FROM THE EDITOR
This issue marks the 6th birthday
of The Quaker News. I havenít taken the time to count, but a surprisingly
large number of you who subscribe have been with me since the first
issue in January of 1994. I feel that so many of you, and many more
recent subscribers too, are really friends. We are joined by our mutual
admiration for our little green (and blue) ever entertaining Quakers.
Even more surprising is the difficulty I
have in choosing which of your letters to include in each issue. There
is just no end to the talking ability and behavior you report, and the
desire to share your justifiable pride in your birdís accomplishments.
I experience this same difficulty trying to
decide which of the interesting, educational articles available to share
with you. I am involved in breeding and showing Quarter horses and
English Mastiffs as well as birds. I will admit that in each of these
fields a lot of reading and study is involved - in genetics, behavior,
and related topics. Neither of these even approaches the ever increasing
amount of knowledge that is available about our pet birds. After twenty
years or more, and my rating as an "expert" ( what ever that
may be) I find that there is more and more to learn about exotic birds.
There is no end to the knowledge available and no way any one person
will ever "know it all." We all learn from each other,
constantly, and help each other to find solutions to problems.
So, thanks for all your support and the help
you have given me in making The Quaker News a success. May 1999 be a
healthy and happy year for all of you and all of our Quakers!
FROM OUR READERS
Dear Linda; I was a new bird owner when I
got Niko (my Quaker) six years ago. We are best buddies and I love him
dearly. Being a novice, I donít think I verbalized
enough with him. Plus, I am a teacher and live alone so am not home
during the day. I know that he wants to talk. He often mimics (answer
machine beeps, microwave beeps, cleaning window squeeks, etc.) I do
allow him to be fully feathered. He is beautiful, graceful, and
cautious. Iíve been very careful which is possible because Niko and I
are room mates (no one else to have to worry about being careless of
him) I am wondering, could he ever learn to speak at such a late age?
Sometimes I think its because we are so bonded that he does not talk to
me. Who knows what he says when I am gone! I love him the way he is, but
wonder if itís possible to build a vocabulary
now. Maria from Missouri
I have no actual experience with Quakers who
have only started to talk this late, but I donít see any reason Niko,
who mimics other sounds, should not do so. All talking birds seem to
respond to what they hear spoken, frequently, very clearly
and with enthusiasm. Mattie Sue Athen, in her Guide to The Quaker
Parakeet, suggests that you talk to your bird while it is inside its
cage. You make use of the birdís desire to be out of the cage by
repeatedly saying, for example, "Want out!" before opening the
door. With time and patience this may start Niko on the path to speech.
I do not like to hear of a pet being allowed
freedom while fully feathered. No matter how careful you are, accidents
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Dear Linda; I have a Quaker one year old
(raised from 6 weeks, who loves me and my boys 11 and 14. The bird hates
my husband, actually has attacked him. He has never harmed the bird. I
wonder if he is fearful of my husband. How can we help this Quaker to
become friends? Sara from Georgia
He well may, for reasons known only to him,
have decided that your husband is a threat to his safety. Some of the
experts on bird behavior also feel that this type of behavior is caused
by the birdís flocking instinct. This is a protective measure where in
the wild, birds drive weaklings away. "Weakling" may be
interpreted by the bird very differently than what the term means to us.
It may mean the nicest person in the family, the smallest, or even
It is entirely possible for
your husband to make friends with your pet if he has the time and
patience for a very slow approach . Quiet talk while offering treats
from his hand (very carefully!) daily over a long period of time is a
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Dear Linda; Some day I hope to
own a blue Quaker! Paul from Florida
The blue mutation has come down
in price quite drastically in the last year, and there is no doubt that
this trend will continue. Because there are many more breeders now
supplying Blues, the old law of supply and demand is taking over. The
Blues are lovely, and a source of pride to own, but the endearing
personalities of the Quakers are the same regardless of the color of
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Dear Linda; I enjoy reading any
and all anecdotes about Quakers. Our birdís clever antics and
appropriate use of vocabulary have made him an endearing pet. Can anyone
out there breed a non squawking Quaker? Elizabeth from Mo We canít
really breed them not to squawk at all but we can eliminate a lot of
this annoying habit but being consistent in our reactions. Try not to
reward squawking by attention, and even scolding is a form of attention.
