Species group: Amazon Parrots
Other common names: Yellow-fronted Amazon (A. o. ochrocephala); Panama Amazon (A. o. panamensis)
Scientific name: Amazona ochrocephala
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.
A stocky mid-sized green parrot with an attractive yellow crown.
380 - 500 grams (13.4 - 17.6 oz.)
31 - 38 centimeters (12 - 15 in.)
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?
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.
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
intelligent, lovely creatures, trainable, excellent talkers, beautiful birds, admirable talkers
obnoxious, bite, seasonal hormonal behaviors, dominant person, loudest bird, screamers
longlived bird, insightful social engineer, wildcaught bird, vitamin deficiency
Echo, Yellow Crowned Amazon
Echo was a trade for some website content. I got the better deal. I had worked with a bird from the same parent birds and hoped to find the same gentleness and intelligence in her. I wasn't let down. Echo was affectionate, clever and a quick study in learning to mimic sounds, words and phrases. My favorite was "Hi Mama!" .
I bought her a very large cage. Some of my friend's called it "Echo's Palace". I filled it with toys and snack cups and perches of different thicknesses to keep her feet agile. She was free to come out to the gym at the top of her cage but spent most of her time inside.
I had my son while Echo lived with us. Echo spent a lot of time perched on a chair, watching my infant while he watched her. As he grew into a confident 3 year old, I taught him how to scratch the top of her head and the undersides of her wings. Most parrots really like this.
Echo was an excellent talker and mimicked many household sounds and had several favorite words and phrases. All the parrots I’ve ever owned or worked with can’t pronounce the “Z” sound. We had a dog named Rosie. Echo called her Rogie. The dog actually responded to it.
At one point in my life, I found I had a personal crises. Suddenly I needed to move across country and find homes for most of my nine birds. I held on to the hope that I could keep Echo, but there was no way I could take her to where I was going. I kept her at a bird shop while I packed up to leave and found that one of the girls working there had developed what became a mutual attraction with Echo. She adopted her, palace and all.
I miss Echo very much. If given the chance, I would definitely find a place in my permanent home for another Yellow Crown. They are delightful companions..
From Huskies_1 May 30 2015 9:48PM
A highly intelligent, strong-willed, long-lived bird for the experts
I have owned one Yellow-Crowned Amazon, for over 20 years, and he was already over 20 years old when I got him. Based on my experience with this single bird, this species has a very impressive level of social intelligence, as well as an amazing ability to talk and mimic. These birds are sharp as a tack. My bird talks, laughs, and can even eat with a spoon and then put the spoon in water to wash up. However, he's also an insightful social engineer who can smell out weakness and fear. He knows who fears him, and he will run circles around those people. If you are not the dominant person in the relationship, he will seize the top spot and have the entire household in an uproar. You must be knowledgeable in how to handle a parrot so that he automatically steps up and goes where you need him to go. Otherwise, this bird knows every trick in the book, from pretending he is crippled and can't figure out where you want him to go, to lunging as if he intends to bite. For that matter, if the bird is wrongly handled, he WILL bite. This is a wild-caught bird with deep, wild instincts, and you have to respect his body language. Hold the stick in the correct way, and he will step up properly every time. Respect his signals, and let him nap when he's getting grumpy, and he will not bite. But you need to work with your bird-sitter or assistant, or else you will find that the sitter or assistant is being completely run over by this bird. Anyone who lacks confidence will be intimidated. This bird was previously in a household with dogs, cats, and children, and he can make the sound of all of those crying...from what I was told, he had the whole family going in circles, and he often threatened to bite one young lady. You MUST know what you're doing to craft a great relationship with these intelligent birds, because if you don't figure them out, they WILL figure you out.
Seasonal aggression and hormonal feather plucking vary a great deal from year to year. Some years, it's smooth sailing, and some years, he's really, really grumpy and he makes a BIG point of the fact that he's involved in a torrid relationship with his bell. Be aware of seasonal issues, and be patient.
Your reward will be a long-lasting relationship with a wonderful bird. Now that he's over 40, he doesn't trot out as many of the creative phrases he used to say, but he still says his most familiar phrases and he still eats with a spoon and washes up neatly. Sometimes he pretends that he doesn't know how to step up, but if you politely insist, he's fine. I hope to enjoy many more years with this colorful character.
Update July 2014: Although this older bird doesn't talk as much as he used to, he still does say a few things each day and he still does his favorite tricks. And he looks absolutely beautiful.
Many birds of this species learn to sing opera and such but I'm afraid Cookie is more of a talker than a singer. He does very occasionally produce some pleasant trills along to a song but it would be a stretch to say that he's a talented songbird.
Update: October 2015: I still have Cookie, and he's well into his mid-forties by now. Unfortunately, he recently suffered an infection from mites, but he has responded to treatment and is recovering now. At his age, he has become very mellow and easy to handle. He still talks, mostly leaning on "Hello, pretty bird/pretty boy" and "Polly want a cracker." He tries to sing a little once in awhile in a very soft trill. And he can still do his trick of eating peanut butter with a spoon and then putting it away to soak in water after he finishes. But people should be aware that, yes, parrots can live a long time -- but if they do, they will be middle-aged/old-aged in behavior in their forties or so. I have heard of a Yellow-crowned Amazon living to be over 100, but if Cookie lives that long, he will not be an active energetic parrot for all those years. He is very laid-back these days..
From peachfront Jun 8 2012 1:50PM
The Tale of Ozone
Ozone and I were introduced when I started working at a pet shop. I was shown the bird and told it's tale and then put to work. While I was working, someone wolf whistled every time I bent over. It finally got to me and I sought the culprit. It ended up being Ozone, the Yellow-Crowned Amazon.
The bird had been rescued and has a sad tale. It is very apparent, from many of the sounds Ozone makes, that the household had been an abusive one and not only toward the bird. The poor darling cries and yells like the children, who had an abusive father. It is very chilling and sad to hear.
While I was never able to properly work with this parrot, because of her aggressiveness, I did get to teach her a few, more cheerful things to say. Ozone did already say, "Hi!", "Hello there!" and wolf whistled, aside from the sadder things that she said. I taught her to say "How are you?", "Good day!", and "Good bye!" while I worked there just by saying those things whenever I walked by the bird.
The only time I actually handled Ozone was when it was time to trim her talons because she tried to bite anyone who was near enough. She did get me once, but I quickly learned to keep out of reach. You could tell when she was getting ready to attack as well because her pupils would widen before she'd lunge. Ozone did love playing with some toys that hung from the top of her cage. We had it rigged so that we could pull them upwards to play with her without being bitten.
Luckily, Ozone is out of the environment that made her so aggressive and is now around people who care about her and love her. While she is not handled, because she can not be handled, she is loved at a safe distance. I go back to visit her from time to time.
Ozone is not the first parrot that I have come across who has emotional problems from being mistreated or just neglected. If you are interested in a parrot as a pet, I suggest that you think long and hard about it. Be sure that you can put the time and energy into their care. They need a lot of attention, love, and a peaceful environment..
From DeDoubleU Mar 4 2015 7:29PM