Breeding of the Marajo Yellow-Crowned Amazon

March 30th, 2015 | by Vitiga Vitiga
Breeding of the Marajo Yellow-Crowned Amazon
Breeding
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This subspecies is found in Brazil, in the delta of the Amazon and the Rio Tocantin. The island Marajo is the biggest deltaic island of the world and the biggest island surrounded by fresh water. With approximately 40 000 km ², it is just a little bit smaller than Swiss. We can find there various landscapes from “fesos”, artificial hills built during its pre-Colombian history by the native people, to an almost impenetrable forest, covering its western half.

It is there, in the borders of the wet forest massifs, as at the top of their canopy, but also in the heart of mangrove swamps, that lives an endemic subspecies of amazon, in couple or in small groups of about ten individuals: the amazon of Marajo (Amazona ochrocephala xantholaema).

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A nice pair of the Marajo Yellow-crowned Amazon. (c) Vitiga vitiga

It is found more exactly on two small islands above the island of Marajo, namely the island of Caviana and the island of Mexiana.  Actually we can find there the purest specimens of that subsspecie with a lot of yellow in males – a little less for females – and, for both sexes a small green part just above the beak .

Whereas on the island of Marajo , which is closer to Brazil, there are natural hybridizations with the Blue-fronted Amazon (Amazona aestiva) and the Orange-winged Amazon (Amazona amazonica), it is important to note that these hybrids have almost never been imported and are not thus present in collections. The subspecies xantholaema is bigger in size than those hybrids, 38 to39cm in comparison to 35 to 36cm . Furthermore, there is a more or less obvious sexual dimorphism, The males shows a yellowish coloration of the head more widespread and the extremity of the uppper mandible is longer than the female.

Besides , both sexes shows a pure white eye contour and the shoulder of the wing is intensively red.
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Key characteristics of the subspecies. (c) Vitiga vitiga

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Except these peculiarities the plumage is generally very similar to that of the nominate subspecies Amazona ochrocephala ochrocephala: the nape of the neck and the back are green, the breast and the belly yellowish green, tail feathers are paler.
Legs and beak are dark grey. Nowadays, most of the birds kept in captivity in Europe are males which were coupled with females Amazona o. ochrocephala.

The young birds resulting from this reproduction are then identical to the real marajos during their first year of life.
Then, four-five years later, after final moulting, we observe females which show a lack of yellow on the feathers under the eye and males with head coloration similar to females!

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But such slight differences are sometimes difficult to identify even for an experienced breeder, the best way to specify the purity of marajos is to do the genetic test.

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Variability in coloration and distribution of the subspecies. (c) Vitiga vitiga

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There is a story about a person who is the biggest breeder of this species in Europe:

That man has been breeding with parrots for a very long time, he bought one day a female of this rare subspecies from a widow of another breeder. At that time, he didn’t know much about that subspecies of amazon, but one of his sons, who lives in Great Britain, discovered exactly the same bird in an aviculture magazine with some basic data and description. According to this information, the breeder realized that he really has one of these birds  and start searching for the male.

He finally managed to find it. However, it was very difficult as imports from Marajo to Europe were very rare. The first attempts of reproduction were observed immediately and two years later birds start copulating.

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Chick development (c) Vitiga vitiga

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Unfortunately the female, particularly tamed and thus without any fear of the man, just left its nest every time she heard voices approaching, and in her haste, broke the eggs. Finally in 2005, to improve chances of success with the reproduction, eggs (usually among 2 – 4, measuring 37,5mm X 29mm) were taken off and placed to the incubator.

He got some new birds of this subspecies later to set up new pairs. These birds start breeding, eventuelly. They nest between February and May in nestboxes of size 45cm x 45cm x 75cm with an entrance 20 cms in diameter, in walk-in aviaries 6 x 1 x 2 m.
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(c) Vitiga Vitiga

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The space is important for amazons as they can fly. In every aviary, there are many branches so birds can climb. These parrots love bathing so there is a bowl with fresh water in every cage. The incubation period is about 26 to 29 days, as it is the case for a lot of other species of amazons. Then the development of the chicks takes approximately 10 weeks and at 13 weeks they are independent.

It is however important to note that these amazons are particularly excited in period of reproduction, and their behavior becomes then very protective and aggressive, even to the breeder. This is particularly true as regards to the birds raised by hand. Those, having lost any fear of the man, become then real furies during the breeding season!
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(c) Vitiga vitiga

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Visits of the facility have to be very limited and the breeding pairs when nesting should be fed by the breeder in person, any strangers.
Outside the breeding season, birds are calm and peaceful, but remain nevertheless rather reactive to the foreigners visiting the aviaries.

Nevertheless it should not discourage breeders to keep those very beautiful parrots, still very rare in the collections and unfortunately too often hybridized and crossed with other amazon species. The husbandry of this subspecies is very similar to other amazons. The diet consits of the mixture for parrots, sprouted seeds (hemp, wheat, oat, safflower, sunflower, buckwheat), walnuts, beans, half ripe corn, fruits and some fresh branches for chewing.
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(c) Vitiga vitiga

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Furthermore, this parrot is very sociable, it can get tamed easily and can be a very good talker.

Sister subspecies:

Amazona ochrocephala nattereri

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Amazona ochrocephala ochrocephala

Amazona ochrocephala panamensis

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Photos and text: (c) Vitiga Vitiga

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