FROM THE EDITOR
I recently was privileged to
speak at a two day Seminar hosted by The Bird Clubs of Virginia. While
there I attended a number of lectures given by respected and well known
Avian Veterinarians. The big emphasis, by all these experts, was on the
importance of using a complete pelleted food diet for the long term good
health of our birds. Only one of them had any personal interest in
marketing a particular brand. As a breeder, after frequent experiments
in my own aviaries, I have been for many years "sold" on
pelleted bird food in preference to seed.
In both breeding and production
of outstanding show birds, the evaluation of the results of diet are
especially important. I have found that egg production, fertility rate
and general health and size of the chicks are definitely improved with a
complete pelleted diet. I am satisfied that my award winning show birds
owe their size and lovely plumage in great part to this diet plan.
For many pet owners making the
transition from seeds to pellets is a stressful experience. Given only a
tiny portion of seed mixed with the pellets (For a single Quaker this
equates to a scant tablespoon) and no other food, even the most stubborn
of our little green companions will within a week be happily enjoying
the complete nutrition offered in every bite of a pelleted diet. The
vitamins and minerals supplied by fruits and vegetables are already
there. Nutritious treats can be started again, for the enjoyment of both
owner and pet, after the pelleted food has been fully accepted. These
should comprise less than 20% of the birds total intake.
We are currently using the
Harrison Diet, available only at you Veterinarian's. In the past we have
I did not really need the
advice of these experts, except to reinforce my own conclusions and to
instruct me in the technical details and specifics of the plan I already
FROM OUR READERS
I am the owner of a very tame,
adorable Quaker, but he is a very bored bird. I have purchased myriad
toys but none seem to interest him. He has taken a fancy to, of all
things, jar lids. I do work and am gone a large part of the day, but
every day when I get home I let him out of the cage as much as possible.
Do you have any suggestions? Genell in Texas
Many of our pets prefer such
things as plastic sink stoppers, measuring spoons, bunches of keys,
cardboard rolls from tissue or towels, etc. to the expensive toys we
buy. I can only suggest a new plaything or two each day, and the
patience to wait out your bird's "Adolescent " years.
- - - - - - - -
- - -
My Quaker, Tony,
went through his first molt and was just beginning to get primary flights
of length. They were so pretty and blue, I let them grow, thinking that he
would need many more to fly. I was wrong! One day he suddenly took off at
ceiling level where I could not reach him. He flew across
the room into a large mirror and crashed to the floor, unresponsive to me.
By some miracle he was OK, but I was not. I cried with relief. He could
have died. His wings were clipped as soon as we both recovered, in about
an hour. Shannon West in Virginia
Every one is not so
lucky. Those ceiling fans are another hazard that claim the lives of
- - - - - - - - -
When my Quaker is in
a relaxed mood he either by himself or with encouragement, bobs his head
up and down. I was wondering if this is a common thing among Quakers or if
Tucker is just being "silly.' Mary in Missouri
Baby chicks in the
nest and during the hand feeding stage bob their heads up and down while
begging for food. Tucker is not necessarily telling you that he is hungry
just an old comfortable habit from his baby days.
- - - - - - - - - - -
My Quaker is four
years old. I thought that she was a he and something was terribly wrong.
"He" had become really nippy and mean to other people, and
sometimes even to me. When "she" laid her first egg I finally
understood it was only PMS and she is back to normal now. Mickey from
If PMS was the
cause, aren't we lucky that our birds do not follow a monthly cycle!
- - - - - - - - - - -
I have a year and a
half old Quaker named Echo who I suspect is a male. I understand that
Quakers are the only parrots who build their nests and that some are quite
spectacular. I am wondering if Echo would build a nest even though he has
no mate. My reason for giving him this opportunity are to give him
something to do while I am at work and he may enjoy sleeping in it.
Rebecca from Texas
Have any of our
readers ever had a single Quaker build a nest? I have never heard of this,
but anything is possible.
I MAY BE LOUD BUT
I AM SO LOVEABLE
Permission of the Suncoast Avian Society
Just when I think I
have everything under control, the telephone stops ringing, the cable TV
is working, and my check book finally balances, it happens. Out of the
blue, it starts - that sound that the neighbors looks forward to so much.
