Spring Valley, Ohio
New York, United States
Species group: Amazon Parrots
Other name(s): Yellow-headed Amazon,;
Tres Maria (A. o. tresmariae)
AppearanceDetails: The Double Yellow-headed Amazon is the single most coveted Amazon parrot. Its superb talking skills and its spectacular plumage, which only gets better with age as the yellow spreads, make it one of the most highly desired pet birds on the planet. Many talented Double Yellow-heads speak or sing with intelligence and wit, without the sensitive nerves of the African Grey. These birds are rowdy, self-confident, and, yes, hard to handle if you don't bring all your parrot behavior skills to the forefront. Because of their great confidence, these birds will take control if you don't. They can be the world's best companion or the world's worst nightmare. And, like virtually all vocal birds capable of impressive feats of speech, they can be loud. But, if you're willing to do the work and educate yourself in the proper training of your Double Yellow-headed Amazon, you may be amazed at the wit and charm of this loyal companion. Let's avoid the debate about whether the Double Yellow-headed Amazon is a true species that should be separated from the Yellow-crowned Amazon group. All of the birds in this group require much the same care. It's most important to understand which subspecies or species you hold if you plan to breed the birds. If you do, get some hands-on, face-to-face advice from at least one other breeder. Here, we will simply discuss the pet qualities of these astonishing birds.
Weight: 400 - 600 grams
Average size: 28 - 33 centimeters
Lifespan: 50 - 60 years
Diet: Double Yellow-headed Amazons demand a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. Some, but not all, individuals, have a distressing propensity to gain a lot of weight, to become obese, and to die of fatty liver syndrome. Other individuals seem to stay slim no matter how much they eat. There are several diets that work for this species, but you always want to err on the side of offering low-fat choices. And please consult immediately with an experienced avian vet if you suspect that your bird is overweight.That said, there are several diets that can work for the Double Yellow-headed Amazon. Many people find that a good pellet-based diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet, but take care that this intelligent bird does not get bored with the pellets. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, can be the answer, although it's more work than pellets. Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it. Small, high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix, but sunflower and peanut are usually held back and only offered when trick training. A well-socialized Double Yellow-headed Amazon will want to help you eat your dinner, which is fine if you eat a healthy diet that's rich in vegetables and whole grain, but never allow any parrot to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat or poultry.
Housing: Double Yellow-headed Amazons can be downright lazy birds who are happy to claim a too-small cage for their personal territory. For a bird that can be seen flying for miles in the wild, they are amazingly quick to pretend that they can't fly anywhere except straight down. They will be happy in a smaller cage, and they may complain about the larger one, but for the sake of their health, you must ignore their advice and offer at least a 36”w x 24”d x 36”h with no more than 1” bar spacing. Make that a powder-coated metal cage, with manzanita perches in all the places where you don't want to change perches frequently, because these birds have a powerful beak and they will chew. If you feel that your bird requires a smaller cage to feel secure, then please have a smaller sleep cage, but they still need a larger area where they have to climb around to get to all their toys, treats, and hiding places when you're not home.It is crucial that you have a playpen in all the areas where you spend a lot of time. Train the Double Yellow-headed Amazon to step on a handheld perch so that you can easily move your parrot out of the cage area, which is sacred territory, and onto neutral ground, where you can play safely together without accidentally stimulating the bird into territorial biting. Provide lots of puzzle toys, foraging toys, and birdsafe wooden items to chew up, not just in the cage but also on the playgym and various perches around the house. Double Yellow-headed Amazons can be indolent, and they like to think they can get what they want with a sweet-voiced, “Pretty bird,” but you must insist that they exercise to keep their muscles strong.
The Double Yellow-headed Amazon is ranked as endangered, and the reason is simply that the birds can't successfully reproduce if smugglers keep taking unflighted babies out of the nest. If you are buying a young bird, know your breeder. If you are buying a much older bird who needs to be rehomed, know the family. If you expect your older pet to know, it must already know how. Do not tolerate smugglers, thieves, or unethical behavior.
There are three (or perhaps four) subspecies originating from Mexico through Central America. Probably the majority of the many birds in captivity are the nominate subspecies, A. o. oratrix, but you may hear a particularly well-colored bird referred to as a Tres Maria, A. o. tresmariae. In reality, since the only inhabitated island in the Tres Marias is Isla Maria Madre, which houses a Mexican federal prison, very few bird fanciers have ever seen a true Tres Maria. The breeders who can produce genuine Tres Marias will be well-known, with reliable references, who can command a handsome price for the real thing.
The Double Yellow-headed Amazon may not have the press or the scientific studies enjoyed by the African Grey, but make no mistake about it. These birds are intelligent. They are reading your body language and it behooves you to educate yourself so that you can read theirs. They are not prone to phobia or bad nerves. If they take over the household, it's because they see a vacancy at the top. These birds are capable of incredible acts of affection, trust, and sweetness. They can also attempt to control. If you have any doubt about your ability to handle or understand your pet, consult with a parrot trainer or behaviorist.That said, a Double Yellow-headed Amazon male at the peak of his hormonal surge may be a dangerous bird. They are super-charged with testosterone, and they may be determined to get their way. Before you ever get involved with these birds, learn to observe them. You may lsmell a scent of lilacs or musk around the bird during prime breeding season, and you may also notice that your pet is louder and more unpredictable. Many people advise that no Double Yellow-headed Amazon should be a shoulder bird because you need to keep your pet where you can easily read its moods, but this rule is triply true when you're dealing with an adult male. If you pay attention, they will warn you before they attack. Eyes pinned? Agitated? A fake lunge or two? Take the hint, and remove the overloaded Double Yellow-headed Amazon to a safe location where he can calm down. Don't try to reason with a hormonal surge. It's so important to train your Double Yellow-headed Amazon to automatically step up on command onto a secure hand-held stick to ride in style to neutral territory for playtime. A poorly trained Amazon who intimidates its owner could be cage-bound for the duration of the hormonal surge, which could last for more than a year, and which could even be prolonged by the fact that the bird feels in control of the cage territory. You need to notice where your bird is in his cycle, and you need to have the proper training to handle the bird safely. The Double Yellow-headed Amazon can be a wonderful pet for the person looking for a talented talker and gifted trickster who doesn't need constant coddling. This bird sells itself, by talking to you in a sweet insinuating voice and maybe rubbing that soft head so sweetly over your hand. Some of them will even sing opera or other tunes to win your heart. But you do need to be aware of the dark side and to consider whether you're willing to invest in the training required to keep the bird sweet. Are you ready to meet the challenge? Written by Elaine Radford