by Shelly Lane
FAQ is an acronym that stands for Frequently Asked Questions. In 1995, the online bird community asked me to write this document answering some of the questions that people ask the most about Quakers. More than 10 years later, the Quaker Parrot FAQ is still the most popular article at QuakerParrots.com.
Table of Contents
- I Introduction
- II What do Quakers look like?
- III How long do they live? Are they prone to any health problems?
- IV How much do they cost?
- V What is their personality? Are they good pets?
- VI Are Quakers noisy? Are they talented talkers?
- VII What are their requirements for housing and diet?
- VIII Is it true that they build nests?
- IX What about breeding?
- X Is it true that Quakers are illegal in some states? Why?
- XI Where can I find more info about Quakers?
- XII About this Document
Welcome to the Quaker Parakeet FAQ. The purpose of this document is to introduce you to the charming, lovable little parrot called the Quaker Parakeet, also often referred to as the Quaker Parrot. The Quaker is also sometimes known as the Monk or Grey-Breasted Parakeet and originally its native territory was extreme south eastern Brazil through Uruguay to north eastern Argentina. Categorized within the genus “Myiopsitta”, “M. monachus monachus” is the most commonly available subspecies, and it is this parrot that we will take a look at now.
The Quaker is a small parrot, reaching 11 to 12 inches in length. As a comparison, the Quaker is a bird similar in length to a Cockatiel, but the Quaker’s body is heavier and more substantial with an average weight of 90 to 120 grams.
The overall color of the Quaker is green, with pale grey on the forehead, cheeks, throat and extending down to the chest. On the chest, the grey feathers are white-tipped, giving a scalloped effect. Some blue can be found in the tail and flight feathers. The eyes are a dark brown, and the bill is horn colored. Young birds look much the same except the colors are not as bright as on adult Quakers. The sex of the bird cannot be determined by its physical appearance but only by DNA or surgical sexing.
There are several color mutations in the Quaker, although many color varieties are not yet commonly available. The blue mutation has become more established in this country, and many blue Quaker Parrots are now being kept as treasured companions. Lutinos, pieds, albinos, cinnamons and cinnamon-blues are less common.
Quakers can live to be 25 to 30 years of age and perhaps even longer. They are very hardy birds. In fact, there are wild colonies of Quakers in many of the eastern as well as the southern states. They appear to thrive in even the coldest climates! For some very interesting facts concerning feral Quakers, please read the section that discusses legal issues.
I have heard that Quakers are prone to Fatty Liver Disease. To ensure that your Quaker has the longest lifespan possible, do not allow him/her to become overweight and make sure you stay away from all-seed diets and other high fat foods.
Feather plucking is another problem that is sometimes seen in Quakers. There can be both physical and behavioral causes for this disorder, so an examination by an avian vet is strongly recommended. In a few rare cases, Quakers have been known to self-mutilate, chewing into their skin instead of just chewing on or pulling their feathers. This is often referred to as Quaker Mutilation Syndrome or QMS. Obviously, this is much more serious, and the bird must be cared for by a vet specializing in avian medicine.
Due to the fact that Quakers are prolific and easy breeders, they are very reasonable in price. Handfed babies can be purchased for $50 to $200. This price is for the normal green Quaker. For those who may be interested, a blue Quaker can be purchased for around $400. The prices may vary somewhat depending on where you are located and whether you purchase from a breeder or pet store.
Quakers are intelligent, comical and engaging birds. They have a wonderful zest for life that I find contagious. Their personalities are always “on”, and they never seem to wake up on the wrong side of the perch, so to speak.
I know of several Quakers that are little escape artists – they actually figured out how to open their cage doors. I’m not at all surprised to find other Quakers that are mechanically inclined. I gave my first Quaker, Alex, one of those puzzle toys, and it took her only moments to figure out how to get the treats out. I guess she decided it was too easy, because the very next day I found she had completely dismantled the thing, removing the screw and the guts of the toy to get to the treats!
