Introducing Aggressive Amazons

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Q: We have a pet male yellow-naped Amazon who is 6 years old. We are in the process of purchasing a mature female for him. What is the best way to introduce them to each other? He has gotten very nasty to everyone but my wife, and we are worried that he might hurt the female.

A: Introducing long-term housepets to prospective mates can be quite tricky. In fact, it can be dangerous. The first thing you must do is resign yourself to spending an entire day close at hand with gloves and two nets, just in case the possible fighting escalates to a dangerous level. (The second net is use to feign off the free bird to keep it from attacking the netted bird while it is being pulled out of the flight cage.) Introducing housepets to prospective mates can be tricky. Keep a close eye on the pair, and be prepared to break up any aggressive fighting.

There are two schools of thought on how to introduce two birds to each other. One dictates that the birds be placed in separate cages, side by side, until they get used to each other. They then can be introduced gradually, once they have accepted one another. The other approach is much more radical. It involves “throwing” the two birds together in a flight cage that is unfamiliar to both of them the very first moment they lay eyes on each other. I personally agree with the radical approach-especially if everything is set up correctly-and all possible causes for jealousy between your ex-pet and its new mate will be eliminated. To accomplish this, you must remember to stop treating either of them as pets. Do not hand any treats to them directly. You should not talk to them, nor should you try to interact with them in any way. Anyone in your family to whom your pet bird feels strongly attached (in this case, your wife) should not be in the same room with the birds. What you are trying to accomplish is to confuse your pet bird as much as possible so that he thinks as little as possible about defense of territory. In fact, this situation is even easier if you can move the birds to another location where nothing, not even the people feeding them, are familiar.

In Honduras, C.A., when the harvesting of babies from the nest was over, the exporters would travel around the countryside buying tame housepets from the locals. Most of these birds were mature and very territorial in their respective homes. But when they were abruptly uprooted and put into an unfamiliar cage in an unfamiliar place with 10 other tame pet birds, the confusion was so intense that rarely if ever was there any fighting between any of the birds. In fact, it would sometimes take up to two weeks before the birds would even begin setting up a pecking order, and up to two months before there was ever the necessity to remove a bird from the group because of fighting. In contrast, whenever we decided to combine groups of birds that had been housed separately but in close proximity to one another, horrible fighting would usually break out. Housepets tend to be more prone to develop jealous animosities than burning desires for any new birds that are housed close to them within what they consider to be their territorial area.

When taking the radical approach, you must always be prepared to separate the birds if the fighting becomes dangerous. If the radical approach fails, you can always try the more conservative method of housing them side by side in the hopes that something positive begins to brew.

[Editor’s note: Before introducing any new birds to your collection, make sure to quarantine them from the rest of your flock until it has been determined that they are healthy and free of disease.]