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Amazon parrots
Amazona amazonica 2c.jpg
Orange-winged amazon (Amazona amazonica)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Psittacidae
Tribe: Androglossini
Genus: Amazona
Lesson, 1830
Diversity
c. 30 species
ChrysotisChloronotaKeulemans
Festive amazon (Amazona festiva), illustration by Keulemans, 1891

Amazon parrot is the common name for a parrot of the genus Amazona. They are medium-sized, short-tailed parrots native to the New World ranging from South America to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Most amazon parrots are predominantly green, with accenting colors that depend on the species and can be quite vivid. They feed primarily on seeds, nuts, and fruits, supplemented by leafy matter.

Many amazon parrots have a remarkable ability to mimic human speech and other sounds. Partly because of this, they are popular as pets or companion parrots, and a small industry has developed in breeding parrots in captivity for this market. This popularity has led to many parrots being taken from the wild to the extent that some species have become threatened. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora treaty has made the capture of wild parrots for the pet trade illegal in an attempt to help protect wild populations.

Taxonomy

The genus Amazona (to which amazons belong) was introduced by the French naturalist René Lesson in 1830. The type species was subsequently designated as the southern mealy amazon (Amazona farinosa) by the Italian zoologist Tommaso Salvadori in 1891. The genus name is a Latinized version of the name Amazone given to them in the 18th century by the Comte de Buffon, who believed they were native to Amazonian jungles.

List of species

Species listing correct as per the IOC World Bird List v11.1:

  • Festive amazon, Amazona festiva
  • Vinaceous-breasted amazon, Amazona vinacea
  • Tucumán amazon, Amazona tucumana
  • Red-spectacled amazon, Amazona pretrei
  • Black-billed amazon, Amazona agilis
  • White-fronted amazon, Amazona albifrons
  • Yellow-billed amazon, Amazona collaria
  • Cuban amazon, Amazona leucocephala
  • Hispaniolan amazon, Amazona ventralis
  • Puerto Rican amazon, Amazona vittata
  • Lilac-crowned amazon, Amazona finschi
  • Red-lored amazon, Amazona autumnalis
    • Lilacine amazon, Amazona autumnalis lilacina
  • Diademed amazon, Amazona diadema
  • Red-crowned amazon, Amazona viridigenalis
  • Yucatan amazon, Amazona xantholora
  • Blue-cheeked amazon, Amazona dufresniana
  • Red-browed amazon, Amazona rhodocorytha
  • Red-necked amazon, Amazona arausiaca
  • St. Lucia amazon, Amazona versicolor
  • Yellow-headed amazon, Amazona oratrix
  • Tres Marías amazon, Amazona tresmariae
  • Yellow-naped amazon, Amazona auropalliata
  • Yellow-crowned amazon, Amazona ochrocephala
    • Panama amazon, Amazona ochrocephala panamensis
  • Yellow-shouldered amazon, Amazona barbadensis
  • Turquoise-fronted amazon, Amazona aestiva
  • Scaly-naped amazon, Amazona mercenarius
  • Northern mealy amazon, Amazona guatemalae
  • Southern mealy amazon, Amazona farinosa
  • Kawall's amazon, Amazona kawalli
  • Imperial amazon, Amazona imperialis
  • Red-tailed amazon, Amazona brasiliensis
  • Orange-winged amazon, Amazona amazonica
  • St. Vincent amazon, Amazona guildingii

The taxonomy of the yellow-crowned amazon (Amazona ochrocephala complex) is disputed, with some authorities only listing a single species (A. ochrocephala), while others split it into as many as three species (A. ochrocephala, A. auropalliata and A. oratrix). The split is primarily based on differences related to extension of yellow to the plumage and the colour of bill and legs. Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA do not support the traditional split.

In 2017 a study published by ornithologists Tony Silva, Antonio Guzmán, Adam D. Urantówka and Paweł Mackiewicz proposed a new species for the Yucatan Peninsula area (Mexico), being this named blue-winged amazon (Amazona gomezgarzai). However, a subsequent study questions its validity, indicating that these organisms possibly had an artificial hybrid origin.

Reclassification of the yellow-faced parrot

The yellow-faced parrot (Alipiopsitta xanthops) was traditionally placed within this genus of amazon parrots, but recent research has shown that it is closer to the short-tailed parrot and the species from the genus Pionus, resulting in it being transferred to the monotypic genus Alipiopsitta.

Hypothetically extinct species

Jamaican parrot
Unidentified Jamaican parrot, possibly belonging to this genus, 1764

Populations of amazon parrots that lived on the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe are now extinct. It is not known if they were separate species, subspecies, or if they originated from parrots introduced to the islands by humans, so they are regarded as hypothetical extinct species. No evidence of them remains, and their taxonomy may never be established. Populations of several parrot species were described mainly in the unscientific writings of early travelers, and subsequently scientifically described by several naturalists (to have their names linked to the species that they were proposing) mainly in the 20th century, with no more evidence than the earlier observations and without specimens. An illustration of a specimen termed "George Edwards' parrot" has sometimes been considered a possibly distinct, extinct species, but it may also have been a yellow-billed or Cuban amazon with aberrant colouration.

  • Martinique amazon, Amazona martinica (hypothetical extinct species). A.H. Clark, 1905.
  • Guadeloupe amazon, Amazona violacea (hypothetical extinct species). Originally called Psittacus violaceus by J.F. Gmelin in 1789.

Aviculture

The yellow-headed amazon, yellow-naped amazon, orange-winged amazon, and turquoise-fronted amazon are some of the amazon parrot species which are commonly kept as pets. Amazon parrots, together with macaws and the grey parrot, are all known for their exceptional vocal abilities, playfulness, and dexterity with their feet. Well-trained parrots can be loyal companions, and they can live for 50 years or sometimes more in captivity. However, some amazons – even well-trained ones – can become aggressive, possibly during mating season. To maintain health and happiness, pet parrots require much more training than domesticated animals such as dogs or even cats. They require understanding, manipulative toys, and rewards for good pet-like behavior, or they can develop quite aggressive behaviors. They have a strong, innate need to chew; thus, they require safe, destructible toys.

Amazon parrots have large appetites and may be prone to obesity in captivity if not permitted to exercise.

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