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Red-crowned Parrot Life History


ForestsRed-crowned Parrots inhabit a small area from southernmost Texas into northeastern Mexico. This heavily populated area has lost more than 80% of its native vegetation, and what remains is heavily fragmented. In South Texas, this species inhabits suburban and urban areas with a great variety of native and non-native vegetation that provides food, nest sites, and roost sites. However, Red-crowned Parrots also frequent riparian corridors (especially in the lower Rio Grande Valley) and adjacent thorn forest, where native trees include sabal palm, Texas wild olive, tenaza, guajillo, tepeguaje, Rio Grande ash, Mexican leadtree, southern hackberry, retama, anacua, granjeno, and cedar elm. In their small range in Mexico (the states of Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, and Veracruz), they also live in forest fragments with strangler fig, capanema (cerón), breadnut, chittimwood, gumbo limbo, twinberry, barreta, ojite, potato tree, tiger’s tooth (diente del tigre), orchid tree, coma, and chinaberry. Feral populations of Red-crowned Parrots—established when captives from the pet trade were illegally released—have arisen in Oahu, southern Florida, southern California, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and in several Mexican cities. Red-crowned Parrots have proven to be very resourceful in finding foods among both native and cultivated plants. Back to top



Like other parrots of the genus Amazona, (sometimes called "amazons"), Red-crowned Parrots eat mostly the seeds and fruits of tropical plants. They tend to land high in a tree and then quickly vanish into the vegetation as they search for food. On occasion, they also feed in brushy tangles and understory. They forage methodically, using both bill and feet to manipulate food into the proper orientation to remove the flesh or open the seed husk. For smaller items, they use only the bill to process the food. In Mexico, their foods include tree spinach, sweet acacia (huisache), strangler fig, Texas ebony, breadnut, chittimwood, gumbo limbo, twinberry, potato tree, tiger’s tooth (diente del tigre), orchid tree, coma, chinaberry, anacua, and several species of passionflower. In pine-oak forests they also eat acorns and pine seeds. Where they are available, English walnut, pecan, and sweet gum also provide food. Red-crowned Parrots feed some insects to their young. Once the young have fledged, Red-crowned Parrots forage in flocks, most actively in the morning but usually in the afternoon as well.

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Nest Placement

CavityNests are set in natural tree cavities or in old woodpecker holes, both of large species (Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers) and medium-sized species (Golden-fronted). Nest trees are mostly in open, disturbed habitats and along forest edges rather than inside dense forest. The female chooses the nest site.

Nest Description

The female lays eggs directly on the floor of the cavity and does not line it. Cavities have openings at least 2.2 inches in diameter and are usually at least 9 inches deep and 5.1 inches in diameter.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:1.5 in (3.7 cm)
Egg Width:1.2 in (3 cm)
Incubation Period:25-31 days
Nestling Period:53 days
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Covered with sparse whitish down, eyes closed.
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Foliage Gleaner

Red-crowned Parrots pair for life. Just before mating and nesting, females often beg food from the males, which respond by feeding the female as though she were a chick. Females do not breed until about the age of five. Male and female investigate potential nest cavities together, communicating with special calls. Pairs generally remain in their home range for life but often travel long distances in search of food, especially after the breeding season, when this species gathers into flocks. Where food and nest sites are plentiful, pairs of Red-crowned Parrots often nest close to each other with little evidence of conflict. However, if other species of Amazona parrot approach the nest too closely, Red-crowned sometimes performs a threat display, with bill open and wings held out, revealing the red secondary feathers. When feeding among other Amazona, there is rarely evidence of aggression. When not feeding, flying, roosting, or nesting, Red-crowned Parrots spend a lot of the day interacting with others in their flock, preening themselves and their mate (and neighbors), and napping. Flocks roost together, often among other parrot species, in traditional locations. They rise early and fly out toward feeding areas, usually in pairs, sometimes in small groups, calling as they make the commute.

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Red Watch List

In Mexico, populations of Red-crowned Parrot have declined precipitously for many decades, owing to the destruction of their habitat and to capture of parrots (especially nestlings) for the pet trade. The species has disappeared from much of the southern part of their range, where it was once abundant. For many years, more than 5,000 wild birds were exported annually as pets. Poachers of nestlings often destroy the nest tree in the process of extracting the birds, further harming populations of the species. In Mexico, the species is listed as endangered, largely as a result of poaching. Partners in Flight does not estimate a global breeding population but rates the species a 20 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and includes it on the Red Watch List, which lists bird species that are imperiled with extinction without significant conservation intervention.

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Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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