THE QUAKER NEWS

APRIL 1994

 

FROM THE EDITOR

The response to our Quaker News has been wonderful. Your notes and letters are full of enthusiasm and overflow with expressions of your love and devotion for your pet Quakers. I am amazed at the vocabularies you tell me about. They put Willie, my African Gray to shame, and I always thought that he was a great talker.

The descriptions of your pets' endearing ways and amusing antics are delightful to read about. A few letters, telling me about the loss of a much loved pet, are very sad. I have a bulletin board near my desk for all those colorful and cute pictures you have sent me.

My wish is that I could find enough hours in the day to answer each and every letter personally. Some of your questions and problems should be responded to "right now." Including all the letters I would like to print would result in our publication tipping the postal scale at at least a pound. Trying to make the decision as to what to share with all of you has turned out to be the most difficult part of my job as editor.

So - thank you, every one of you, for your support and enthusiasm. I promise you that I will try very hard to live up to your expectations.

 

IF OFF TO WORK YOU GO

Afraid to leave fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's cage while you go off for hours? Use dried fruits and vegetables during the day and offer the fresh produce when you come home. Remember to remove the remains before you put your bird to bed. Your bird will surely look forward to your home coming knowing special goodies are on the way. From Deborah Drake of D&D Pet Products.

FROM OUR READERS

Bill, from Louisiana, writes: I train dogs for obedience competition and they get along very well with my Quaker. In fact, my Quaker rides on their backs and lets them know quite emphatically that he is the boss.

And I thought that I had heard everything!

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Dan, in New York, writes:" I am the proud owner of a happy Quaker ( or is it the other way around?). Since he came into my life last July, Bo has brought a lot of enjoyment to me.

I am in the Air Force, stationed in New York and single, so that means I am in the dorms. Being from South Carolina, I can't go home that often. Thank goodness for Bo."

We echo your sentiments, Dan. We are happy you have

found a pet like Bo to help you handle being so far from home. How great that you can keep him in the dorm.

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Beverly of MI writes:" I purchased a breeding pair of Quakers after I got my pet " Popeye." "Ma" and "Pa", the breeders, have given me two clutches of babies since June of "93 which I have hand fed and sold. I have a waiting list for their next clutches."

Congratulations, Beverly! Quakers are prolific breeders, almost always excellent parents, fun to hand feed, and the demand for them grows every year. You have found an enjoyable way to make a little extra money at home.

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Danita, from MO, writes that she is curious about how Quakers got their name.

The gray chest feathers, or bib, with a little imagination, are like the old fashioned robes of the Quaker ladies. Another name, the Monk Parakeet, is not inspired by a religious group, but is an abbreviated form of M. Monachus, the name of the sub-species to which they belong.

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Jerry, from NC, writes: "My little "talker" was 4 months old when I got him. Lucky me, he turned out to show a small amount of yellow in him two months later. I have seen thousands of Quakers and this is the only one with yellow showing that I have seen. I am looking forward to finding out what his babies will show in color."

A bird born with yellow feathers may possibly be one of the rare Pied mutations. If the coloring remains the same after a molt this is probably the case. If the yellow color develops after the bird's first molt or changes to green or gray after the molt, this is not a mutation and will probably not be reproduced in the bird's offspring. The yellow is then possibly a nutritional problem or caused by some dysfunction of the liver.

 

SOME SIMPLE TRICKS

I am no expert on training birds. I am much too busy breeding them to find the time and patience involved. There are a few basics I have learned in working with birds that are essential to keep in mind, even in just handling your Quaker.

All parrots consider movement from above a threat. This is instinctive behavior remaining from their ancestors in the wild where hawks and other predators descended on them from above. Whenever reaching for your Quaker, move your hands slowly and from below to avoid his instinctive reaction of fear. Even a very tame bird is not comfortable with the owner touching its back from above, outside its line of vision.

