by Shelly Lane
There are many qualities that attract me to birds and especially to Quaker Parrots in particular. This article shares a little about my story of how I came to be involved with parrots, including Quakers, budgies and amazons, and why Quakers will always be my favorite.
I bought my first parrot, a little budgie, in 1981. The idea of having a pet that could actually learn *my* language was very appealing. It didn’t take long to learn that parrots have a lot more to offer than simply being able to mimic the human language. To those lucky few who are able to open their hearts and their minds to the possibility that animals are extremely intelligent and emotional beings, a parrot can be the most wonderful of companions and friends.
Amazed at how wonderful and fun my budgie was, I soon believed it was time to add to my feathered family. In 1985, I decided to purchase a yellow-naped amazon, thinking bigger must certainly be even more wonderful. I discovered the hard way that this wasn’t necessarily true. An Amazon parrot is a wonderful companion for the right person, but I found “Frisco” too much for my gentle personality to handle. In the fall of 1995 I gave Frisco, a female, to a breeder friend who had a male yellow-nape that she wanted to find a mate for. (After a period of adjustment, Frisco was very happy with her new family.)
My breeder friend just happened to be hand-feeding a clutch of Quaker Parakeet babies, and she suggested that I consider a Quaker. Still feeling depressed over my failure with Frisco, I decided to do some research on Quakers before making a decision, but the truth of the matter was that I had fallen in love the moment I saw those babies “quake” (a begging mannerism that all Quaker Parrot babies have).
The breeder gave me a couple of articles on Quakers, and after reading them I felt that a Quaker would be a good match for me. I was especially looking forward to the talking ability that Quakers supposedly exhibit. Plus, although Quakers would never be considered quiet, shy birds, neither did they seem to have the aggressive, Amazon personality. So, a month later I brought home a nearly weaned, 8 week old Quaker Parrot. <Note: unless you are an experienced handfeeder or have a breeder who will spend hours teaching you to handfeed and who is available 24 hours a day to help with questions and problems, do not buy an unweaned parrot!>
I named my new baby Alex, after Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s Alex the Grey. I hoped that being named after such a famous and talented talking parrot would inspire my new Quaker and myself to higher levels of communication. <g> Regardless of the name, my Alex’s ability to communicate has never disappointed me. Quite the contrary, the things she says are a constant source of amazement and delight to anyone who is lucky enough to hear her, and my heart still melts when she tells me “Bye-bye, Love you” whenever I leave the house.
From Alex, I also learned that Quaker Parrots are very active, extremely intelligent birds with a great sense of fun and humor. She learned to imitate my laugh during her first week with us and started talking soon after that, often using the words and phrases quite appropriately. While Alex is very intelligent and does have a strong will of her own, I find I can easily keep things under control simply by using the up and down commands with her consistently. And even though she is not one of the larger parrots in stature, she is definitely “large” in personality.
I felt I had made this wonderful discovery and wanted to share it with as many people as possible, so I wrote the Quaker Parrot FAQ’s and started the Quaker Mailing List in December of 1995 (the list is now managed by the Quaker Parakeet Society.) In the fall of 1996, we added two more Quakers to our family – Gator (who I had the pleasure of raising from 3 weeks of age) and Sky, a 3 year old blue Quaker. <Note: our Quaker Parrot family has grown to seven since this article was originally written.>
What a wonderful adventure it has been getting to know these 3 characters. Each has his/her own distinct personality, preferences and talents. Living with 3 Quakers and getting to know hundreds more through the mailing list has led me to my belief that Quaker Parrots are truly gems in the world of parrots.
Thank-you for listening to our story. I should mention that during this journey, I owned a couple other parrot species that I didn’t mention in this article. I have loved them all, but I believe the Quaker Parrot will always be my favorite.