THE QUAKER NEWS

APRIL 1995

 

FROM THE EDITOR

I have read many times that a parrot has the intelligence of a three year old and the emotional development of a two year old human. Having vivid memories of the "terrible twos" of both my children and grand children, I like to think that these bird psychologists are under estimating our Quakers in both areas.

The wise people who make scientific studies on these matters generally do agree that parrots have a higher degree of intelligence than dogs. Because their life cycles are so different, the stages in the human-parrot relationships are more like the human-child relationship. The baby Quaker remains a baby almost as long as the human baby. It will learn to behave in a socially acceptable manner at much the same speed and in much the same way. The puppy or the kitten develop into adulthood more rapidly, reaching their maximum adjustment possibilities much earlier in their shorter lives.

Your Quaker has the same requirements as a developing child for firm, loving supervision with consistent rules and reinforcement of desirable behavior. Verbal praise, laughter, and obvious pleasure are very strong reinforcement tools. Withholding praise and quiet admonition are preferable responses to undesirable behavior than an excited "carrying on" by the owner. Just as our two years olds prefer negative attention to no attention at all, our birds will enjoy creating a little excitement. A stern look, a firm "Stop that!", and removal to the cage for a time out are usually effective responses.

Your little Quaker is smart enough to understand that there are rules and customs that have to be honored as well as love and fun to be shared.

FROM OUR READERS

" HELP! Why do birds mutilate themselves when they have a skin problem? My Quaker Tiki has a skin infection, is on antibiotics and Benadryl - but the Vet still does not know why he itches so much. Is Avian Veterinary medicine still "by guess, by golly", or do they really know what to do and why birds are ill? " Polly from Washington

The medical people in my family remind me that the practice of medicine is still an art, not a science. Making a diagnosis is often an educated guess, either for humans or birds. I trust that by now Tiki is more comfortable.

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" How do we deal with a Quaker who would like to breed

with its owner? I put my ten month old Elmo into his cage when he starts regurgitating and rump rubbing on me. What's best?" Fay from Illinois

Elmo is really not wanting to mate but is demonstrating his affection for you in the only way a baby bird knows. Making it clear that his methods are not welcome without any particular fuss over the situation is best. Unless it is allowed to become a habit, this stage will pass.

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" My Quaker Quak sleeps in a hammock made from a dish towel hung in the corner of the cage. He sleeps on his back with his feet in the air. He is now a year old and is pulling on his feathers. He has a small bald spot under his beak near his neck. He has no other spots. Could he be in his first molt? "

Quaks first molt is about due and may well be the cause of his feather pulling. I suggest a daily "bath" with a fine spray of warm water and trying to distract him with toys or treats if you can catch him in the act.

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I have heard from four new Quaker owners who are enjoying babies rescued from that falling tree last summer in Connecticut. How wonderful that so many were saved by caring people.

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"Shiloh is now one year old and talks up a storm! His first word was "kisses" and a smooching sound at only two months of age. Truly incredible! He is still adding vocabulary almost daily." Crystal from Minnesota

Perhaps you, and some of our other readers with these marvelous talkers, will share with us some of your teaching techniques. You must be doing something right. Most Quakers are talking by the end of their first year, but not all as talented as Shiloh.

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"I have a Quaker named Sammy. He is two years old, full of mischief, talks quite a bit, and likes to mimic us when we laugh or cough. He is always on my shoulder. I am retired and home most of the time. He surely is an entertaining and loveable pet." Stormy from Michigan

A bird is an excellent pet for retired folks not quite up to the demands of caring for a dog or cat. Your words "entertaining and loveable" do describe our Quakers.

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"On January 16th I received my first issue of The Quaker News. I own two Quakers and thought that it might be helpful. It was the timing of your 'From the Editor' column that hit home. In December one of the Quakers, Squirt, was taken to our Avian Vet because she had received a puncture wound to her palette. We separated her from the cage they were both in and she seemed to bounce back great. Then I started to notice changes: loss of appetite, hanging out in the bottom of the cage, but her stools still looked pretty good. She is "Daddy's baby" and that's when I noticed how she would run to her food dish when he came in the room and would eat readily only from his hand. But I still wasn't convinced that she was a sick bird. Well, after reading your editorial, I picked up the phone and talked to my Vet. He agreed that if I noticed something it was definitely worth checking out. He took blood, stool, and gram stain and called later to say that she had Giardia. We gave her oral medication for ten days and her stool sample was negative. I am so thankful that we caught it so quickly." Iola from Wisconsin.