Work at giving attention to your pet when he is being quiet. Never
happens? It might seem that way. And totally ignoring a noisy bird is
difficult, but the basic principle of rewarding only desirable behavior
works well on birds as well as children. Some of our readers report
finding different approaches - responding by whispering singing,
whistling, etc. to distract your pet. Anyone have an effective idea to
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Dear Linda; My Quaker Bobby was
very sick when I purchased him from a local pet store. I sensed that he
was ill because he was very quiet and not active. I was right. The Vet
said that he had a bacterial infection and he is all right now. He was
one year old in November.. There was a picture of a Quaker on a recent
copy of Bird Talk. Bobby kisses the birdís beak on the cover and says
"Hi, Bobby" Nancy from New York
Bobby is a smart little bird
and fortunately has a smart owner too, who picked up on symptoms of
disease early on and sought treatment promptly.
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Dear Linda; I am new at raising
and breeding Quakers and need all the help I can get. My pair seems to
be doing every thing they are supposed to be doing, but no eggs. The
breeder I bought them from said that they breed easy. Well, it has been
about three months and no eggs. Karen from Texas
You are expecting too much from
your birds, Karen. They are easy to breed, but three months! Breeding
season here in Florida occurs twice a year. Late summer and early winter
are when our birds are most prolific. Quakers are usually ready for
breeding by the age of two, sometimes as early as nine months. Give them
much more time. It all depends on many factors - their age, how they are
set up, the climate where you live, any number of things to consider.
Breeding is not just automatic when you put two birds together. When you
have given them ample time consider checking on whether you actually
have a male and female by DNA sexing.
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Dear Linda; I would like to
know more about differences in the behavior and / or personalities of
male versus female Quakers. Are there really definite differences, etc.?
Also, if a person found out their Quaker is a male rather than a female
they thought they had, how should this be handled? Should you just
continue to say "good girl" etc.?
Donna from Oklahoma
I have never observed
differences in behavior in male and female Quakers except possibly in
the breeding situation. For pets, their sex is really of no importance.
They talk equally well, and make wonderful pets regardless. This is true
of most pet birds. We have an African grey who we thought for years was
a male. His name is Willie. Just out of curiosity I had him sexed along
with a group I was having done, It turned out that Willie is a hen but
out of habit we just disregard this fact and he (oops!) she doesnít
seem to mind a bit.
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Dear Linda; Help! Water bottle:
what kind to use? Open cup : He takes a bath. Plastic bottle: He bites
on it till he breaks it loose. Parakeet Bottle: He puts food in it,
water full of mush. Frances from Mo.
Your experiences with providing
Elmo drinking water sound all too familiar. After trials with many
varieties I have just discontinued the use of water bottles in our
aviaries and with our pet birds both. Unless they are thoroughly cleaned
with hot water and soap and disinfected daily - a time consuming and
tedious job - they are quickly contaminated during use. Although the
water may appear clear it is providing a good breeding round for
bacteria. In addition they are easily and frequently stopped up while in
use. Quite a few birds learn to play with them and learn to empty out
the contents in short order. We use ceramic type, heavy, shallow crock
dishes. We clean and disinfect them daily - a quick and easy task every
morning. Each afternoon we check and refill or rinse out as needed.
These dishes are so inexpensive
it is practical to obtain a sufficient supply for a few birds to run
them through the dish washer at intervals. If used for bathing or
"dunking" rinsing them out when needed is just a momentís
work. The heavy crock dish doesnít tip over or lend itself to chewing.
Plastic dishes the same shape and size are not nearly as practical. They
are difficult to keep clean, are "chewable", and often have a
chemical odor when soaked. Many breeders and pet owners will not agree
with me but this is my own final solution to a long standing problem.
PFTE MIRACLE OF MODERN
South Jersey Bird Club News
Ever wonder what Teflon is made
from or where it came from? According to Newsweek, Teflon is the super
hero of polymers. Neither heat or cold can hurt it nor acid attack it.
But Teflon is best known for another quality, itís slipperiness.
Teflon was discovered by DuPont
Chemist Roy Plunkett while he was discovering refrigerants in 1938.
