Yellow-Headed Amazon

Yellow-Headed Amazon

Double yellow-headed amazon, Yellow-headed parrot , Yellow-headed parrot

Amazona oratrix
Population size
Life Span
80 years
cm inch 

The yellow-headed amazon (Amazona oratrix ), also known as the yellow-headed parrot and double yellow-headed amazon, is an endangered amazon parrot of Mexico and northern Central America. Measuring 38–43 centimetres (15–17 in) in length, it is a stocky short-tailed green parrot with a yellow head. It prefers to live in mangrove forests or forests near rivers or other bodies of water. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the yellow-crowned amazon (Amazona ochrocephala ). It is a popular pet and an excellent talker. Poaching for the international pet trade has driven the species to near-extinction in the wild; around half of all wild-caught birds are thought to die in the process.


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 northeast of Guatemala as far as the Honduras border, as well as in Belize. They like habitats that 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 parrots of this size, they can destroy many things unless they are redirected to chewing toys and natural, non-toxic branches, and learning tricks. Wild Yellow-headed amazons give low-pitched, sometimes human-sounding screams, but often fly silently (unlike many other parrots). Their calls can be described as "a rolled kyaa-aa-aaah and krra-aah-aa-ow, a deep, rolled ahrrrr or ahrhrrrr," etc. Young birds make a "clucking" sound to indicate that they are hungry.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Yellow-headed amazons are herbivores (frugivores and granivores). Their diet includes 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 that 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.


Though only captive-bred yellow-headed amazons may be owned, these are widely available (if somewhat expensive) and their personalities make them highly desirable pets; they have been kept as such for centuries because they are among the parrots that "talk" best. Their vocal abilities are generally bested only by the grey parrot and matched by similar species, such as the yellow-naped parrot. Yellow-headed amazons in captivity appear to have an affinity for both singing and the learning of song - and a naturally powerful, operatic voice.

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As in most amazons, nervous plucking of plumage is rare among this species. A generally recognized disadvantage of the yellow-headed amazon and its close relatives (such as the yellow-naped amazon) is hormonal aggressiveness, most notable among males in the breeding season. It is a member of the "Hot Three" (referring to the male bird's "hot" temper), along with the yellow-naped and blue-fronted. Yellow-headed amazons are known for being "one person birds" - bonding to one human, to whom they become fiercely loyal. It is possible, albeit difficult, to mitigate this behavior by ensuring that the bird receives regular and equal attention from other members of the household.

Captive yellow-headed amazons are known for having a large appetite and an appreciation of a wide variety of foods. They are prone to obesity and nutritional deficiencies if the parrot's owner fails to provide adequate opportunities for play and exercise, and overindulges the parrot with treats and table scraps. The World Parrot Trust recommends that yellow-headed amazons be kept in an enclosure with a minimum length of 3 metres at a temperature no lower than 10°C.

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Fun Facts for Kids

  • 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 is 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.
  • Yellow-headed amazons are popular pets and an excellent talkers.


1. Yellow-Headed Amazon Wikipedia article -
2. Yellow-Headed Amazon on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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