My Quaker is practicing for the hollering contest and all I want him to do
is stop, NOW.
Understanding why a
bird screams is necessary if you want to tone them down a bit. They shriek
for attention, out of boredom, when they are threatened or afraid, and
upset, or in pain, or just plain jealous. They also scream to their mate
or flock, in which case that would be you. You can't keep them quiet all
of the time, but you can make their squawking a little easier to live
By far the best method of all to deal with this behavior is NEVER
acknowledge it. Most of the time this is something that you have taught
the bird to do. Respond only to what you view as good behavior.
AFRAID: You really need to try to find out what the problem is and correct
it if possible. Show them that it is not going to hurt them or you. Your
bird may just hate your T-shirt with the cat print on it.
SCREAMING WHEN YOU
LEAVE THE ROOM: Calling to its mate or flock is the way birds keep track
and greet one another in the wild. Basically you can't eliminate this
behavior but you can modify it. Locate the cage in an area where you spend
most of your time or where you are within sight of it. Every time you
leave the bird's sight, whistle, sing, or repeat a little phrase which is
easy for your bird to imitate. The idea is to teach your bird a pleasant
sound that will satisfy its instinctive desire to stay in contact with the
flock. (meaning you.)
SUNRISE AND SUNSET:
This is another instinctive behavior used to assemble all the members of
the flock. Morning hours seem to be the least favorite time to hear those
feathered alarm clocks calling us. There is only one solution - dictate
when sunrise is. Covering the cage, or using a small sleeping cage in a
room where no hint of sunrise is evident may work.
Sunset is another
matter. Make it a play time, or special treat or toy time. Some respond to
low key singing or speaking in whispers. The trick here is to keep them
feathered friends need plenty of stimulation just as young children do.
Provide a variety of toys, of different shapes, sizes, and color - some
they can play with and some for their chewing and destroying pleasure.
When you are too busy to pay, try putting their cage or playpen near a
window - never in direct sunlight. The key here is to use your imagination
and experiment. Find out what entertains your bird.
It is possible to
turn your bird's bad traits into ones you can live with simply by
observing and understanding their natural behavior.
Alysse Rasmussen -
lived 150 million years ago, had feathers....feathers that were exactly
like the feathers of our modern birds. Moat scientists believe that
feathers evolved from scales. But scientists are divided as to the reason
that birds developed feathers. Some believe that they were developed as a
means of controlling body temperature. Most believe that they evolved as
an aid to gliding and flight and that the first changes from scale to
feather occurred on the arms (wings) and tails.
But what is a
feather? Typically, we think of it as a single stiff shaft with the
"feather part" on both sides. Those "feather parts"
are called vanes. The inner vane lies toward the center of the bird's
body. The outer vane is generally narrower and takes the brunt of the
wind's force when birds fly.
The shaft of a
feather can be divided into two parts.
The calamus ( the
part that gets dipped into inkwells) lies beneath the skin, is hollow, and
has no vanes. The upper part,
the rachis, is more solid (though not necessarily 100% solid) and has a
groove on the back side. The vanes extend from the rachis.
fascinating. They are not a single, solid plane
of material. Instead they consist of tiny, tiny branches, called barbs.
The barbs (individual pieces of feather you can separate from the other
individual pieces along the vane) have little branches of their own. These
branchlets are called barbules and you really need a magnifying glass to
get a good look at them. Barbules had to have been the inspiration behind
the concept of velcro. Distal barbules (those along the top edge of a
barb) have little hooks, named, appropriately enough, hooklets. Proximal
barbules( those on the lower edge of the barb) have little hooks called
All these little
hooks (barbules) work just like gossamer -thin velcro. Push them together,
they form a smooth, continuous surface that helps a bird fly. Pull them
apart, you've got a whole bunch of pieces with "no lift."
When the barbs
(remember those individual pieces you can separate from the other
pieces?) become separated a bird simply "zips" himself back
together again by running the feather through his bill from the base to
the tip. Zip! The fancy term for "Zip" is preening. Birds do it
every day. In fact, preening is such a crucial, survival technique that a
good deal of a bird's waking hours are spent preening.
