FROM THE EDITOR
I recently had an experience
with a sick bird who, whenever she knew that she was being observed, put
on a most convincing act. She sat up on the perch, picked at her food,
and even her eyes became rounder and brighter when she knew that she was
not alone. Even my trusted Avian vet doubted that there was anything
wrong. She only proceeded with cultures and blood studies because she
trusted my judgment. The laboratory work showed that the bird was indeed
seriously ill. Fortunately she
responded well to medication and I still have one of my most prized show
It is important for pet owners
and breeders to be aware that all birds will try very hard to disguise
signs of illness. This is basic instinct, remaining from life in the
wild, when to reveal its weakness would attract predators to the entire
flock. In captivity, after many generations of breeding, a sick bird is
still often attacked and killed by others in the flock, or even its
mate. This behavior is directed by their former need for self
By the time your
bird is no longer able to hide the obvious
signs of illness, it may have been sick for weeks or even months. At this
point treatment becomes difficult or even impossible.
The only person
capable of noticing minor abnormalities is the owner. Changes in your
bird's activity, appetite, droppings, etc. are only evident to the owner
who observes the bird every day. An experienced Avian Veterinarian will
take your reports seriously and usually proceed with necessary diagnostic
tests on the basis of your observations. The Vet cannot eliminate the
possibility of a condition existing that requires treatment on the basis
of a physical examination alone. Your careful reporting of deviations from
the normal that you have observed will often be the deciding factor in the
decision to further investigate.
FROM OUR READERS
" My son Ryan
recently saved up enough money to buy a baby Quaker and a large cage for
him." Kathryn from Florida "Hello. I am seven years old. have a Quaker
parrot named Simba. Simba laughed at my brother when he was crying. That
was the first time he laughed. name-Ryan."
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name is Radar. He has been a comfort to me since
my wife's passing. Very loyal and bonded to me now very good company.
Thanks for listening." Joseph from Florida - - - - - - - - -
"Is a pelleted
food complete for my Quakers? Do I need to add something else?" Danny
from Puerto Rico
If a pelleted food
makes up about 80% of your birds' diet and fruits, vegetables, and
healthful treats the balance, there is no need to add vitamin supplements.
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"As a pet
Quaker's "Mommy", one of my questions is how large a cage can I
go and please tell me how wide a bar spacing is safe." Maria from
The minimum size for
a pet Quaker cage is about 18 x 24 x 18 but this is minimum. When in
doubt, larger is always better. The only limitations to size is what your
pocketbook and home situation permits. Cage bar spacing should be no wider
than one inch.
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" My pet Quaker
was four years old when I purchased him, and not hand fed. I have had him
one year and he will come to the side of the cage, but will not come out.
He becomes absolutely frantic if I attempt to lure him out He has toys and
plays but I cannot coax him out. " Charlotte from Illinois
My only suggestion
is continued patience and kindness. Maybe eventually the little fellow
will overcome his fear of the world outside his cage. Do any of our
readers have suggestions? Perhaps some of you have had the same problem
and can help Charlotte.
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"It startled me
when I read that this little creature can live 35 to 40 years and will
probably outlive me - That is if he curbs his curiosity that gets him into
trouble. Question: How do you hold a fast moving, biting Quaker down to
file his nails?" Millie from Montana
And a good question
it is! I suggest using cement and rough bark perches and leaving any
necessary filing to your vet.
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hates vegetables unless he can pick them from my mouth when I eat my
dinner. He flys off his cage (his wings are clipped),waddles accross the
floor, climbs up my leg and on to my shoulder, and wants to be fed. He
eats meat, mashed potatoes, and vegies this way." Wilhelmme from
I have read many
times that it is not a good idea to feed our pet birds food from our own
mouths. Human mouths may contain bacteria harmful to the bird. It should
not be too difficult to teach Shatzi to enjoy his dinner from a spoon.
