Yellow Naped Amazon

 YELLOW-NAPED AMAZON
Amazona ochrocephala auropalliata   
                                                                                                      

» One of the Ochrocephala group..
» Range is the Pacific slope of southern Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica.
» 
Amazona ochrocephala parvipes is a yellow-nape with red on the bend of its wing that is from eastern Honduras and northeastern Nicaragua.
» Populations are considered 
stable although habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade may change their status.
» 12 to 13" Generally a sturdy and robust parrot


Napes are one of the three best known Amazons who have similar outgoing, spirited, and excitable personality traits. Yellow-napes are known as the quintessential talking and opera singing Amazon. They are usually very clever parrots and seem to be born (hatched) entertainers. Napes love to show off and can be very gregarious. With proper guidance, they can remain very tame and loving to the people in their lives. Napes are often great cuddle-wrestlers and love hands-on playing with their human friends. However people should watch for a yellow-nape’s very readable body language because it will predict overload behavior. With proper care and diet, these Amazons can be gorgeouas, robust and full of energy.

As with other generally excitable parrots, the Yellow-nape needs rules and guidance to maintain their quality as a human companion. People need to be aware of their potential for “overload behavior” when they become too excited. When this happens, the parrot should be left alone to calm down or picked up with a stick and transferred carefully to the play gym or cage without any drama. Napes can become real 'drama addicts." Previous stick training can really come in handy in these situations. Like the Double yellow-head, napes can be “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” birds and may be very friendly with people they normally don’t favor if their best human buddy is not there. Napes can by noisy but with good vocal training, a lot of that type of negative behavior can be turned into marvelous singing and clever conversation.  

I started out with double yellow-headed Amazons because I knew a couple, Bill and Wilma Fisher, who were gathering these parrots to breed them way back in 1976. I helped them find several parrots from people who had purchased wild-caught birds and had no idea what to do with them. One day I got a call from a woman who said she had a big green parrot that had belonged to her son and she needed to "get rid of it." I went over to her home and saw the first Yellow-nape I had ever seen. He was huge and was as wild as any parrot I have ever met but I didn’t know a lot about handling parrots at the time. Somehow or other I managed to get him in a cardboard box. I headed straight for my friend’s house and asked them if they were interested in a Yellow-nape. I was hoping they were because I really didn’t know what I would do with the parrot if I had to keep him. I was amazed when Wilma opened the box and the yellow-nape stepped right on her hand. They took him and eventually found him a girlfriend. She had such a ways with parrots!

I worked with quite a few Amazons of one kind or another over the next few years and many of them were yellow-napes. I never really had more of a problem with them than any other Amazon species. I started bird-sitting after I moved to California and one of the parrots I watched was a tame Yellow-nape who was very dedicated the to woman that he lived with. While she was gone he would become "my" bird almost as soon as she walked out the door. One of those Amazon characteristics, "If you can’t be with the one you want, want the one you’re with." I could do anything with him and enjoyed teaching him tricks. One time when she was gone for over a week or so, he let me swing him on his back and then I taught him to lie on his back in my hand so I could tickle his belly. This was new to him and I as soon as she returned, I wanted to show off his trick. Here is another Amazon characteristic that is not always true but certainly was in this situation. She had greeted him and then I was going to show her the new trick. As I tried to turn him over in my hand, he bit right through what I now know is called the "purlicue," which is that sensitive web-like area between the thumb and forefinger. For some reason, biting parrots seem to think of that area as a delicacy. I shouldn’t have been shocked but I was and it really hurt and bled a lot. His best friend was back and he didn't want anything to do with me.

In the next year or so, I worked with several dozen Amazons, including a half a dozen or more yellow-napes. I had no problem with any of them except the napes. However, one day when I was thinking about my various consultations, a realization popped into my head. None of the other Amazons bit me, but the yellow-napes had all bitten me. It was then that I realized that since I had been bitten by the nape I had been bird-sitting, I had become afraid of them. There was no doubt in my mind that they picked up the energy of this fear and were therefore uncomfortable with me. Of course, my goal then was to get past that fear with them. 


I was lucky, the next yellow-nape that came into my life was a real "princess." I had always thought of napes as being a sturdy, sort of macho parrot but this nape was very gentle and lived with a woman who really babied her. This nape would do almost anything for an almond and that helped me make friends with her. I bird-sat her and her huge "brother" blue and gold macaw. I was sure this macaw was a male because he was the biggest blue and gold I had ever seen ... but sometime later the man called me to tell me that she had laid an egg. It seems to me that the wild-caught macaws were always larger than the ones raised in captivity. 
 

The nape was quite a talker and also did a lot of delightful singing. At the same time she was in my home, I was watching an African grey that lived with a single man who seemed to have a lot of girlfriends (according to his grey) and the bird knew a few phrases and sounds that seemed to create a possible problem when the caregiver of the sweet yellow-nape asked me to make sure that her baby didn’t learn any bad words like "shut up!" "Shut up" would have been the least of it. I kept them in separate rooms because I think the woman would have been very shocked if her loquacious Amazon had learned some of what the grey said.


