The Red-lored and the Red-browed Amazons

Rosemary Low



f the 29 species of Amazon currently recognized, ten have red on the frontal band and/ or forehead and crown. It seems that this sometimes causes identification problems. One of the best known is the Red-lored or Primrosecheeked (Amazona a. autumnalis). It has a large range of nearly 1,000 miles north to south on the Caribbean slop of Mexico and Central America. It occurs as far north as Tamaulipas (the eastern state that meets the Texas border), through Guatemala and Honduras to northern Nicaragua. In Mexico its numbers have declined (as have those of all Mexico's parrots) due to habitat loss and trapping.

I recall the first one I ever saw at the London Zoo - so tame and friendly, in marked contrast to the thousands of wild-caught adults that had the misfortune to be trapped. Many of these never adapted to captivity and remained very nervous and wary. Unfortunately, Nicaragua is still exporting these birds - 2,262 in the year 2000, for example.

The first one I set eyes on so many years ago at London Zoo was a beautiful bird with a tinge of orange in the yellow. I was very impressed by its large eyes and by the dark eyelashes. When I was curator of the breeding centre at Palmitos Park, Gran Canaria, there were several birds, wildcaught and presumably from the same area. They were the most beautiful specimens of the nominate race I have ever seen. The red from the lores spilled down on to the cheeks, blending into yellow on each side. (One of these birds is depicted on page 255 of Parrots in Aviculture)

Another had a tinge of red, so that the cheeks looked orange. Some of the lilac crown feathers were tipped with red.


Immature birds have slightly less yellow and red on the head than adults. They otherwise differ from adults in having the iris dark grey-brown, becoming browner, then orange-brown. Length of this race is about 34cm. Weight is in the region of 350g.

I have seen a mutation in the Red-lored Amazon. When visiting Fundacion Ara in Mexico in 1997 I saw two lutino females (wildcaught). They were all yellow with the red markings retained - very beautiful. In 1992 Ramon Noegel and Greg Moss sent me a photograph of one of the most extraor-


dinarily-colored parrots imaginable. It was at the zoo in Tuxla Gutierrez in Chiapas. The head was pink, with whitish margins to the feathers; the feathers of the underparts were pink with faint greymauve margins, and the wings were pink and grey. I would expect such strange coloration to be the result of a metabolic or liver problem - not genetic. As it was in a Mexican zoo, housed with a Redlored, it was logical to believe it was this subspecies. But my feeling was that it was a Salvin's. The extensive area of white skin surrounding the eye was typical of the latter sub-species. It also appeared to be a larger, heavier bird.

In Nicaragua, the nominate race intergrades with Salvin's. Presumably Salvin's with a few yellow feathers on the cheeks are from Nicaragua. The Red-lored Amazon is the most common Amazon throughout some of its range. It is found mainly in lowland forests of various types. Out of the breeding season it may move into secondary growth areas and has also been seen in pine savannah.


In aviculture, the Red-lored Amazon is neither rare nor common. In the U.K. it is bred annually in small numbers. In 1992 the Breeding Register of the Parrot Society (U.K.) showed that three members reported breeding a total of six birds. In 1998 this figure had increased to 17 members and 20 birds. This is certainly not a high success rate!

The clutch size is usually three and the incubation period is 26 days. Chicks should be closed ringed with 9.Smm rings at about 16 days. They remain in the nest


for eight weeks or up to nine weeks.


In my opinion, this Amazon is outstanding for its beauty and personality. All the birds in aviculture have been illegally exported from Brazil, or are the offspring of such birds. One cannot condone breaking the law; on the other hand, it is well known that these Amazons are among the parrots which are eaten by native Brazilians. And that even if they escaped with their lives, the chances of them finding themselves in a breeding situation in Brazil are remote. All those outside Brazil are treasured birds, usually in the possession of the more experienced and serious breeders. Their price is too high for them to enter the pet market.

Variation in plumage

The head coloration is even more variable than in the Redlored Amazon. The shade on the forehead and crown is a soft orange in some birds; the feathers of the top of the head are plum colored - faint or intense - and green. The feathers of the nape and mantle are margined with plum or grey. The cheeks and throat are a soft and pleasing shade of blue or green washed with blue. The lores are yellow. Generally this colour extends downward on to the throat in females whereas in males the lower part of the lores are blue. There are exceptions. The soft and pretty head coloration is set off by the colour of the upper mandible,


which is mainly pink or tinged with pink. The eyes are beautiful - large and appealing and usually lacking the aggression seen in many Amazons. Finally, the pleasing red and yellow on the head is repeated on the tail.

In my opinion, this is an outstandingly beautiful Amazon. All Amazons can be aggressive but, like the Mealy, it gives the impression of a gentle giant and is not a naturally aggressive species. In temperament these two Amazons, and the Bluecheeked (A. a. dufresniana) are very much alike. It is nearly as large as a Mealy, measuring about 36cm. Captive birds weigh between about 375g and 465g, males being heavier. They are inclined to obesity so dietary fat must be kept to a minimum and large flights are recommended ..

Endangered status

The coastal area of Brazil which is its natural habitat is dominated by the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Most of the native forest has gone. What is left is so fragmented that some populations are now genetically isolated. And still these parrots are being trapped for the domestic pet trade. This Amazon is one of the most endangered of all neotropical parrots. Ultimately it may survive only in aviculture. The importance of captive breeding cannot be over-estimated. Unfortunately, captive numbers are not large and, in the UK, the gene pool has been swamped by one very successful breeder. Thus most of the birds in Britain are closely related.




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