On 1/08/09, Letha wrote:
> How old is it that a amazon comes into breeding mode??
> I have a amazon that is 2 1/2 yo, how much time do I have
> until my baby does his thing?
This article should answer your Amazon questions. -Alison-
WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMAZON PARROTS?
By Joanie Doss
Based on her article that appeared in the January 2002 issue
of Bird Talk Magazine
You mention the name Amazon and you will get a
wide variety of reactions. Some people will say they are
the best birds ever while others will say with disgust, “I
wouldn’t have one of those things in my house!”
Why such a range in the popularity of Amazons?
Amazons have gotten a bad rap over the last few
years. They have been labeled as mean and unpredictable.
Some people believe they can’t be kept as pets after they
become physically mature. These statements are untrue.
Amazons are wonderful birds and pets. For years they were
the bird of choice because they could amuse themselves,
talked, sang, were beautiful, smart and survived even during
bad care. The most important factor though, was that
wonderful Amazon spirit that allowed them to adjust to
captivity better than many other species.
Can Amazons be kept as pets after they mature? You bet. I
have five male Amazons (two Blue Fronts and three Napes)
with ages that range from 11 years to over 20 years. They
have been with me for most of their lives and although they
have required special handling at times, they are still pet
quality. My birds are also performing birds and have had as
many as 250 people hold them after a performance. In order
to live with Amazons you first have to understand them.
Amazons are not Greys with green feathers despite
the fact that they are equally smart, great talkers and
about the same size. Amazons react differently than Greys
to situations. If they were people, the Grey would be the
intellectual college graduate while the Amazon would be the
street smart and life-of-the-party type of guy.
The Amazon classification covers a wide group of
birds. They are basically all green with different
colorations on their heads. The problem birds can be
limited to a few species. They can be broken down further
by sex. This group is made up of the males of the Double
Yellow Heads, Yellow Napes and Blue Fronts. I have called
this group the “Hot Three”. When sexual, these birds become
extremely aggressive and one has to be careful when handling
them. Species such as Lilac Crowns, Green Cheeks and
Mealies are less excitable and remain much calmer than
the “Hot Three” during the breeding season. There is a huge
difference in the species of Amazons, their sex and their
age. A five year old Lilac Crown female may bite but she
will not go into a hormonal rage. A nine year old male
Double Yellow can very easily do so if they are healthy and
their environment is right.
The females of the “Hot Three” are also calmer and some even
demand cuddling during the breeding season. Other species
of Amazons will not be as excitable but that does not mean
the other Amazons do not bite. They do, but you do not have
to contend with the hair trigger of the “Hot Three” males.
All birds (Amazons or not) can bite when breeding behavior
is present including species that are known for their
calmness. The “Hot Three” males, however, can be completely
out of control when sexual. They seem to go into a trance
like state and do not hear you or understand what they are
doing. An attack by a hormonal male “Hot Three” is very
vicious and will not be limited to one bite. They bird will
bite, and bite, and bite. They have broken bones, opened
skin to expose the bone and disfigured faces. Care must be
taken when working with these birds and it is up to you to
make certain others are not hurt when the bird has a mate or
a mate substitute.
The time of aggression varies with the individual bird. It
usually appears between the ages of 5 to 12 years. During
this time there will be one to two years in which they will
be very aggressive. Once they go through this, they
generally settle down with little or no aggression shown
when they are not hormonal and some aggression when they
are. People often ask me when will an Amazon become
hormonal and for how long. This varies with the individual
bird. One of my Napes, Magnum, was showing sexual behavior
when he was nine months old! He began tearing paper,
screaming, nipping and was trying to mount all the other
birds. Of course, he could not father babies at this age,
but the behavior was already there. My Nape Tequila Joe did
not show obvious signs of sexuality until he was 8 years old.
