The Wonderful World of Amazons (continued)

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© Howard Voren

Above and beyond these wonderful types, there are many that have always been considered difficult to obtain. The first one that comes to mind is the yellow-shouldered Amazon (A. barbadensis). The top pet bird in Venezuela, these dynamite little Amazons look like a miniature version of the Chaco Blue-front. They are very animated and have excellent talking ability. They have been on the international endangered species list for many years. They are now being produced here in the U.S. in sufficient numbers to allow some to filter into the pet trade. Those that have the opportunity to own one will enjoy the experience.

Another Amazon that is now being bred in the U.S. and is occasionally available is the tucuman (A. tucumana). This was one of the last of the Amazons to be placed on the international endangered species list before importation into the U.S. was ended. These birds are from Argentina and their importation history was short. Almost all of the imports were purchased by breeders. They are a small amazon, not so much in length but in body girth and head size. Their overall coloration is green with a complimentary black edging to their feathers. On the front of their forehead there is a patch of bright red. Their beak is a horn color. These parrots do not have enough of a track record as pets to make definite conclusions about their talents. Those reports that I have received tell me that they have, thus far, proved to be friendly, inquisitive and intelligent.

Next on the list of rarities that are occasionally available is the Hispaniolan Amazon (A. ventralis). From the Island of Hispaniola in the West Indies, it is not only the favorite pet bird on its home island, but also on the neighboring island of Puerto Rico. They are a very small Amazon, about the size of the yellow-shouldered. They have white on their forehead, pink at the throat and patch of black feathers on the side of their heads. Their lower belly is a deep red-maroon. The extent of their coloration varies drastically from one individual to the next. Many of the Hispaniolans in the U.S. were brought in by visitors to these Islands. Most are confiscated at our borders for improper documentation. Unfortunately they have proved to be reluctant breeders and most that show up for sale are usually confiscated birds that have been auctioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The Cuban Amazon (A. leucocephala) is very similar to the Hispaniolan but the colored areas are much more extensive. Due to this they have been listed as separate species. As their name implies, they are from Cuba as well as some of the small surrounding islands. These small amazons are not only on the international endangered species list, they are on the U.S. federal list as well. This makes them illegal to ship across state lines to anyone that does not have a federal permit to keep them.

Any breeder who produces them is allowed to sell them as pets within the borders of their own State to people that do not have a permit. Although this has not happened often in the past, I believe that it will be happening more often in the future. Many pair of Cubans are now producing regularly and those that breed them are having trouble selling the offspring. The reasonable numbers being produced along with the Federal Government’s stringent regulations as to who qualifies to receive these birds interstate commerce, has made them extremely difficult to sell. There are several breeders who due to excellent production will soon be forced to seek homes for their birds in the pet sector within their home states. Many people feel that endangered species should never be kept as pets, but, in cases of excess production, I strongly disagree. This can not only promote more public interest in the birds, but give them a better life as well. When you have excess production sitting around for years in cages, the birds set up a “pecking order.” Those at the bottom will have a miserable life being “picked on” by those members of the flock that are above them in this “order.” In the wild, they would fly a safe distance away. In a flight cage, no matter how big, the “bullies” have them captive. Release programs, as good as they sound, have thus far proved futile or fatal. They not only have the reputation of being excellent pets on their native island, they are now a very popular Amazon in Russia. When the U.S.S.R. broke up and the Russian soldiers were all called back from Cuba, many of them brought their pet Cuban Amazons home with them.

Another very small Amazon that occasionally makes its way into the pet trade is the yellow-lored Amazon (A. xantholora). They are similar in size and appearance to the white-fronted described earlier. The two major differences being the round patch of black coloration on the ear coverts of the males and a bright sulfur yellow frontal band. These birds have a very small range that starts in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and ends in the Bay Islands of Honduras. Although never legally imported, the population that is in the U.S. is made up of birds that were confiscated at our borders and sold at public auction. They are highly sought after by professional breeders. Their pet quality is similar to that of the white-fronted.

Continuing with the “little guys,” there is also the yellow-faced Amazon (A. xanthops). They have body coloration of light green with a patch of yellow on the top of their head and under their wings. As they age the areas of yellow increase until the bird has its entire head, neck, breast and belly, yellow to yellow-orange. These birds tend to be a bit nippy but they do have better than average talking ability. At the present time, the demand for them by breeders, keeps most of them out of the pet shops.

A beautiful full sized Amazon that is now being produced with regularity is the Vinaceous-breasted Amazon (A. vinacea). They have a red frontal band over the area of the nostrils (the cere). The most striking coloration is the breast. It is a wine colored red-purple, which is how the bird gets its name. These birds make good talkers and excellent pets. Like the Cuban Amazon, they are also on the federal Endangered Species list. They are however, still in demand by breeders. In spite of the good demand, they are about to appear in limited numbers in the pet trade in the states where they are bred. This is due to the fact that many more males are being produced than females. Most vinaceous Amazon breeders that I know, have a cage full of extra males. Some of us feel that, in the future, the extra males produced would have a better life in a pet situation than waiting for a female that will never come.

A full sized Amazon that used to very common in the pet trade, but has all but disappeared from existence, is the Festive Amazon (A. festiva). Found along the Amazon River in Peru, Colombia and Brazil, this was one of the Amazons that was imported in fair numbers thirty years ago. Most were imported from Colombia. Since the majority were wild caught, they were usually overshadowed by the more popular, hand-raised double-yellow heads. Despite this, most of them made wonderful pets. They are a large Amazon with a large body girth. They are an overall green with a thin line of dark maroon as a frontal band that extends from the front of the fore-head to the front corners of their eyes. Their most notable color characteristic is the bright crimson red that covers the entire area of their rump.

A subspecies of the festive called Bodinis’ Amazon (A.f. bodini) lives in the jungles surrounding the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Some small numbers were imported about eight to ten years ago. More colorful than the festive, the Bodini has a much wider and redder frontal band that extends for the width of the forehead. Their cheeks have a heavy blue wash to them, which is quite striking. They as does the festive also have the bright red rump. Although it will be quite some time before they will be established enough to be available in the pet trade, one does see an occasional extra male offered. These, like the Festive, have made quiet, intelligent pets that have a talent for talking.

With so many excellent choices it can be difficult to make a decision as to the type of Amazon you should purchase. What ever the choice, all of the hand raised amazons make good pets. It is important to get a bird that has not only been hand raised but socialized at a young age with many different people.

This allows them to be less selective as to who they will be friendly with. In most cases this is more effectively done in a pet shop. It is there that they have the opportunity to interact with all shapes and sizes of people. This will result in a more tolerant adult bird. Another mistake that many buyers make is that they will tend to ignore older birds regardless of their individual temperament. There is no better pet investment than an older Amazon with a docile temperament. These are the only Amazons available where it can truly be said that you know what you will wind up with in the long run. Amazon babies, just like human children, will grow up with varying temperaments and personalities. Although you can do everything in the world that is right for your children, there is still the possibility that they can grow up to turn around and “bite” you. Do not hesitate to purchase an older bird if you, as well as some other members of your family, have spent some time interacting with it and the chemistry is right.

A Word About Breeding Amazons

Amazons are not easy to breed. With their high intelligence they can be very selective of their mates and very aggressive towards them if they become angry with them. Too much human presence in an Amazon breeding area that is not directly related to feeding or changing of water can cause a tame pair of Amazons to become aggressive and injure or kill their mates. Amazon breeding should not be done if you expect to keep the birds as friendly pets. They become quite aggressive to any intrusion when they are breeding. The tamer they are the more aggressive they will become towards humans during breeding, because they have no fear of the human intruder.

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