not likely to be a species you will be able to include in your selection list.

14. Amazona dufresniana (Shaw); 35cm (13.75in); Blue-cheeked, Dufresne's, Red-crowned.
No. Subspecies: Two.
Distribution: SE Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, E.Brazil.
Comment: Although this species is not especially rare in its homeland countries, where it is often sold cheaply in street markets, it is quite rare outside of its homelands. This is unfortunate and highlights the dilemma of serious breeders. Each year its range probably diminishes because of deforestation, yet no accommodation is made by its homeland governments for its future by allowing worthwhile numbers to be exported. Though it is true that western parrot keepers have "consumed" many species for many years, it is also true that governments in countries where parrots are native, but are in decline, are themselves now guilty of allowing the "wastage" to continue in their own lands. First breeding was probably in 1980 (UK). The largest collection of the species outside of its native lands is probably in Florida.

15. Amazona festiva (Linne) 1758; 34cm (13in); Festive, Red- backed.
No. Subspecies: Two.
Distribution: Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador.
Juveniles: Less blue on head, and rump is mainly green with scattered red feathers.
Comment: Not a very popular nor readily available species. First bred in 1980 (USA), it was an inexpensive species some years ago but the situation has dramatically changed and no Amazon is cheaply purchased these days. The subspecies A. fbodini (Bodin's) is more attractive, having more red on the head and a more distinct and extensive area of blue-green on the cheeks-but it is also less frequently available.

16. Amazona xanthops (Spix) 1824; 27cm (10.Sin); Yellow- faced, Yellow-crowned.
No. Subspecies: None.
Distribution: East & Central Brazil.
Juveniles: Less yellow on head, underparts green. Irises brown.
Comment: This is a very rare species indeed, and is in desperate need of being established in avicultural circles where there appears to be no breeding records. Needless to say you will not obtain a pet specimen unless you move to Brazil!

17. Amazona barbadensis (Gmelin) 1788; 33cm (l3in); Yellow-shouldered.
No. Subspecies: Two, but these are believed to be color morphs of the same species by a number of experts.
Distribution: Coast of Venezuela and offshore islands.
Juveniles: Similar to adults, but head colors more restricted. Irises brown.
Comment: This is not as yet a commonly available species. It was first bred in 1982 (USA & UK) and more successes have been attained since then, so a small nucleus of breeding stock is being established.

18. Amazona aestlva (Linne) 1758; 37cm (14.Sin); Blue- fronted.
No. Subspecies: Two.
Distribution: E. Brazil, N. & E. Bolivia, Paraguay, N. Argentina.
Juveniles: Head colors much reduced and may be green. Irises dark brown.
Comment: Probably the best known of the Amazons, especially in Europe where its fame as a pet goes back to the last century. The species is renowned for its powers of mimicry. It is a very established breeding bird, with the first being recorded as long ago as the 1803 in France. It is also famed for its longevity and claims of ninety or more years have been made. They are certainly not the least expensive of the Amazons, which might be thought based on their breeding numbers. Like all Amazons, they can vary widely in their character. Some are very outgoing yet placid, and others can be real broncos, so be sure to obtain a hand-reared baby, or at least a very young bird.

19. Amazona ochrocephala (Gmelin) 1788; 30-38cm (12-15in); Yellow-crowned, Yellow-headed, Yellow-fronted, Double Yellow-head, Yellow- naped, Natterer's, Marajo, Tres Marias, Panama, Levaillants.
No. Subspecies: Nine.
Distribution: Southern Mexico to N. Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and many offshore islands. To make matters complex, intergrades exist. This means that there are individuals that cannot fairly be placed into one subspecies or another because they exhibit a color pattern that is intermediate between two subspecies. This often happens where there is an extensive distribution range and a gradual change of form from one to another over the range. The following are the subspecies most commonly available. A. o. ocrocephala. (Yellow-fronted Amazon). Forehead, lores, and crown yellow. The yellow maybe sparse or absent on the forehead. Bend of wing is red. Bill dark gray with orange on the basal side of upper mandible. A. o. auropaliLata. (Yellow-naped Amazon). Yellow band across nape. Bend of wing is green. Bill dark gray, paler towards base of upper mandible. A. o. oratrix. (Double Yellow-head). Entire head and throat yellow. Bend of wing pale red with some yellow intermingled. Bill is horn-colored. Three other subspecies, A. o. beLizenszs, A. o. tresmanae, and A. o. magna are often advertised as Double Yellowheads.
Juveniles: Colors usually less extensive. Bill entirely gray. Irises dark brown.
Comment: The ochrocephala complex of Amazons contains a number of subspecies that are extremely popular as pets, and which are well-established in breeding aviarles, especially in the USA. The Yellow-crowned Amazons have a fine reputation for mimicry. They are to Americans what the Blue-fronted Amazons are to Europeans.

