Yellow-crown Amazon flying

An Excerpt from a Very Old Natural History
Book Regarding The Life of Wild Amazons

 

To this day, one of the best descriptions I have ever read of the life of wild Amazons comes from The Speaking Parrots: A Scientific Manual by Dr. Karl Russ. This book was published in 1884 and contains the following information:

 

They are found in their native land, South America, from the States of La Plata to South Mexico, but principally in the North and East of Brazil, in the primeval forests along the Amazon and other rivers, as well as on the coast; a few live in the woods of the Savannahs, and many are natives of the West Indian Islands. Most species are only found within restricted districts. All are, properly speaking, tree birds, climbing well, yet waddling when on the ground; their flight is heavy, and slow in proportion, with rapid beating of the wing, yet it often reaches a great height. Together with the information given by the travelled naturalists, Prince von Wied, Burmeister, von Tschudi, Schomburgh, and others, concerning their habits, we have a capital account from Karl Petermann, and based on these various descriptions I shall give a short review of their mode of life. Flocks of parrots are, in effect, a symbol of the primeval forest, and the attentive observer is above all things struck with the regularity of all their arrangements. As soon as the red dawn appears in the sky the chattering and noise begins in the sleeping places of the flocks. They dress their plumage, and, with loud cries, begin to depart, always keeping in couples, and soon the lately animated groups of trees again lapse into stillness. The flocks assemble at an appointed resting place at a great distance, uttering loud and alluring cries; answering their calls, the rest follow, and, with a deafening noise, the whole host set out to continue their journey to the feeding place, which may be situated miles away.

Here they attack the fruit trees with voracious appetites; the dreadful screamers have now become silent, and nothing is heard but the rustling noise of the falling remnants. Flight after flight comes up noiselessly, and only the chirping of the young as they are fed, and the rustling of the fruit which has fallen when plucked, betrays the presence of the spoilers in the thick summits of the trees. When they have satisfied their hunger, and drunk the rain water from the cups of the orchids found upon the trees, they subside to rest, uttering the while little soft monotonous notes. In very hot weather, when the water in the blossoms is dried up, they are often obliged to fly long distances to drinking places, and this always occurs at an appointed time. Towards evening a few noisily make short flights, more of them grow lively, and, when the sun sinks, troop after troop sets out on the return journey. They arrive at the rendezvous with piercing cries, greeted by those which have already arrived with shrill calls, and each one joins in the wild screaming with might and main. The chattering and quarrelling for the best sleeping places do not cease until dark. They continue these journeys all through the autumn and winter, migrating from one district to another, when, owing to their plundering, or to over-ripeness, any one fruit fails or another kind offers greater inducement. They sometimes leave a neighbourhood for a long interval in consequence of failure in the crops. At pairing time, from September, or October, to March, the couples withdraw separately. They usually choose as their resting place a very deep hole in a branch high up in a forest tree, and therefore difficult of access, the same pair reoccupying the same nest every year; the eggs vary from two to four in number, are very round, and, like those of all parrots, pure white. There is said to be only one brood a year.

 

By way of precaution, the Amazons, as, indeed, all birds, more or less, keep silence near the nest, so that travellers say one might suppose they had lost their voices at this time. Their food consists of soft, juicy berries and fruits, especially siliquous fruits, besides nuts, kernels, all sorts of seeds, maize, and other grain. The screamers preserve silence also when they are devouring grain. On account of the damage they do, as well as for their delicious flesh, and likewise for their plumage, they are much pursued, and in the markets of the seaport towns, at the time of their migrations, they are sold in vast numbers as game. They have been known from very ancient times, certainly quite as long as the Jaco (the African Grey); but only of late have the individual species been distinguished with certainty and described with exactness.”


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