Yellow-shouldered Amazon Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common NameYellow-shouldered Amazon
Scientific NameAmazona barbadensis
Lifespan50 Years
Size12.8 inches (33 cm)
Body Mass9.4oz. (270 grams)
HabitatDesert shrublands with low trees/thorn bushes and cacti
RangeNorthern Venezuela

Information & Physical Appearance

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The Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis) is a member of the order Psittaciformes, the family Psittacidae, the genus Amazona. Other common names include Yellow-shouldered Parrot, Yellow-winged Amazon, and Yellow-winged Parrot.
There are no recognized subspecies.

Yellow-shouldered amazons are not sexually dimorphic, but instead, adult males and adult females are visually similar in appearance.
Both adults are mainly green in body color. On the feathers, fine, thin black scalloping can be noticed.

The forehead, the lores, as well as the forecrown display white coloration. The crown itself is yellow in color, and so are the upper cheeks and the area around the eyes.

The bend of the wing (the “shoulder”) and the thighs are yellow. It is often the case that bluish tint occurs on the cheeks, belly, and throat.Red wing speculum that runs across the secondary feathers is also typical for yellow-shouldered amazons.While the tail itself is green, there are red/orange notes that remain hidden in the feather bases.

There is a bare eye-ring, which is pale grey to whitish in color. The color of the eyes is red/orange.

The bill is horn colored.


Yellow-shouldered amazon juveniles have a similar appearance as seen in adults; however, immature yellow-winged parrots are typically duller in color. Also, they have less yellow coloring on the head.

The eyes are brownish, instead of orange/red as in mature yellow-winged amazons. The bill varies from white to gray in color and is washed with dark grey.

The white-colored forehead is sometimes tinted with blue.

Similar Species

The yellow shoulder patch, as well as the extensive yellow on the head, are the most distinct traits that distinguish yellow-shouldered amazons from other Amazona species throughout their native range, as the latter have orange or red coloring on the shoulder and significantly less yellow on the head zone.

More specifically, the orange-winged amazon is known to have as much yellow on the head are some yellow-winged parrots. The orange-winged amazon has a blue ocular region, though.

Outside of the yellow-winged parrots’ native range, there are several other Amazona species that are known to have as much (or sometimes more) yellow coloring on their heads.


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Similarly to other Amazona species, the yellow-shouldered amazon is renowned for its longevity. Yellow-winged amazon parrots usually live for up to 50 years when proper care is given.

Ecosystem & Habitat

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The yellow-winged amazons’s range is rather restricted. It is confined to a small coastal area in Venezuela. These parrots also occur in the islands of Bonaire, Blanquilla, and Margarita. This species has been successfully introduced to the Antilles, the Netherlands, and Curaçao.


The preferred type of habitat of the Yellow-shouldered amazon includesareas that are characterized by thorny bushes and/or thorny, low trees, as well as cacti.

Usually, these parrots occur at elevations of up to 1467ft. (450 meters); however, they may be found higher on the mainland of Margarita Island.

Food & Diet

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Yellow shoulders are known to feed on the fruits of several native and non-native bushes and trees in the wild.Their diet also consists of various seeds, cactus tops, cactus fruits, and blossoms rich in nectar.

Sometimes, yellow-winged parrots are regarded as crop pests since they will gladly feed on different crops like maize and mango when available.


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Yellow-shouldered amazons are social living creatures.

They are usually found in pairs during the breeding season and in small families outside the breeding season. These birds are monogamous and are known to establish a strong bond with their mate.

Sometimes, yellow shoulders may also form flocks that consist of up to 100 members.

Being the highly sociable birds that they are, yellow-winged amazons roost communally. Communal roosts are formed in tall trees, whereas many as 700 birds have been reported to gather.

Yellow-winged parrots are regarded as naturally inquisitive, playful, curious living beings. They are also known for being quite noisy, making dry trilling and rattling sounds.

The yellow-shouldered amazons calls are raucous and loud and are considered less musical than the calls of other Amazona species.


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Depending on locality, the breeding season may start as early as March and continue throughout September. On Bonaire Island, the breeding season may sometimes begin as late as in October.

Just like other representatives of the amazon parrots’ family, Yellow-shouldered amazons choose to nest in tree cavities or holes. Also, cliff cavities are highly favored.

The female is to lay between 3 and up to 4 eggs per clutch. The ovate eggs measure 1.4 x 1 inch.

Survival Threats & Conservation

The yellow-shouldered amazon is listed on CITES’Appendix I, as well as in Appendix II.

One of the major survival threats is habitat loss, strongly driven by tourism-oriented practices.Habitat loss is also related to overgrazing by goats.

Another serious threat is that these parrots are widely exploited for exotic wild bird trade, being recklessly trapped and kept in horrible conditions before eventually being sold.

It is also the case that yellow shoulders are sometimes hunted in particular areas of their native range because of destroying crops.

For years, experts have been extensively documenting the declines of populations occurring in several parts of the mainland range of this species.

