Family Parrots (Psittacidae)


Yellow-headed Amazon (Amazona oratrix)


French: Amazone à tête jaune German: Gelbkopfamazone Spanish: Amazona cabecigualda
Other common names: Yellow-headed Parrot

Amazona oratrix


, 1887,

Petapa, Oaxaca


Treatment as conspecific with A. auropalliata and A. ochrocephala has been common in recent decades (e.g. in HBW), but becoming increasingly unpopular with (among others) trade-control agencies; separation into three species plausible, but clear division between taxa, especially at species level, highly problematic along Caribbean coast of Middle America between E Guatemala and N Nicaragua#R. Genetic studies have shown that the A. ochrocephala complex can be divided into three main lineages, but seems to be paraphyletic with regard to A. aestiva. One recent phylogenetic study#R found that South American lineage could be divided into two well-supported closely related clades, but with A. aestiva distributed in both; differentiation of the South American populations does not correspond to plumage differences used to distinguish A. aestiva from A. ochrocephala, or to plumage differences used to distinguish among South American races of latter#R. Present species currently distinguished from other taxa in the ochrocephala complex by yellow of head extending around eye, usually forming a hood (3); bill and nares pale yellowish (3); shoulder extensively red with irregular yellow feathering (2). However, populations at SE extreme of range, in extreme E Guatemala (proposed “guatemalensis”, an undescribed dimorphic form of hondurensis) and adjacent NW Honduras (hondurensis), have reduced yellow on head (not extending around eye in latter) and presence of yellow nape patch, suggesting a hybrid transition to auropalliata (potentially an additional score of 2); these retained in present species on account of pale bill and nares, and yellow in red shoulders, but hondurensis evidently provides a link to darker-billed subspecies A. auropalliata caribaea, which inhabits islands off N Honduras (see below). Further detailed study of subspecies desirable. Populations of E Mexico (Tamaulipas to Tabasco) sometimes awarded race magna#R, here considered too poorly differentiated from oratrix to warrant recognition. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. o. tresmariae Nelson, 1900 – Tres Marias Amazon – Tres Marías Is, off WC Mexico.
  • A. o. oratrix Ridgway, 1887 – Yellow-headed Amazon – lowlands of Mexico, on Pacific (Jalisco to Michoacán, formerly to Oaxaca) and Atlantic (Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí to Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas) slopes.
  • A. o. belizensis Monroe & T. R. Howell, 1966 – Belize and NE Guatemala (Petén).
  • A. o. hondurensis Lousada & S. N. G. Howell, 1997 – extreme E Guatemala (Punta Manabique)#R and NW Honduras (lower Sula Valley).
  • Feral populations (oratrix) in S USA (California, Florida) and Puerto Rico.

    Descriptive notes

    35–38 cm; 517 g. Large, mainly green parrot with bright yellow head (except some scattered green feathers on neck-sides), grass-green upperparts becoming paler on uppertail-... read more


    In captivity, this species is an excellent mimic of human and other sounds, while in wild a variety... read more


    Recorded in savannas, tropical deciduous forest (and their clearings), dense thorn forest, swamp... read more

    Food and feeding

    Varied diet includes buds, green leaves, palm fruits, seeds of Acacia, Astronium graveolens, Crataeva tapia and... read more


    Comparatively few published data; season Feb–May in S of range, until Jun in N (e.g. Tamaulipas, NE Mexico). Nests in tree-hole, 6–23 m... read more


    None reported beyond regular or semi-regular movements between roosting and feeding sites, e.g. in... read more

    Status and conservation

    ENDANGERED. CITES I. Dramatic decline, estimated at 90% since mid 1970s, with population placed at 7000 birds in 1994. Three subpopulations in Mexico: one in Tamaulipas, San... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Yellow-headed Amazon (Amazona oratrix). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 December 2019).