Not all male “Hot Three” will become aggressive when
hormonal. Young males, ill males or those with a low sex
drive will be average to mellow. However, a large portion
of “Hot Three” males do become aggressive when hormonal. No
one knows which ones will give you problems when they go
through this period. My Nape, Tequila Joe, never bit me the
first 8 years I had him. When he turned eight, he bit me so
hard that he did nerve damage to my left hand. All my males
were bad when they were 8 year olds. Tequila Joe however,
was the only one that had to be pulled from performing. He
was extremely aggressive for that entire year. As a nine
year old, he was back performing again and getting back to
being his normal sweet self.
Many people think they have cured an Amazon’s biting problem
when all they have done is allowed the bird to finish his
hormonal cycle. I could tell a person to hop on one leg
four times a day in front of the bird cage, and in a few
months, the bird would began to be calmer and bite less and
less. It isn’t the hopping, it is the bird’s body no longer
putting out high levels of hormones.
Another thing that is often misunderstood is the role
illness and diet plays in the bird’s hormonal aggression. A
person rescues a “Hot Three” male from poor care. They take
a sweet Amazon to the vet to cure illnesses and improve his
diet. They expect the bird to be forever grateful.
Instead, one day the bird bites them. Hard! What happened?
The bird is now healthy and his body is functioning
normally. A slight bacterial infection often keeps a bird
from breeding condition as does malnutrition. Anything
that encourages hormonal behavior will also increase the
“Hot Three” males are programmed to guard the nest,
territory and family. The female does the incubating and
the male stands guard outside the nest. In the wild, there
is competition for nesting sites so hormonal Amazons will
try to drive any bird that might compete for his territory
(outside of his mate) from the nesting area. The problem
with Amazons is that people fail to realize that these birds
will be aggressive when in breeding mode. Amazons have been
programmed to be this way for many centuries so that they
are able to survive. Although pets, they are still
programmed to defend their territory.
Amazons are extremely loyal and devoted to their people.
Some of these birds will risk their lives to protect them.
There have been a couple of newspaper articles about pet
birds attacking and chasing intruders out of the house when
the person tried attacking the bird’s people. It should be
no surprise that the birds were Amazons. Amazon owners have
to realize that this can happen if the bird miss-interprets
other people’s actions. As an Amazon owner, I always keep
tabs on how my birds are reacting to people and situations
around us. Amazons may also bite the ones they love the
most as they try to drive them from danger or keep them from
being attracted to competitors.
The main factor of throwing a bird into breeding behavior is
the amount of light they receive. The light will increase
the size of their sexual organs and the decrease in light
causes them to shrink. If I am trying to bring an Amazon
down from breeding behavior I cover his cage with a heavy
dark cover so that no light can enter into the cage. He is
then put to bed earlier or allowed to sleep later. I start
with limiting his daylight by covering him for 13 hours.
This will be increased or decreased by his actions. If he
is still doing hormonal screaming, biting, charging,
excessive paper tearing, or masturbation, I will increase
the amount of darkness.
Since my bird cages are so close together, I also use the
covers to keep the birds from seeing their neighbors. They
would spend most of their time challenging each other during
the breeding season to protect their territory if I did not
do this. I have my covers so the front is open but they
can’t see their neighbor on either side. They do see each
other from the front part of their cages or when they are
out of the cages. Covering the sides allows them to relax
and not feel as though they must guard their territory from
another male. If I had room to put more distance between
their cages, this would not be necessary. The aggression
shown toward another male in guarding territory often throws
the birds into breeding behavior. Large breeders will
alternate a species of Amazons so that pairs of the same
species do not see each other. Although the protection of
territory may start them into breeding behavior, pairs
seldom breed if they are kept next to pairs of the same
species as they spend their time challenging and charging
each other instead of building nests and raising a family.
Rise in humidity, increase in food and increase in the
evening temperature are other factors that help in bringing
the bird into hormonal behavior. Many times the birds
become hormonal in late fall and winter. The reason is that
people turn on their heating systems and the evening
temperature rises. They also turn their electric lights on
sooner and thus are giving their birds more light. With the
increase of light and evening temperatures, the bird’s body
reacts as if it is spring.
Once nesting is over, wild Amazons return to
groups and have few problems getting along. This behavior
should be remembered when pet birds shows signs of
sexuality. It is better to be over-cautious when your
male “Hot Three” is sexual by keeping him where he cannot
attack another bird. It only takes a second for a bird to
amputate another bird’s toe or worse.
