Green-cheeked Amazon

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Is the Green-cheeked Amazon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Mexican Red-headed Amazon; Red-crowned Amazon; Red-crowned Parrot

Scientific name: Amazona viridigenalis

The basics:
The Green-cheeked Amazon, once affectionately nicknamed the Mexican Redhead, is an endangered species. This talented mimic and talker, admired for its intelligence and out-going, friendly nature, is often calmer and easier to manage than the more temperamental Double Yellow-head or Blue-front Amazon males. Unfortunately, it has been a victim of its own success, since smugglers can't seem to resist over-collecting this charming bird. Do not purchase a Green-cheeked Amazon unless you can document the bird's legal origin, and be prepared to comply with any necessary regulations for holding an endangered species.

The Green-cheeked Amazon has a very limited wild range on the eastern coast of Mexico with a remaining population of less than 4,500 adults. Their biggest threats are habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade, which also damages nest sites in the process. A gregarious species, they will flock with other species of Amazons such as the Red-lored Amazon and Yellow-headed Amazon.

A mid-sized green Amazon parrot with a bright red forecrown, the Green-cheeked Amazon can be distinguished from the Lilac-crown because the Lilac-crown's red forecrown merges into an upper crown and nape that could be compared to the color of lilacs. Both species do have green cheeks, so don't use that as a field mark.

270 grams (9.5 oz.)

Average size:
33 centimeters (13 in.)

50+ years

Behavior / temperament:
The Green-cheeked Amazon has a good reputation as a teachable, calm bird, as long as you get a bird from a legal source that has not been abused. It isn't always as good of a talker as some of the other species like the Yellow-crowned Amazon, but it isn't as temperamental or difficult to manage either. That said, the Green-cheeked Amazon is still an Amazon, and you should bring all of your best parrot management skills. Be aware that this social species does need regular play time and training time to make the most of your relationship. Learn the bird's body language, so that you can detect when the bird is becoming overloaded and at risk for biting someone.

Many people now advise that no Amazon be allowed to ride on your shoulder. Instead, train your bird to ride your arm or a hand-held perch, so that you can always keep an aware eye on your pet and read its body language. A good way to bond with your Green-cheeked Amazon is to teach and practice tricks, allowing the bird a cute way to earn treats and attention.

The Green-cheeked Amazon, like all Amazons, can be lazy and prone to weight gain, so you must make choices that will stimulate your pet to move and to play instead of just to talk. Offer at least a 36”w x 24”d x 36”h with no more than 1” bar spacing. Make that a powder-coated metal cage, with manzanita perches in all the places where you don't want to change perches frequently, because these birds have a powerful beak and they will chew. If you feel that your bird requires a smaller cage to feel secure, then please have a smaller sleep cage, but they still need a larger area where they have to climb around to get to all their toys, treats, and hiding places when you're not home.

It's crucial that you have a playpen in all the areas where you spend a lot of time. Train the Green-cheeked Amazon to step on command onto a hand-held perch so that you can easily move your parrot out of the cage area, which is sacred territory, and onto neutral ground, where you can play safely together without accidentally stimulating the bird into territorial biting. Provide lots of puzzle toys, foraging toys, and birdsafe wooden items for chewing, not just in the cage but also on the playgym and various perches around the house.

The Green-cheeked Amazon demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. Some, but not all, individuals, have a distressing propensity to gain a lot of weight, to become obese, and to die of fatty liver syndrome. There are several diets that work for this species, but you always want to err on the side of offering low-fat choices. And please consult immediately with an experienced avian vet if you suspect that your bird is either over or under weight.

Many people find that a good pellet-based diet, formulated especially for the Amazons, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet, but take care that this intelligent bird does not get bored with the pellets. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, can be the answer, although it's more work than pellets. Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it.

Small, high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix, but sunflower and peanut are usually held back and only offered when trick training. A well-socialized Green-cheeked Amazon will want to help you eat your dinner, which is fine if you eat a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables and whole grain, but never allow any parrot to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat or poultry.

Written by Elaine Radford


nice bird, hearty appetite, magnificent, little songstress


loud, good nip, annoying, messy eater, distrusts strangers, smaller children


scary flight attempts

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