THE QUAKER NEWS

JANUARY 1996

 

FROM THE EDITOR 

I would like to answer each and every one of your friendly and enthusiastic notes. As that is not possible I want this to be a sincere "thank you" for all your interest and co-operation. You all seem to enjoy the From Our Readers section, so we will include as many of your letters there as space permits. I am especially pleased that many of you are renewing your subscriptions for the third year, a sincere form of praise.

I continue to hear encouraging news about the easing of state legal restrictions on our Quakers. New regulations in New Jersey now prohibit Quakers "on the premises of a pet shop or animal dealer." There is nothing now mentioned on keeping them as pets. I hear from friends in Massachusetts that the newly changed regulations have caused a heavy demand in aviaries and pet shops. Ohio and California, both formerly very strict in their regulations, are in the process of radical change. All of you bird lovers who have voiced your objections to discrimination against our Quakers can feel very proud. Your efforts are obtaining results. Keep up the good work.

THE WINNER IS......

So many of you have thought of clever and original names for your pet Quakers I posted a list of them on the door of my refrigerator and asked for votes from anyone and everyone who entered my kitchen - an amazing number of people! " Oatie", short for Quaker Oats, won by only a small margin. It was so close to a tie with "Nixon", after our former president who was a member of the Quaker religion, we are awarding a year's subscription to both Pat Scott and Oatie, and Richard and Kay Schnieber and Nixon too. Congratulations! Your subscriptions will be extended for another year.

QUAKERS ON LINE

For those of you interested in computer access to literally hundreds of messages left by owners of pet Quakers and breeders log on to:

America On Line Interests and Hobbies :Select the Pet Forum :Select Quakers

My E Mail Address is: acslinda@aol.com

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda,

I have some ideas that I think you should consider. As I read every issue I see what wonderful pets Quakers are, but I wonder how many of us are showing these birds. I would like to know if the subscribers are taking Quakers to shows. I think this is one big step to let people know that Quakers should be considered as birds, not pests. Finally I consider that an article on showing tips will be very useful.      Danny from Puerto Rico

A good suggestion, Danny. One way of combating injustice in state regulations is to make more and more of the general public aware of Quakers as wonderful companion birds. More on showing planned for a later issue.

Dear Linda,

 I rescued a badly hurt Quaker who took refuge in my garden. Thanks to a great Vet and some imaginative nursing on my part "Cheeky" is fully recovered and rules the house.

He had a seriously broken leg and it was 50/50 after splinting whether it would heal or require amputation. While he was splinted I mounted two perches closely parallel next to his food and water. Thus helped immensely with his limited mobility and strength. He learned to rest on both while sleeping.     Alice from Texas

I immediately put your idea for parallel perches into use for a young bird my Mother had with splinted spraddle legs. The poor little thing had been restricted to a towel lined bowel and really enjoyed the chance to flap his wings and look around for time out in a cage.

Dear Linda,

 I have a male Quaker about five years old. Have had him for 1 1/2 years. He is attached to me but doesn't like my husband. Drifty (his name) will accept food from my husband but will bite him on his shoulder or hand. Why?    Joan from Florida

Quakers are known for their long memories. Sometime, back before you had Drifty he probably had an experience he remembers as unpleasant with a man he associates with your husband. This sounds like a fear bite. If he will accept food from your husband with time and patience he will overcome his fears and make friends.

Dear Linda,

 I have two Quakers. I bought the first one because he sat for a year without anyone wanting him because of his loud voice. He doesn't like to be handled, but is happy and screams only when he sees someone outside. The second one, Murphy, is a little nippy but fun and starting to talk. When I hand him a treat the little stinker nips my finger, tucks his head under his wing, and laughs. Never a dull moment!      Charlotte from Illinois

Dear Linda,

 I just recently purchased a three month old Quaker. I have a beautiful gazebo in my store where she stays day and night. She not only entertains me but is a great store mascot. I have never had a bird before and I am surprised at how easily Sugar and I have become friends. She anxiously awaits my arrival every day and would stay on my shoulder all day long if I would let her. I am curious to know whether or not I need to take her to be examined by a vet. Some people say yes and some say no.