This sweet nape helped me get past my subconscious fear of these parrots and the next time I was asked to tame one, it went just fine. One of my all time favorite nape was a parrot in a bird shop that I worked in for a short time. I have forgotten his name now but he was a brilliant talker from the time he was very young and learned just about any and everything anyone taught him within a very short time. I have often wondered what the results would have been if Dr. Irene Pepperberg had also adopted a yellow-nape like this one for her studies of verbal learning and avian intelligence. 


When I lived in California, my friend Richard had a wonderful yellow-nape named Casper. One Sunday morning, Casper got out and was flying over the streets of San Francisco. Richard asked all of the neighborhood kids to look for him. He was spotted in a tree right next the 4th floor balcony of an apartment house. Richard ran into the building, and ran up the stairs to the front door of the apartment and banged on their door. The door was answered by a person who became very bewildered as Richard exclaimed that his Amazon parrot was on the man’s balcony and went running into the apartment. Casper was still in the tree but too far for Richard to reach him. The apartment occupant finally figured out what was going on and offered a broom stick so that Richard could reach Casper. Richard didn’t take the offer for fear that the stick would scare Casper away. At that point Richard called me on his cell phone. I knew that he had taught Casper to step on his hand with the word "up". I told him to calm down and try that. When he held his hand out and gave Casper a happy and enthusiastic "Up," the bird waddled over and stepped on his hand. As I recall, Richard bought ice cream for the kids that had led him to Casper and gratefully gave a little bit to his Amazon traveler.

There is another yellow-nape consultation that I clearly remember. The young domestically-raised youngster had been purchased by a family in San Francisco from a California bird farm that had never heard the word socialization. The Amazon had never even been taught to step onto a hand (arghhh!) and the family had no idea how to get him to step up, or for that matter how to get him out of his cage. I wondered if he was really a young wild-caught parrot - there was lots of smuggled birds coming into the SF Bay area and pet shops and bird farms were buying them. It was obvious to me that this bird farm didn’t give a damn about the future success of the parrots they raised or they would have at least taught their parrots to step on people’s hands. I opened the nape’s cage door and then talked to the family about such things as diet and care issues. Since we were not paying close attention to the bird, he decided to climb out to the top of his cage. At that point I was able to quickly and gently get him into a towel. While he was still in the towel, I arranged it so he was sitting on my fingers. Then I slowly removed the towel. The parrot  was probably surprises that he was sitting on my hand but he stayed there because my energy was calm and I was not making direct and possibly threatening eye contact with him. He was a sweet bird and it only took me about a half an hour to have him trained to step from one hand to the other. By the time I left, everyone in the family could get him to step onto their hands and they had learned a lot about caring for a parrot.

At one point in working with a bird shop, I was asked to drive down to San Jose to pick up some baby parrots. When I walked into the residential home, I saw dozens of cages and baskets full of baby yellow-napes, double yellow-heads, green-cheeks, and lilac-crowned Amazons. It was baby bird season in Mexico and there was no doubt in my mind that these were not domestically-raised babies. Napes have always been one of the most smuggled parrots and I worked with a few of them that I knew came from questionable circumstances. One client of mine had purchased her yellow-nape from the back of a pickup truck at a flea market. She was very lucky; he was healthy and he tamed down to be a delightful parrot. Smuggled Amazons and other parrots are still a possibility, so make sure that you buy from a reliable source or adopt a nape in need of a new home. 


Although I haven’t many done in-home consultations for a number of years, I still get to meet quite a few parrots. Many of the yellow-napes I meet now are re-homed parrots. The drawing at the beginning of this article is of Frankie, a very loving nape who lives with Iris Clark. I have met this Amazon several times and she is nothing like the stereotypical nape mentioned below. She lived previously with an older woman who spent a lot of time with her but then couldn’t care for her properly anymore. It took her a little while but she is now totally comfortable with the Clarks.


For several years now, yellow-napes have had a questionable reputation because there has been so much information that painted them as one of the unpredictable and aggressive "hot three.’ This is sad because there are at least as many wonderful napes as there are ones with problems and the problems are usually related to people. It is my opinion that the majority of napes that end up with serious behavioral problems do so primarily because the people in their lives don’t understand their often "in your face" personality and have mismanaged them. With any parrot, aggression is met with aggression and when a nape is treated in an aggressive manner, he or she will most likely return it. In my opinion, the best napes are those that live with people who treat them gently with respect. While a nape may love some rough play, it is important for their caregivers to realize that there can be too much of a good thing and that an Amazon can go into overload. That is when people need to back off or they will get bitten even by a very tame and trusting nape. With their intelligence and playfulness, I think that yellow-naped Amazons have the potential to be one of the best avian companions possible.  Remember as with all parrots Input=Output!


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