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Choosing a Yellow-billed Amazon

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Yellow-billed Amazons (Amazona collaria) are intelligent, inquisitive birds with moderate speaking ability. Unfortunately, these birds are rare in captivity and difficult to obtain as pets.

Yellow-bills are common in Jamaica, inhabiting remote hilly and mountainous areas. They inhabit arid upland forests and adjoining cultivated areas. Mature birds, especially males, can become aggressive. They are active by nature and have a tendency toward obesity if closely confined.

Yellow-billed Amazons can probably live up to 50 years judging by life spans of similar species. Little is known about their life span in captivity.
Appearance and Personality

Yellow-billed Amazons are medium sized Amazons. They are stocky green parrots with white foreheads, blue caps, pinkish throats and yellow bills. The undersides of the wings are blue and the tails feathers are yellowish-green with pinkish-red at the base. The beak is a yellow horn color.

Should you somehow obtain one of these birds, always provide him with toys, blocks of wood or branches that he can chew. Never allow your Amazon to fly free within your home where he may run into fans, the stove or encounter dangerous toxins. As with most young birds, socialize your Amazon to many people and situations, such as going to the avian veterinarian. 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 cup of formulated diet 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, do not feed your Amazon sunflower or safflower seeds.

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. Clip only the primary flight feathers and only enough so the bird will glide to the floor. Yellow-bills are heavy-bodied birds and care must be taken not to cut too many feathers.

Housing

Yellow-billed 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

Yellow-billed Amazons are difficult to breed in captivity. In North America, they 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.

Double entrance nest boxes may be used to reduce the chance of the male trapping the female in the box. Wooden boxes approximately 12 inches by 12 inches by 24 inches can be used.

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

Male yellow-billed Amazons frequently become aggressive toward their mates. Cage construction and management should take into consideration techniques to reduce mate aggression. Clipping the wings of the male prior to the breeding season will help the female to escape in case the male becomes aggressive. Aggressive behavior may occur in compatible breeding pairs. Aggression often occurs at the time of human visitation.

Common Diseases and Disorders

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

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