She appears to be very healthy but I notice that she does like to scratch her head. Does this mean that she has mites or is this a common habit?     Sonya from Arkansas

I seriously doubt that Sugar has mites. Those little pin feathers around the head are often itchy. All birds enjoy being scratched around the head and neck. I have mixed feelings about exposing a healthy bird to what of necessity will be a germ laden environment that is inevitable in the cleanest Vet's office. On the other hand it is a good idea to have an Avian Vet acquainted with you and your bird so as to be available in an emergency or when illness strikes. Unfortunately the shots available for birds are only to prevent a few specific and deadly diseases and not always tolerated well. We do not have the luxury of vaccination against a host of diseases as we do with our dogs and cats. To visit your Avian Vet regularly or not is an individual decision.

Dear Linda,

 I am 15 years old and own a wonderful Quaker. I got her two years ago. She was so mean when we got her that I thought she would never let me pet her. I slowly got her used to me by talking to her and leaving my hand in her cage. Often she would bite me so hard that she drew blood! I named her Olive and call her Ollie for short. Finally she got on my hand and would give me kisses.

Now she is so spoiled that if I leave the room she squawks. She loves to take naps on my shoulder and is very cuddly. If I don't uncover her at 7:30 in the morning she opens her cage door, jumps on my bed, runs over to me, and squawks in my ear. I often take her into the kitchen while I eat; she loves to sample my food and if I don't let her she begs. When I drink juice she always wants some, so I put some in a small glass, tilt it up, and let her drink. She loves it!    Ruth from Indiana

This is a real success story - a biting Quaker changed to a delightful pet by a fifteen year old owner.

Dear Linda,

 I live in Massachusetts and until the end of June I couldn't own a Quaker. Thankfully the law changes and on July 24th my little Felix was born. He is from Florida and around the time I purchased him hurricane Felix was off shore from his home state. That's how I got the name. He is still on one feeding a day and still does the stomp when he eats. He's talking a little but he does something even better.....He feeds himself the formula. Last week he was out for feeding and the formula was too hot. I left the room for a second and walked back to see him spoon in hand (or foot) eating. I am so happy about my Quaker. He brings so much joy into my life.     Rachel from Massachusetts

Just to prove her story Rachel enclosed an excellent photo of Felix busily eating from a small spoon held in his foot.

Dear Linda,

 I'd like to know where Quakers come from, including the trees and food available to them in their natural home. Also, how are they categorized? as Conures?    Rebecca from Texas

Quakers are also referred to as Monk Parakeets, Gray Breasted Parakeets, or Green Parakeets. There are four recognized sub-species. M.Monachus Monachus, the most commonly available species, comes originally from extreme south eastern Brazil, through Uruguay to north eastern Argentina. Quakers are unique in that they are the only nest building parrots known. They build elaborate multi chambered nests high in many varieties of trees.

 

POTTY TRAINING YOUR BIRD

by Nancy Rix

Sunshine State Cage Bird Society's News Letter

The pleasure of a bird can be enhanced greatly with the addition of having your bird eliminate on command.. Not only does this save on the number of "bird shirts" you launder weekly, but saves you the embarrassment of the spattering sound of droppings on a linoleum floor when you are out with your beloved pet showing off to the world.

The first tool you need to potty train your bird is some basic knowledge of bird elimination behavior. Birds eliminate more often than most animals, so they will not be carrying extra weight when they take flight. Their droppings are combined urine and fecal matter and what they have been eating and drinking will make a difference in the consistency of the droppings. The larger the bird, the less often it will eliminate. A nervous and insecure bird will eliminate more frequently than one that is calm and adjusted to its surroundings. Many birds will signal that they are about to eliminate with a certain body motion, and holding the tail of your bird (up near the body) will keep the bird from following through with the elimination process. The second tool for potty training is what bird tamers call using a bridge.

