Yellow-Headed Amazon

Double Yellow-headed amazon, Yellow-headed parrot

Amazona oratrix
Life Span
80 yrs
38-43 cm

The Yellow-headed amazon, also known as the Double Yellow-headed amazon, seems to be the best known of the Amazon parrots. This species has a yellow nape as well as a yellow crown, which is why it has "double-yellow" in its name. The yellow color increases with age and some birds have completely yellow heads when they are just a few years old. The majority, however, take longer, each molt resulting in an increase of the yellow on the bird's head. They use their stout hooked beak for cracking seeds and nuts, and also for grasping and climbing. Their feet are also well adapted for grasping, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward.


Mexico is where most of this species lives, with additional, small populations living in the north east of Guatemala as far as the Honduras border, as well as in Belize. They like habitats which include subtropical and tropical forests, savannah, mangrove swamps, coastal scrub and land under cultivation, where there are trees available for nesting.


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

There is little information available regarding the social behavior of these birds. They are diurnal and are social parrots, living in flocks as large as several hundred individuals. They are beautiful, very intelligent and imaginative, and are easily tamed because they enjoy human company. These parrots are considered very good singers and talkers and are generally known as noisy birds. As with most parrot of this size, they can destroy many things unless they are redirected to chewing toys and natural, non-toxic branches, and learning tricks.

Diet and Nutrition

These birds are herbivores (frugivores and granivores), they feed on fruit, nuts, blossoms, berries and leaf buds. They will also raid cultivated crops like maize.

Mating Habits

26-28 days
8-12 weeks
2-3 eggs

Yellow-headed amazons are monogamous and during the breeding season live in pairs which mate for life. Their nests are in hollow tree cavities. February to June is the breeding season. Usually there are two to three eggs per clutch, and incubation is by the female for a period of 26 to 28 days. Like many parrots, the male feeds the female by regurgitation while she carries out the incubation or feeds the young. The chicks leave the nest when they are 8 to 12 weeks old, and are reproductively mature after three to four years.


Population threats

The main threats facing this species are habitat destruction and also the pet trade, with too many of these parrots being collected, many thousands having been exported illegally each year from Mexico and also some from Belize. The Yellow-headed amazon is also popular in domestic markets. It is also hunted and persecuted in Belize because it is a crop pest. Extensive deforestation has cleared large areas for agriculture, pasture, lumber and settlements, with nesting and foraging habitats being lost. Nest poaching adds to habitat loss, as nesting trees are often cut down to reach the nestlings, thus destroying critical nest sites.

Population number

The IUCN Red List reports that the estimated global Yellow-headed amazon population size in 1994 was 7,000 individuals. This is approximately equivalent to 4,700 adult birds. Currently this species is classified as Endangered (EN) and its numbers today are decreasing.

Cool Facts

  • There are about 353 different species of parrots.
  • Although a parrot has taste glands at the back of its throat, most of its approximately 300 taste buds are in the roof of its mouth. Compared with 10,000 taste buds in human mouths, a parrot’s palate may not seem at all sensitive, but parrots do have definite preferences for particular foods.
  • The brilliant plumage of a parrot has a special built-in defense against disease: Psittacofulvins, a pigment that resists bacteria and only present in parrots is responsible for their red, green and yellow colors.
  • Parrots are unique amongst birds in being able to bring their food up to their beak in one of their feet so they can eat it.
  • Parrots usually stand on one leg to sleep.


1. Yellow-Headed Amazon Wikipedia article -
2. Yellow-Headed Amazon on The IUCN Red List site -

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