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Re: Breeding

Posted by Alison on 1/08/09
(6) Comments

    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-

    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
    bird’s aggression.

    “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
    fascinating strut.

    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.