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"I want to know
more about colors - which are quietest, more
easy to work with, etc." Judith from MI
I have never been
able to identify characteristics in the many blue Quakers I have raised
that make them different from the normal green. I am convinced that
differences are all highly individual with no relation to color. The only
difference between a blue Quaker and a normal green is the color of the
plumage - and the price!
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There isn't a doubt
in my mind that our Quakers are very special little birds, but they do
share many things in common with the rest of the psitticines. One of these
is the process of molting at periodic intervals, a messy business we just
have to endure.
Molting is the
process whereby the growth of a new feather causes the shedding of an old
feather. The feathers are made of a fibrous protein called Keratin. They
are really more like the scales of a reptile than the hair of a mammal.
At any one time your
bird may have feathers derived from more than one molt. This is because
some molts involve all of the feather tracts, while others involve only
certain tracts or specific feathers.
The very first molt
occurs in Quakers at about four weeks of age. This is when the soft, fuzzy
down of the baby chick is replaced by feathers, these smaller and more
narrow than the adult plumage he will have later. This is the time when I
carefully watch the developing tail feathers of the Quaker babies to spot
the visual blues in the clutch. There are irregular periods of partial
molt until finally adult plumage is complete at about six to seven months.
including Quakers, will molt on a yearly cycle.
These are called seasonal molters. Their schedule roughly follows the
seasonal light cycles and the supply of food experienced by their forbears
in their natural habitat.
The molting process usually
starts with the flight and
tail feathers in an
orderly progression. The body feathers begin to molt while the wing
feathers are being replaced. This progressive molt makes it possible for
birds to continue flying while feathers are being replaced. In the wild,
being unable to fly for even a short time, would make the bird easy prey.
Feathers, like our
clothes, do wear out. Producing new ones is necessary for more than
maintaining an attractive appearance. Healthy plumage is necessary for
flight and for the maintenance of body temperature.
The growing new
feathers, called pin feathers, are dark at the base and part way up the
shaft, containing the blood necessary for their growth. If damaged in any
way, bleeding can be profuse. When this happens, the pin feather must be
pulled out in the direction of growth, and firm pressure applied until the
bleeding stops. Coagulating agents, such as Kwik Stop or flour, should
only be used if pressure is not effective as clogging of the open follicle
can result in infection.
In spite of many
scientific experiments. all the facts about the molting process do not
seem to be clearly understood. It is recognized that unnatural lighting
conditions or unusual stress effect the molting pattern. It is agreed that
there are hormonal changes occurring during the molt. Many pet owners
complain of changes in disposition. A tendency to be grouchy or nippy
during the molt is often reported. There is no question that molting
requires a great deal of metabolic energy and can be considered a period
of stress for your bird.
Quite often, in
addition to the regular seasonal molt, Quakers will have a light loss of
feathers just prior to
breeding. This is called the prenuptial molt.
Failure to provide
sufficient protein in the diet during the molt may result in sparse and
unsatisfactory new plumage. Birds on a good pelleted diet do not require
the addition of special foods. Those on a primarily seed diet need
additives for extra calcium,
protein, and fat. This would include supplements of greens, vegetables,
nuts and cereals and possibly hard boiled eggs or egg containing biscuits.
The number of feathers that
cascade to the floor from
one small bird
always amazes me. As you vacuum and sweep, take
comfort in the fact that this will go on for only six to eight weeks. The
end result will be a more beautiful Quaker.
Krista from Arizona
Dude Baby will be two years old
on March 23, 1995. He is a Quaker who was hatched in my aviary, and the
odds were against him from the start.
His parents had abandoned their
nest and his egg was cold when I found it. He had pipped (inside the egg)
but was not moving or crying. Our last violent storm of the season was
moving in and I put his egg into the incubator. A half hour later the
storm hit. The lights in the house suddenly blazed brighter than ever
intended. There was a huge bright lightening strike outside and a terrific
crash of thunder.
