What does a Panama amazon parrot look like? To identify them from other Amazon subspecies, you need to take a closer look at the dominant feather color, tail length and plumage changes, beak and toenails shapes, and personalities of the bird.
Species & Subspecies
The Panama Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala panamensis) is unique to northern Columbia and western Panama, as well as offshore Pacific islands, and is appreciated for its gentle attitude and ability to communicate. Because of the great variety in phenotype (physical appearance) among this subspecies, this intermediate-sized Amazon is likely one of the most mistaken of all Amazon subspecies.
A subspecies is similar to a species in transition. As a result, there is great variety in the subject group’s nuances of appearance. Because of this polymorphism, several Yellow-crowned Amazons (Amazona ochrocephala ochrocephala) have been misidentified as the rarer Panama.
In a normal year, I’ll get a half-dozen messages with images to help me identify the owner’s bird. Some are real Panamas, but the majority are Yellow-crowned Amazons. The three juvenile Panamas in the picture on this page demonstrate the great diversity in the size of the yellow spot on the forehead. Our hand-feeders, who have seen numerous Panama chicks over the years, mistook the highly uncommon juvenile on the left with the most yellow on top for a Double Yellow-headed Amazon chick. The center chick has a lot more regular coloring on the crown, while the right chick has the least amount of yellow that one would expect to see on a Panama’s forehead.
Panama Amazons are also known to have a blue wash around the golden crown feathers and on the breast. I photographed every individual study skin at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and just a few birds had a blue wash, as is typically reported in the literature. One specimen has a vivid blue neck and breast as well as a blue wash around the crown. There is also a lot of diversity here.
The Panamas’ variance in beak or mandible hue is frequently misinterpreted. Although familial features are normally dominant, chicks from the same clutch may differ substantially. An extremely light-colored bill, similar to a Double Yellow-head, with gray streaks on a light bill, or a deeper pigmented bill with a pale rose-colored patch around the cere (nose area). The diversity in beak color is caused by variations in melanin pigment expression in the individual bird. The Panama cere is just faintly colored or practically white, never dark. (Do not mistake the darkening of nasal apertures caused by dried exudate for real pigmentation.)
According to certain sources, the Panamas’ toenails are entirely white. Untrue. Again, the darkening pigment melanin varies significantly within this group, and although some birds have all-white toes, others have mixed dark and light toes, and yet others have entirely dark toes.
Panama VS Yellow-crowned Amazon
What differentiates Panama from the nominate race, the Yellow-crowned Amazon? A combination of characteristics distinguishes one from the other. Yellow-crowned Amazons are bigger, blockier, and darker overall than Panamas. Yellow-crowned has black toes and beaks that are constantly deeply colored (far darker than the darkest beak on a Panama). The yellow on the nominate race’s forehead is often circular in shape. The yellow forehead of Panamas is generally trapezoidal in form. In Panama, the yellow on the brow always touches the cere. The Yellow-crowned Amazon’s bigger yellow patch seldom reaches the cere, and green feathers nearly usually divide the cere from the yellow feathers.
All Amazon species and subspecies have infrequent but considerable plumage changes, although not to the level observed in the Panama Amazon. The yellow patch variation on the forehead, as well as the variance in melanin pigmentation in the beak and toes, distinguishes this bird from others in the genus and contributes to the confusion.
One of the little-discussed issues in recognizing Amazon subspecies (and even species) is that the writers and editors of parrot books often include images of only the most stunning examples of that species available. Of course, this is a sensible commercial move since it improves the publication’s visual appeal, which boosts sales. However, the unwary reader is led to believe that all individuals of that species or subspecies resemble the magnificent bird shown. Their own bird of that species may seem little in contrast. This inclination to post just the most stunning (most colorful) photographs contributes to the uncertainty in identifying the species/subspecies in question.
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