Amazon Parrots, as we all know, have long been a favorite among aviculturists world wide. With their beautiful colors, amazing personalities and their variety of different species and sub-species, it is clear why they have been so intriguing and popular. In this article we are going to take a closer look at a popular species of Amazon Parrot, and a species that some say is the prettiest, the Red-lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis).
Also known as Yellow-cheeked Amazon or Red-fronted Amazon, Red-lored Amazons are medium sized Amazons with a large range from Mexico to Ecuador. They are stocky green amazons which somewhat resemble Mexican Red-headed and Lilac-crowned Amazons. The forehead is bright red and the crown is violet-blue. The cheeks are bright green in some subspecies and yellow in others. The upper beak is partially horn coloured and the lower beak is black. Nape feathers are tipped in black, producing scallowing. Prominent red speculum in wing. Primary and secondary flight feathers are green with blue tips. Tail feathers green with yellowish green tips.
Salvin’s Amazon (A. a. salvini) – Honduras or Nicaragua south to Colombia on western slopes. Larger heavier bird. Cheeks bright green and tail red on outer webs.
Lilacine Amazon (A. a. lilacina) – Western Ecuador. Face yellowish, red lores extend to supercilliary stripe. Beak blackish.
Diademed Amazon (A. a. diadema) – Amazon basin of Brazil. – Green face, red on lores and feathered cere darker forming spot in front of eye. Cheeks slightly bluish.
The Red-lored Amazon occurs on the gulf coast of Mexico south to northern South America with disjunct populations in the Amazon and Ecuador. It inhabits a variety of wooded and open habitats, including tropical deciduous forests, pine woodlands, oak forests, mangroves, wooded swamps, cultivated areas with tall trees, and scrubby dry forests. Nest in tree cavities or palm stumps. They have a preference for figs (ficus) but also eat Pine seeds, coffee beans, palm fruits, pods, and fruits. They do occasionally cause crop destruction, especially corn crops.
Length is 30 to 35cm and average weight is 310-480 grams. Eyes of juveniles are brown while eyes of adults are orange-yellow. Red-lored Amazons can probably live up to 50 years or more. Little is known about their life span in captivity. Breeding age is approximately 3-5 years.
Their food includes fruits, nuts, and seeds. Like all parrots, Red-lored Amazons need a varied diet consisting of high quality pellets, a quality seed mix, and daily servings of fresh, bird-safe fruits and vegetables.
In my opinion, the diet fed to breeding Amazons is the most important factor in their management. Amazons in the wild do a great deal of flying, usually in large flocks over great distances. In captivity, not only do we bird keepers deliver the food to the birds’ door, we often provide a diet that is much richer and that contains more fat than the natural diet of the species. This results in an obese bird with markedly reduced chances for breeding. In their native habitats, Amazon Parrots not only raid farmers’ fields but also eat a large variety of seeds, berries, fruits, nuts, leaf buds, flower blossoms, and other natural foods in great variety. Of course we cannot duplicate a natural diet, but we can provide a diet that is rich in variety and full of fresh foodstuffs that are as natural as possible.
Many people feed their Amazons a dry pellet diet with some additional vegetables or fruits and feel this is sufficient. In my opinion it is far better to feed a diet based on grains, vegetables, and sprouts. Breeders use a variety of grains and pulses including red wheat, brown rice, lentils, corn and several types of beans and peas. These are boiled for about thirty minutes and then allowed to cool. To this we add a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. These include corn on the cob, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans and peas in their hulls, squash, kale and other leafy greens, apples, oranges, melons, papaya, grapes, and plums. We boil root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, and sweet potatoes and add these chopped after they are cooled. Another important addition to the Amazon diet is sprouted seeds. A powdered vitamin/mineral additive that contains minerals and trace elements can be added. Amazons need to be monitored so that they do not become obese, as this will lessen chances for breeding success.
