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Red-crowned Parrot
Amazona viridigenalis (Cassin 1853)

Also known as: Green-cheeked Amazon or Mexican Red-head


The Red-crowned species is endemic to (and declining in) northeastern Mexico (Enkerlin-Hoeflich and Hogan 1997). This and the Lilac-crowned Parrot represent allospecies (Sibley and Monroe 1990), and difficulty in field identification, especially in low light when parrots gather at roost sites, has hampered the determination of their status in Southern California. The Red-crowned is now clearly the more abundant of the two. Hardy (1973) considered this species "very rare, and very local" in Southern California, citing records back to 1963 but no confirmation of breeding. Froke (1981) recorded 50 viridigenalis and documented nesting in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County, from 1973 to 1978, and an unspecified proportion of a flock of 36 Amazona parrots in West Los Angeles during that period were of this species. He did not determine the species identity of smaller groups of Amazona noted in Pomona (Los Angeles Co.), Orange County, western San Bernardino County, and San Diego County. Red-crowned Parrots have been present and increasing in urban Orange County since the early 1970s (Gallagher 1997). (Garrett 1997)

The San Gabriel Valley has seen a tremendous increase in the population of this species. There are also significant populations of this species in Orange County. A small population of this species is reported to have bred in the city of Redlands and local residents report that this population has been present in the area for a time period on the order of decades. In San Diego County, there are two populations of this parrot in approximately equal numbers (John Martin pers. comm.). (Mabb 2002)

Distribution in California: Urban coastal slope of southern California, from Los Angles County (especially San Gabriel Valley) to Orange County; also locally in San Diego area (Garrett 1997); small numbers have been noted on the Monterey Peninsula (Roberson and Tenney 1993).

Habitat in California: Older urban and suburban areas, especially with a combination of exotic trees and shrubs, small orchards, and native live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) (Froke 1981; Hall 1988; Garrett 1997).

On July 31, 2001, the California Birds Records Committee (CBRC) added the Red-crowned Parrot to the Official List of California Birds as an introduced species.

Other Naturalized Locations: Naturalized in southernmost Texas and Florida and on Oahu, Hawaiian Islands, and Puerto Rico, West Indies (Forshaw 2006).

Click an image below to view at a larger scale.

Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis)
Photos this page © Bowles/Erickson |

Native Range and Habitat: Amazona viridigenalis is locally and seasonally fairly common to common on the Atlantic slope of north-east Mexico, mostly in Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí, with small colonies in extreme north-east Querétaro. It formerly occurred in Nuevo León and Veracruz, but there have been no records of wild birds since 1945 and 1960 respectively. In 1992-1994, densities in one area were estimated at 5.7 birds/km 2, indicating a wild population of 3,000-6,500 birds. This compares with 25.2 birds/km 2 reported in the 1970s.

Inhabits lush areas in arid lowlands and foothills, especially gallery forest, deciduous woodland and dry, open pine-oak woodland on ridges up to 1,000 m. Smaller numbers occur in agricultural landscapes with a few large trees. It feeds largely on the fruits of dominant tree species. (BirdLife International)

STATUS: Endangered -- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. CITES Appendix I (1992). In 1988 the Red-crowned Parrot was classified a Threatened Species and upgraded to an Endangered Species by 1994. Remaining on the Endangered Species List, the Red-crowned Parrot continues to decline. The combination of high levels of exploitation for the cage-bird trade, long-term habitat loss and reduced density estimates indicates that this species is declining very rapidly. It is estimated only 3,000 – 6,500 remain. (BirdLife International 2004).

Citation: BirdLife International 2004. Amazona viridigenalis . In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. < >. Downloaded on 18 January 2007.

For more information including a native range map, visit the Red-crowned Amazon - BirdLife Species Factsheet published by BirdLife International.


Description: Green overall; paler on breast and abdomen; feathers with dark scalloping on nape; forehead, crown and lores red; blue trailing behind eyes and extending down sides of nape; outer webs of primaries dark blue; secondaries with blue tips; first five secondaries with red wing-speculum; tail green with greenish-yellow tips; pale eye ring; pale beak; iris orange-yellow; feet pale grey. Immatures duller green with less coloring to head; iris dark.

Average Length: 13 inches

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In affiliation with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and
in cooperation with the Pasadena Audubon Society

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