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Choosing a Double Yellow-Headed Amazon

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Double yellow-headed Amazons are probably the most popular and well known of all Amazons. They are intelligent, inquisitive birds and remain relatively easy to handle. They are well known for their talking ability. Mature birds, especially males, may become aggressive. They are relatively common in captivity and often available for pets. They are active by nature and have a tendency toward obesity if closely confined.

Double yellow-headed Amazons can probably live up to 50 to 60 years or more. Little is known about their life span in captivity.

Double yellow-headed Amazons (Amazona ochrocephala oratrix) occur on the pacific slope of Mexico as well as the gulf slope of Mexico north of the Yucatan. Inhabiting savannahs, tropical deciduous forests, dense thorn forests, evergreen floodplain forests, gallery woodlands and pine forests, the double yellow-headed Amazon nests in tree cavities.

Appearance and Personality

Double yellow-headed Amazons are relatively large, stocky green Amazons with yellow over the entire head extending down to the shoulders in mature birds. The beak is a pale horn color. Prominent red splashes are found on the shoulder. Primary and secondary flight feathers are green with blue tips. Tail feathers are green with yellowish green tips. Red patches are found on the outer tail feathers and yellow coloration occurs around the lower legs.

Double yellow-headed Amazons should always be provided with toys, blocks of wood or branches that they can chew. In order to ensure safety, companion Amazons should not be allowed unsupervised freedom in the home as they often encounter toxins or dangerous items. Young Amazons should be socialized to many people and exposed to a variety of situations such as new cages, toys, visits to the veterinarian, handling by friends, wing and nail clips, etc. to avoid fear of novel situations. They need to have some space for exercise.

Feeding

Amazons should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet as a basis for good nutrition. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. 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, double yellow-headed Amazons should be fed no sunflower or safflower seeds or seeds should only be given as treats. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

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 drier. 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. Double yellow-headed Amazons are heavy bodied and care must be taken not to cut too many feathers. Excessive wing clipping can result in injuries from falling.

Housing

Double yellow-headed Amazons are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. They should also be supplied with a retreat to guard against insecurity and fear responses. Ideally the cage should provide room for flight. One inch by one inch by 14 gauge welded wire is a good choice for cage construction. A suggested size is 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 8 feet long suspended 4 feet above the ground or floor.

Durable cage construction is not as critical as it is for macaws and cockatoos. Locks or escape proof latches may be necessary on cages. Ideally the bird will have an outdoor cage as well to allow playtime in the fresh-air and sunlight.

Breeding

Double yellow-headed Amazons are easier to breed in captivity than most Amazons. In North America, double yellow-headed Amazons breed predominantly in the spring and have a limited breeding season typically from February or March to June or July. Clutch size is typically 3 to 4 eggs. Wooden nest boxes approximately 12-inch by 12-inch by 24-inch can be used.

Incubation period is approximately 24 to 26 days. Chicks will usually fledge at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. Double yellow-headed Amazons are relatively easy to hand-rear. Most hand rearing formulas can be used successfully.

Male double yellow-heads are occasionally aggressive toward their mates. Clipping the wings of the male prior to the breeding season may be necessary in aggressive individuals to help the female to escape in case the male becomes aggressive. Males in breeding condition can be very aggressive to keepers.

Double yellow-heads can be noisy when in breeding condition. When breeding Amazons, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Double yellow-headed Amazons are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

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

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