By the end of 2018, there are as few as between 1 700 and 5 600 mature individuals remaining in the wild.

The population trend remains unknown, but taking into account the small population size overall, the rather limited range, the ongoing habitat loss, and the corrupt overhunting practices, the future survival of the species may be more seriously threatened than expected.

Amazona barbadensis is listed under the Vulnerable category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The populations in Aruba have already been extirpated.

In addition to the survival threats listed above, there are also serious concerns associated with the ongoing increase of predation, due to the introduction of non-native mammal species.

Most recently, a collaboration between Provita and their partners from WLT has had good success with an intensive conservation program focused on the protection of these birds’ nests, and the prevention of fledgling amazons threatened to possibly enter the cage bird trade.

The population of Yellow-shouldered parrots inhabiting Margarita Island increased to an estimated 2000 birds in 2015 from as few as 1000 birds.

Raising local awareness among the communities sharing the land with the yellow-winged parrots is also crucial for successful conservation.

Up-to-date, there is a systematic monitoring scheme running, as well as an active recovery plan. Conservation sites are identified over the entire range, and the species is found to occur in at least one protected area.

Availability – Where to Get a Yellow-shouldered Amazon

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The yellow-shouldered amazon is not commonly kept as a pet, and its captive status is estimated as rare.

However, it is fully possible to find a yellow-winged amazon available for sale from various avian-specialty stores, as well as directly from a limited number of reputable breeders.

Potential owners should best make sure to only purchase domestic-bred, legal, close-banded yellow-shouldered amazons, as not to stimulate the illegal pet trade ruled by illegal trappers hungry to make money by capturing these amazing creatures from their natural habitat in the wild.

Beloved for their sweet, balanced personality, smaller size, and great talent, yellow-winged amazons do often find their way into different breeder’s programs. It is important to keep in mind, though, that few are the lucky ones who are to encounter domestic hand-fed baby yellow shoulders.

Interesting Facts

  1. The yellow-shouldered amazon parrot is among the smaller-sized Amazona species. It is often regarded as a miniature version of its well-known relative, the Blue-fronted Amazon. Also, due to its somewhat slimmer, smaller size, yellow shoulders are nicknamed “Barbie.”
  2. The yellow-winged amazon is among the most endangered parrot species found in Venezuela. Fortunately, a successful conservation program has been integrated with a focus on reversing the damage that has led to a significant parrot population decline in the Margarita Island, Macanao Peninsula. Ever since the project started back in 1989, the estimated population of 750 individuals has been increased to approximately 1900 individuals in 1996.
  3. Yellow-shouldered amazons are so smart that they can even learn to give high five with a bit of proper training.
  4. It is on Margarita Island where the hatching success, as well as the total clutch size of Yellow-shouldered parrots, have been documented as the highest for the entire genus Amazona. This is great news for the future survival of the species, as it suggests a high reproductive potential.

How to Care for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon

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1. Housing

For housing, Yellow-shouldered amazons, owners want to opt for a walk-in type of enclosure that is at least 14.7ft. (4.5 meters) in length.

Alternatively, a suspended cage or aviary can work great, as long as these are at least 9.8ft. (4.5 meters) in length. The enclosure has to be at least 36’’ in width. The bar spacing should be no more than 1’’.

Most importantly, a spacious, roomy enclosure will ensure that the yellow-shoulder amazon pet will have enough room to exercise.Providing manzanita perches in all the places where the owners wish to limit frequent changing of perches is highly recommended since these parrots are avid chewers “equipped” with powerful beaks.

Also, powder-coated metal cages are strongly preferred.

Some yellow shoulder individuals may actually require a smaller cage to feel secure; however, it remains a must to allow these parrots enough room to climb around freely, while also being able to reach all of their treats and toys easily. Not the least, they need to be provided with suitable hiding places to feel safe when the owner is not at home.

All of the above beings said, these parrots can be provided a smaller sleep cage, yet offering a larger area where they can spend at least 3-4 hours of the day is imperative to keep them healthy and happy.

In all the areas where most of the time is spent, it is crucial to have a playpen.Note that yellow-winged amazons should be trained to step up onto a hand-held perch. This way, the owner can easily move his/her feathery friend out of the cage area, considering that the cage area is sacred territory.

Once moved outside the cage onto the neutral ground, the caregiver can safely play with the yellow shoulder pet without possibly stimulating the bird to exhibit territorial biting behavior.

It is essential to provide plenty of puzzle/foraging toys, as well as non-toxic, bird-safe wooden chewable toys. These toys should be available in the cage but also on the play-ground outside the enclosure.

Various perches around the house should also be provided.

2. Diet

Fresh, bird-safe fruits and vegetables should form about 30% of a healthy, varied diet, and should be provided on a daily basis.

Suitable fruits include pears, oranges, pomegranate, cactus fruits, bananas, and mangoes, among others.