Catching the condition early is half the battle in combating disease in our birds. Alert, observant owners and Avian Vets who listen save many lives.

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" In your last news letter, Charlotte from Illinois could not get her four year old Quaker out of the cage.

We've found that the best way to get a bird to willingly come out of the cage is to put the cage on the floor. They will instinctively want to climb higher, and if the door is open they will soon be out. It also helps if your cage has a top opening to a play gym. Hope this helps." Sandy from Michigan

Thanks, Sandy. This sounds like a great idea. I know that Charlotte will try it and let us know the result.

 

DO'S AND DON'TS ON DIETS

DO make sure that a good pelleted food constitutes 80% of your bird's daily intake of food. Add wholesome foods and small amounts of seed only as treats.

DON'T give snacks of salty or sweet foods. No chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine in any form.

DO offer treats in very small amounts only. Keep in mind the relative size of the bird to a human. One or two grapes, one slice of apple, a quarter of a slice of whole wheat bread, are all ample amounts.

DON'T allow your bird to continue on an all seed diet. With time and patience the most stubborn bird can be weaned away from seeds to a more healthy diet.

DO check carefully on the safety of house plants your Quaker may nibble on. Many common varieties are poisonous.

DON'T leave fresh fruits and vegetables, or any food that can spoil, in your bird's cage for more than an hour or two. Spoiled food is just as dangerous for birds as for humans.

DO be sure that your pet has a supply of fresh, clean water at all times.

DON'T use walnut shell bedding, corn cob bedding. or kitty litter to line your cage. Birds of all ages nibble on these materials causing serious illness or death.

 

HE CONFISCATES PET, RUFFLES HER FEATHERS

(A clipping sent in by Dan from New York.)

Allentown- The animal lover and the game warden: it was not a match made in heaven.

Sylvia Appel, 46, of Allentown, can't stand the thought of an animal being killed, and has a house full of dogs, birds, and gerbils. Kim Pullsinelli, 39, of Bethlehem, works for the state game commission.

They managed to shrug off their differences over animal rights and began a romance.

Four months later, Bobby, the Monk parakeet came between them.

Pulsinelli and other game wardens entered Appel's home last month and confiscated Appel's pet bird. The Monk parakeet is illegal in Pennsylvania because of its reputed threat to farmers' crops. Bobby is an indoor bird.

Appel hasn't spoken to Pulsinelli, but she wants him to know: it's over.

" You drop some of your guard, you trust the guy, and then he turns around an and does this to you." Appel said. Appel and Pulsenelli met in a bar - the Main Gate nightclub in Allentown, in June. Appel said that she thought Pulsinelli was caring and concerned.

"He just seemed like a very honest man." she said. "He seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders. He wasn't like this stupid jerk."

Appel had trained the five year old bird to dance on command, lift a set of miniature barbells, and say phrases like" Good morning," "NightyNight," you're a stinker," " talk to me,"and" Ow,ow, ow."

Pulsinelli led a team of game commission wardens into Appel's home September 16th, when he knew Appel was eating dinner with a friend and took Bobby away.

"I asked him "Why?" Appel said. "And he answered, "It's my job!"

ARTICLES COMING

An article by your editor on talking Quakers is scheduled for the June 1995 issue of Bird Talk Magazine. The April, 1995 issue features my article on Quakers with a lovely center fold picture and a Lutino Quaker on the cover. The Lutino is unfortuneately not mine, but a picture taken in England. Bird Breeder magazine has an article by me on choosing a Veterinarian in the April 1995 issue and one on breeding Quakers is planned for the September issue. Editors sometimes change their long range plans, so all may not appear as scheduled.

