The Amazona Society
Amazona Quarterly Magazine


  The purpose of this magazine is to educate, enlighten, entertain and share useful information on the genus Amazona. It is published four times a year and contains many articles written by our knowledgeable members and field biologists. They document an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience not found elsewhere.

  Amazona Quarterly features articles on breeding, companion bird training, cage flight and nest-box construction, feeding, conservation, Amazon eco-tour locations, hand-rearing, parent rearing, sources for reasonable priced and hard to find bird related items, overall management plus a periodic census of baby Amazons produced by our members. Additionally, a "For Sale & Wanted" classified section is included which is free to members for ads concerning Amazon species and related supplies.

The following sample article was taken from Amazona Quarterly,
Volume 14, Issue No. 1:


 Variation in Panama Amazons
By James J. Murphy

  The Panama Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala panamensis) is endemic to northern Columbia and western Panama as well as offshore Pacific islands and is most prized for its typically gentle nature and talking ability. This intermediate sized Amazon is probably one of the most misidentified of all the Amazon subspecies due to in part to the substantial variation of the phenotype (physical appearance) within this subspecies.
 
   A subspecies can be thought of as a species in transition. As such there is significant variation in the subtleties of appearance within the subject group. And it is due to this variation that many a Yellow-crowned Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala ochrocephala) has been sold as the much rarer Panama.


 In a typical year I will receive a half-dozen letters with accompanying photos to identify the owner's bird. Some are genuine Panamas, most are the more common Yellow-crowned Amazon.In the photo on this page, the three young Panamas show the extreme variation in the size of the yellow patch on the forehead. The very unusual youngster on the left with the most yellow on top was mistaken for a Double Yellow-headed Amazon chick by our hand-feeders who have seen many Panama chicks over the years. The center chick is much closer to a normal coloration on the crown, while the right chick shows the least amount of yellow that one might expect to see on the forehead of a Panama.

  Panama Amazons are also invariably described as having a blue wash around the yellow crown feathers and often on the breast. I photographed every individual study skin at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and found only a minor number of birds with a blue wash as is always mentioned in the literature. One specimen had not only blue wash around the crown but also a deep blue neck and breast. There is much variation here as well.

  The variation in beak or mandible coloration of the Panamas is also misunderstood. Although family traits usually prevail, on occasion, chicks from the same clutch will vary greatly. One may have very light colored bill, resembling a Double Yellow-head, or gray streaks on a light bill or a darker pigmented bill with a light rose colored area near the cere (nose area). The variation in beak color is due to the fluctuation in the melanin pigment expressed in the individual bird. The cere of the Panama is only lightly pigmented or nearly white never dark. (Do not confuse the darkening of the nasal openings due to dried exudate as genuine pigmentation.)

   Some books indicate that the Panamas' toenails are all white. Untrue. Again, the darkening pigment-melanin-varies greatly within this group and while some birds do have all-white toenails, some have both dark and light toenails and some have all dark nails.
What then distinguishes the Panama from the nominate race, the Yellow-crowned Amazon? A composite of attributes identifies one from the other. Yellow-crowned Amazons are larger, blockier and overall darker then the smaller Panamas. Yellow-crowneds' beaks are always darkly pigmented (much darker then the darkest beak on a Panama), and they have dark toenails. The yellow on the forehead of the nominate race is most often round in appearance. Panamas' yellow forehead is mostly triangular in shape. The yellow on the forehead in the Panama always touches the cere. The larger yellow patch on the Yellow-crowned Amazon seldom touches the cere and green feathers almost always separate the cere from the yellow feathers.

  Often rare but very significant plumage variations also occur in all the Amazon species and subspecies but not usually to the extent seen in the Panama Amazon. The yellow patch variation of the forehead and variation of the melanin pigmentation in the beak and toes sets this bird apart from other members of the genus and adds to the confusion.

   One of the seldom discussed problems in identifying subspecies of Amazons (and even to the species level) is that the authors and editors of parrot books often insert photos of only the most spectacular specimens of that species available. This, of course, is a good business decision and adds to the eye appeal of the publication-that increases sales. However, the unsuspecting reader is left with the impression that all members of that species or subspecies resemble that marvelous bird pictured. Their own bird of that species may pale by comparison. This tendency to publish only the most spectacular (most colorful) photos greatly adds to the confusion in proper identification of the species/subspecies at hand.




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