Simply put, using a bridge means praising your bird for a correct behavior. Depending on the individual bird, this can be a food reward, petting, or verbal praise. The actual bridge is a sound that lets the bird know it is going to receive a reward; some trainers use a clicker or a certain phrase that is always backed up by a treat or petting. An example is using a peanut to teach the "up" command to an untrained bird; as the bird steps to your hand, you say "good bird" and hand it a peanut.. The words "Good Bird" is your bridge, the peanut is the reward. As you work with the bird, you can eliminate the peanut every time the bird steps up. The words "Good bird" will give the bird the confidence it needs to know that it is performing the proper behavior. You need to reinforce your bridge with rewards, but in many cases the bird becomes conditioned to accept the bridge as the reward.

Using the above information, getting your bird to eliminate on command becomes a very basic training exercise. You will need to pick a command to use to tell the bird you want it to eliminate and pick a receptacle you feel is appropriate. The commands I have heard used include potty, do it, and shazam. Pick any short word or phrase you are comfortable with. Be aware that your bird will probably learn to use whatever phrase you use and repeat it often.. The receptacles easiest to use are a sheet of newspaper or a waste basket. Begin you training using one receptacle only, later in the training you can branch out to other surfaces.

Because the nature of the bird is to eliminate before it takes flight, you should use this knowledge to assume that the bird will eliminate whenever you change its location. When taking the bird out of its cage the first stop should be over the receptacle you have chosen for the proper spot to eliminate. Give the bird the command, and when nature takes over use your bridge and then your reward. If the bird does not eliminate right away a gentle lifting and dropping of your arm may help. It simulates the lift the bird would get from taking flight. If your bird still does not perform, stick around the area and try the process over in a few minutes. As we all know, it won't be long before the need arises. As you begin the project of potty training your bird, pay close attention to your bird's posturing so you will recognize the movement it will make prior to eliminating. By learning this motion you can predict the need to eliminate and grasp you bird gently at the top of its tail and move it to the proper receptacle in time to use your command, bridge, and reward.

As you have noticed during cage cleaning, your bird will usually eliminate off the same perch, creating a "poop mountain." I believe that this shows that birds have a somewhat developed sense of cleanliness, or at least a sense of habit in their elimination behavior. When a bird is out of its cage, it will also eliminate off the edge of a table or chair, if possible, to avoid contact with its droppings. Given this natural tendency to stay clean, once your bird realizes that you will give it a clean place to eliminate when it is out of its cage, it will welcome the opportunity to show off this practical new trick in a fairly short period of time. If the bird makes a mistake during training sessions, do not make a fuss or a big deal over cleaning it up as this may delight your bird from the dramatic standpoint. With consistent training methods, patience, and persistence, your bird can learn the practical trick of potty training, much to everyone's delight.

 

WARNING TO BIRD BREEDERS

by Laurella Desborough

With permission of Sunshine State Cage Bird Society

In the past few months we have received reports from breeders who indicate that they have received a knock on the door from an "official" demanding to see their facility and their birds. In one case the "official" was supposedly a zoology professor from the nearby university. Follow up phone calls to the department at the University revealed that no such professor existed, nor would the university have sent out such a person to inspect bird breeders' facilities.

In another case the "officials" were supposedly from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, wearing uniforms and driving an official looking truck. After these men went through the facility and spent time looking at each and every bird, the owner made some phone calls and discovered that the USFWS had no representatives in the area and would not have inspected a facility without a warrant.

The third case involved a person posing as a deputy sheriff who spent considerable time checking the birds and their aviaries. This man turned out to be a staff member on a county zoning committee, doing a little research for a developer who had an interest in eliminating bird breeders from the area where he planned an upscale development. In the first two cases, the individuals posing as officials may have been criminals scouting out the facilities; at this time it is unknown.

It is important that each of know our rights and stand up for them. Strangers knocking at your door may not be what they seem. Do not assume anything; check it out. If someone represents himself to be from a particular office or agency, ask to see identification, write down his name , title, agency, and location. Call the agency and ask if such a person works there, and if not, inform them of the situation and call the police.

