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Choosing a Blue-Fronted Amazon

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Of all the Amazons, blue-fronts have the most difference in colors. Some birds within a flock are relatively plain while others are very colorful. These birds are very popular, especially in the United States. They talk, but not usually as well as yellow-napes or yellow-heads. They are intelligent, inquisitive birds but are sometimes shy.

Blue-fronted Amazons can probably live up to 50 to 60 years or more, but little is known about their life span in captivity.

Appearance and Personality

These are fairly large birds, 14 to 15 inches long, with males being generally larger and more colorful than females, with larger heads and beaks. Generally speaking, they are bright green with patches of blue, yellow and white. One subspecies, A.a. aestiva, which hails from Brazil, has less yellow on the wings and the cheeks are blue. Another subspecies, A. a. xanthopteryx, native to Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, has yellow cheek patches, with extensive yellow and red markings on the wings. On all blue-fronts, however, the flight feathers are green with blue tips; tail feathers have yellow-green tips and red patches.
In juveniles, the eyes are brown, while the eyes of adults are orange-yellow. Most juveniles have relatively little color compared to adults. Blue-fronted Amazons can probably live up to 50 to 60 years or more, but little is known about their life span in captivity.

Mature birds – especially males – may become bonded to one person and aggressively "protect" him or her from other people. They are fairly easy to raise, but they are more susceptible than other Amazons to common illnesses. They make good family pets.

These birds are active by nature and have a tendency toward obesity if closely confined. They should always be provided with toys, blocks of wood or branches that they can chew. They also need to have space for exercise.

Grooming

Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun, or gently dried with a blow dryer. Care should be taken not to clip the wing feathers excessively as Amazons often fall and injure themselves. Clip only the primary flight feathers and only enough so the bird will glide to the floor. Blue-fronted Amazons are heavy bodied and care must be taken not to cut too many feathers. Excessive wing clipping can result in injuries from falling.

Feeding

Amazons should be fed a pelleted diet. High protein diet is an excellent staple diet for Amazons, but weaning food can also be fed. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety. Feed approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup of formulated diet and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Monitor food intake. Overfeeding leads to pickiness, selective feeding and wasteful throwing of food. Because of their tendency to obesity, blue-fronted Amazons should be fed little or no sunflower or safflower seeds (seeds should only be given as treats). Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

Birds that are fed only seeds will need vitamin and mineral supplementation to prevent deficiency diseases. Vitamins should be added to soft food rather than water, which dilutes the vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins break down rapidly and water with sweetened vitamins is a good growth medium for bacteria.

Housing

These birds are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allow. Ideally, the cage should provide room for flight. Durable cage construction is not as critical as it is for macaws and cockatoos, but locks or escape-proof latches may be necessary. If possible, the bird should also have an outdoor cage to allow playtime in the fresh-air and sunlight.

Breeding

Breeding age is approximately 3 to 5 years, but they are very difficult to breed in captivity. In North America, they breed mostly in the spring and have a limited breeding season that runs from February or March to June or July. Clutch size is typically three to four eggs. For breeding boxes, 1-inch by 1-inch by 14-inch gauge welded wire is a good choice for cage construction. A suggested cage size is 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 8 feet long suspended 4 feet above the ground or floor.

For nest boxes, wooden boxes can be used. Size should be approximately 12 inches by 12 inches by 24 inches. Incubation period is approximately 24 to 26 days. Chicks will usually fledge at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. Blue-fronted Amazons are relatively easy to hand-rear. Most hand-rearing formulas can be used successfully.

Blue-fronts can be noisy when in breeding condition. In general, when breeding Amazons, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered.

Common Diseases and Disorders

The blue-fronted Amazon is a relatively healthy bird. The following diseases have been reported in this species:

  • Feather-picking
  • Psittacosis
  • Poor eating habits
  • Obesity
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Mate aggression
  • Toxicity, ingestion of metals
  • Toe necrosis

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