Plunket had pumped freon gas into a cylinder and left it is cold storage
overnight. The next morning he was surprised to find the cylinder empty.
He sawed the container open and found the gas had formed into a powdery
, white solid, polyteraflourethylene, which he called Teflon.
Remember PTFE can kill your
birds if it overheats on your non-stick cook wear or self cleaning oven.
Teflon is now required by US law to be placed on all red heat light
bulbs to prevent shattering. These bulbs are normally used in brooders
with disastrous often deadly results. Teflon is found on all new space
heaters, humidifiers, new ovens. Scotbrited carpets, etc.. So when
preparing for winter let these new items burn off or gas off PTFE at a
neighbor or relatives house for a season and wait until next year before
using them in a room with your bird.
SOURCES OF LEAD POISON
Adapted from Flights of Fancy
Sunshine State Cage Bird
There are many sources that
lead can be obtained from by a bird that is not supervised. Just one
more reason that it is very inadvisable and dangerous to let a bird play
around the house unobserved.
Some of the many sources of
sufficient lead to poison your bird are:
Many antiques, base of light
bulbs, mirror backing, batteries, linoleum, solder, bullets, some
zippers, air rifle pellets, costume jewelry, exposure to leaded gasoline
fumes, sheet rock, old paint, Dolomite and bone meal products,
galvanized chicken wire, foil from champagne or wine bottles, frames of
stained glass windows or ornaments, weighted plastic toys or ashtrays,
Tiffany lamps, weights for draperies, hardware cloth, fishing and scuba
diving equipment, and many, many more that are just normal household
HUMAN-AVIAN RESPONSE SYNDROME
The North American Parrot
In the past 100 years of
domestication our avian companions have developed some interesting
complex behaviors that seem to be aimed at creating responses in humans
that are frequently well beyond the realm of normal human behavior. Many
of these avian activities have become so ingrained they are actually
being passed on in "genetic memory " to offspring as
instinctive behaviors. I have spent nearly a thousandth of a century
studying these avian activities and human reactions. I would like to
highlight the following activities involved in 90% of the cases of
Human-Avian Insanity Response Syndrome or H,A.R.I.S..
1. THE GREAT TOE HUNT - where a
bird , large or small, chases human feet with the ferocity of a pit bull
on crack. This is an impressive activity when performed by a bird that
can assume Maximum Fluffage, such as a Moluccan Cockatoo, but generates
more avian humor and human embarrassment if performed by a Parrolett or
a Budgie. Humans seem to have an instinctive need to protect their toes
and perform interesting dances and vocalizations in an effort to avoid a
2. THE GARBAGE TORNADO- Where
the wings are flapped to produce maximum air movement while the feet
hold tightly to a perch. The result is a whirlwind of detritus from the
bottom of the cage. This activity is usually launched just after the
appearance of the Vacuum of Death and frequently results in the
Frustration Dance and/or the Chant of Invective on the part of the human
3. THE FOUNTAIN OF POOP - a
disgusting activity reserved for those special moments when guests are
admiring the "pretty bird." The trigger for this activity is
usually a phrase such as "Are birds messy?", followed by a
negative response. Within seconds, a fecal presentation is made that
makes African termite mounds pale in comparison. Some special variation
exercised at the discretion of the avian subject can include pooping for
distance, special aromatic overtones, and saving the presentation until
placed on the arm of the guest. The probability of an occurrence of the
latter variation is directly proportional to the cost of the guestís
clothing or their social or career-related importance.
4. THE WORD - a behavior where
word or phrase of startling vulgarity, the suggestion of a barely
possible physical act, or the imitation of an embarrassing human body
noise is presented in the presence of a guest. The vocalization is
usually something never heard before the time of the utterance.
FOR PET BIRDS
Edward S Spenser M.S. D.V.M.