In some counties and states, animal control officers have the right to enter your property if they have reason to believe that you are mistreating animals or birds. Complaints include overcrowding, no food or water, filthy cages, and sick or dying animals. It is always important to obtain the name and title of the person at the door and to check and make sure they are who they represent themselves to be. It is also important to obtain copies of complaints.

In our experience, most bird breeders who report that they have been visited by animal control have been turned in by someone who is angry at the bird breeder, including other bird breeders! It is important to avoid conflict with neighbors and to immediately resolve any conflicts which do occur. Animal control officers respond to complaints. Most people know that they can harass you by calling animal control and if the aggravation is sufficient, they will do so. Problems with animal control can be avoided by resolving conflicts with neighbors rather than allowing them to escalate. When there is no resolution, and they have called animal control, try to remain calm, record the date, time, and animal control officer's name and the purpose of the visit. Ask for a copy of the report they make on the visit top your facility. In this age, when many people want to regulate the behavior of their neighbors, we can all expect some difficulties that involve animal control or other agencies.

 

SOME NOTES ON COMMUNICATING WITH BIRDS

From Guide To A Well Behaved Parrot by Mattie Sue Athan (With permission of Baron's Educational Series Inc.)

Different types of parrots are known to have differing propensities for mimicking human speech. The ease with which

a parrot can physically produce speech is probably determined by the musculature in the trachea. Sound is produced by expelling air across the mouth of the bifurcated (having two branches) trachea. Variations in the sound are produced when the bird alters the depth and shape of the trachea. Some parrots seem to have great ability to produce various sounds while other have a limited ability. There is great variation from individuals of the same type. SPEAK THE BIRD'S LANGUAGE: When you spend time with a pre-speech bird, there are certain sounds it makes when presented with particular stimuli. An African Gray may "click" when it sees that favorite toy on the floor. A budgie or Amazon may "trill" to the hair dryer or "tut, tut, tut" to the reflection in the mirror. If you can reproduce the situation by making the same sound as the bird, then enticing the bird to repeat the sound, you have made a major communication breakthrough. You have modeled a behavior for the bird, then stimulated the bird to mimic the behavior.

BE REDUNDANT: A companion parrot will usually pick up the word it hears most frequently, usually a greeting. "Hello" in English is usually a little difficult for a bird to master, so try the Spanish greeting "Hola" "pronounced "Oh La," or the more continental "Ciao" (pronounced "Chow"). Birds usually repeat single syllable greetings first - "What,""Hi", "Ciao", followed later by "Hello" and "What cha doin?"

After the greeting the next most frequently repeated word in the household is often the name of a child or another pet. Yellow Napes are famous for making everybody crazy by calling children or other pets in the Mother's voice. Birds love "itty" sounds, like "pretty bird" and "itty, bitty pretty one." A large number of talking companion parrots say "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."

"BE CONVERSANT: While some parrots merely repeat individual words, other repeat whole or partial conversations, and they do so at surprisingly appropriate moments. They may say "Hi," pause for response, then "What cha doin?" when you come home; "Bye," pause and ""take it easy." when you leave; "come here." when they want you to come over; 'What!" when frightened; and "Night Night." when its time for bed.

SET A TALKATIVE EXAMPLE A young parrot that is not talked to or spends all its time with birds or humans who don't talk to each other will have less of a desire to communicate verbally. BABY BABBLE: Baby parrots get the cadence down first. They usually mutter unrecognizable syllables and practice babbling for hours, some times quietly and sometimes loudly, before actually producing understandable words.

THE RIFF (OR ROLL) Every day most healthy, talking parrots will spend a noticeable amount of time repeating what seems like their full repertoire of words. If a word disappears from its usual position in the sequence, it may not be heard again. Usually, however, the word will reappear later. COOING: Soothing "OOOOO" sounds are helpful when wishing to calm an angry, upset, or frightened bird. Totally wild or totally tame, all our feathered friends love lots of "Pooor baaby" and "Pooor ,pooor birdie.

