The Cadillac of Talking Parrots

by David T. Longo

Longo�s Aviaries Inc.
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

If there is ever a question of who the Cadillac of talking parrots is, I will gladly assist in narrowing it down. Most bird enthusiasts by default instantly presume the superior talker is the African Grey, due to all the recognition and exposure they receive from Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her assistant �Alex the Grey�. On the contrary, it is a family of birds from the Americas, their rival competition, the Amazons.

One of the 8 subspecies of the ochrocephala now deserved their own nominate species from this group of amazons is the Yellow-naped Amazon which in this are 2 more subspecies. This amazon parrot in captivity is globally recognized and not mistaken by their latin name; Amazona auropalliata. To break this definition down in more detail or english; Amazona means amazon, auropalliata; �auro� or �ouro� means gold, �pallia� means over coat, cloak or cape so when translated it is the golden-caped one from the Amazon. It has its natural range from northwest coast of Costa Rica stretching north through Central America to southern Mexico. Their length is 38cm or 15�. A.auropalliata does not intermingle with any other subspecies of the Ochrocephala group. Amazona auropalliata, will soon officially be their new scientific name which some taxonomists currently referring to.

Their general description is stated all in the name; they are all green and have a 5cm x 5cm patch of yellow on the back of the neck or nape. Also, under the wings and in the tailfeathers, there are broad bands of red used to display during courtship and intimidating predators. Now, there is still another subspecies of auropalliata that is a yellow nape but of different geographic origin. This has the same common name and is slowly being recognized better as the Parvipes Yellow-nape and lends its scientific name Amazona auropalliata parvipes. This amazon has yellow on its forehead, nape and the beak is horn coloured, not the typical black tones. They are virtually non-existent in captivity. In their native soil, yellow-napes normally feed on Mango�s fruit, before it ripens. They prefer the Mango�s seed over the mango�s flesh and when satisfied will discard it. They then will open the seeds with their strong beaks and once they eat the morsels of the seed they will dispose of it by dropping it and move on to the next. This behaviour I like to call the �Friar Tuck Syndrome�. This simply rehashes my memory from the Robin Hood cartoon when I was in grade school, Friar Tuck takes one bite of each piece of food and tosses it over his shoulder! Their favored species include the following: the seeds from the Guanacaste Tree, the Albizzia adinocephala, also oak acorns which is probably easier access to us in North America, Hymenaea courbaril seeds, and Mango seeds.

Up until 2002 at the last CITES convention in Santiago, Chile;, the yellow-naped amazon and the yellow-headed amazon; A.ochrocephala oratrix parrot has been transferred from Appendix 11 now to Appendix 1 of the CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) convention. What does this mean? This means these two species are threatened by deforestation and habitat loss from their range and also succumbing to the pet trade. The 2002 proposal stated that the number one decline in their numbers was due to ransacking nests in the wild for domestic and international trade. Their numbers have declined dramatically from the past 10 years in the wild populations down by 68%. These numbers make anyone speechless and there is no doubt that this decision should have been nominated long ago.

These gold-caped ambassadors of the amazons are internationally notorious for their great speaking ability. The yellow-nape is known to ultimately be one of the best speaking psittacines in the entire parrot family. They have a huge vocabulary if exercised frequently and consistently, they can sing, especially opera. Their vocal abilities to sing compares to no other, whistle and talking is simply of second nature to them. Although their clarity in mimicking ability is not as transparent as the Grey, they are much more colourful and tend to have a greater outgoing personality.

I purchased my first large pet parrot which was about 12 years ago, yes it was a yellow-nape and I named him Alex about 1-2 years before I knew Irene Pepperberg�s assistant Alex even existed. Alex became my best friend for the following 6 years. He accompanied me everywhere; the malls, the beach, fast food restaurants, family and friend gatherings. Although his personality is not like a regular yellow nape with flamboyant speaking ability and personality, he truly knew how to draw a crowd. Up until 6 years ago when my collection began to escalate and he was more and more exposed to other parrots, I think he realized he was a bird, this and I had less time to spend with him so he inadvertently converted to the bird�s way of life.

Yellow-naped amazons make fantastic pets and like every species, they do have their drawbacks. Male yellow napes like yellow headed amazons and blue-fronted amazons do normally hit hormonal roller coasters when maturity arrives. When these birds are introduced into a typical male/female couple ownership situation, the bird may bond to one of the two. The sex of the bird and the sex of the owners have no influence on this. Male birds have bonded to male owners and female birds to female owners many times in the past and present. When these incidences occur, it will typically cause conflict with the family for the other partner cannot be around their mate due to the bird�s aggressiveness. In a couple of experiences with companions in the past, my pet Alex has attacked them both. Amazons show no mercy when they want to send a message across. I am by no means an expert on parrot behaviour but have had my shared due knowledge in situations and enjoy sharing and offering my experiences to others.

They are also quite the acrobats and self entertain very easily. Providing environmental enrichment or entertainment and chewing materials for them are essential in filling their days with activity and excitement. There are not many parrot owners that wish to come home to unhappy birds! Yellow-napes typically go through toys within regular intervals, they are pretty rambunctious and love to interact with their owners.

Approximately 10 years ago, there was one known yellow-nape that held a record for longest lived in captivity, it reached the age of 74 years and resided in Alaska. I have a theory that perhaps the cold climate toughened up the individual and made the immune system more hardy towards certain stimulus, elements and bugs. They are not regularily bred in Canada and when so, do not last long on the market at all, they also rarely reach the retail outlets. On average, for every 10 pairs set up for breeding, one pair may reproduce. They are not completely reliable for being prolific due to aggression with the females but are normally consistent.

Some people feel comfortable diving right into a large parrot for their first time avian pet but others like to work their way up to a moderate sized bird. I do have to say, it is in everyone�s best interest to research what bird suits their lifestyle before making a lifetime decision. Nobody likes to have to part with a bird based on a poor decision.

Dave T. Longo
Longo's Aviaries Inc.
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