Yellow-Shouldered Amazon

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Is the Yellow-Shouldered Amazon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: YSA; Yellow-winged Amazon; Yellow-shouldered Parrot; Yellow-winged Parrot

Scientific name: Amazona barbadensis

The basics:
The Yellow-Shouldered Amazon is a rare bird indeed, especially for a South American parrot. This smaller, somewhat slimmer Amazon parrot is sometimes nicknamed “Barbie” and described as a miniature version of the Blue-fronted Amazon. They have a good reputation for being a relatively quiet Amazon, but they can learn to talk and whistle, and they can become charming pets that don't present the intense behavior challenges of the larger species. Unfortunately, their great talent and personality have made them an irresistible target for illegal trappers. Make sure you purchase a legal, domestic-bred, close-banded pet.

This rare parrot has a tiny range in coastal Venezuela and a few offshore islands. Here, it lives in relatively dry areas, including landscapes where cacti and thorny bushes or trees can be found. They have a challenging situation in the wild, where they are rated “vulnerable,” and they have already been extirpated in Aruba. The population, never large, faces multiple challenges. Some habitat is lost to developments for tourism. Some farmers, especially on Bonaire, are reported to kill the birds for taking their crops. And, because of their beauty and intelligence, they are highly desired as pets, and apparently there is a bustling illegal trade that involves capturing the Amazons of Bonaire and selling them in Curacao or perhaps the Venezuelan mainland.

The Yellow-shouldered Amazon is a bit like a smaller, slimmer Blue-front, except the "front" forecrown is white instead of blue. The shoulder patch on the closed wing is always yellow in the Yellow-shouldered, whereas it is red in one subspecies of the Blue-front.

270 grams (9.5 oz.)

Average size:
28 - 33 centimeters (11 - 13 in.)

50 years

Behavior / temperament:
Because of their rarity, Yellow-shouldered Amazons often find their way into breeder's programs. However, the lucky few may encounter a domestic hand-fed baby, and these smaller Amazons are very well-regarded for their balanced personality. While they may not have the top talking skills of a Double Yellow-headed Amazon, they are smaller and easier to handle, and they can be the best choice for many people. However, do not be misled. An older adult male in breeding season can become aggressive, so learn about Amazon psychology and body language, and develop good bird handling habits from the very beginning. If you have any doubts about your ability to manage your Amazon, a bird trainer or behaviorist can be an excellent investment to help you polish your skills.

Even though the Yellow-shouldered Amazon is a smaller, “cute” Amazon, treat them with respect. Some experts recommend that no Amazon be allowed to ride your shoulder. Teach them to ride a hand-held perch or your arm, so that you can always keep an aware eye on them to monitor their moods and behavior.

The Yellow-shouldered Amazon needs a living space that encourages the parrot to exercise. Offer at least a 36”w x 24”d x 36”h cage 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 is crucial that you have a playpen in all the areas where you spend a lot of time. Train the Yellow-shouldered Amazon to step up 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 bird-safe wooden chewables, not just in the cage but also on the playgym and various perches around the house.

The Yellow-shouldered Amazon is a parrot of dry scrublands. The bird is adapted to a challenging environment, so you must be careful not to give too much rich, high fat food, or your parrot might become obese. Stick with a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. 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 overweight.

That said, there are several diets that can work for the Yellow-shouldered 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-shouldered 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


physical handling, busy adult households, sweetest Amazon, positive reinforcement training


live for as long as a human, illegal trade, unfortunately many die, 1Person Bird


highvalue food rewards

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