"HISSSSSING: On the other hand, most birds will become alerted or even frightened by "shhh" or other hissing noises that sound like their natural enemy, the snake. Indeed, many birds, even nestlings, make snake like hissing sounds themselves to ward off other creatures. Hissing or shusshing at a bird can make it nervous and negatively affect its health and behavior.

SINGING: Whether you want your bird's undivided attention or wish to express joy to your bird, nothing is quite as effective as song. Many birds are totally mesmerized by singing humans, and others will court or sing along. Even if you are just "hanging out" with the bird, it will appreciate your song just as much as you enjoy the bird's song.

WHISPERING: Sometimes, particularly in dealing with a screamer, the most effective way to get the bird's attention is by whispering. This behavior communicates to the bird that its screams have been heard. If you cannot understand why it is screaming or are unable to change whatever it is screaming about, at least you are modeling an appropriate method of getting attention. If the bird is a "quick study" it might catch on and try whispering for your attention next time.

SCOLDING: In relating to birds, bird like behaviors ate most effective, and scolding is an absolutely bird like behavior.

If there are twenty or more birds in a tree, odds are that at least one bird is giving another bird a piece of its mind.

Strong, sharp, consonants are more effective as verbal reprimands: "Don't!" or "Stop!" rather than "No" which may sound almost soothing if not delivered with force.

TO WHISTLE OR NOT TO WHISTLE: Some people contend that if one teaches a good talking bird to whistle it will not reach its full talking potential. It seems that since a bird has no vocal cords, speech is accomplished by "moving" the lining of the bifurcated trachea into different configurations while expelling air across that opening. Therefore a talking parrot is actually whistling in syllables, and true whistling is more natural and easier to accomplish than talking. A very good talker might occasionally become so enchanted with a new whistle that it will discontinue talking in favor of whistling for a time. It happened with my young yellow nape when a well meaning friend taught him to wolf whistle. Portia didn't talk for a couple of weeks and nearly drove me mad with that obnoxious whistle.

I don't think its a bad idea, however, to use whistling as a substitute or a transition for teaching birds who find talking difficult. Many parrots that may be only fair talkers can become accomplished whistlers.

DON'T SCREAM: It is very easy to teach most parrots to scream. This is an instinctive reaction to visual isolation and barrier frustration and is easily reinforced by screaming back and forth from one room to another. Also, no matter how loudly a bird screams - particularly if it is a good talker - don't try to reprimand it by screaming back. You might be teaching another loud call to practice at sunrise. Better to deliver a stern look and a forceful reprimand in a calm assertive voice followed by some form of distraction. Don't become discouraged if it seems to take a long time for the bird to learn to speak your language. It is an awesome accomplishment for any creature. I have seen birds who never managed a single word speak up to twenty words four years after their introduction to the home. It is a parrot's nature to communicate verbally. Even if your bird is not fluent in your language, keep listening. I am sure that it is trying to tell you something.

 

GIARDIA

Infection by the microscopic parasite, Giardia, is most commonly found in Budgies and Cockatiels, but it does occur in Quakers. The parasite lives in the bird's intestines causing damage of varying intensity to the walls of the intestine. This keeps the bird in a run down condition, making it susceptible to other diseases.

The affected bird may show weight loss, diarrhea, and general poor health. In breeding birds, poor hatch rate and early death of hatchlings may be the only obvious symptom. Feather plucking is another symptom frequently associated with Giardia.

Diagnosis by an Avian Vet is made by examination of the bird's droppings. There are a number of effective medications which can be prescribed for treatment, although severe reactions to some of these are not uncommon. Treatment should be given only under the direct supervision of an Avian Vet.

Relapses are common. Keeping the aviary and the cage clean and dry and avoiding contamination of the water are the best preventatives.

 

QUAKERS AT LARGE

Hey, Mom! Look What Followed Me Home!

