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Natural History and Captive Care of the Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot

Yellow Naped Amazon ParrotThe Yellow-Naped Amazon, Amazona ochrocephala, is considered by many bird enthusiasts to be the ultimate parrot pet.  Details of its care are well known, so I’ll just touch on some important points and then focus on its behavior in the wild.

Pet Qualities

Yellow-Naped Amazon owners invariably describe their pets as outgoing, acrobatic and with an uncanny ability not only to repeat words but to also mimic the pitch of human voices very closely…so much so, that one often questions a bird or person is speaking.  They tend to show affection by speaking or “warbling” (they are fairly “musical) and readily use their beaks in both play and aggression. 

However, in common with intelligent, complex creatures ranging from children to elephants, Yellow-Napes present many challenges.  They are very strong-willed, and in sterile (dull) environments or an unskilled owner’s hands, they quickly turn to biting, screaming and other such behaviors.  Mistreated or un-socialized birds put up for adoption are best left to experts.

Popularity engenders high prices, and Yellow Napes are no exception.  The Spectacled Amazon, Amazona albifrons, is a reasonably-priced alternative.  The smallest of the Amazons, it is of a less “boisterous” personality than the Yellow Nape and an excellent mimic, but tends to be quite loud.


Yellow-Naped Amazons are stoutly built and measure 12-15 inches in length.  Distinguishing them from related species and subspecies can be difficult, as their identifying feature – yellow feathers at the nape of the neck – is not present in all individuals.  Yellow-feathered areas may also change with age, with some individuals sporting yellow shoulders in time.

Range and Habitat

Yellow Napes occupy a narrow range along the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America, from eastern Oaxaca in southern Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica.

They frequent dry forests, wooded savannahs and cultivated fields, and are considered to be crop pests in some areas.

Classification and Conservation

Yellow Napes are sometimes considered to be a distinct species (Amazona auropalliata) but most ornithologists classify them as a subspecies of the Yellow-Crowned Amazon.  This confused taxonomy hinders Yellow Nape conservation efforts – they seem to be declining, but other Yellow Crowned Amazon subspecies are common (8-9 range from Central America to Peru).

Therefore, the IUCN lists the Yellow Naped Amazon as Least Concern (CITES designation is Appendix II).

Two rare races (or subspecies) are known – the Honduras and the Roatan Yellow-Naped Amazons.

Social Life and Reproduction

Yellow Napes form strong pair bonds and tend to socialize less with flock members than do other Amazons.  Most of the daily foraging and preening is done as a pair or family group.  They do, however, roost in flocks of up to several hundred birds, and there is a great deal of inter-flock communication just before night falls.  Fixed roosts are used, and the spectacle of their evening return is one of the highlights of any bird-watching venture into Yellow Nape territory.

Nesting females are fed by males and incubate their 2-3 eggs alone.  The eggs hatch in 26-30 days, and the chicks usually fledge at 75 days of age.  Related subspecies have been observed to utilize in holes in the ground as nests.

Further Reading

This wonderful Video shows how closely a Yellow Nape can match the sounds it hears.

Field Report:  Yellow Naped and other Parrots in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (with a link to detailed info on Yellow Nape behavior)

Introducing the Amazons 


Yellow-naped Amazon Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Andrew Gwozdziewycz from Brooklyn, USA


  1. avatar

    Hello Christi,

    Thanks very much, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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