If eggs are pulled, I recommend leaving them a full two weeks under the hen if possible and putting the eggs into a quality incubator. This gives you the best odds of success in hatching the eggs. Of course some pairs will not sit well or will break or eat eggs so these should be pulled immediately after laying. We often foster freshly laid eggs under reliable hens for two weeks before removing them for artificial incubation. If eggs are set in an incubator at day one, I recommend hand-turning them for the first few days as vibrations from artificial turning devices can kill very young embryos. All eggs are turned five times a day and incubated at 37°C. Incubation is twenty-four to twenty-six days. Chicks are relatively easy to hand-feed and grow quickly, fledging at about ten to twelve weeks and weaning at thirteen to sixteen weeks of age. I do not believe in pushing chicks into weaning and offer three hand-feedings a day to weaning chicks. Fresh corn on the cob, apple slices, cooked grains, sprouted seeds, pellets, and spray millet are offered to the weaning chicks.
Housing and Breeding
Red-lored Amazons are monomorphic (sexes are not visually distinct). Some breeders say that mature females have brown irises while mature males have a golden iris. This has not been proven so to be sure surgical sexing or DNA sexing must be used to confirm sex of breeders. Males are generally larger than females and have larger heads and beaks.
Red-lored Amazons are said to be relatively difficult to breed in captivity compared to most Amazons. They are shy by nature and need privacy. Like all Amazons they are seasonal breeders, their breeding season being spring. Those pairs that do breed seem to be quite consistent with their breeding routine while other pairs just never seem to get going. Clutch size is typically 3 to 4 eggs. A suggested aviary size is 120cm wide by 120cm tall by 240cm long suspended 120cm above the ground or floor. Grandfather style wooden boxes can be used as nest boxes. Size should be approximately 30cm x 30cm x 60cm.
Many breeders mentioned that they have very good results when they weaned their babies they keep them in groups of four to twelve in large aviaries until they reached puberty. Then when they see pair bonds forming between couples they moved them to single aviaries for breeding. Successful breeding followed.
David Dennison comments. “This is something that we are unable to do with certain species. We tend to buy a young pair, often hand reared, we put them in an aviary on their own and leave them there until they reach puberty without any interaction with their own species and then we expect them to breed normally! I accept that apart from a few breeders with several pairs we simply do not have enough birds to do what I suggest – group these birds out of the breeding season. I did experiment with mixed groups where I had few birds of a species and this turned out to be a success, provided it was done out of the breeding season for mature birds (as the breeding season approached the mature males became aggressive and began to stress the females), young birds didn’t matter. In one large aviary I placed eight young Blue-fronted, six Red-lored, four Orange-wing and six Cuban Amazons. Half these young birds from all species had chewed wing feathers and chewed tail feathers. A year later after moulting, they all were perfect and could fly without trouble. These birds eventually all bred but this experiment would need to be repeated again several times to establish without doubt that this period of socialization leads to greater breeding success.”
In America a breeder wrote that he gets up to fifteen fertile eggs from a pair of Double-yellow Headed Amazons in a season by taking the eggs away as they are laid and incubating them, then hand rearing the babies! Clearly that is a way to make a lot of money in the short term but one must also consider the long-term effects of such a practise.
Male Red-loreds are occasionally aggressive toward their mates. Clipping the wings of the male prior to the breeding season may be necessary in aggressive individuals to help the female to escape in case the male becomes aggressive. Males in breeding condition can be very aggressive to keepers. Red-loreds can be noisy when in breeding condition.
Young Red-lored Amazons tend to be very tame and handleable with moderate speaking ability. They are intelligent, inquisitive birds and can be good pets if not treated roughly. Mature birds, especially males, may become aggressive. They were relatively common in captivity but are not frequently bred and young birds are not commonly available for pets. We feel that due to the fact that they are not bred as readily as other Amazons they should rather be considered as birds for breeding projects where they can form pairs in aviaries.
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