Amazons form the genus called Amazona, of some 27 species that can be found in Central and South America, from Mexico to Argentina, and some islands around the Caribbean. The "mainland" species of Amazons are extremely popular as pets and increasingly being bred in avicluture. It is said that Colombus brought the frist Amazons into europe when he returned from his voyage in 1492. Since that time they have been kept and enjoyed as pets, their ability to mimic voices and sound is amazing, and they often become very devoted companions.
As the rainforest is "logged-out", and mankind expands into the wilderness of parts of South America, many species are coming under threat, this includes some species of Amazon. The tropical rainforest are often referred to as the "lungs of the world". They form many diverse environments that species such as Amazons, and of course Macaws, are well suited to. Species that are endemic to certain Caribbean Islands like the St Lucia Parrot (Amazona versicolour), St Vincent Parrot (A.Guilgingii), Imperial Parrot (A.Imperialis), Red-Necked Parrot (A.arausiaca) and the Cuban Parrot (A.leucoceplala) are under great threat both from natural occuring disasters (hurricanes and volcanic eruptions), but also from the native population, and even smaller numbers for the cage bird trade.
Amazons nest in holes in trees. Many trees in their natural habitat have been destroyed. This is especially true of the Island species, as hurricanes and tropical storms sweep across the islands and destroy many trees that are not strong enough to withstand their power. Older trees are also selectively felled by the logging companies. Quite often Amazons may be nesting in the tree and lose eith a clutch of eggs or chicks. Aviculture over the past 20 years has begun to wake up to some of the problems of the amazon species and we are starting to realise that we can play a part in the conservation of these birds.Â Species such as the Puerto Rican Amazon (A.vittata) are now at such low numbers that they are having to be intensively managed.Â Hand-rearing and fostering, by other species of Amazons has also helped to raise their numbers, but they should still be considered as critically at risk of extinction.Â Many "man-made" nesting sites and nest boxes are having to be placed in trees to allow some to breed.
Some conservation attempts have included making people of the islands proud to have a "rara species" as their island mascot. This is particularly true of Sl. Lucia where the Amazon has been made the Island National Bird and islanders are encouraged to participate in educational visits to the forest areas and many other events. During recent years many different species of Amazon are being bred in the UK, so many hand-reared babies are available as pets.
In the Wild
Most species of Amazons are not visually sexable. However the advent of surgical and DNA sexing has proven very useful.Â Amazons like to breed in cavities in trees. Some nests can be deep in the trunk of the tree, indeed nests have been recorded as being at least 30 feet inside a tree.Â Amazons usually incubate their eggs for between 24 - 28 days, the youngsters remain in the nests for up to 9 weeks.
Three bowls is sufficient to provide the basic diet; seed/nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh drinking water. There are two basic methods when feeding Amazons, either seed diets or small pelleted diets. You should choose the one that best suits your birds.
The first method usually means feeding a proprietary "Parrot Mixture" purchased from a pet centre. This usually means old fashioned seed mixtures, usually made up from lots of sunflower seed and a few peanuts and a very little nutritional value. If a seed diet is chosen then it should be one of the more modern mixtures that includes seeds such as Striped Sunflower, White Sunflower, (both in limited quantities), Peanuts, Hemp (feed sparingly), Pumpkin Seed, Millet, Oats, Wheat, Corn, Maize, Buckwheat, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, dried fruits and much more.
Some manufacturers even provide the above mixtures with all the seeds "de-hulled". These can prove more economical to use, as the birds do not have to rummage around in the seed bowl to find their favourite seeds, spilling everything else out onto the floor. When using these mixtures, less seed is needed to be placed in the bowls.
The other type of diet that is becoming increasingly popular is the pelleted foods. These are being developed mainly by bird nutritionists, and are being developed as complete foods. They are often brightly coloured and smell quite sweetly. Fed as a dry diet, plenty of fresh water must always be available.
No Amazons in the wild, eat sunflower seed exclusively. In Central America they can be found in the rain forest, feeding on anything edible. Amazons also appreciate soaked millet sprays, soaked sprouted seeds and soaked pulses. All soaked products should be thoroughly cleaned before being fed. Care should be taken to ensure that no dust, fungus or bacteria is on the soaked seed, and that it does not smell sour.
Fruit, vegetables and other greenfoods play a major part in the health of all birds. Some form of fruit and vegetable should be available every day. These should include apple, pear, oranges, grapes, kiwi, sweetcorn, carrot, peas (in the shell) and other seasonal berries. Seeding grasses can also be hung in the flight and will provide hours of valuable entertainment for the birds.Â Other foods such as egg-food, rowan berries, dried fruits, rosehips and even budding weeping-willow branches can be given on a regular basis, perhaps once a week.