by Beth Eldridge
Flying Colors Aviary
They say that parrots can have the intelligence of a 5 year old child, but is that true for a small bird such as the Quaker Parrot? Either way, there is no doubt that Quakers frequently display a high level of intelligence. This excellent article is one of our visitors’ favorites.
Just how intelligent is a Quaker? This question is one I am frequently asked by people thinking of bringing a Quaker Parrot into their lives and homes.
The answer that I give is based on years of living with these incredible birds. I say: “They are smarter than you are.”
How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well… let’s see…
First and foremost, the Quaker Parrot uses human language, and very frequently uses it correctly and to the advantage of the bird. Let me use some examples to illustrate this point.
I brought home my first and most loved Quaker, Beeper 5 years ago. At 8 weeks old he was just weaned and a loving, interactive sweetheart. He was quickly established in a cage in our living room-dining room area and soon became a regular member of the family.
Several weeks after his arrival, he began to say “Hi!”, and his vocabulary rapidly progressed after that….soon he was chattering babytalk and singing constantly. I assumed that he was just mimicking the sounds around him without understanding them at all. That assumption was soon proved groundless.
My first clue that my bird used language as we do was when I heard him sing a song that I had not taught him. He had taken his favourite saying “Good Bird” and set it to a very simple tune of his own making. I was amazed to hear him singing “Good Bird….Good Bird…You’re a Good Bird…(followed by many kiss noises). But still, I felt that this could not really be a sign of intelligence, just excellent mimicry.
The next observation I made was that Beeper was able to identify his bath water as being “wet” and being a place for “sploshies”. That didn’t seem to be exceptionally intelligent to me, until Beeper and I surprised my husband coming out of the shower. Beeper looked at David, declared that he was “wet-wet-wet” and then inquired “Sploshies?” Obviously a bird who knew a wet person when he saw one!
The most conclusive event took place when Beeper was about a year old. Our excellent Avian Vet had just pronounced Beeper fat, and we had placed him on a diet. His disposition, not unlike a dieting human, suffered. In fact, he was just plain Grumpy!
His best friend was a sweet little Peach Faced Lovebird named Opal. The two of them often played on top of Beeper’s cage, and had always been so good together that I never felt the need to supervise.
David and I were eating our dinner while the two birds played on the cage-top. Suddenly, the Lovebird let out a screech of a type we had never heard before, and we both spun around to see Opal cowering on the top of the cage, obviously hurt, while Beeper towered over him.
I jumped up and ran to the birds. A quick check showed no permanent damage to Opal, but I was furious with my Quaker. I screamed at him “What did you do to Opal! You hurt Opal!” Then, to my utter amazement, Beeper ran over to Opal, kissed him all over and said “I’m sorry!” “I’m sorry!” This was a phrase that he had NOT been taught! David and I looked at each other wide-eyed. David said “Maybe you’d better stop talking baby-talk to this bird.”
There are many other incidents I could relate regarding Quaker intelligence, but I have come to take for granted that my Quakers understand simple concepts (and some not-so-simple ones), work at their relationships with their mates and with people, have a terrific sense of humour and play, and enjoy learning, composing and singing music. All these traits speak of an intelligence that is quick, social and verbal. Quaker Parrots are far from being only mimics. They are friends in the true sense of the word.