Suitable veggies include but are not limited to green peas, carrots, fresh corn, celery, beans, and a variety of green leaves. Cooked pulses and beans should also be offered in moderate amounts.

The major part of the diet should consist of limited mixed seed and spray millet.

Complete kibble is nonetheless essential.

Be careful not to give too much high-fat food, since these parrots are easily prone to obesity. Instead, stick with a low-fat, nutrient-rich diet.

Important Notes

Consult with an experienced avian vet immediately if you have any suspicions that your feathery friend is becoming overweight. Note that these parrots are quite hardy in general, yet possible mistakes such as not getting enough exercise, exposure to drafts, improper diet and/or lack of socialization can lead to serious health issues on both the physical and behavioral level.

Protein sources should also be offered.

When it comes to providing high-quality pelleted diet, mind that yellow-shouldered amazons tend to easily get bored with pellets, being the intelligent birds that they are.

In such cases, a soak-and-cook diet, either from a commercial supplier or a vet, can work great, even though it requires more work than simply offering pellets.

A combination of homemade legume and grain-based diet can be a wonderful choice, too. It generally includes a mix of brown rice and well-cooked grains and beans.

Owners can prepare a cooked diet in advance in large batches. These can be frozen and then defrosted as needed.

High-carbohydrate seeds, such as millet, can make part of the seed mix you offer, however, peanuts and sunflower seeds should be best only offered in trick training practices.

Never allow your yellow-winged amazon to sample chocolate, uncooked poultry, uncooked meat, or avocado.

Sometimes, a yellow shoulder pet may want to “give you a hand” in eating your dinner, and this is totally fine in the case your dinner happens to be rich in whole grain and vegetables.

3. Personality & Temperament

Yellow-Shouldered Amazons are beloved for their engaging personalities, apart from the fact they are a rare Amazona species in general.

They are described as gentle by nature, super inquisitive and curious, even to the point of becoming “nosy.”

These charmingly tempered creatures are always ready to play and can be quite acrobatic when provided with hanging toys and swings.

Apart from typically being very outgoing, yellow-winged amazons can become quite accomplished talkers with proper training.

They adore bathing, and will usually talk and display nonstop while enjoying their regular bathe session.

Feeding a proper diet is extremely important as these curious feathery friends will get to investigate anything that goes into their bowls fairly quickly.

Yellow shoulders can make the best choice as family pets since they can bond with many people in the family instead of becoming one-person birds.

Note that older breeding adult males have a tendency to become aggressive.

Potential owners should always do their best research and learn as much as possible about the body language and psychology of these creatures. For those who want to get their care level skills polished, it can be a great idea to consult with a bird behaviorist.

4. Speech & Sounds

As a rule of thumb, the yellow-shouldered amazon has a solid reputation as being a relatively quiet Amazona species. They can become noisier during certain parts of the day, though, and once they get to learn to whistle and talk, do not expect them to be overly quiet!

5. Handling

Despite its mild temper, smaller size, and unprecedented cuteness, Yellow-shouldered amazons should be treated and handled with the full respect they deserve.

According to some experts, it is best not to allow them to ride on your shoulder, but instead, they should be taught to ride the owner’s arm or a hand-held perch. This way, the owner can always monitor possible changes in the bird’s behavior and/or moods.

FAQ Section

What Do Yellow-shouldered Amazons Eat?

In the wild, Yellow-shouldered Amazons eat fruits, seed pods, and blossoms rich in nectar. In captivity, yellow-winged amazons thrive on a balanced diet consisting of 70% limited seed mix and/or pellets, and about 30% fresh, bird-safe vegetables and fruits.

How Long Do Yellow-shouldered Amazons Live?

Similarly to other Amazona species, Yellow-shouldered amazons can live for many years, usually up to 50 years, when provided with proper care, love, and attention.

Are Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots Good Talkers?

Renowned for their wonderful talent, Yellow-shouldered amazon parrots do make good talkers.They do not have the top talking skills attributed to the Double Yellow-headed Amazon; however, they are fully capable of learning an extensive vocabulary of whistles and words.

How Much Are Yellow-shouldered Amazons?

You can expect to pay between $1000 and $1500 or more for a Yellow-shouldered amazon pet. While yellow shoulders’ price may vary, these birds make lifetime companions, and the most important thing to keep in mind is to only opt for captive-bred individuals.

Do Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots Make Good Pets?

Yellow-shouldered amazon parrots can make wonderful pets, as they do not present the intense behavior challenges typical for the larger-sized Amazona species. Being smaller, playful, and easier to handle, and with good talking skills, yellow shoulders can quickly turn into beloved companions whose affection will last for a lifetime.

Are Yellow-shouldered Amazons Loud?

Yellow-shouldered amazons can be especially loud at certain times of the day, and hence, they may not make the best pets for those who wish to take care of a less noisy companion. However, yellow shoulders do have a good reputation as relatively quiet members of the Amazona genus.

Are Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots Endangered?

Yes, Yellow-shouldered amazon parrots are endangered with extinction and are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

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