Quakers are also fearless birds. I have heard of Quakers chasing after dogs and cats. Before I brought Alex home, she would sometimes chase the breeder’s black lab if she happened to fly to the floor – this huge dog was sent running out of the room by this little fluff of green feathers! Just be aware of this tendency in Quakers, and be ready to step in to protect your feathered friend if necessary.
Purchasing a handfed, well-socialized baby is a sure way to get a terrific pet Quaker. Even so, it is my opinion that with patience, just about any Quaker can be a great pet. You should realize, however, that if you purchase an older bird or one that was raised by its parents, it may take some time and a lot of work to make this bird into a good companion. When you hear those sweet squeals of pure joy when you walk in the door (especially after a tough day at work), you will know that it was worth the effort!
Most Quaker Parakeets are very vocal. I’m sure there are very few Quaker owners who consider them quiet birds. My Quakers can entertain themselves for hours practicing their chirps, whistles and human vocalizations. The level of these vocalizations, for the most part, is moderate and is not disturbing to me or my neighbors. In fact, I really enjoy listening to their chatter.
While many Quaker owners report having the same experiences with their birds, a few have birds they consider extremely noisy. Apparently some Quakers feel the need to vocalize at a level that causes their owners’ ears to ring and can be heard outside the home for some distance away. These very loud vocalizations appear to be limited to short periods of time during the day.
Also, if you house more than one parrot in the same room, you can expect a higher level of noise. We currently have 4 pet and 4 breeder Quakers, so it gets pretty noisy in our home at times. Tips for minimizing the noise include covering the cage for a few minutes, giving baths (not as a punishment but as a way to release pent-up energy), whispering to the bird and providing a special treat – especially one that takes some time and effort to eat.
It is more effective to anticipate when your Quaker is going to be noisy and take steps to prevent it than to wait until it is in “overload” mode. For example, if you are going to watch a movie and actually want to be able to hear the actors, give your Quaker a drenching bath and 3-4 Lafeber Nutriberries just before the show starts. By the time it’s done eating the treats and preening out all of those wet feathers, it will have much less interest in having a volume contest with the tv.
As far as talking ability, Quakers have an amazing capacity to imitate both sounds and human speech. In a June 1995 article, Bird Talk magazine placed the Quaker Parakeet on its top ten list of the best talking birds. While their speech doesn’t equal the quality that is found in African Greys and some of the Amazons, it is definitely good enough to be clearly heard and understood. And the intelligent creatures that they are, they often use their large vocabularies of sounds and words at the most appropriate times.
Most Quakers start talking at 6 months or so, although many start even earlier than that. My Quaker, Alex, was in my home for only 5 days before she mastered my laugh. That was at the age of 8 weeks! She said her first words, “Good Boy”, at the age of 3 months. After DNA sexing results showed that she was a female, it only took her a week to begin saying “Good Girl”. Alex is several years old now and continues to learn new words and phrases, usually using her vocabulary at appropriate times. When I ask her to give me a kiss, she makes 2 little kissing sounds. And when I put on my coat and get ready to walk out the door, she says “Bye-Bye. Bye-Bye. Love you.” followed by a perfect imitation of our squeaky door opening.
I think the most amazing thing I’ve heard out of one of my Quakers is something Gator said in July 1997. We were watching the fireworks display on the television to celebrate Independence Day. He told us, “Shelly! Be quiet!. C’mon. Time to go night-night.” It was past his bedtime, and he let us know we were disturbing him in no uncertain terms. We were impressed that he was able to take 4 separate words/phrases that he knew and combine them on his own to get his point across.
Because pet birds generally spend much of their time in cages, it makes sense to purchase the largest cage that your budget allows for your new little friend. Bar spacing of up to 5/8″ is suitable. Cage dimensions of 18″w x 18″d should be considered the minimum. The largest cage you can find that would be suitable for a cockatiel or a small conure would be a great choice for a Quaker.