By David Wright

When I was a child it seemed there was always a plethora of interesting animals who "desired" to live at my house. Dutifully, as I'd find each one, I'd take it home and begin explaining to my mother how each was in need of care that only I could provide. Over the years our home was graced with lizards, snakes, tortoises, spiders, dogs, fish, cats, mice, chipmunks, hamsters, guinea pigs and birds. (I probably missed a few animal species)! My mother was fairly tolerant of each new guest as long as she wasn't involved with its care or ministrations. I have found, over the years, that many other people shared my experiences with bringing home wild or abandoned animals for which they felt an urgent need to provide homes and/or care. Caring for animals seems to be a near universal human desire.

Lately, because wild Quakers are to be found in so many areas of the U.S., I have been besieged with requests on how to capture, attract and/or care for wild Quakers. For the well meaning individuals requesting such information the animal caring tendency has extended into adulthood. I realize these individuals are trying to provide assistance for a bird(s) that they find interesting or they believe could not survive on its own in the wild. Consistently, I emphatically declare, "don't do it!" Don't bring a wild Quaker home!

Wild Quakers are living in the wild for any one of a number of reasons including, in some parts of America, recent escapes.

Birds living in the wild, however, are quite different from pet birds. First of all, they "enjoy" being on their own. They do not enjoy the recapture process regardless of what form it takes. Unless the bird is injured or is an escaped pet who comes readily and voluntarily to your hand, an escaped Quaker is living in the wild because that's where he wants to be. Secondly, you don't know where he's been. You have no idea what, if any, diseases this wild bird may be carrying. While our Connecticut experiences with wild Quakers has shown them to be relatively disease free, why expose yourself, your family, or other pet birds in your home to an entirely unknown vector of disease? Wild birds carry all kinds of diseases including viruses that can cause severe human respiratory infection. Thirdly, wild Quakers rarely make good pets. Contact a reliable Quaker breeder who can supply you with a wonderful hand-raised baby Quaker. Your satisfaction with Quaker ownership will be much greater when the object of your affection is a Quaker with a "known past." Fourth, Quakers live in the wild in large flocks. Your home is not going to provide a very satisfying environment for a formerly wild Quaker used to traveling in the company of numerous others of its own kind. No matter what your appearance or how large your family neither you nor they will resemble a wild Quaker flock. Quakers love flying with the flock!

Now, having said all that, regrettably I know some of you will ignore my advice should a Quaker decide to call your backyard home or should you come across a capture able Quaker living in the wild. When the "Quaker tree" here in Bridgeport, Connecticut fell down in the summer of 1993 there were all kinds of people clamoring into the fallen tree to retrieve a "free parrot" or to acquire a baby to raise. They did so much to the peril of their own safety, against all advice of those professional birders onsite and in defiance of the privacy of the owners of the property in whose yard the "Quaker tree" had stood.

Therefore, if you must come in contact with a wild Quaker for whatever reason, I offer the following advice. Quakers are not indigenous to America and, therefore, fall under none of the existing laws governing wild birds. Rehabbers, while interested in wild Quakers no doubt, are forbidden by law and ethics to return Quakers to the wild, so, that wild Quaker you have found or captured cannot be returned to the wild legally. You should take your wild charge to a reliable and knowledgeable avian veterinarian. This veterinarian should conduct a standard regime of tests on the bird for all the "usual" pet bird ills. This should be done even if the wild Quaker appears healthy in every way.

Until the bird has a clean bill of health from the vet the wild Quaker should be maintained in a part of your home away from other birds. After the vet has found your wild Quaker to be disease free, he or she should still be isolated from your other pet birds for at least six weeks. This way, if the Quaker is harboring a pathogen not detected by the vet you can prevent a spread of disease to your other pets or to yourself. Most diseases should manifest themselves during this isolation period. Also, during this six week period of time, try not to handle the bird. Your natural desires will encourage you to do so but if you were bringing a wild cat, dog or other animal into your home you would want to take the appropriate precautions for your own safety.

In the future I will write on the parasites that are associated with Quakers living in the wild. In the meantime, please let the wild Quakers remain in the wild. They do very well "out there."

 

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