Even when scratching your Quaker's head, which they all

seem to enjoy, start with your movements on the bird's foot or side. Only gradually work your way up to the nape and cheek regions. Once your bird has been introduced to this pleasurable activity, it will bend its head and body forward without fear. Ours all do this, saying "Scratchy, scratchy", the words we repeat.

It is quite natural for your Quaker to hang upside down by one claw, a part of its daily acrobatics in the cage. Maneuvering your pet into hanging from your finger in this position is comparatively easy, especially when it is rewarded by praise and a small treat. If the same command, as simple as "Upside down", is repeated with each practice session, your bright little Quaker will soon enjoy showing off for your friends.

These activities are so simple perhaps they should not even be classified as tricks, but they add to the fun of ownership for anyone.

 

HELPFUL HINTS

From Jo Ann in Michigan - "After a good cleaning of the grill on the bottom of the cage, wipe on a thin layer of vegetable oil. This will help to prevent the droppings from sticking, making it easier to clean."

My only reservation on this idea is a warning to thoroughly wipe away any oil residue. If oil from any source gets on a bird's plumage, most will attempt to preen the feathers until they are clean. If this is not successful the bird will start plucking out the oil stained feathers, the start of a bad habit. Even a few drops of an oil based vitamin product in the drinking water has been discovered to be the cause of feather plucking in some birds.

? BOND ?

We use the word "bond" freely in describing our Quakers' relationships with humans and other birds. Its meaning may not be clear when used in this context. Used in this way, "bond" means a strong attatchment,an emotional tie, a union almost equivalent to marriage in humans.

DOES MY QUAKER NEED A MATE?

All too often, providing a mate for your Quaker is offered as a solution to every problem from feather plucking to biting. Not true! The assumption that a frustrated urge to breed is causing your bird great unhappiness is false.

These misconceptions are probably based on our tendency to think of our pet birds behavior as being similar to that of our pet dogs'. It is true that the same instinctive need to procreate exists in both. The devoted dog who never leaves your side will not hesitate for a moment to take off after a strange female canine in heat. His sexual needs have no relationship to his bond with you.

Your Quaker is entirely different. When this bird bonds to a human it perceives that person as its mate. It does not need another bird; it is satisfied with its relationship with the owner. On occasion, when nature starts its hormones percolating, the bird may try to act out the actual mating procedure with its human mate. This behavior can readily be discouraged by reprimanding the bird, immediately diverting its attention, and not permitting a habit to form by repetition. When your female Quaker lays an egg she is not indicating to you her desire to have babies. This is just the normal result of ovulation, no emotion involved.

The pet who has been receiving much love and attention and is closely bonded to its owner will not instantly become a happier bird when placed even in the ideal breeding situation. It will probably eventually bond to the mate provided, but often only after a long period of time elapses. We have in our aviaries pet birds who took a full year to even sit on the same perch with a mate. Occasionally the human bond endures, and no mating takes place.

Once bonded to each other in a breeding situation, the delightful relationship with the owner is lost. They become territorial, viewing humans as a threat to their eggs and babies. They will often bite the hand that feeds them. There may be a few exceptions, but the old saying that "You can't have your cake and eat it" applies here. Your Quaker is either a breeder or a pet - you can't have it both ways.

Many owners who are away from home for long hours at a time  are interested in finding another Quaker to serve as a companion or "buddy" for their pet. This can work quite well, but more often causes more problems than it solves. The owner must be prepared to give double the time and attention to two birds to maintain the pet-owner bond. If you are finding it difficult to spend enough time with your pet, it may well form a close bond with its new companion, leaving you out of the relationship. Almost always, our Quakers bond faithfully, either to another bird or to their human owner. This is a quality inherent in their nature and one which helps to make them such wonderful pets.

 

POTTY TRAINING YOUR QUAKER

by Jo An from Michigan, one of our talented subscribers

I found that potty training Stimmie, my Quaker, was basically an easy job. I believe these intelligent little birds are under-rated. A little time, lots of love, feeling secure in their environment, and following the factors below will obtain desired results. I have found that my birds respond to positive reinforcement only. A negative attitude or agitated tone to your voice only proves to make them hostile and stubborn. The old adage "You can catch more flies with honey" applies to Quakers.