One must learn the Amazon’s body language to avoid getting
bit. Amazons always warn before biting. It may be a slight
quick warning, but it is there. The obvious time not to
handle an Amazon is whenever he is excited. If his tail is
flaring and his eyes dilating, it is best to avoid handling
him until he is calmer. Even when birds are extremely
hormonal, they may still have a short time during the day or
evening when they will be calm enough to handle. After 20
years of working with Amazons I find the best way to handle
biting is to avoid it in the first place. It seems that
every time a bird bites it increases the chances that he
will bite again. It is very important to learn to read the
bird’s body language and then not put yourself in a position
where you can get bit. You do not want to change hormonal
biting into behavioral biting.
Sometimes it is better to have all female birds or all male
birds for pets. Male “Hot Three” Amazons can be set off by
females of other species. One would think that a bird that
is this sexual would be easy to breed. Amazons can be
difficult to produce as most will only have a clutch once a
year. They can be very choosey about their mate. Some
birds have lived together for years and have a platonic
relationship. Large breeders allow Amazons to chose their
own mates. Having only a clutch a year and difficulty in
finding a compatible pair have discouraged many breeders
from having these birds. Other species are far more
There are several things one can do to keep calm and harmony
in your relationship with an Amazon. Baby Amazons are sweet
and wonderful. Most people do not believe that their baby
will ever bite them. It is a good idea to start when they
are young to keep them off your shoulder. In a matter of
seconds a hormonal male can damage an eye, ear, or scar a
face. Another important handling suggestion is to stick
train the bird. This will enable you to be able to transfer
the bird from his cage to a play stand or gym. Letting the
bird play on top of his cage will increase the chances that
he will become territorial. Rough play should also be
avoided as it gets most Amazons overly excited. If the bird
never becomes aggressive, the training will not hurt him and
if he does, you will be glad you took the time to train him.
A large cage is important when keeping a male “Hot Three”
Amazon. My males are kept in Macaw size cages with Amazon
spacing for the bars. The bars need to be close enough that
the bird cannot stick his head between them. The need for
the cage is for the short time in the bird’s life when he is
extremely aggressive. They may be in their cage for a day
or two if they become too excitable to put on a T-stand or
gym. With plenty of room and toys, it won’t hurt him to be
in his cage for a while. I still interact with the birds
when they are extremely hormonal, but I keep the bars of
their cages between us.
Wing clipping should be done on any male showing
aggression. It helps to make him less confident in
attacking plus it keeps the bird from hurting a person.
Some of these boys can become downright dangerous and you
don’t want to contend with an aggressive male flying into
your face to bite.
Male Amazons are wonderful companions that are extremely
intelligent, out going, talkative, loyal and devoted. They
display more fully and more often than the females.
The “Hot Three” males are extremely macho. They are also
very funny birds. I have seen my birds in full display so
preoccupied with showing off that they walk off a perch and
fall in an unglamorous heap on the floor. They pick
themselves up and then act as if this is what they intended
to do in the first place.
Even though you may not be able to handle your Amazon when
they are going through a particular intense hormonal period,
they are still very entertaining. These plain green males
suddenly burst into a rainbow of colored feathers. They
spread their tail and wings showing off those beautiful red,
yellow and blue feathers. Their bright orange eyes dilate.
Their head feathers are raised while the hold their wings
fully extended and away from their body. Then they do a
stiff legged walk. Some will even turn slightly from side
to side to show off their stunning display and then shake
their feathers as well. It is a sight to behold. If I were
a predator or rival, I would be afraid. If I were a female
I would swoon. As long as I have been around Amazons, I
still have to stop and admire a male in full display. I
call this the “Amazon strut”. Amazon males display
frequently but when hormonal, they will also go into that
Amazons are such great companions that their owners often
overlook their indiscretions. The few bites they receive
are far outweighed by the joy they bring. Amazons are not
for everyone, but with a little understanding of why and how
these birds react, they can become outstanding pets. To
know an Amazon is to love them.