There are many different schools of thought concerning the best diet for Quaker Parrots, but most would agree that a seed-only diet does not provide complete nutrition for birds. Pellets are developed to meet the nutritional needs of birds, so they should be a part of a bird’s diet whenever possible. I believe it is also prudent to provide healthy, fresh foods such as veggies and fruits on a regular basis, and since my birds truly relish the fresh foods, it would be impossible for me to deny them their fresh foods. Fresh water should be provided on a daily basis.
Another important item in a Quaker’s cage is toys. Most birds enjoy toys, but with Quakers this seems to be especially true. Quakers are intelligent and curious birds, and if toys are not provided for entertainment, a Quaker may find less than desirable ways to relieve boredom such as screaming or feather plucking. Toys made for cockatiels and small conures would also be suitable for a Quaker. Keep two to three toys in the cage at a time. Rotating the toys on a regular basis with others you have on hand will keep your Quaker happy and entertained.
A really interesting fact about Quakers is that they are the only parrot species that build nests. The nest actually consists of 3 areas. You could say that one area is a bedroom, another is a living room and the third is a front porch area. Eggs are laid and incubated in the back bedroom. When the chicks are about a month old, they are moved to the living room, and more eggs may then be laid in the bedroom area. The parents then use the porch area to guard their eggs and babies. A pair of Quakers prefer to attach their nest to other existing Quaker nests, creating an “apartment building” of sorts. In the wild, these nests can be huge and quite heavy.
Quakers are prolific and easy breeders. These birds are sexually mature at 1-2 years of age, although it’s usually closer to the latter. The average clutch size is four to eight eggs, and a second clutch is usually started when the first is about 4 weeks old.
Incubation time is 23-26 days, and babies fledge at six to eight weeks of age. Handfed babies wean at eight to ten weeks of age, although some Quakers wean earlier or later. Materials for nest building appear to be much appreciated by the pair, but are not absolutely essential for a pair to go to nest.
The Quaker is a very hardy bird. They appear to thrive in even the coldest of climates. Colonies of free-flying Quakers exist in many of the eastern states. It is for this reason that several states have laws that either prohibit or in some way make it difficult to own Quakers. Many believe that Quakers, being both hardy and prolific breeders, can quickly grow into very large colonies that can take over wide-spread areas, destroying crops and other vegetation in the process.
This reasoning, however, may be faulty. Studies of wild Quakers have shown that when the babies fledge, they very rarely go any further than 500 yards from their parents nest site to set up their own nests. In cases where an entire nest site is destroyed, the displaced Quakers never settle more than several hundred yards away from the original site. It is also very unusual for Quakers to build a standalone nest as they prefer to attach their nests to a nest structure that is already existing. Therefore, it is virtually impossible for Quakers to take over large tracts of land, destroying all vegetation in their paths as many people fear, due to the instincts that govern their nesting habits.
If you are unsure if Quakers are allowed in your state, you can check with your state’s fish and wildlife department. Local pet shops may also be able to provide this information.
Since originally writing these FAQ’s, information on Quakers has become much easier to find. There are books available now, plus Bird Talk publishes regular articles about Quakers in their magazine. There are also many informative internet web sites devoted to Quakers.
“Guide to the Quaker Parrot” by Mattie Sue Athan. Can be found in book stores and pet shops for $9.95 and can be purchased from barnesandnoble.com at a discount. Highly recommended.
The Quaker Parrot Forum is a friendly and helpful community for Quaker lovers. To join the forum, visit http://www.quakerparrots.com/forum .
There are many web sites that have great Quaker information available. Listed below are some of the larger sites, and these all have links to other Quaker pages. I wish I could include all of the sites here, but there are simply too many!
Last Update: 12/3/2007
COPYRIGHT: 1995-2007 by Shelly Lane. This document may be distributed freely, provided you include this copyright notice. This document may not be sold for profit, nor may it be incorporated into commercial documents in all or part without the express written permission of the author. The original version of this document is located at http://www.quakerparrots.com/quaker-parrot-faq/ .
Any comments or suggestions concerning this FAQ may be directed to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.