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Avian Medicine List:
Basic Information Sheet for the Amazon Parrot

Amazon parrot-Amazona spp.

Shown here, Double yellow-headed Amazon parrot (Amazona ochrocephala oratrix). Click image to enlarge.

Natural History Amazon parrots originate from a large portion of the Amazon Basin in South America although species-specific ranges vary. Habitats range from savannah, palm grove, scrub forest to rainforest.  Wild Amazon parrots are incredibly active, foraging and flying in flocks. 

Amazon parrots are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list. Appendix I species are threatened with extinction, and commercial trade is prohibited and importation/exportation for scientific research requires special permits.

Taxonomy
  • Class Aves
    • Order Psittaciformes
      • Family Psittacidae
        • Amazona finschi – Lilac-crowned Amazon
        • Amazona auropalliata – Yellow-naped Amazon
        • Amazona amazonica – Orange-winged Amazon
        • Amazona ochrocephala oratrix – Double Yellow-headed Amazon
        • Amazona aestiva – Blue-fronted Amazon
Species There are 27 species and many subspecies in Genus Amazona. Some commonly owned species are listed above.

Physical Description
  • Amazon parrots are stocky birds with rounded, short tails. Members of genus Amazona typically range from 12-15 in (30-38 cm) in length.
  • The plumage is mostly green but other colorful markings are seen in various species. For example, orange-winged Amazons have a large orange patch on the underside of their wings.
  • Amazon parrots are sexually monomorphic except for the rare Yellow-lored Amazon (Amazona xantholora).
Diet
  • Amazons may be frugivores, florivores, and/or omnivores so free ranging birds feed on fruits, flowers, seeds, and sometimes insects.
  • Feed companion birds a varied diet to decrease the likelihood of obesity.
  • Since psittacines hull seeds before ingestion, they do not require grit. In fact, some individuals will overeat grit when ill putting them at risk for impaction.
  • All-seed diets are deficient in protein, vitamins, and minerals including calcium and vitamin A.
  • Amazon parrots are likely to gain weight with inactivity because of their hearty eating habits.
Husbandry
  • Provide frequent water baths or showers to maintain normal skin/feather quality.
  • Perch diameter should be should be approximately 1 in (2.5 cm).
  • Cage bar spacing should range from 0.75-1.0 in (1.9-2.5 cm) for most species. Larger Amazons may require 0.75-1.5 in (1.9-3.8 cm).
  • Activity is important for Amazon parrots to prevent obesity and secondary health problems.
Behavior
  • Amazon parrots can be noisy.
  • Amazons are generally good family pets with a reasonable temperament, however behavior that may be perceived as aggression can be exhibited, particularly during the breeding season.
  • Amazons are typically extroverted birds that do not fixate on one person in the household. Social interaction is important for their well-being.
  • Foraging is an important part of normal daily parrot activity. Teach and encourage pet birds to play and forage.
Normal Physiologic Values
Temperature (average)*41.8°C107.1°F
Heart rate (beats/min)340-600
Respiration (breaths/min)15-45
Body weight (g)Orange-winged
Lilac-crowned
Blue-fronted
Yellow-naped

Double yellow-head
300-360 (up to 490 recorded)
325
375-400 (up to 500 recorded)
480 (550-680 recorded)
450-545 (up to 650 recorded)
Mean life span (years)40-60
Sexual maturity4-6 years
Weaning age (days)90-120 – Parent- raised
75-90 – Hand-reared
Weaning age varies with the individual, and should never be based on a pre-determined time period.
Fledgling age (days)45-60
Mean incubation (days)28-29Incubation ranges from 24-29 depending on the species.
Average number of eggs laid3-4
Target environmental temperatureMimic natural environment.Household temperatures of 70-80°F (21-27°C) are generally acceptable, however healthy birds can tolerate hot and cold temperatures.

* Routine avian exam does not include measuring body temperature

Anatomy and Physiology
  • Amazon parrots lack a preen or uropygial gland.
  • Amazon parrot plumage has a distinctive, musky odor.
  • Anatomic traits of Order Psittaciformes include:
    • Communication of the right and left nasal sinus
    • The only avian tongue with intrinsic muscles
    • Simply syrinx
    • Craniofacial hinge of beak is a synovial joint
    • Ceca absent
    • Gall bladder often absent
    • Zygodactyl foot: two toes pointed backward and two pointed forward
Restraint

Amazons may be restrained by holding the head between index and middle fingers. Support the body with palm of the hand as well as the thumb and little finger.

