THE QUAKER NEWS

JANUARY 1999

 

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 do happen.

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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 another pet.

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 start.

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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 their plumage.

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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 report?

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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 SCIENCE

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 Society

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 items.

 

        HUMAN-AVIAN RESPONSE SYNDROME

The North American Parrot Society

                                          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 painful beaking.

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 being.

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.

 

OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATIONS FOR PET BIRDS

Edward S Spenser M.S. D.V.M.

From The South Jersey Bird Club Newsletter (-Continued from last issue)

 

Respiratory and "cold" remedies

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 predominate symptom."

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.

DIARRHEA TREATMENTS

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.

ANTIBIOTICS

Over-the-counter antibiotics 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 birds.

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.

CONCLUSION

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 discover this.

 

DIETS AND TREATS - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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 different foods.

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 clear.

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 than squawking.

8. It is only when your feathers get ruffled that your true colors really show.

9. Too many toys can be distracting.

10. When you have love in your heart, everyone around you will find joy in your presence.

 

ANGELíS FAVORITE THINGS TO DO

From
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 always works.

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 preened.

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.

 

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