By Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Amazon parrots are undoubtedly the first type of parrot brought to mind when most people, even members of the non-bird owning public, hear the word “parrot.” Indeed, species from the genus Amazona are certainly one of the most popular pet parrot species. Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots are one of the top five most popular species of Amazons kept as pets — and for good reason. They are renowned for their outstanding mimicry abilities and their magnificently beautiful plumage.
According to Merilee Hook, a regional advisor for the Amazona Society, “Amazons are very flock oriented and need lots of interaction, toys and exercise. A young bird needs to be taught what behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not.”
Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots have headstrong, lively personalities and can be quite gregarious with both people and birds. Flashy, intelligent and full of the joys of life, these parrots happily thrive in a family with an active lifestyle. They easily learn tricks and various commands, and respond willingly for praise or a treat. Comical and bold, Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots are rarely shy. They can be willful, however, and need an owner capable of accepting their strong personality.
According to Diana Holloway of The Amazona Society, “Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots can be drama queens and need to be supervised around strangers. While their feisty personality is not for everyone, most keepers of this species adore them unconditionally. Behavior training and environmental enrichment should be practiced on a daily basis to keep that clever brain focused and busy.”
Hook also advises that Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots are one of the easiest Amazon parrots to read. “They are very clear about their moods — none of that stepping up sweetly, then biting the tar out of you. An Amazon with his tail flared and eyes pinned is telling you one of two things. If you are handing him his favorite treat, he might be saying “Ohhh, thank you, thank you — I just love these!” If there is no food involved, however, he could be saying “What about the words ‘I don’t want to’ do you not understand? Go ahead, stick that hand up here, and I’ll tell you again.”
Unlike African grey parrots, which often will not talk in front of people, Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots usually love an audience, and many become very talented talkers and singers. “Renowned Divas, their singing ability is unparalleled” according to Holloway. “From opera to country, they can learn all the songs in key, sometimes adding some hilarious words of their own.”
Sharlan Toby, owner of a pet double yellow-headed Amazon parrot that she shows named Gracie, reports that many times Gracie entertains the gallery and the judges by singing Amazing Grace, Old MacDonald, You Are My Sunshine or one of her other songs. “At the National Cage Bird Show in Lansing, MI, in 2004, Gracie was featured in the local paper for her entertaining personality. According to Sharlan, “She started singing at about 6 months old, and I have found that she was able to pickup songs very quickly. When she sings Amazing Grace, she will stop at certain parts and wait for someone to finish that line then pickup again at the next line.”
As with many species of Amazon parrots, noise can be a problem. Generally, Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots vocalize at least once a day with loud calls. However, many owners report that double yellow-headed parrots that have been kept with other Amazons tend to be the loudest, especially during breeding season. On the other hand, those bought young, as well as properly trained and socialized Amazon parrots, will rarely vocalize to the point of disturbing neighbors.
Good to Know Amazon Parrot Info
Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots belong to a genus that includes nine species of yellow-crowned or yellow-headed Amazon parrots, which also includes the yellow-fronted and yellow-naped Amazon. There are two subspecies of the double-yellowheaded Amazon; Amazona ochrocephala oratrix and A. o. tresmariae.
Double yellow-headed Amazons from the subspecies A. o. oratrix have two distinct body types, although, biologically, they are considered the same subspecies. One is approximately 14 inches in length and has general plumage of green with the entire head and throat bright yellow. The bend of the wing is pale red mixed with yellow with yellow on the edge. The thighs are also yellow. The beak and feet are horn colored mixed with gray toward the base of the upper mandible. They are predominantly found in western Mexico. The second type of A. o. oratrix is often referred to as the “Magna,” which is slightly larger at 16 inches and has more yellow and red. It is usually found in eastern Mexico.
The A. o. tresmariae is very similar to A. o. oratrix, but the yellow on the head and throat extend to the upper breast, and its under parts are tinged with blue. It is a larger parrot with a longer tail and is confined to the Tres Marias Islands off the coast of western Mexico.
Basic Double Yellow-Headed Amazon Parrot Care
Generally speaking, most species of Amazon parrots tend to put on weight rather easily, and double yellow-headed Amazon parrots are no exception. Therefore, both diet and exercise are extremely important in order to maintain optimum health and longevity. Double yellow-headed Amazon parrot life spans can be 40 to 80 years, but obesity can drastically reduce this (up to 70 percent).
Hook advises Amazon owners to obtain a good gram scale (as opposed to one that measures in ounces) and weigh their Amazons regularly. “Keeping track of their weight can head off a lot of problems before they really become problems.”
According to Holloway, the oldest known Amazon was a double yellow-head named Old Baldy that died at age 102. The Amazona Society recently heard of a man who went fishing on Lake Erie with his double yellow-headed Amazon parrot for 45 years.
Most owners and breeders recommend a fresh, natural diet that avoids overly processed or high-fat foods. Gail Worth of Aves International stated, “Amazon parrots require a diet high in natural beta carotenes. Root vegetables such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes are important additions to the diet. Please do not feed Amazon parrots a processed pelleted food as the basis of their diet. Pellets do not contain the phytonutrients (chemical compounds found in foods that may prevent disease) that whole fresh foods have. Sprouted seeds and grains are also recommended.”
Foods rich in beta carotenes are green, leafy vegetables such as chard and dandelion greens, and deep yellow or red vegetables such squash, red peppers, green beans, peas and broccoli. Soak or cooked grains that are high in nutrients but low in fat, such as quinoa, are also excellent to feed to double yellow-headed Amazon parrots.
Exercise is also extremely important for overall good health this bird species. A strong, sturdy cage that is 34-inches square with a play gym on the top is great. Many manufacturers have cages that are specifically designed for Amazon parrots and other large parrots, so be sure and look for them.
Perches of varying sizes such as those provided by natural wood branches are excellent for providing exercise for the feet as well chewing opportunities. Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots also need lots of sturdy toys from which to swing and play as well as chew up in order to stay healthy and happy.
“Puzzle toys are great but they also need lots of wood to shred. Remember, a bored Amazon is a destructive Amazon,” advised Hook. Toys should be checked frequently for safety and changed often to keep the parrot interested.
Double yellow-headed Amazon parrots should also be showered regularly for feather and skin health. A plant mister filled with water is fine for showing the parrot. Most Amazons adore being thoroughly soaked with a mister. “Gracie loves her baths (showers) and will do the ‘Amazon bath dance’ where she spreads her wings out then covers her head,” reported Toby.