The feather that we
have been talking about so far is what
is known as the flight feather. It is the longest and strongest, because
it is used for flying. Body feathers look quite similar to flight
feathers, but they are generally shorter and smaller, with a more flexible
rachis. Collectively, flight and body feathers are called contour
feathers, because they give shape to a bird's body.
Feathers don't stop
there. Birds have all kinds of specialized
feathers to meet their special needs - down, semiplumes, filoplumes,
bristles, powder down feathers, and many others. The most fascinating for
me, are the under feathers of some African sandgrouse. The male sandgrouse
travels miles to find water. He then sits in it and soaks it up like a
sponge. When he goes back home, the babies drink their fill from his
QUAKERS AND THE LAW
Nancy, a friend from
Ohio, recently sent her five Quakers to Florida for safekeeping while she
spearheads a battle against regulations against Quakers in her state.
These are rulings,
not laws, made by an appointed official
of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. which are difficult to get
reversed. The decision to put Quakers on the "destructive or
dangerously Harmful Plant Pests" list was not made from Ohio's
findings, but on reports from other states. Ohio is said to have only two
known colonies of feral Quakers, their numbers estimated to be about one
As the ruling stands, if the Ohio
Department of Agriculture
finds you in possession of a Quaker you will be given five choices:
1. Return the
birds to their state of origin or another state where they are
2. Have the birds neutered or sterilized so that they are
incapable of producing offspring.
3. Have the
bird euthanized by a Veterinarian or animal shelter.
4. Pinion both
wings of adult birds; pinion both wings of chicks at 3 to 4 weeks of
age. (Pinion means the surgical removal of the terminal section of a
wing to restrain a bird from flight.)
5. Submit a
written request to the ODA for an administrative hearing.
Failure to comply is
followed by confiscation of the birds and going to court and facing fines
of at least $500.
If you are as
horrified by this information as I have been
please offer your support. Perhaps you have suggestions for methods which
have been successful in other states which have succeeded in changing
equally unjust regulations on Quakers. This is a cause we all need to join
in. I will be happy to forward your letters to Nancy.
MAKING A COMPANION
OF A PET BIRD
Bringing your pet
bird home is as exciting as it is challenging. Nothing in life really
prepares you for owning and understanding the needs of your pet bird. Most
pet birds are more sensitive and intelligent than dogs or cats, and most
of us have not spent much time observing parrots' moods and behavior
patterns before we get them into our homes.
Because parrots are
extremely intelligent, we must beginto set the guidelines for life in our
homes on the very first day we bring our birds home. Starting off on the
right foot will allow your bird to bond with you, feel comfortable in its
new home and develop behavioral patterns that you can live with and enjoy
for the rest of your lives.
Your new bird will
fascinate you, and you'll be tempted to take the bird out every few
minutes for the first few days you have it home. Unfortunately, giving
your new bird constant attention is not a good idea; you need to establish
a steady routine with your bird from Day 1, or this continued attention
will become an expectation of your parrot. Baby birds need to learn to
find their food and water cups, and to play in their cages by themselves.
Adult birds need to learn that you will not come running each time they
squawk. Decide how much time you will be able to spend with your bird the
rest of its life, and spend that amount of time from the very beginning.
Your pet bird
expects you to earn its trust. Birds, after all, are prey animals - they
have an innate caution and fear of unfamiliar people and objects. Birds
have a personal space that should not be invaded thoughtlessly. I see many
people get bitten or warned off when they move too quickly into a parrot's
s[ace. When I approach a bird that is not bonded to me or hand trained by
me, I clasp my hands behind my back and keep my body approximately a foot
away from the bird while talking in a calm but upbeat voice. I take the
time to engage the bird's curiosity and will usually find that the bird
begins to lean its body toward me or offers one foot, requesting to be
picked up, after a few minutes of getting to know me. This allows a bird
to relax around me, become curious about me, and invite me into its
personal territory. Once you and your bird become more familiar and
trusting, you will find that your bird's personal boundaries soften to
some degree (but they rarely completely disappear.) Teach all your family
members to respect the bird's wariness, and to practice patience and
gentleness in their approaches to the bird.
I emphasize the word
"train" because it is often confused with "tame". Hand
tamed is not hand trained. I often speak to people whose birds are showing
behavioral problems, and I try to explain the importance of handtraining.
They often interrupt and say "Oh, no. He'll get on your hand."
