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Choosing a Yellow Headed Amazon

By: Dr. Don Harris

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Of all parrot species commonly kept as pets, perhaps none has a greater assortment of desirable pet qualities than the yellow headed Amazon. Several varieties of Amazons exist, with the yellow head, one of the most popular being the Amazona ochrocephala oratrix.

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes the ideal pet bird, but few would argue that this lush green fellow with the bright yellow head doesn't have broad appeal. While the bird does have a few problems – unprovoked aggression being one of them – this bird's best feature is his personality.

Personality Pluses

He is, in no uncertain terms, a ham. While many birds like attention and interaction, this one just plain loves to show off. The African grey is probably a more capable talker, but no bird is more enthusiastic. Yellow heads are quick to greet visitors, flaring their tails and flashing their eyes with excitement when addressed.

The yellow headed Amazon is also one of the most intelligent of all birds. That, combined with personality and speaking ability, makes this bird a true show-stopper. No bird is a better performer.

Personality Minuses

As great as these birds seem, there are one or two drawbacks. Adults - especially mature males - can suddenly become aggressive. One moment, they enjoy a head scratch from their owner; the next, they launch into a vicious attack. Many an owner has required medical attention following one of these unprovoked bites. Testosterone is probably to blame, but all an owner can do is exercise caution.

Another undesirable trait is the instinctual desire of the bird to "call the flock to roost." Many Amazons, sensing the approach of sunset, will call out at the tops of their lungs in a characteristic yell. While owners often become accustomed to such behavior, neighbors usually don't.

Ultimately, if any bird is responsible for giving pet birds a good name, it's probably the Amazon. This is the classic pirate's bird, depicted on the shoulder of such figures as Blackbeard. They've occupied households for decades and often are truly considered "one of the family."

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