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Yellow-crowned Amazon

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3.9/5

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Is the Yellow-crowned Amazon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Yellow-fronted Amazon (A. o. ochrocephala); Panama Amazon (A. o. panamensis)

Scientific name: Amazona ochrocephala

The basics:
The Yellow-crowned Amazon is one of the most admired of the pet parrots, with a great ability to learn to speak clearly, in more than one language. You were probably attracted to this bird for one big reason – its ability to speak many phrases, with intelligence and wit, without the nerves and sensitivity of an African Grey. These birds are rowdy, self-confident, and, yes, hard to handle if you don't bring all your parrot behavior skills to the forefront. Because of their great confidence, these birds will take control if you don't.

Yet, because of their great confidence, the Yellow-crowned Amazon can make fearless and engaging pets or even store mascots. They can be the world's best companion or the world's worst nightmare. And, like virtually all vocal birds capable of impressive feats of speech, they can be loud. But, if you're willing to do the work and educate yourself in the proper training of your pet, you may be amazed at the wit and charm of this loyal companion.

The Yellow-crowned Amazon story is a complicated one from the scientist's point of view. It is common in the pet industry to discuss Yellow-naped and Double Yellow-headed Amazons as different species, and we'll do that here as well. Although a few scientists may still lump all of these forms together as a single species, the splitter's point of view makes more sense to pet owners, who can easily tell these birds apart.

The true Yellow-crowned Amazon, A ochrocephala, consists of at least four subspecies, one of them the popular Panama parrot or Panama Amazon, A. o. panamensis.. The other three subspecies come from northern South America.

Appearance:
A stocky mid-sized green parrot with an attractive yellow crown.

Weight:
380 - 500 grams (13.4 - 17.6 oz.)

Average size:
31 - 38 centimeters (12 - 15 in.)

Lifespan:
50+ years

Behavior / temperament:
The Yellow-crowned Amazon is somewhat smaller and easier to handle than its close relative, the Double Yellow-headed Amazon, but there are more similarities than differences in their behavior. The Yellow-crowned may not have the press enjoyed by the African Grey, but these birds are intelligent. They are reading your body language and it behooves you to educate yourself so that you can read theirs. They are not prone to phobia or bad nerves. If they take over the household, it's because they see a vacancy at the top. These birds are capable of incredible acts of affection, trust, and sweetness. They can also attempt to control. If you have any doubt about your ability to handle or understand your pet, consult with a parrot trainer or behaviorist.

A Yellow-crowned Amazon male at the peak of breeding season may be a dangerous bird, even if they are relatively easier to manage than a full-bore Double Yellow-head. Before you ever get involved with these birds, learn about the signs of a hormonal surge. You may smell a faint scent of lilacs or musk around the bird, and you may also notice that your pet is louder and more unpredictable. Many people advise that no Yellow-crowned Amazon should be a shoulder bird because you need to keep your pet where you can easily read its moods, but this rule is triply true when you're dealing with an adult male.

They warn before they bite. Pinned eyes? Fake lunges? Dancing around in anger? Take the hint, and remove the Yellow-crowned Amazon to a safe place to calm down. It's so important to train your pet to automatically step up on command onto a secure hand-held stick to ride in style to neutral territory for playtime. A poorly trained Amazon who intimidates its owner could be cage-bound for the duration of the hormonal surge, which could last for more than a year, and which could even be prolonged by the fact that the bird feels in control of the cage territory. You need to notice where your bird is in his cycle, and you need to have the proper training to handle the bird safely.

The Yellow-crowned Amazon can be a wonderful pet for the person looking for a talented talker and gifted trickster who doesn't need constant coddling. This bird sells itself, by talking to you in a sweet insinuating voice and maybe rubbing that soft head so sweetly over your hand. Some of them will even sing opera or other tunes to win your heart. But you do need to be aware of the dark side and to consider whether you're willing to invest in the training required to keep the bird sweet. Are you ready to meet the challenge?

Housing:
Yellow-crowned Amazons are downright lazy birds who are happy to claim a too-small cage for their personal territory. For a bird that can be seen flying for miles in the wild, they are amazingly quick to pretend that they can't fly anywhere except straight down. They will be happy in a smaller cage, and they may complain about the larger one, but for the sake of their health, you must ignore their advice and 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.

Have a playpen in all the areas where you spend a lot of time. Train the Yellow-crowned Amazon to step on a hand-held perch so that you can easily move your parrot out of the cage area 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 bird-safe wooden chewables, not just in the cage but also on the playgym and various perches around the house. Yellow-crowned Amazons can be indolent, and they like to think they can get what they want with a sweet-voiced, “Pretty bird,” but you must insist that they exercise to keep their muscles strong.

Diet:
Yellow-crowned Amazons demand 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. Other individuals seem to stay slim no matter how much they eat. 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 over or under weight.

That said, there are several diets that can work for the Yellow-crowned Amazon. Many people find that a good pellet-based diet, 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 Yellow-crowned 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

wonderful

intelligent, lovely creatures, trainable, excellent talkers, beautiful birds, admirable talkers

challenging

obnoxious, bite, seasonal hormonal behaviors, dominant person, loudest bird, screamers

interesting

longlived bird, insightful social engineer, wildcaught bird, vitamin deficiency

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