From The South Jersey Bird
Club Newsletter (-Continued from last issue)
The first and biggest problem
with these products is simply this: BIRDS DO NOT GET SIMPLE COLDS. A
cold is defined in Cecilís textbook of Medicine ( a standard textbook
on human diseases) as " Although the term common cold does not
denote a precisely defined disease, it has an almost universally
comprehended meaning of an acute, self limiting common illness of all
age groups in which the major clinical manifestations involve the upper
respiratory tract and which nasal discharge or nasal obstruction is the
The key phrase here is
"self limited." Most colds in people get better in time
without major complications and thus are not considered too serious. The
use of the term "cold" on the labeling for bird medicine
implies a self-limiting disease that is not life threatening. This is
misleading because respiratory symptoms in birds are not colds at all
but frequently bacterial or chlamydial infections that can be quite
serious if left untreated. Allergic disease has been implicated in some
respiratory conditions. Regardless of the cause, these animals require
veterinary attention and, when appropriate, selected antibiotic therapy.
Some conditions can be life threatening. Psittacosis or "parrot
fever" can present as a respiratory syndrome. This disease is
transmissible to humans and symptomatic therapy dismissing the disease
as a "cold" can have adverse consequences for the bird, itís
owner, and members of the household.
You will find many products
labeled to treat "diarrhea" in pet birds. Most of them are
based on kaolin-pectin combinations, similar to those sold for the use
of humans. There are several problems with this. First, diarrhea in pet
birds is rarely the self limiting, uncomplicated condition that is
experienced in humans. True diarrhea ( other than transitory changes in
the birdís stools due to certain fresh foods) or changes in the
droppings, is actually considered rare in pet birds and is a symptom of
systemic illness. Second, it is common for a pet bird owner to observe
excess liquid in the droppings and call this "diarrhea." The
problem may actually be a condition called "polyuria" which is
an excess of urine and urates from the kidneys. This is easily confused
by the inexperienced bird owner. Polyuria is much more common and also
is a symptom of an underlying disease.
are available at most pet stores for fish and birds. These, with a
couple of lesser known exceptions, are not approved by the FDA and are
manufactured to unknown standards of quality. Most are intended for use
in drinking water and can include tetracyclines and erthromycin. There
are many reasons why treating your pet bid with these products may be
detrimental. The following reasons are just a few:
1. If a bird is sick it usually
does not drink much water. Putting drugs in the drinking water does not
really assure that the bird is taking an adequate quantity of the drug
to obtain a therapeutic effect.
2. Some antibiotics placed in
the drinking water break down very quickly and become less effective
with time. In addition , many birds object to the bitter taste and will
not drink treated water at all, which could lead to dehydration and
further debilitation .
3. The antibiotics sold in pet
stores are not effective against many of the bacterial infections in pet
4. Even at low levels, these
antibiotics can kill normal bacteria living in the birdís
gastrointestinal tract. Thus further weakening it and making it
susceptible to other pathogen bacteria, yeast, or fungus infections.
5. If you use these products
first and then seek a veterinarianís help it can be harder to diagnose
the disease as even low level antibiotics can effect diagnostic tests
such as cultures.
6. Indiscriminate use of low
level antibiotics can contribute to development of resistant bacterial
strains and "superinfections" that are difficult to treat.
This is well recognized in other species, including man.
The rationale behind using
over-the-counter antibiotics in general does not stand up to scientific
scrutiny and points to their being more detrimental than helpful.
Your bird is important to you,
so line up a qualified avian veterinarian before you need one. Pet store
personnel, although they have good intentions, are not trained in
veterinary medicine and should not be dispensing medical advice except
to refer you to a professional. Avian medicine has come a long way in
the past ten years. There are now a small number of "board
certified" avian specialists in the US with numbers growing yearly.
Equally important organizations like The association of Avian
Veterinarians (AAV and other veterinary associations have been very
active in educating veterinarians in all aspects of avian medicine and
surgery. Diagnostic labs that are adept at working with the small
amounts of blood and other samples drawn from birds are available. Avian
medicine is still a young science but it has come a long way.
Avoid believing that
over-the-counter drugs or "remedies" will save your birdís
life in a crisis. This false hope may be detrimental to your birdís
health and wastes valuable time. Donít wait until it is too late to
DIETS AND TREATS - FREQUENTLY
By Kathryn A. Smith
From Chirp "N"
Chatter- Big Bend Bird Club
What can I feed my bird?
