I don’t like to discourage someone from getting a pet bird, but I will be honest about what you could be facing. I give advice based on what generally happens, so of course there can be exceptions. As a rule, an Amazon is not a good family pet. Most of the medium to large parrots aren’t – especially where small children are involved. You need to understand parrot behavior, and of course I’m sure you have a good grasp of what to expect from small children. Parrots are exotic pets – they are a wild species that has been raised in captivity. It is no different than a tiger that is captive bred, other than the parrot is not a risk to human lives. I make this comparison because while a captive raised parrot can be wonderful and tame, he is still largely driven by instinct and as a parrot gets older and sexually mature, it brings up new behavior challenges. I have known some very polite Amazons that I consider the exception. Anyone could handle them and some were even good with children. These are the exception. Most Amazons are one-person birds, and often they only like men or women. This again is based on instinct. In the wild, young parrots live in a flock, interacting and engaging in mutual preening that is mainly limited to the head and neck. As they get mature, they seek out a mate. As they bond, the pair will preen each other all over the body. Once the bond is established, there will be no more physical contact with the other flock members. Other mature birds are now rivals. They remain in a flock for protection. But once breeding season begins, each pair distances themselves from the flock, and they establish a nesting territory. Any bird that ventures too close will be attacked, and at times the male may turn on his mate and attack her, in order to drive her back to the nest and away from a rival. Captive birds behave much the same way. The first few years the bird may be good with more than one person. But as the bird matures, a favorite person is picked. Other family members become rivals, and soon they are being attacked and bitten. This can be lessened by limiting petting to the bird’s head and neck from the start, but most birds end up choosing one person they prefer, and depending on the species, they may or may not let others handle them if the chosen person isn’t around. With Amazons, it is more likely that only one person will be able to handle it.
I’m concerned about this particular bird because if she is only 4 months old, it is very unusual that she is already exhibiting lunging behavior. It makes me think she is much older than you were told. If you are confident about her age, I have to wonder if she has been taunted a lot by kids. I’ve raised a lot of Amazons in the past, including yellow napes, and I can’t think of any that would lunge at people at just 4 months old. That being said, I’ve known a lot of Yellow Napes of both sexes and all ages. A few have been polite birds, but most have been very opinionated and set in their ways as far as who could handle them. Of the common Amazon species, I have found the Yellow Napes are the most dangerous to people. They are very smart, and will hide in order to ambush a person, chase a person, or actively search for someone they do not like. They can inflict a vicious bite and could easily cause serious & permanent damage to a small child’s hand or face. They go for what they can reach, but if they can fly, they go for the face. I’m not talking about one particular bird, I have known many Yellow Napes that were this aggressive, and most were actually females. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, and I know this isn’t what you were told. And to be fair, the shop may not have as much experience with this species.
Now for the children – again in general, small children and parrots do not mix. Children are curious, and small children want to touch everything. And if they aren’t supposed to touch it, that makes it more appealing. Children watch others and want to mimic them. Your children would see you handling the bird, and want to do the same thing. If you consider that most family dog & cat bites are inflicted on children, you can imagine the challenge you face keeping them safe from the bird, when birds are much more likely to bite. If your plan is for the bird to be yours only, where would it stay? Birds don’t do well in a room where they are alone most of the time. But in a family room, with 3 small children and a rebellious tween, someone is going to get bitten. And one way or another, your children will get the wrong message about pet birds. They will grow up scared of the bird, or resentful & jealous because this is something that Mom loves, and they can’t be a part of it. Sadly there are parrot shelters all over the US that are full of pet birds that were relinquished because it bit the children or the spouse is jealous of it. Your husband may be good with the bird now, but when she gets home, the first time she goes after him, he may want her gone. Even in households with just two people, many birds are given up for choosing one person over the other, and the shunned person gives the “it’s the bird or me” ultimatum.
I know I’ve given you a lot to think about, and it isn’t encouraging as far as getting this bird or species goes. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a bird. A hand raised Cockatiel would be more realistic with the age of your children. And they still could only handle the bird with close supervision. And there is no guarantee that the bird would always stay friendly with the entire family. But if you learn about their behavior, and avoid hormone triggers, a Cockatiel is much more likely to be a good family pet than an Amazon. The Green Cheek conures can also be good family pets. Again, it depends on the individual bird, how each family member interacts with it, and most importantly, avoid hormone triggers which can be both the way you handle it and environmental factors. But at least with a smaller bird, the risk of serious injury goes away, and the worst may be a pinch or a bruise or a small cut. I wish I could be more encouraging, because I personally love Amazons, but because of this, I also know the possible downfalls of owning one. If you change your mind and need more advice on bringing home a smaller species, just let us know and we can provide articles and webinar videos to help you and your family prepare for an exotic bird.
Thank you for asking Lafeber,