The next thing I knew,
something in the incubator blew
up. There was thick black smoke
and a very bitter odor coming from the incubator. I grabbed the egg and
rushed the smoking incubator outside, noxious fumes and all. Then the
lights went out for real.
I filled four one
gallon water jugs with scalding water, putting two on each side of a shoe
box. I put the egg in and wrapped the whole mess in a thick quilt.
Two hours later the
lights came on and the egg was peeping. I rigged up a brooder with a
heating pad and a fish bowl. Dude Baby hatched 48 hours later. He didn't
grow for almost a month. He weighed 1.5 grams until April 17th when I
tried Instant Ounces on him. It worked like a miracle.
He finally opened
his eyes on May first. He is my favorite bird. I have framed the page from
my desk calendar with his weights written on it. Don't ever give up on
your babies. Try everything.
QUAKERS AND THE
Some good news for
Ohio residents! I have heard that the outrage over Ohio's regulations on
pinioning (surgically amputating) the wings of companion Quaker Parakeets
resulted in a barrage of letters and phone calls. The protests were so
numerous the decision was made to change the requirement for ownership
from pinioned wings to clipped wings. Keeping those wings clipped is no
hardship and a precaution we all should observe anyway. This has not gone
through legal channels yet, and is not official, but I have been promised
that making the change legal is just a matter of time.
We have had quite a
few inquiries from our readers about nesting materials for breeding
Most of my Quakers
are happy to produce their offspring with about three inches of plain old
pine shavings in the bottom
of a cockatiel nest box. We may add some cedar shavings or a sprinkling of
5% Sevin powder to discourage insects, but we produce a lot of Quakers
with nothing more exotic than that.
Those who are a bit
slower to get started nesting we supply with an assortment of twigs, grass
clippings, small branches, palm fronds - just about anything to interest
them in building a nest. Until recently when I was told that tomato vines
and leaves are toxic I had great success with the dying off cherry tomato
vines. Their being toxic is contrary to my experience, but when in doubt I
take no chances.
A small wire shelf,
added near the nest box is enjoyed by some nest builders, helping them to
enlarge their apartment.
My Mother's breeding
pair of blue Quakers have been working industriously for weeks at building
a nest that is fast filling one side of their cage. For some time they
could not agree on a location for the nest. One would place a twig on the
wire shelf and the other would promptly throw it to the floor with angry
chattering. We often observed a tug of war with a stubborn Quaker pulling
violently at each end of a stick. They finally reached an agreement and
are working up from the cage floor through the wire shelf.
moss, or commercially prepared pet litter which has not been treated with
chemicals or perfumes are all materials in use. What ever is used must be
safe if ingested by the birds and free of chemicals and odors.
With experience you
will find that different pairs have their own individual preferences in
nesting materials. Whenever possible it is worthwhile to indulge their
TIPS ON TOYS
Our Quakers are
playful, curious, and sometimes too clever
for their own good. As with any item you introduce them to, when
presenting a new toy watch for sharp edges and places that could possibly
snag toes, wings, or beaks.
Quite often it is
the clips that fasten toys onto the cage that are potentially hazardous.
Many avian specialists recommend that round key ring fasteners, dog leash
rings or shower curtain type clips be replaced with C-link hangers. These
are also called Quick-Link hangers. These special links fasten by screwing
a locked on nut to threads on the other side of the opening. C-links are
not 100 percent safe, but less likely to cause problems than the others.
They can be obtained at hardware stores or from your pet store.
Toys with protruding
wires or breakable chains are a danger. Avoid chains with links that are
not welded shut as gaps could snag toes or beaks. Check bells for clappers
that can be removed and swallowed. Rope or cloth toys are good for chewing
but straggly ends should be kept trimmed. Tie thong strung toys tightly
with no toe catching loops and discard soiled leather toys. Many leather
pieces can be cut off, leaving the rest of the toy intact.
