Breeding the Red--browed Amazon Parrot: Chronicles of a Paradise Lost? (Amazona dufresniana rhodocorytha)


As tropical avifaunas have become
increasingly imperiled through human
activities, the imperative for conservation
practices in aviculture has
become increasingly clear. Firstbreedings
and subsequent propagation
of rare species are important first
steps toward maintaining captive populations,
from which natural populatioHs
may ultimately be restored.
Recent limited conservation successes
with psittacines like the Puerto Rican
Amazon (Snyder, et al., 1987) and the
Thick-billed Parrot (Beissinger and
Snyder, 1991) are testimony to the efficacy
of aviculture in preserving certain
taxa. Sadly, for others the hope of rescue
is fleeting, and the prospect for
recovery of natural populations even
in the distant future is essentially nil.
For these desperate species, captive
culture has taken on a sobering new
light- occasional breeding successes
may be all that stem the inevitable tide
of extinction. It is with this perspective
that we report the first successful
North American breeding of the Redbrowed
Amazon Parrot (Amazona
dufresniana rhodocorytha) in eight
The Red-browed (a.k.a. Red-topped
or Red-crowned) Amazon is a large
Amazon, 35 to 40 em in length and
450 to 650 g in adult weight. The obvious
feature of the species is the red
forehead and crown, which fades
toward the nape to a reddish-purple
tinged with blue. As with its nominate
species, the Blue-cheeked Amazon
(A.d. dufresniana), the lares are
yellow-orange with cheeks and neck
blue. Other distinguishing features
include a horn-colored upper mandible
that becomes pink at the base, an
orange-brown iris and grey legs.
Further details of plumage can be 

found in Forshaw (1989) and Stoodley
and Stoodley 0990).
Natural History
Once a common parrot in southeastern
Brazil (Pinto, 1935), the Redbrow
is now altogether extinct across
most of its original range due to
deforestation and human encroachment
(Forshaw, 1989). Remnant populations
are very locally -distributed in
fragmented forests between Alagoas
and Rio de Janeiro, although it is
doubtful that any birds survive in the
latter state (Low, 1984; 1986). Within
Espirito Santo it is known only from
the Sooretama Reserve and Monte
Pascoal National Park and adjacent
areas (Ridgely, 1981). Habitat preferences
vary seasonally, and extend 

from humid lowland forests to montane
forests to estuarine mangroves,
where they may be associated with
Orange-wing Amazons (A. amazonica)
during winter foraging trips.
Red-brows prefer to roost and feed in
the tops of primary forest trees, and at
one time were found in large flocks in
the forest canopy. Pinto 0935)
described raucous congregations
· along the banks of the Gongogy River
near Boa Nova, Bahia where birds
could be heard each morning; these
populations have been extinct for at
least 12 years (Ridgely, 1981) and
probably much longer. 

The first captive breeding of A.d. 
rhodocorytha occurred in Peterbor- 

ough, England in 1980 (Mann, 1982).
The first - and prior to this writing -
only documented, captive b reeding
success in the USA was by Ramon
Noegel in 1984 (Noegel, 1984). The
entire collection, including offspring
and adult birds compiled from various
sources prior to the 1984 breeding,
was purchased jointly by Dr. John
Vaughn (Rare Species Conservatory,
Florida) and Mr. Charles Osterbrink
(Night Flight Farms, Mississippi) in
1988. To our knowledge, this represents
the only significant collection of
Red-brows in the United States (ISIS
Bird Abstract, 30 June 1992), comprising
three adult males and seven adult
females, plus the progeny described
here. An additional adult pair that was
confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in 1982 and main~ained at
Miami Metrozoo has been loaned to
The Rare Species Conservatoty to be
included in our breeding program. 

Other birds have been rumored to
be in private collections for years,
although only a single male, currently
outside our collectio n, has been verified.
Hence, as of this writing, there
exist 12 adult birds in our program,
four of which are males. As a founder
population for genetic diversity, this is
certainly a bare minimum. Ironically,
the last bird to be fledged in the U.S.
in 1984 is the mother of the babies
described here, which, maternally,
represent second-generation domestics.
The breeding pair is housed in a 4' x
5' x 12' suspended cage made from
1"x 1", 14-gauge galvanized wire
mesh. The nest box measures 1' x 1' x
2' and is made from 3/ 4" plywood
lined with galvanized flashing
throught. The box is hung from the
top center rear of the flight, with the
longest dimension in a vertical aspect,
the entrance hole near the top of the
box. The only access to the box is
from a hinged flap-style door at the
back near the bottom. Since Redbrows
at our aviaty have never used
the box except for sitting eggs, the
box is inspected only weekly during
the non-breeding months and is left
on the cage yea r-ro und. Soft pine
shavings are changed monthly (minimum)
during the breeding season and
as required during the fall and winter
Diet consists of a mixture of various
types of sunflower seeds, parrot mix,
Zupreem monkey biscuits and fresh
fruits and vegetables offered once a
day, with seeds constituting roughly
30% of the daily ration by volume .
Spray millet is offered weekly. Nekton-
S vitamin supplement (NektonProdukte,
7530 Pforzheim, West Germany)
is dissolved in the drinking
water which is provided fresh each
day. Food and water bowls are
washed and disinfected daily.



Beissinger, S.R. and N.F.R. Snyder, eds. 1991.

New World Parrots in Crisis: Solutions from

Conservation Biology. Smithsonian Institution

Press, Washington, D.C.

Forshaw, J.M. 1989. Parrots of the World, 3rd edition

. Lansdown Editions, Weldon Publishing,

Melbourne, Australia .

Low, R. 1984 . Endangered Parrots. Blandford

Press, Dorset, England.

Low, R. 1986. Parrots, Their Care and Breeding,

nd edition. Blandford Press, London.

Mann, R.E.H . 1982. Breeding the Red-topped

Amazon parrot. Avicult. Mag. 88: 12-1 4.

Noegel, R. 1984. U.S. first captive breeding of the

Brazilian Red-browed Amazon. Mag. of the

Parrot Soc. 18: 270-275.

Pinto, O.M. de 0. 1935. Aves de Bahia. Revta Mus

paul. 19: 1-325.

Ridgely, R.S . 1981. The current distribution and

status of mainland neo-tropical parrots. in R.F .

Pasquier (ed .), Conservation of New World

Parrots, lCBPTech. Pub!. No.1 : 233-384.

Snyder, N.F.R., J.W. Wiley and C. B. Kepler. 1987.

The Parrots of Luquillo : Natural History and

Conservation of the Puerto Rican Parrot Western

Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Los Angeles, CA.

Stoodley,J. and P. Stoodley. 1990. Genus

Amazona. Bezels Publications, Portsmouth,