Venipuncture Use a 25-gauge needle and 1 to 3-mL syringe to draw blood from the right jugular vein. Collection of up to 1% of body weight is acceptable in healthy patients.

Preventative Medicine
  • Obtain a complete history and perform a thorough annual physical examination.
  • Establish baseline data with regular clinical testing (complete blood count, protein electrophoresis, and plasma biochemistries.
  • Ensure proper nutrition and husbandry.
  • Recommend quarantine of newly acquired birds.
  • Perform additional testing for select diseases based on history and physical exam findings: avian polyoma virus and chlamydiosis.
  • Determine the origin and history of newly acquired sick birds to contain and prevent further spread of disease.
  • Birds housed in large groups or aviaries are at higher risk of Pacheco’s disease virus and use of the vaccine may be indicated.
  • The avian polyomavirus vaccine is recommended for breeding populations.
Injections  
Intramuscular (IM)Reasonably safe, most accurate.
Inject middle of muscle mass.
Ideal location –Pectoral muscle mass
Subcutaneous (SC)Large volumes can be injected, poor absorption.Location: Inguinal or precrural fold
Intravenous (IV)Effective, narrow safety range.The right jugular vein or brachial vein are most commonly used.
Alternative option: superficial metatarsal vein.

Important Medical Conditions
Non-Infectious Diseases
1. Obesity, hepatic lipidosis
2. Aspergillosis
3. Atherosclerosis
4. Egg binding
5. Hypovitaminosis and secondary sinusitis
6. Hemoglobinuria is seen in Amazons with lead toxicity
7. Internal papillomatosis
Infectious Diseases
1. Chlamydophilosis

Species Specific Concerns
1. Epilepsy has been reported in Red-lored Amazon parrots (Amazona autumnalis autumnalis)

References

Altman R, Clubb S, Dorrestein G, et al (eds). Appendix III: Adult bird weights. Avian Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, PA; WB Saunders Co; 1997.P. 1027.

Beynon P (ed). BSAVA Manual of Psittacine Birds. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1996. 7-9, 37. Print.

Carpenter J (ed). Exotic Animal Formulary. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO; Elsevier Saunders; 2005. Pp. 278-279.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Appendices I, II, and III. Valid from Apr 27, 2011. Available at: http://www.cites.org/eng/app/appendices.shtml. Accessed June 8, 2011.

Finkelstein A. Normal cloacal temperatures in multiple avian species. Proc Annu Conf Assoc Avian Vet; 2004. P. 383.

Doneley B, Harrison GJ, Lightfoot TL. Maximizing information from the physical examination. In: Harrison GJ, Lightfoot TL (eds). Clinical Avian Medicine. Palm Beach, FL: Spix Publishing; 2006. P. 173.

Harcourt-Brown N, Chitty J (eds). BSAVA Manual of Psittacine Birds, 2nd ed. Quedgeley, Glouchester: British Small Animal Veterinary Association; 2005. Pp. 4, 28.

Harrison GJ, Harrison LR. Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery, Appendix 4, Philadelphia; W.B. Saunders; 1986. P.662.

Koustos EA, Matson KD, Klasing KC. Nutrition of birds in the order Psittaciformes: a review. J Avian Med Surg 15(4):257-275, 2001.

Lafeber Company. The Amazon parrot. Lafeber Pet Birds Web site. Available at http://lafeber.com/pet-birds/species/amazon-parrot/. Accessed May 16, 2011.

Low R. Parrots in aviculture: A photoreference guide. Pickering, Ontario; Silvio Mattachione & Co; 1992. P. 82.

Morgan D. Bird Care. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications; 2005. Pp. 15-16, 17-18.

O’Malley B. Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of Exotic Species. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders; 2005. Pp. 156-157.

Tully TN. Birds. In: Mitchell M, Tully TN (eds). Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2008. Pp. 262, 270-271.

Tully TN, Lawton MPC, Dorrestein GM. Avian Medicine. Oxford; Butterworth-Heinemann; 2000. Pp. 26-34, 43-51.