Amazon parrots are a diverse group of birds from Central and South America. Most Amazon parrots have a predominantly green body with accents of various colours depending on the species. Amazons are very social birds, and have become popular pets internationally due to their fun-loving and affectionate natures. Amazons are a highly intelligent group of birds and may become excellent talkers as they love to mimic.
Due to their love of play and socialising, Amazons require a lot of interaction with their human flock, and may develop behavioural problems if this is not possible or they are not adequately stimulated.
There are many species of Amazon parrot, but those commonly kept as pets overseas include the blue fronted, lilac crested, double yellow fronted, yellow fronted, red-lored, orange winged, and yellow naped Amazons. While less commonly kept in Australia because of long term importation restrictions on parrots, numbers have been gradually increasing over the years.
Amazons are not sexually dimorphic, so surgical or DNA sexing is required. Amazons can live up to 70 years in the right home.
Housing Robust, roomy cages are required for Amazons, which have strong beaks and love to chew. As with all birds, the larger the cage the better. At a minimum, cages for large Amazons should allow the bird to fully stretch its wings, and prevent the long tail feathers from catching on the floor. Ideally cages should be at least 1.5 x 1.5 x 1m, and birds should have access to an outdoor aviary where flight is possible and for access to unfiltered UV light.
Rectangular cages are recommended. Unless very large, cages with curved sides are not as comfortable for parrots.
Cage equipment – perches, feed dishes, toys As previously noted, Amazons are highly intelligent and so need lots of toys to keep themselves entertained. All Amazons love to chew on things so chewable untreated leather toys, wood, newspaper and cardboard to rip, and foraging toys are all very popular. Ensure toys are regularly rotated.
Bird Vet Melbourne recommends that your pet Amazon should have at least two perches of varying diameters in the cage and flight aviary, to encourage exercise. Natural wood perches are preferred to prevent foot problems and also for your bird to chew on for beak maintenance. Avoid sandpaper perches. Perches should be placed at opposite ends of the cage or aviary, allowing your Amazon to fly between them. Ideally place the widest perch in the highest position.
Food and water dishes should be made of stainless steel, and positioned to avoid contamination with droppings (i.e. not directly under perches). Hooded dishes should be avoided. Place feed and water dishes at opposite ends of the cage to encourage exercise.
All parrots kept indoors should be provided with artificial full spectrum light (UV-A & UV-B) or access to sunlight outdoors to allow normal vitamin D metabolism (and breeding behaviour).
Diet Feeding a balanced diet is very important to prevent health problems in birds. Avian vets at Bird Vet Melbourne recommend feeding your pet Amazon a mixture of the following every day:
Good quality bird pellets should be available at all times, as these are formulated to contain low levels of fat and have a high vitamin and mineral content. Suggested brands include Harrisons, Roudybush, Pretty Bird, Vetafarm and Passwells. See here for tips on getting your pet macaw to eat pellets.
A range of fruits and vegetables should always be available and must be changed daily. Dark leafy green and red/yellow vegetables e.g. spinach, silverbeet, pak choi and other Asian greens, broccoli, green beans, carrots, sweetcorn, butternut pumpkin, capsicums. See here for more information (link).
Sprouting grasses and native tree flowers provide both entertainment and high nutrition levels
Mixed seeds – Seeds are low in calcium and many essential vitamins and minerals, and are high in fat. They should only form a small part of the diet.
Nuts – Amazons love nuts and removing nuts from their shells provides entertainment and enrichment. Be sure that the nuts are fresh as mould growth can be an issue if nuts have not been suitably stored. Fresh almonds, cashews and peanuts are popular as treats.
Small amounts of human foods such as pasta, oats, toast and eggs can also be fed occasionally. A cuttlefish bone or chalk perch is recommended to provide calcium. Do not feed chocolate, avocado, alcohol or coffee to your pet macaw as these are toxic and can be fatal. Fresh water should always be available. Food and water should be changed daily.
Chlamydia is an infectious disease that affects many species of birds, and may also spread to humans. Birds may show a variety of signs with this disease, including general lethargy, poor appetite, runny eyes or nose, or green droppings.
Herpesvirus infections can cause papilloma (wart-like) lesions on the skin around the eyes, beak, and in the oral cavity, and may also cause papillomas in the cloaca. This disease is commonly reported in Amazon Parrots overseas and has occasionally been reported from elsewhere in Australia but has not yet been reported in Amazon Parrots in Victoria. In some birds, internal papilloma disease has been linked with cancers of the pancreas, liver and bile ducts.
Feather destructive behaviour and other behavioural disorders may be seen in Amazons. These may relate to problems with the diet, medical problems, or be a primary behavioural disorder.
Toxicities, especially those involving heavy metals, are common in Amazons since they love to chew!