The five important factors in potty training are:

1. Assign a one syllable word for environmental items and actions/reactions.

          2. Identification method.

          3. Consistency

          4. Observation

          5. Over zealous, enthusiastic sign

I use a one syllable word to identify an action or item in my bird's environment, For example, when Stim takes a drink of water (Observation), I tap the tray lightly (Identification), say "Drink" (Word), enthusiastically. I even clap my hands in the air saying "Yea!!!" (Reinforcement.)

I had observed that when playing away from his cage Stimmie would gesture to return to his cage. I would then get his attention and say "cage" to him while tapping my forehead and slowly moving my arm to point to the cage. I repeated this several times enthusiastically, not long, for like children they seem to have short attention spans. I would help him to the cage and praise him as in the example above. I use only one method of praise. This keeps it simple and clear to the birds that they have performed a favorable action/reaction.

To reiterate the factors I have discussed:

1. Assign a one syllable word for environment items or actions you wish to identify such as "Drink" for water dish, "Seed" for pellet dish, "Corn" for any fresh food, or "Dupe" for elimination.

2. Identification Method: To identify the water dish I softly tap and say "Drink, Stimmie." I use this method with other stimuli I wish to identify.

3. Consistency: You must make sure that you use your

assigned word consistently for actions and reactions.

4. Observation: Take quiet time with your bird and

observe all behaviors you wish for him to identify, especially the time before elimination.

Reinforcement: Approval for a job well done must get your bird's attention.

 

Autobiographical Sketch

David Wright

I was born and raised in "the West". My parents began their married life in Idaho and we moved several times as a family from Idaho to Utah, from Utah to Nevada, from Nevada to Idaho, and then we repeated the process. Upon completing my college studies at Weber State College (now Weber State University) in Ogden, Utah, having majored in accounting and minored in Data Processing, I began my professional career as an accountant in Salt Lake City. In very short order I changed my professional focus to Data Processing where I have remained for the past 18 years.

As a child growing up I possessed a keen interest in the wildlife that I found around me. Growing up in high elevation desert environments I found in my neighborhoods a plethora of lizards, snakes, ground squirrels, tortoises and, of course, birds. Over the years many reptiles from my "backyard" shared my bedroom. My study of birds was limited to admiration from afar. I spent several hours as a boy sketching the birds that fascinated me in my surroundings as well as sketching from pictures of birds that occupied areas in other parts of the United States.

Tracy Aviary is located in Salt Lake City. Tracy is the largest aviary in the U.S. I spent many hours as a child and as an adult at the aviary. Tracy houses several hundred species of birds from all over the world. It was at Tracy that my interest in birds was awakened. It was also at Tracy where I first discovered monk (quaker) parakeets.

While working in the Salt Lake City area, I became part of a professional consulting staff for a local paper distributor. The owner of the paper business had on the premises a quaker parakeet, a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, and a blue and gold macaw. Being the first one to arrive at the business each morning, I assumed the responsibility of feeding, cleaning and "releasing" the birds for their "free flight" exercise time around the office. As I worked, the birds would visit me at my computer terminal and alternately tear important papers, pull off computer terminal knobs and buttons, tip over vases of flowers on desks, bite exposed portions of my body and, generally, keep me distracted from my assigned tasks.

In spite of the distractions, I grew to love and admire my psittacine morning companions. They became a varied part of each new day.

In 1987 I was recruited by Pepperidge Farm to head up their Information Systems Department in Norwalk, Connecticut. I moved my very young family as well as my budgie and two lovebirds 2,200 miles east to the small Connecticut town of Trumbull. Within weeks of arriving in Connecticut, I became involved as a volunteer Docent at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport where I am the Volunteer Education Coordinator for Beardsley's Docent program.

It was in this capacity I first learned that "parakeets" were living in a feral state in Bridgeport. I assumed these wild parakeets were the well known and colorful "budgies" available for sale in any pet store. I soon learned otherwise.