20. Amazona amazonica. (Linne) 1766; 32cm (12.5in); Orange- winged, Blue-fronted (erroneously).
No. subspecies: Two.
Distribution: Colombia, N. Bolivia, Central and East Brazil.
Juveniles: Similar to adults, irises dark brown.
Comment: This is a very fine Amazon and has been popular as a pet for many years. Smaller than the Blue-fronted, it is often confused with it and may even be advertised as such with dealers. It is well established in breeding aviaries, so there are plenty of hand-reared babies for sale if you seek these out.

21. Amazona mercenaria Tschudi) 1844; 34cm(13.25in); Mercenary, Scaly-naped, Tschudi's.
No. subspecies: Two.
Distribution: NW Venezuela, Colombia, C. Ecuador, N. Peru, N. Bolivia.
Comment: In spite of its extensive range, this species was unknown to aviculture until 1984, when imported into Florida. It is not a speciesyou will be able to obtain as a pet, if at all.

22. Amazona zonafarinosa (Boddaert) 1783; 38cm (15in); Mealy, Blue-crowned, Plain-colored, Green-headed, Costa Rican, Guatemalan, depending on subspecies.
No. subspecies: Five.
Distribution: Southern Mexico South to northern Bolivia and central-eastern Brazil.
A. f farinosa, Mealy. The crown contains a variable amount of yellow, from a large well-defined patch, to a sprinkling of feathers. Red in edge of wings. Bill horn-colored.
A. f guatemalae, Blue-crowned, Guatemalan. Head a pale blue becoming slate one the nape. Bill gray.
A. f virenticeps, Costa Rican, Green-headed, Plain-colored. The crown is green. Rarely any red on edge of wing.
The subspecies A. f Lnornataand A. f chap mani may or may not carry yellow feathers on the crown.
Comment: The members of this species, though not the most colorful Amazons, are held in high esteem by those who own them as pets. Many are excellent mimics and can hold their own with Blue-fronted and Yellow-headed species. Do not overlook them simply on the grounds of color.

23. Amazona vinacea (Kuhl) 1820; 31cm (12.25in); Vinaceous.
No. subspecies: None.
Distribution: SE Brazil, NE Argentina.
Juveniles: Forehead red duller, chest red paler and less extensive, bill more horn-colored, irises very dark brown.
Comment: This attractive species will not be readily available to you because it is now classed as very endangered. There are a number of breeding pairs in the USA, as well as in Britain and mainland Europe, but youngsters are few and far between and normally exchange hands without ever being advertised.

24. Amazona versicolor (P.L.S. Muller) 1776; 42cm (16.~n); St. Lucia, Versicolor.
No. subspecies: None.
Distribution: The island of St. Lucia in the West Indies.
Comment: Aptly named, the Versicolor is a large, impressive, and unusually- colored Amazon. It is exceedingly rare in agiculture, and will not be seen in your local pet shop.

25. Amazona arausiaca (P.LS. Muller) 1776; 40cm (15.75in); Red-necked, Dominican, Blue-faced.
No. subspecies: None.
Distribution: Dominica.
Comment: This is another exceedingly rare species in captivity, only a few bfrds being known outside of its homeland.

26. Amazona guildingii (Vigors) 1837: 40cm (15.75in): St. Vincent, Guilding's.
No. subspecies: None.
Distribution: Island of St. Vincent in the West Indies.
Juveniles: Duller version of adults. Irises brown.
Comment: This is another very rare Amazon, so it is not a species you should consider. A few pairs exist outside of St. Vincent, where the species is in decline and at the risk of extinction unless dramatic steps are taken to ensure its survival.

27. Amazona imperialis (Richmond) 1899; 46cm (18in); Imperial, Dominican.
No. subspecies: None.
Distribution: Dominica.
Juveniles: More greenish on nape and neck. Irises dark brown.
Comment: This is the largest memeber of the genus Amazona The chances of your ever seeing a living specimen are remote, it is that rare outside of Dominica. As with one or two other large Amazons, the greatest threat to its survival is deforestation and the destruction of its habitat.

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Anatomy of a Parrot under construction!

PETE IS IN THE PROCESS OF FINISHING THIS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT. Pete plans to include pictures of the most popular amazon species and an anatomy of parrots! If you want notified by email when the project is complete, sign in at the guestbook and check yes - notify me when the site is complete.

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