Breeding the Red Topped Amazon
Article by Bob Mann
I first set eyes on the Red Topped Amazon (Amazona rhodocorytha) in 1980 when I was asked if I would like to look after a pair from a parrot enthusiast who was unknown to me at the time but over the following years has become a good friend.
Having had some experience in breeding amazons I was somewhat taken aback at the difference in their behaviour pattern.
Unlike the Blue Fronted, Yellow Crowned, Mealies and many other amazons I had successfully bred over the years where the cock protected their hens throughout the year and would sit and preen each other in your presence and roost together, the Red Topped Amazon cock was quite the opposite, very anti-social with his partner.
They would never feed together or sit on the same perch. In fact, they usually sat at opposite ends of the aviary even during the night. I would often have a peep through the window to see if they were together but they were always sat apart.
I began to feel that they were incompatible or that they were the same sex. I hadn’t experienced such behaviour in amazons before.
I homed them in an aviary 3m x 4m x 2m high with inside quarters. This used to be a cockatoo aviary and had a very large sloping nest box, some 1�m long, made from 225mm x 50mm timber. It took two men to lift it, but as far as the birds were concerned it may as well not have been there.
They ate well, unlike many parrots they would welcome and try any fruits or soaked pulses, vegetables, chicken and cheese. They would never argue over the tasty bits nor did they come close to each other.
Some six weeks later however the cock was showing some interest in the nest box.
On examination I could see he was chewing the sides of the box and using the chips to form a nest.
His behaviour to the hen changed; he began to feed her and protect her. He would always put himself between her and me when I entered to clean out the aviary and would threatened me in his way if I got to close.
My wife and I were very excited with this behaviour. Mr George Smith, a well-known avian veterinarian told me that as far as he knew, this species had never been bred in captivity. A
s you can imagine, we treated these birds with kid gloves!
We didn’t disturb them. The aviary was big enough for them to keep their distance from us without being stressed. Although I could inspect the nest box from the outside of the aviary, without the birds knowing, I was always very careful to make sure they were not inside.
On inspecting the box this time I found 3 eggs, which were showing fertile so I left well alone.
I didn’t touch the box anymore for 3 or 4 weeks. One day both birds were in the flight, I could hear a noise coming from the nest box so I looked in onto three lovely chicks.
Most people would say why didn’t I check before. You can tell if all is well. The food is going much more quickly and in greater quantities.
The birds are much quieter, as if they don’t want anyone to know what’s going on and they didn’t know that I could inspect the box when they were out in the aviary.
I naturally now kept a frequent eye on the chicks, although I didn’t touch. I didn’t ring the chicks for fear of reprisals from the parents.
The chicks were approximately 5 weeks old. It was the middle of October and because the weather was turning very chilly and wet at night, we decided to remove the chicks and hand feed them rather than risk the possibility of losing them.
The chicks were independent just before Christmas. They showed their full colour as you can see by the pictures on the front cover of the Society’s magazine, which were taken by a friend, Dennis Avon, the well-known bird photographer.
After removing the chicks, the parents went back to their old ways, sitting on separate perches etc. usually the hen in the background. She knew her place!!
The cock is the dominant bird in this species and I think for this reason the hens are very shy even if they are hand reared.
To try and make the hens feel less threatened by the cocks as they become adult, we pair them up as chicks so they grow up together. We have found this to work and out of the breeding season the pair seems to be a lot closer to each other but still not as close as other amazons.
All our babies have gone to breeders at home and abroad. They are being bred in small numbers now and new blood is not easy to find, but if you look hard enough there are people abroad who are breeding this species.
Just make sure the parents have not been bred over here!!
Over the years we have been very successful with this species and have made many friends both here and overseas through a mutual hobby.