In 1989 members of the Connecticut Audubon Society and I began studying the free flying Connecticut "parakeets." We learned that these parakeets were quaker (monk) parakeets from the sub-tropical grasslands of South America. From such humble beginnings, our quaker study group has "fledged" into a major study endeavor which has spent many hours studying these birds in the field, at the library and on the computer. We have acquired hundreds of pages of documentation on quakers both of a scientific and general news nature. We plan to visit quakers in their "natural" habitat in Argentina in the very near future.

At the Beardsley Zoo in 1991 I began a quaker exhibit which now houses ten quakers. These hardy birds have survived the bitter cold of winter and the draining heat of summer here in Connecticut.

Wild Parrots in New England

When considering New England one generally thinks of spectacular fall colors, maple syrup, the Boston Tea Party, or winter sports. Free flying parrots living in a wild state, building nests, courting mates and raising families through rain, sleet, and snow hardly seem characteristic of signature New England. Yet, over the past 25 years, parrots have become an increasingly visible spectacle along the New England coastline.

In 1968 over 12,000 quaker parakeets were imported into the United States through JFK Airport in New York City. Thousands more were imported during the ensuing years. These imported quakers were sold in pet stores throughout the Northeast. It was only a matter of time before some of these parrots found their way to freedom as pet parrots too often do. By 1973 quakers were reported nesting and raising young in many parts of Long Island, all five New York boroughs, and New Jersey. Quakers were first reported in Connecticut in 1971. By 1978 Connecticut's quaker population was established in a very affluent neighborhood of Bridgeport known as Black Rock. Within a few years quakers were also nesting and breeding in Warwick, Rhode Island.

By 1973 popular estimates indicated that between 4,000 and 5,000 quakers were living in the "wilds" in the U. S. Authorities from 13 northeastern states, worried by the threat wild (or feral) quakers posed to native songbirds, crops, and human health, determined that the free-flying quakers must be eradicated. Programs were undertaken in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina to shoot or otherwise destroy free flying quakers, their nests and nestlings. These eradications were termed "retrievals" to make the programs more palatable to local residents as well as to the press.

Census information gathered on the feral quakers during these eradication attempts indicated that a few hundred quakers were living in these states rather than the thousands formerly estimated by non-authoritative sources. Connecticut and Rhode Island did not participate in "retrieval" programs.

Adolescent quakers remain with their parents for many months and usually build their first nest(s) near their parents. The founding colony of Bridgeport quakers settled in a 100 year old evergreen tree which was over 100 feet tall. In this tree many nests were constructed over the years and by 1993 over 40 nests were being actively used by feral quakers. These nests measured up to nine feet in length and five feet in width. Over 200 quakers inhabited this single evergreen. Connecticut's feral quakers remained a very localized phenomenon until about 1988 when mild winters and generously filled bird feeders began to provide a hospitable environment for the local quaker population to vigorously expand. Reports of feral quakers began to fill local Connecticut newspapers and magazines as quakers colonized several other coastal neighborhoods and towns. Quakers dispersed over the years following 1978 from their founding Bridgeport locale and by 1993 nests were reported in towns along Connecticut's coastline from Norwalk on the west to Branford on the east. Today it is estimated that over 500 feral quakers call Connecticut home.

Connecticut is experiencing one of its most severe winters on record. Yet, despite snow, sleet, rain and subzero temperatures, Connecticut's quakers continue to fare well. As long as feeders are well-filled, local fruit and nut trees provide abundant forage, and open water is available, Connecticut's quakers seem unfazed by the cold weather.

 

QUAKER ANTICS

Reported by Our Readers

Buddy loves my husband. If I come into the room Buddy will go into his cage and close the cage door.

At night, when I tell Cricket "Go to sleep now." he goes into his cage and goes to sleep on his perch.

Harley has various toys like teething rings and keys which he separates and puts into his cage one by one. He steals mail of all sizes and puts it into his cage by slipping it through the cage bars.

 

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