"Hello..... This is he...... Uh-huh....... I see..... Okay. I think I
know what you should do, Ready?..... Get an amazon. Bye."
No sooner does he finish with this then the phone rings
"Hello..... Yep, I'm the bird behaviorist...... Sure
.... Lots of
them do that..... You don't? Then next time get an amazon."
Again and again, throughout the day, the same thing. Finally, sick of
repeating himself, he puts the machine on. Now when the phone rings,
they hear, "Hello. You've reached Layne Dicker. To leave a personal
message, please press 1. To leave a message regarding writing or
lecturing, please press 2. If you're interested in the Toyota truck for
sale, please press 3. And if you're calling about a parrot behavior
problem, next time get an amazon. Good-bye."
Okay, so I'm exaggerating a bit. But, as is the case with most humor,
there's a little bit of the truth buried in there somewhere. And I think
we can find it without digging too far.
Between private consultations and as staff avian behaviorist at a very
busy animal hospital, I see about 20 birds a week, a representative
portion of which are amazons. Further, during a 3 year period I
fostered, behaviorally rehabilitated and adopted out probably 35
amazons. Wait, make that 34; I kept one for myself. There are amazons
all over the place and, from my perspective anyway, I think I've figured
- Amazons usually talk. Some better than others, both on
an individual and a species level but, generally, they'll chat some. At
the other end of the spectrum, SOME WON'T SHUT THE HECK UP! (Sorry. I
let a personal issue creep into my writing. Won't happen again
Amazons and Greys, more than most other parrots, seem to
use talking as their calling card probably because, while they are
gorgeous birds, they don't have the flash of many cockatoos or macaws.
However, once in the home, bonded, comfortable and appreciated for who
they are, most people don't really care if their 'Zon ever speaks. Some
of the sweetest Napes and Redheads I've ever known never said a thing.
Not anything that I understood, anyway. Which leads nicely to:
- Amazons communicate clearly. This has absolutely nothing
to do with talking but, rather, deals with the birds' way of letting you
know what she wants, doesn't want, what she's thinking or feeling.
Amazons, slightly more than macaws and MUCH more than cockatoos, are
clear and direct in their messages. Amazons are very straight-ahead
birds. Which, in turn, leads to
- They are a behaviorist's dream. This isn't because they
don't have problems. Oh, no. We as owners, breeders and whomever can and
do turn our amazons into screamers, biters, pluckers and spouse haters
all the time, but there's a difference in working with the greenies
First, as mentioned, they're easy to read. When you're
working with them and you happen upon a stimuli that causes a reaction,
that reaction is direct, immediate and consistent. I only wish that were
the case with more parrots.
Second, their resilience and adaptability is nothing
short amazing. They have a much higher threshold of our "blunders" that
they will endure before having a serious reaction which is why, I am
certain, we see so fewer cases of purely behavioral plucking in amazons.
As for their ability to adjust to new situations, of all the birds that
came in for adoption, they were always the best. Many cockatoos never
really calmed down until they were placed in a new home, most macaws,
conures and the like took a short while to get used to the busy
surroundings of the placement center but amazons boiled it down to,
"Where am I? Okay. Who are you? Okay. Where's the food?!", and maybe
not even in that order
Finally, as would be expected of a bird as above
described, they take to corrections very rapidly. It's no coincidence
that many of the parrots you see in shows are amazons.
As a behaviorist, the most common amazon call I get is
the springtime-six-year-old-biter call. This is the bird that always
loved the owner, was really sweet and then, all of a sudden, BANG,
Amazona vampira. Although there are a few variables in what I find when
I visit/speak with them (some are unclipped, some on a bad diet, some
never "Up" trained, some uncaged, etc.), one pattern is present in 100%
of these cases, and this is "the downward spiral of amazon sociability",
which is almost always the same.
Basically, the fairly sweet bird got a little hormonal
(but this can even start with a bird just in a bad mood, or frightened,
etc.) so he bit. But now the owner is hesitant and socializes the bird
less and/or becomes nervous around the bird, which makes the bird less
secure and, you guessed it, more biting, even less socializing and more
hesitation, and so on, and so on up to the point where the whole
relationship is trashed. I get the call that the bird has become
vicious, show up and, to the amazement of the stunned owner, go over and
"Up" the bird. No mystery, no trick, no special ability, no
Pushme-Pullyou out in the truck; its just that the bird hasn't gradually
learned that I'm not safe as he has with his owner. A little
restructuring and amazon and owner will live happily ever after.
In essence, the bird that bites needs to be handled more, and
Back to the list.
- Nothing is funnier than an amazon taking a bath. No
hyperbole here; I'm dead serious. I've made a study of humor. I love it,
I use it and I try to understand it to the greatest extent possible.
There was a time in my life when I could dictate from memory, verbatim,
the entire script of "Blazing Saddles". Okay, so it was a very lonely
time in my life
Nonetheless, not even Jack Benny, Steve Martin and the
you-know-what episode of Seinfeld can hold a candle to a Blue fronted
amazon in the shower. I also happen to believe that they're pretty cute,
too, so I ask fans of Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and Benji to please lend
their expertise to this discussion.
- Amazons are unpretentious. I once wrote, "When an amazon
is hungry, he goes and gets some food. When he is playful, he plays.
When he is happy, he expresses his joy. No games, no tricks, no lies.
They are utterly and completely honest, more so than any of my former
clients. An amazon would never wear Gucci loafers." I still stand by
A part of this simplicity has to be their directness.
I've never seen an amazon "go around" anything; they either go over it,
through it or they don't go at all. My favorite example of this is how
many of them climb around their cages. They climb up one side, across
the top and down the other side. None of that cockatoo stopping to pose
or that macaw hanging by one toe stuff and never would they bother to
stop at the corner and back down the last side. No way. For amazons it's
head first and straight ahead, all the way.
- Amazons are not afraid of commitment. No Peter Pan
When an amazon moves in, you can get the stainless steel cage, buy
supplies in bulk and have the towels monogrammed. They're perfectly
happy to stay put, thank you very much.
- Amazons are intelligent
- Amazons are pigs. I am constantly discussing diet
conversion methods, tricks and techniques. Every "expert" has their
secret and, basically, I try to gather as many as possible so that I can
present my friends, clients and acquaintances with a wide range of
options. When a call comes in about an amazon, however, I divulge my own
little secret developed through years of careful, methodical, scientific
Here we go
- Take an empty bowl
- Fill it with chopped veggies and fruit
- Put it in front of the amazon
Tough, huh? Nine times out of ten you now have a bird that eats fresh
foods. Okay, he eats and wears fresh foods; amazons are not delicate
eaters and I have the pictures to prove it.
In all seriousness, I find that the more I learn about amazons the more
I see the entire range of psittacine behavior within the microcosm of
the genus Amazona. From the sweet little White fronted to the majestic
Blue crowned mealy, your desires as an avicultural hobbyist can easily
be fulfilled by an intelligent, loyal, interactive, stable, beautiful
and, more or less, green package. But do I really wish every parrot was
an amazon? No way! I'd be out of business faster than you can say, "Good
© 1997, Layne David Dicker. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author