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Choosing a Yellow-shouldered Amazon

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Yellow-shouldered Amazons ( Amazona barbadensis) are beautiful, small, rather trim Amazon parrots. Their range is limited to northern Venezuela and offshore islands. They inhabit dry areas living in cacti, low thorny bushes and trees, and they nest in tree cavities or limestone cliffs. In the wild, they eat succulent fruits, seedpods, cactus tops and fruits.

Yellow-shouldered Amazons can probably live up to 50 to 60 years or more.

Appearance and Personality

Yellow-shouldered Amazons are bright green with a face variably colored with blue, yellow and white. They are somewhat similar in appearance to blue-fronted Amazons but are distinguished by size (yellow-shoulders are smaller) and facial coloration. Yellow-shoulders have yellow on the face and crown with pale coloration on the forehead and white eye rings. Extensive patches of yellow tipped in red adorn the shoulders, and the wing speculum is red. Primary and secondary flight feathers are green with blue tips and tail feathers are green with yellowish green tips. The beak is horn colored.

Yellow-shouldered Amazons, which are seldom available as pets, have moderate to poor speaking ability, but they are intelligent, inquisitive and very assertive. Males in general are much more common than females and have a tendency to become quite aggressive. Juveniles are generally tame and can be handled for a short time. They are active by nature and are not so prone to obesity as other Amazons.

Yellow-shouldered 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 and wing and nail clips to avoid fear of novel situations.

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, yellow-shouldered Amazons should be offered seeds or nuts by hand as treats for bonding. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds 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. Yellow-shouldered Amazons are relatively light bodied and require removal of more flight feathers than most Amazons.

Housing

Yellow-shouldered Amazons are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. 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. Ideally the bird will have an outdoor cage as well to allow playtime in the fresh air and sunlight.

Breeding

Yellow-shouldered Amazons are relatively difficult to breed in captivity. In North America yellow-shouldered 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. A good choice for cage construction is 1-inch by 1-inch by 14-inch gauge welded wire, or 1-inch by 1-inch welded wire. A suggested size is 4-foot by 4-foot by 8-foot long suspended 4 feet above the ground or floor. Breeding males can become very aggressive toward the keeper, often attempting to bite while being fed.

A wooden nest box approximately 10 inches by 10 inches by 28 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-shouldered Amazons are relatively easy to hand-rear. Most hand rearing formulas can be used successfully.

Male yellow-shoulders are often aggressive toward their mates especially in response to keepers visits. Clipping the wings of the male prior to the breeding season may be necessary to help the female escape.

Yellow-shoulders can be noisy when in breeding condition. Take care to consider your neighbors when breeding Amazons.

Common Diseases and Disorders

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

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