A NOTE TO OUR BREEDERS

Spring is breeding time for our Quakers, and an exciting time it is. I know that there are many of you out there anxiously awaiting your pair's first attempts at going to nest. Those many months of cleaning and feeding, and probably a good bit of worrying, are finally about to pay off. Especially for the owners of blues, visions of recouping large investments of money and hopefully even profits to be made are a big part of your thoughts.

Patience and an optimistic attitude are essential requirements for any bird breeder. Keep in mind that your birds do not read the books and articles that you do. They are not aware of the average expectations the authors write about. Your pair may be ready to breed in the first or second year , as is usual, but they may not be producing until their third year. An average figure is after all a mid point between highs and lows. It refers to what can generally be expected of this species, but there is nothing wrong with the bird whose performance may be a bit different.

First time parents often do not perform well. Eggs may not be fertile and the birds may not sit well enough to hatch those that are. They may be negligent in their feeding duties requiring very early pulling of the babies for hand feeding if they are to survive. Do give the parents a second or even a third chance to settle down to customary devoted parenting.

The usual pattern is for Quakers to have a second clutch when the first babies are about four weeks old. They then rest up for about three months and again double clutch. With birds this prolific you can afford to give them time for gaining experience.

My wish is for all of you to be having dozens of the little down covered babies to hand feed, with prospects of more to come. Good Luck! - Linda

 

Quakers At Large

Leaving Home Without It

By David Wright

As we have discussed in this column in the past, the quaker nest is an invaluable asset which distinguishes the quaker from all other parrots. The quaker nest is such an integral part of quaker behavior that early attempts to control the spread of wild quakers in the United States were directed at destroying nests built by wild living quakers. What was never studied, however, was how the quaker nest actually controls the spread of quakers in the wild.

We in Connecticut have observed that fledging babies rarely move very far away from the nests in which they were fledged. We have further noted that it is common for the fledglings to attach their nests onto those of existing adult, mated pairs. When the fledglings leave their natal nests they rarely disperse far. Understanding little of this nesting peculiarity we were fortunate to come upon a study done in Argentina by Liliana F. Martin and Enrique H. Bucher of the National University of Cordoba. Mr. Bucher is widely recognized as the worlds leading quaker expert. He has been publishing detailed studies on quakers for over ten years.

Mr. Bucher has noted that quaker fledglings remain with their parents until they are three months old. When the fledglings leave home they disperse in random directions from their natal nest site but rarely do the young move more than 500 yards from their fledging nest site. Even when nests are destroyed and whole families displaced, the families never settle more than 330 yards away from the site of their destroyed nest.

Young quakers disperse before their parents next breeding season and begin building their own nests. They work on these nests for a year. During this time no breeding occurs in these nests. As was suggested in this column last issue, quaker nests are obviously used for more than breeding purposes. Breeding does not occur in the wild until the second season of occupying a nest site.

Understanding the dispersal of young is very relevant to the ongoing debate in many states as to whether quakers should be allowed as pets. This is an amusing discussion since quakers build such obvious nests, they are never difficult to locate. Furthermore, since babies do not disperse far from their natal sites, it is apparent wild populations of quakers pose little if any threat of becoming a problem here in the United States.

Quakers at large are not starling or English sparrow travesties in the making. Were this so Connecticut would already be overrun with quakers since they have lived in the wild in this state for over 20 years. One of the limiting factors to the spread of these illegal aliens in the state appears to be the penchant of the young for settling close to mom and dad.

Until the great storm of 1993 which destroyed the prime nesting location of quakers in Connecticut they were little known in the wild by Connecticut residents. Only those people on whose property the quakers had nested were really aware of them. When the storm of 1993 wiped out the main nesting tree, the adults dispersed into the neighborhood from which they had been displaced. Within days quaker nests appeared throughout this neighborhood. However, few nests were built in new or formerly uninhabited quaker locales.

The relevance to us as quaker owners is that wildlife authorities must understand this peculiar penchant of quakers. Even if our pets were to get loose, they would not soon take over wide swaths of land destroying all agriculture in their paths. As a matter of fact, they likely would settle close to their release site. If these escapees do survive on their own they would soon be easy to find because they would construct nests. The nest is key to quaker survival. The worry over wild living quakers is truly misplaced.

 

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