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Yellow-headed Parrot
Amazona oratrix (Ridgway 1887)

Also known as: Yellow-headed Amazon

The allospecies Amazona oratrix (Yellow-headed Parrot), Amazona auropalliata (Yellow-naped Parrot), and Amazona ochrocephala (Yellow-crowned Parrot), occurring from eastern and southwestern Mexico south to Amazonian South America, are among the most popular parrots for aviculture. Largely because of the drain of wild populations for the pet bird trade, as well as habitat destruction, northern oratrix (native from southwestern and eastern Mexico south to northwestern Honduras) has declined severely within its native range with the loss of up to 90% of its numbers since the mid-1970s (Collar 1996). Earlier workers in Southern California did not distinguish among these taxa but reported "Yellow-headed" (Hardy 1973) and "Yellow-crowned" (Froke 1981) parrots widely in the western San Gabriel Valley, West Los Angeles, and elsewhere; the latter author documented one case of nesting. Flocks of ten to twenty Yellow-headed Parrots were seen routinely in West Los Angeles in the 1970s (Garrett pers. obs.).

In Southern California, the Yellow-headed Parrot was more numerous decades ago (Hardy 1973), but has since declined. They have continued to decline from their numbers reported by Garrett (1997). (Mabb 2002)

In urban Orange County, this species' presence dates back to at least the early 1970s as reported by Gallagher (1997) (Garrett 1997). In more recent years, a small number was reported by Piper (2002). Seven are presently being individually documented and studied by Bowles/Erickson (2007).

Distribution in California: Mainly Los Angeles basin, San Gabriel Valley, and urban Orange County (Garrett 1997).

Habitat in California: Residential, suburban areas. (Garrett 1998)

Other Naturalized Locations: Puerto Rico, West Indies.

Click an image below to view at a larger scale.

Yellow-headed Parrot (Amazona oratrix)
Photos this page © Bowles/Erickson |


Native Range and Habitat: Has undergone a dramatic population decline, judged at 90% since the mid-1970s, to 7,000 birds in 1994. There are three subpopulations in Mexico : the race magna in Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Chiapas, Tabasco and Campeche; the nominate race from Jalisco to Oaxaca; and the race tresmariae on the Islas Marías. The race belizensis was widespread in coastal Belize, but is now primarily restricted to central and north-west areas. There is an old report and a 1993 record from Petén, and " guatemalensis" occurs from Punta Manabique to extreme north-west Honduras. Populations in Belize and at the known site in Campeche are healthy. There are conflicting reports that tresmariae is stable and under considerable threat.

Inhabits dense thorn-forest, savanna, tall deciduous forest and humid riverine woodland. Birds favour semi-arid regions in the northern Atlantic lowlands, but more humid savannas further south. In Belize, it inhabits pine savannas and adjacent evergreen forest patches, and " guatemalensis " occurs in coastal scrub and mangroves. (BirdLife International)

STATUS: Endangered -- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. CITES Appendix I. In 1994, the Yellow-headed Parrot was classified an Endangered Species owing to a very rapid population decline, equivalent to 68% in 10 years. The population is now so small that lower (but still very significant) rates of decline are likely in the future. A 1994 assessment placed the remaining population at 7,000. (BirdLife International 2004).

Citation: BirdLife International 2004. Amazona oratrix . 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 Yellow-headed Amazon - BirdLife Species Factsheet published by BirdLife International.

Description: Green overall; forehead, lores, crown, yellow -- extends to throat, sides and back of head; feathers to nape faintly edged in black, often mixed with yellow; yellow on average more extensive in male than female; breast and abdomen green, in virtually all birds with darker edging; thighs yellow on innerside; bend of wing red mixed with yellow ; edge of wing yellowish-green; outer webs and tips of secondaries and primaries violet-blue; red wing speculum to outer five secondaries; tail green with greenish-yellow tip; base to outer tail feathers red, outer webs with blue edging; eye ring pale; beak horn colored; iris orange; feet flesh tone to grey. Immatures with darker iris; yellow restricted to forehead and crown.

Average Length: 15 inches

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