Always, and without
fail, watch your bird carefully with any new toy before leaving it to play
Some of our readers
complain that their Quakers do not like toys and will have nothing to do
with them. The bird psychologists feel that this is because they were not introduced
to toys correctly. They recommend a slow, gradual approach with new toys.
Any change can be perceived by the bird as a threat. Start by placing the
toy outside the cage at first, allowing the bird to become used to the new
object from the safety of the cage. Pick up and play with the toy yourself
so the bird will get an idea of its purpose.
appropriate for the size and preferences of your bird, preferably starting
with small, simple toys. Every bird is different. Some have definite
preferences in color, and the choice of a toy in a favorite color is good.
Some birds like to rip up paper and will enjoy toys that can be shredded.
If your Quaker especially likes to fiddle with your hair as many do, try
some of the toys made of rope. If it likes to hold things, try toys
suitable to be held while being played with. There is a huge selection to
Quakers At Large
Nesting to Live -
Living to Nest
by David Wright
Quakers are unique
among all other parrots in that they are the only
parrot which builds a nest. All other parrots prefer nest
cavities excavated from within trees. Quakers are also one
of the very rare species of bird which utilizes its nest year
round. Breeding activities are just one of the functions that
a nest seems to serve among Quakers.
Oddly, Quakers seem
to enjoy building onto and repairing their nests
year round. Construction occurs during all four seasons of
the year. Bachelor Quaker males will build nests even when
there is no immediate prospect of obtaining a mate. The
"unwed" male will construct a nest and continue to maintain
it. Perhaps he hopes that his diligence will be rewarded
by someday demonstrating his home-building talents to a
One of the
unanswered questions concerning Quakers is why the nest
appears to be such a vital asset. Quakers' native range in
South America positions their native
territories within a range
of temperatures which includes winter lows in the 20's. Is
it possible that Quakers began building nests to survive low winter
The Kea, Nestor
notabilis, is a parrot indigenous to the high mountain
regions of New Zealand. This parrot is known to frequent
ski lodges and surrounding environs even during periods of
heavy snow. A quick check of "Parrots of the World" by Joseph
Forshaw indicates that Keas are
cavity nesters for whom a nest serves
only breeding purposes.
For birds in general
the nest serves only to shelter, warm and hide
eggs and, often, incubating hens. In the Sociable Weaver,
Philetirus socius, nesting is a communal activity.
Nests are used by the Sociable
Weaver for breeding pur
poses as well as serving
as a year-round abode. The nest appears to serve
as a barrier to predation as well as a communal roosting habit.
Studies have not
determined the factors influencing the use of nests
year round by Quakers. We can only speculate, at present, what
function year round nest building serves in Quakers. Nature does not
provide for needless, useless expenditures of energy so this behavior must
serve a valuable function.
for Quaker nesting devotion and repair include: 1)demonstrating the
quality of male health by nest size and/or quality; 2) protection from the
elements; 3) protection from predators; 4) communal nesting resulting in
"more eyes" watching for predators; and, 5) platforms for
communal mating displays.
Whatever the reason,
Quaker nests are large and very apparent. Early control efforts of the Quakers
living in the United States were conducted merely on the sighting of nests
and their subsequent destruction. Certainly, if humans use these nests as
location markers, other predators must do so also. A communal nest would
seem to send a very apparent "dinner" signal to passing birds of
prey, cats, and snakes, particularly since Quakers are "at home"
year round in their communal nests.
Year round nesting
of Quakers remains an enigma. Much study needs to be done to answer the
myriad questions that this behavior suggests. Although Quakers are very
numerous both in South America as well as in the United States much is
unknown about them. We have, however, studied a number of Quaker nests
here in Connecticut. Of 40 nests measured sizes ranged from 34 inches in
length by 23 inches in width to 9 feet in length by 5 feet in width.
Of the 40 nests
measured, 13 nests had one entrance hole leading to one nesting chamber.
Twelve nests had two entrances and two
nesting chambers. Three nests were built with three entrances and three
nesting chambers. One nest contained five nesting chambers attached to