Getting onto a hand is only a small part of hand
training. A hand
trained bird will step confidently onto your hand on cue, and stay on your
hand, allowing your thumb to gently restrain its feet.
hand-training leads to fear, mistrust, and biting. Many birds are taught
to hop onto a hand and go wherever they please from there (usually the
shoulder.) Once a bird is off a person's knuckles it is prone to falls. It
may be something as ordinary as a loud plane flying overhead that startles
the bird, causing it to lose its balance and fall to the floor. Even if
the bird is not hurt, the trouble has just begun. Now the bird associates
being with humans with uncertain outcomes. Birds seem more prone to
becoming traumatized by bad experiences than other animals. It has been
easier, in my experience, to gain the trust of abused dogs and horses than
that of birds. For this reason, I believe that proper hand-training is
essential to living happily with any parrot.
When a bird is
properly hand-trained, it will respond to a cue, and will step quickly and
confidently onto the hand (even if it is afraid of being touched). Once a
hand-trained bird is on the hand, it sits quietly, accepting the gentle
pressure of your thumb which keeps it settled and safe from falls. The
bird does not bite or attempt to climb up your hand but sits patiently
(for a short period of time) while it is transported or interacted with.
It is a good idea to
hold a bird toward your chest so that its only route of escape is toward
your body. If a bird is held facing outward and tries to fly away, you
will have to catch its chest in your free hand in order to keep it from
falling forward. Keep the bird facing you until it is relaxed and curious,
riding on your hand.
With hand training,
you are peacefully teaching the bird that you are dominant, safe, and
reliable. This is the foundation for peace and trust in your relationship.
ABOUT THE QUAKER MUTATIONS
The Blue mutation of
the Quaker Parakeet is one of the most beautiful. The color can best be
described as a powdery, Wedgewood blue. Soft, silvery gray replaces the
gray of the normals and the flight feathers and long tail are a deep
This mutation is a
simple recessive. In order to produce blue birds in the first generation,
you must have blue in both parents, either visually or as a split. A split
bird is one that is visually green but carries the recessive gene for blue
- meaning that one of its parents was blue. Blues bred to blues will
produce all blue chicks.
Most of the chicks
from a blue and a green-split to blue mating will be visually blue. Any
visually green chicks will be split to blue. Breeding a visual blue to a
normal green will result in all green-split to blue chicks.
green-split to blue to another green-split to blue can be expected to
produce 25% visual blues, 25% green-split to blues, and 50% normal greens.
Surprises, either happy or disappointing, are not unusual. With this
breeding there is no way to identify which of the greens are split to blue
except by the results of subsequent test breeding.
Our original blue
Quakers were bred to our best and largest
normal greens to obtain strong, healthy splits. After
several generations of carefully controlled breeding, we are regularly
producing strong, healthy, prolific birds.
The Lutino mutation
is a beautiful pure yellow bird with forehead and underparts a grayish
white. The flight feathers are grayish and the under side of the tail is a
I have been trying
for years to add Lutinos to my Quakers, but as best as I have been able to
find out, they are not available in this country. There is also a cinnamon
mutation not generally available.
The blue mutation is
becoming more generally established but is still quite hard to find and
very expensive. For the breeder, the initial investment is high, but the
demand remains greater than the supply available. In our aviaries we have
a paid waiting list extending from year to year, awaiting our blue babies.
The pet owners can
take comfort in the fact that in all characteristics except the color of
their plumage, there is really no difference between the blues and the
normal greens. Both make equally wonderful companion birds.
A SUMMER REMINDER
"Buggy" summer is upon us with invasions of all sorts
of unwelcome critters to battle. Just a reminder to all of you that insecticide
sprays of all kinds are lethal for our birds. Do not expose them to sprays
even in outdoor areas, or for even just a squirt or two of spray to get
rid of that pesky mosquito. Serious damage to their health or even death
can result from even limited exposure to insecticides. Be sure to bring
this to the attention of families and friends.
Popular Parakeet" by Lynn from Alabama
For the past five
years I have had the privilege of sharing my home with Kermit, a Quaker
parakeet. Of the eight birds I own he is the only Quaker, and the
undisputed favorite. Not just my favorite, he also enjoys this status with
the other seven birds. He alone can roam in and out of any other bird's
cage, tasting their food and playing with their toys. They show no signs
of anxiety or aggression. He usually accomplishes this by pushing his food
cup out and escaping through the hole. Then he goes to the cage of the
bird he wants to visit that day, yanks their food cup out, and makes
himself at home.
