by Mattie Sue Athan
Many potential Quaker Parrot owners are disappointed to hear that these birds are illegal to keep in some states. This article discusses the issues surrounding these laws and the reasons they were put in place in an honest and straight forward manner.
Question: I’ve heard that Quakers are against the law in some states. Why?
Myopsittia monachus, the Quaker or monk parakeet, is such a successful organism that that the family (genius) evolved no other members; it is the lone species in it’s group. It is among the hardiest and most prolific of all parrots, being an opportunistic species whose range has, according to Forshaw, grown with the expansion of agriculture. In their native Argentina, Quaker parakeets reportedly eat 30% of the corn crop.
Because of concern that these birds might become established agricultural pests and that they represent a threat to native species in the local environments, they are illegal to own or to sell in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wyoming. They are legal to own, but illegal to sell or breed in Connecticut. They are legal to own with registration and banding in New York, and legal to own with breeder or seller registration in Virginia. This list was assembled from information provided with great difficulty by Jeff Sofa, Linda Greeson, and Theresa Jordan.
Unlike many of the rules that govern our everyday lives, these are not laws, but rather, they are regulations – rules established and administered in most states by the Wildlife or Agriculture Department. Regulations can change quickly, and written copies of regulations are difficult to obtain. One department in a particular state might give out one piece of information that directly contradicts information from another department in the same state. If you are moving from one state to another, please contact officials in your destination state to determine the current regulations governing Quaker parrot ownership in that state.
We know that Quaker parrots have become established in such diverse parts of the United Sates as Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Occasional pairs have even been spotted in my home state of Colorado. Before 1993, when wild Quaker parrots were being imported into the United States, there was probably legitimate reason for concern. Not only were these birds fully capable of surviving wild, but also they were being transported from place to place in huge numbers.
Several colonies of feral Quakers that later became established can be traced to whole shipments of savvy wild Quakers that were probably captured together in Argentina and escaped together in the United States. Today the numbers of Quakers transported at one time are a small fraction of those huge shipments of imports. Additionally, the Quakers now available in the United States are typically handfed baby birds who have no understanding of finding food except from human hands.
Most handfed baby Quakers are intelligent enough to watch the other birds and figure out how to survive, but if humans are available, that is not usually their choice. As mentioned in the previous question (My Quaker Parrot flew away), escaped handfed Quakers seem to prefer to come to humans within the first 12 hours they are away from home.
Mattie Sue Athan has been a companion parrot behavior consultant since 1978. During that time she has averaged two to three new Quaker clients per week. Her first book, Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot, is an industry standard. Her second book, Guide to the Quaker Parrot, sold out the first printing in 5 months. She also wrote Guide to the Senegal Parrot and Its Family and Guide to Companion Parrot Behavior.