Common Breeding Problems in Amazon Parrots


Members of the genus Amazona are not among the easiest parrots to breed in a captive situation. This is not to imply that Amazon parrots are not bred in captivity as this is far from the truth. Each year, many, many Amazons are bred in captivity in the United States. However, for every pair that produces live young, there are two or three other pairs that have not.

Successful husbandry practices are being recorded as well as a list of" common causes" associated with non-productive pairs. These observations will be discussed in this article but are not meant to be taken as the "rule of thumb" or the only way to breed a pair of Amazon parrots. Due to the nature and intelligence of these birds, many have adapted to their new set-ups and surroundings and have begun to produce young. There is no reason to change a pair's set-up if chicks are being produced.

Many Amazons that are currently available as breeder stock are either older wild caught birds that were imported prior to the "Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992" or captive bred young produced right here in America. Both wild caught and captive bred birds are capable of breeding although the breeding biology for these two groups has some distinct differences. Older wild caught birds may or may not be of the proper age to breed when purchased. The exact age required for wild birds to breed is not precisely known as there has been very little field research done on parrots.

When dealing with captive bred subjects, the "average" breeding age of most medium sized Amazons is about four years. Larger species, such as the ochrocephala group, usually will not breed


until approximately six years of age. There is also little data of the maximum breeding age of this genus of parrots. Captive Amazons, upward of thirty years of age, have laid eggs. This is encouraging and could indicate a very long reproductive lifetime in captivity as well as in the wild.

In addition to age, there are other more controllable problems that can contribute to non-productivity. Birds that are overweight, overly aggressive, nutritionally deficient, improperly housed, or improperly socialized may not breed. Most of these situations can be corrected or controlled by the aviculturist and frequently these non-productive pairs will begin to breed.

Weight Problems

Fat breeder stock is one of the most commonly occurring problems when dealing with Amazon parrots. This is due, in part, to the fact that captive Amazon parrots relish the flavor of ve1y fatty foods. Many of the higher fat content seeds and nu ts that are fed in captivity are not available to the wild Amazon. If they were, wild production would probably double.

In captivity there is no harm in feeding these foods as long as the birds can get plenty of exercise and are supplied with other healthier foods to round out the diet. At no time should a pair of Amazon parrots be fed exclusively on seeds and nuts. In most cases this will cause obesity, laziness, and non-productivity. Once again, diet plays an important role in the production of young in captive parrots.

There is a defined breeding season for Amazons in the wild and, in most cases, in captivity. Once defined, the avicultur-


ist can manipulate the diet to assure that
breeder stock is supplied with the foods
that are "right for the season." During
non-productive times of the year, the
aviculturist should gear the diet to maintenance
of the birds. This is the season
when the higher fat content foods
should be fed in very limited amounts.
Lower fat diets are especially important if
the breeder stock is already overweight
and inactive.
In cases of weight problems, feed
plenty offresh vegetables and try a lower
fat pelleted diet as a supplement toreplace
the seed in the diet. There is also a
product now available from Phoenix
Unlimited that can be sprinkled on the
vegetables or fruits designed specifically
for "fat birds." This product, called
"Flight Plan", is designed to assist in the
utilization of body fat while supplying
the needed vitamins, minerals, and
amino acids to the bird.
Sprouted beans, seeds, or grain foods
can also be a help when dealing with an
overweight bird. In addition to dietary
requirements, it is often helpful to putthe
overweight birds into a larger nonbreeding
set-up during the off season to
encourage t1ight and additional exercise.
If the food bowl is placed on an elevated
pedestal in the middle of the cage,
the bird will be forced to t1y to the bowl to
eat. Design the system where the bird
cannot get to the food by climbing, make
it t1y to the food source.
I must caution you that the Amazon
parrots require fat in the diet during
breeding. For this reason it is not wise to
limit the diet during the actual breeding
season or while chicks are in the nest
box. A reduced t~lt diet should only be offered
during the non-breeding season.