Amazons in Brief
Scientific Name: Various species of the Amazona genus
Adult Size: Anywhere from 10 inches (25 cm) to 18 inches (48 cm) (tail included), depending on the species
Life Span: Around 50 to 70 years with proper care
Talking Ability: Excellent
Amazon parrots are among the most popular parrots kept as pets throughout the world. They are extroverted, vocal birds who love spending time with their owners. They are also very long-lived pets, so with proper training, good care and feeding practices, and plenty of attention and affection, an Amazon parrot can be a treasured family member for decades.
Although Amazon parrots vary in size and appearance, depending on their species, most are about the size of a pigeon and have stocky bodies with short tails. They are predominantly green in color, with additional coloration according to the species. (The red-lored Amazon, for example, has a yellowish-green tail with red on the wing feathers, while the blue-fronted Amazon has spots of blue and yellow on the head and bright yellow and/or red on the wings.) In many cases, an Amazon's bright colors are difficult to see when he is at rest, but once he takes flight, the wing and tail coloration are more noticeable.
Amazons are psittacines (parrots), a family of birds that has existed for more than 35 million years. Several species (at least 31) of Amazon parrots have evolved over time, but less than a dozen are commonly available as pets today. Like other parrots, Amazons have powerful beaks used to break open and eat their food and to climb; four-toed feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward; and seemingly short legs that actually have a long reach to help them climb.
In the Wild
All species of Amazon parrots originated in South and Central America, from southern Argentina to northern Mexico. They typically live in tropical forests and always remain near wooded areas, where their green color allows them to blend in well with their surroundings.
Wild Amazons eat fruits, seeds, nuts, and shoots from forest trees. They use their powerful feet to easily climb tree branches to reach their food, and they crack open seeds and small nuts with their strong beak. In some areas, wild Amazons are considered pests because they eat agricultural crops.
Amazons are social birds who spend their lives in a flock of others of their species. These flocks can vary in size from four to hundreds of birds.
Common Amazon Species
The following are a few of the Amazon parrot species you're more likely to encounter in the pet trade.
One of the largest species of Amazon parrots, the yellow-naped reaches up to 15 inches (38 cm) in length. This bird is mostly green in color with some red on the wings and secondary feathers. He has a yellow patch on the back of the neck and is the only Amazon to have this marking.
Another of the larger Amazons, this bird reaches about 15 inches (38 cm) in length. He is mostly green but has varying patches of blue and yellow on his head and bright yellow or red on the bend of the wing.
An average-sized Amazon, this bird reaches 12 to 14 inches (30 to 35 cm) in length. He is green with a yellowish-green tail but also shows some red on the wing feathers. This species is named for the bright red patch on the lores (the area between the beak and the eye).
Amazons as Pets
The type of pet an individual Amazon parrot will make depends largely on his species, which is why it's so important to do your research and see what species will fit best in your home. Red-lored Amazons, for example, have very gentle temperaments. The blue-fronted Amazon, on the other hand, is extroverted, and males may even be somewhat aggressive in the spring, which is their breeding season. In general, however, Amazon parrots are intelligent, playful, and confident birds. If you plan to add an Amazon to your home, make sure that you are able to spend a great deal of time interacting with him, and let him out of his cage regularly in a safe environment so that he can exercise and explore.
The ideal cage for your Amazon will depend on his size, but in general, get the largest cage you can afford and have room for in your home. Also, make sure that the spacing between the bars is no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) to prevent your bird from getting his head caught between them.
Feed your Amazon a mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and grains, and uncooked legumes such as peas and beans. Fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of his diet, and foods with a high fat content (such as nuts) should be offered sparingly. You can also offer your bird occasional "people" foods but only items that are healthy for him—a good rule of thumb is if a food is good for you, it's probably good for your parrot as well.
Amazons are very vocal, and most learn to talk by about two years of age. However, in addition to their skills at mimicking human speech and the other sounds that make parrots such fun and interesting pets, they are generally loud birds. Expect a great deal of noise from your new Amazon—he may start off every morning with some exuberant squawking or screaming! If you don't mind a little (or a lot) of noise from your pet bird, an Amazon parrot may be perfect for you.