Breeding Amazons In Captivity


The group of parrots known as Amazons has been very popular for many years. Their pet qualities have been noticed for centuries. One only has to remember the green parrot in Treasure Island. Zoos and animal parks have used Amazons in their shows depicting their intelligence and personalities.

Why the popularity of Amazons? Why has the demand become so great that literally hundreds of Amazons of several species have been illegally smuggled across the Mexico/USA border? It is because of the 'Amazon Personality.' This group of parrots has endeared itself to the human intellect because of their beautiful coloration, their outgoing, often clownish characteristics and their great ability to mimic the human voice and many other sounds. Some Amazons can have over a hundred word vocabulary. The operatic singing Amazon is always a favorite in any bird show.

Phillip Samuelson, consulting technical editor of Bird Talk magazine has written several excellent articles on the Amazon parrot including 'Amazon Antics' (Bird Talk, August 1990) and 'Popular Amazon Parrots' (Bird Talk, July 1992). Bird Talk readership has responded with hundreds of letters on the popularity of pet Amazons.

Large numbers of Amazons have been imported over the past years, but serious efforts towards reproducing the common Amazons has only just begun. This does not in any way disregard the efforts of many serious Amazon breeders, but the total numbers of captive reared Amazons now being bred falls seriously short of the demand. With the threat of continued smuggling and the serious reduction, for many parrot


species a total ban, of wild-caught imports, the importance of reproducing the Amazon group is even more critical.

The purpose of this paper is to give captive reproductive techniques for the more common (often labeled as commercial) Amazon species. But the guidelines can also be used for the Amazon species that are both rare in captivity and in the wild.

The common Amazon species include the Yellow-crowned, Amazona o. ochrocephala; Double Yellow-headed, A. o. oritrix; Yellow-naped, A. o. auropalliata, Blue-fronted, A. aestiva; Redlored, A. autumnalis, Orangewinged, A. amazonica; Mealy (group), A. farinosa; Greencheeked (Mexican Red-head), A. viridigenalis; Lilac-crowned, A. finschi; and White-fronted, A. albifrons.

In my opinion the captive reproductive success of the Amazon group of parrots is one of the poorest among the common parrot groups now bred in captivity (i.e. macaws, greys, cockatoos, eclectus, etc.). By this I mean the numbers of young produced compared to the total number of pairs set up for breeding. The Traffic, USA's (World Wildlife Fund) 1991 Psittacine Captive Breeding Survey by Kirt A. Johnson, seems to bear this out. Though a small representative of the total, it contains the best census numbers ever published. The Amazon group had very low reproductive rates for both the total pairs set up and the total numbers of proven pairs. All Amazon species showed less than one baby hatched for every pair set up for breeding with the exception of the Double Yellowheaded which had 1.049 hatch/set up pairs.

Statements have been made,


both in literature and in personal communication, that Amazons are difficult to breed. This statement is made in general and not for the individual pair. Amazons are being produced but not in adequate numbers. For years the Double Yellow-headed Amazon was the most commonly reproduced Amazon. The census of both Traffic USA 1990/1992 and the Amazona Society shows this clearly. But many pairs of Amazons do not produce anything but frustration. Many will not even inspect the nest box while others lay infertile eggs, often breaking them.

Even though I feel a combination of avicultural guide-lines will greatly enhance the production of Amazons in the next few years, the main emphasis should be in the area of the Amazons' diet and exercise.


Because so many Amazons entered the pet trade, it is from this group that most Amazons are now being acquired for breeding. Many breeders feel that pet Amazons are a safer choice medically. They generally have been kept in captivity for several years and thus have been isolated· from so many of the avian viruses and other medical problems. Whether newly acquired Amazons have been purchased from other breeders, zoos, import stations of pet owners, they all should be quarantined before they enter your breeding facility.

Sexing Amazons

With the exception of the White-fronted Amazon, all Arnazons should be sexed. Although behavior, with the head size and color intensity are often used to sex Amazons, they are only indicators.