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Choosing a Mexican Red-Headed Amazon

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Mexican red-headed Amazons (Amazona viridigenalis), also known as green-cheeked Amazons, are intelligent, inquisitive birds with excellent speaking ability. Due to their relative rarity in captivity, they are unlikely to be available for pets. Endemic to Mexico, these birds naturally inhabit wooded hills and mountains of east-central coastal areas south of Texas. They are active by nature and have a tendency toward obesity if closely confined.

Mexican red-headed Amazons, can probably live up to 50 years or more. Little is known about their life span in captivity.

Appearance and Personality

Mexican red-headed Amazons are small, stocky green Amazons with red crown, with blue cap behind. The cheeks are green and the beak is pale and they have white eye-rings. Coverts on nape and mantle are black tipped. Prominent red splashes are found on the shoulder of males and is smaller to absent in females. Primary and secondary flight feathers are blue are primarily green.

Mexican red-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. Mature birds, especially males, can become aggressive.

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 cup of pellets and 1/4 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, Mexican red-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. Mexican red-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

Mexican red-headed Amazons are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. One inch by one inch by 14 gauge welded wire, or 1 inch by 1 inch 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. They should also be supplied with a retreat to guard against insecurity and fear responses. Ideally the cage should provide room for flight. 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

Mexican red-headed Amazons are difficult to breed in captivity. They tend to be nervous and need privacy. In North America, Mexican red-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.

Grandfather style wooden nest boxes can be used. Size should be approximately 10 inches by 10 inches by 18 inches.

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

Male Mexican red-headed Amazons are seldom 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.

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

Common Diseases and Disorders

Amazons are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:
  • Mate aggression
  • Feather-picking
  • Psittacosis
  • Poor eating habits
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Obesity
  • Toxicity, ingestion of metals
  • Toe necrosis

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