A pelleted diet is a good
choice with seeds as a treat. You can feed your bird just about anything
that is good for you. They can eat fruits, vegetables, low fat yogurt,
an occasional bit of cheese, lean meat, chicken and turkey are good,
cereals like corn flakes, or crisped rice, whitefish. An occasional nut
is fine, but be careful as nuts are very fatty and peanuts which are
moldy can give a bird aspergilliosis. Basically, it seems that anything
that is good for you is good for your bird. There is a raging debate
over what exactly is a good diet, but it seems that a vet recommended
pellet diet, with a little seed, and a choice of fruits and vegetable
daily is a good choice. Each pellet in a pelleted diet has been made so
that it is nutritionally complete. You can also feed your birds
prepackaged diet supplements that are cooked, like Crazy Corn. Most
birds love stuff like that.
Do birds need variety?
Yes, but many birds have
learned to be finicky eaters. Sometimes disguising the good food within
a food that the bird will eat will help the bird to like new and
Okay, then, what CAN"T my bird eat?
Chocolate, alcohol, Avocado,
rhubarb and caffeine are toxic to your birds. Never feed them to you
birds. Some seeds and pits are also toxic, but seeds from melons are OK
Foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar are no-nos too.
ABOUT THOSE TREATS
From The Quaker News of
January, 1994 (worth repeating)
With so many goodies in our
homes, the holiday season has been a difficult time for pet bird owners.
It is hard to deny the little beggars just a bite of your chocolate chip
cookie, or not to enjoy watching your bird cleverly handle a small
pretzel. We excuse this indulgence with the thought that just a little
bit wonít hurt.
When giving treats we must
consider that the weight of the average Quaker is only 125 Grams. This
translates into roughly 4 ounces, or only about .0023% of a human owner
weighing 135 pounds. I chose 135 pounds as just an arbitrary figure.
After the holidays, congratulations to those of you this number fits!
Just think about ,
proportionally, how much caffeine, sugar, or salt a human would be
consuming to ingest 400 to 500 times the amount given to the bird. Give
your bird just one quarter of a small cookie and the equivalent amount
for you yourself would be at least 100 cookies. One teaspoon of your
morning coffee is the proportionate amount of caffeine you would be
drinking in 400 to 500 teaspoons - about ten cups of coffee. My figures
are only approximations, and subject to correction, but even if not
completely accurate, the lesson that even a little bit can hurt is very
Let us all make a New Years
Resolution for the better health of our pets. Only healthy treats in
1999! They will not feel deprived if you offer a grape, a slice of
apple, a bit of whole wheat bread or corn muffin, or one of the bird
treat products being offered in the pet stores. They will be stronger
and healthier birds as a result. Refusing them unhealthy treats is a
demonstration of your love for them. Anything containing salt in
considerable amounts, large amounts of fat and sugar, and even the small
amounts of caffeine found in coffee, tea, or colas should be considered
harmful, no matter how small the amount.
LESSONS FROM THE PERCH
The N.A.P.S. Times
1. If you spend too much time
looking in the mirror, it is easy to lose your balance.
2. Always keep a pleasant look
on your face, even if your cage does need cleaning,
3. If your mate wants to share
your perch with you, move over.
4. The real treats in life
usually come only after youíve cracked a few nuts.
5. It takes two to snuggle.
6. Sometimes your mate can see
mites you didnít even know you had.
7. Singing draws more affection
8. It is only when your
feathers get ruffled that your true colors really show.
9. Too many toys can be
10. When you have love in your
heart, everyone around you will find joy in your presence.
ANGELíS FAVORITE THINGS TO
Sunshine State Cage Bird Society Flights Of Fancy
The birds have requested a
little space in the newsletter to share their favorite hobbies with
other ADCís (Avian Domestic Companions) As they help us type it seemed
like a reasonable exchange. Angel, a one year old hen, gets to go first.
1. Wait until humans are ready
to put me back in the cage, then put my head down for a preening. This
2. Weave teddy bear toy through
the rope ring perch. This is a lot of fun.
3. Eat with the humans. They do
give us a "bird plate" with a lot of meals, but it just tastes
better when you take it from their plates.
4. Cuddle up to another flock
member. This is a good way to keep friends and get your pin feathers
5. Shower with a human friend.
This took some getting used to, but itís a great way to get your tail
clean if you have been perched under a budgie.