The other seven
birds consist of a variety of sizes and personalities from Love Birds to
Chattering Lories. Three of these birds he considers "his
babies" as he sat on my shoulder watching me hand feed them when they
were tiny. As they were weaned he was placed in their cages to demonstrate
the fine arts of perching and eating solid foods. He loves baby birds and
has maintained a special bond with these three into adulthood.
Two years ago when
my husband and I took a week long trip to Disney World, my Mom baby sat
for her "grand birds."
For the first two
days of our absence Kermit ate very little. I anxiously called home each
day thinking if this continued for more than two days I would pack up and
head home. Disney World could wait, my little green guy could not!
Thankfully on the morning of the third day he was pigging
out. After that he
warmed right up to my Mom and told her "I love you." Boy, was I
jealous! When we returned home she drove him to my house. On the whole
trip he excitedly repeated "Here I come!" over and over. This
phrase is my "door bell" as I say it when entering my bird room
so I won't startle anyone. He had never said that phrase before and never
He is a wonderful
talker repeating many phrases and mimicking some physical gestures that I
did not realize I was doing when I taught him the phrase. For example, he
learned to answer the question "Are you a sweet boy?" with a
spirited "Umm Hmm" accompanied by a slight affirmative nod of
his head as I must have done. Then he promptly turns his head to the side
and fixes me with one beady eye to check for my approval and to see which
game is next. He also mimics my groan as I get up or down (Another thing I
wasn't aware of until he so graciously pointed it out!). He watches me and
times it perfectly, so whether I was on my way up or down, I often end up
on the floor laughing. He stands up on top of his cage looking down at me
and laughing his little green head off. It helps to have a strong ego when
you live with a Quaker.
Kermit is a special
bird who helps me raise babies, provides
entertainment and is my friend. I know Kermit is only one of many Quakers
voted "most popular" in other birds.
DOES YOUR QUAKER
NEED A PEDICURE?
One of the many
"myths" about our pet birds is that their toe nails should be
kept short and blunt. This is for the comfort of the owner handling the
bird rather than for its own welfare.
The normal condition
of a Quaker's claw is to be fairly long and sharp. Nature's purpose is to
help maintain a good grasp when climbing or when holding an object.
Cutting nails too short and blunt to serve this purpose is frustrating for
even a well protected pet.
In the wild state
your Quaker would wear down his nails on the rough tree trunks and rocks
he of necessity uses as perches. We have found that the cement perches now
readily available provide an effective replacement for rough branches. We
have installed one in each of our cages, breeders and pets alike.
Gravel paper should
not be used. The sandpaper like coating irritates the bird's feet and the
glue used to adhere the coating to the paper can be injurious.
Frequent filing of
just the tip of the nail, eliminating the sharp point that scratches the
owner, is usually all that is necessary. Nails grow constantly, especially
with the healthy diets our pets enjoy, but clipping is only necessary when
the nail grows excessively long and bends downward, approaching the pad of
WHEN WILL MY
I own a ten month
old Quaker named Pedro. I was told he would start talking at one and a
half years. He already says "Quack like a duck!", "Gimme a
kiss.", "Get somewhere." and is trying to sing the Good
Morning song. He knows our dogs' names, everyone in the house, and the
names of the people who work with me at the pet store. He can walk a tight
rope, play dead bird, and be an eagle. All this from a bird who isn't
supposed to do anything for eight more months! -Debbie
I have a Quaker I
bought in August of '93 at 11 weeks old.
He is talking up a storm and keeps my husband and I entertained all the
time. We spend most weekends in the summer
off on boating trips. Our little friend goes right along with us and loves
it! - Judy from Missouri
My husband and I are
owned by a ten month old Quaker named
Barney. He currently says 53 different phrases which total about 105
different words. - Judy from Missouri
QUAKERS AT LARGE
DISASTER STRIKES -
by David Wright
Since 1978 the
"quakers at large" in Bridgeport have inhabited the same 100
foot fir tree adjacent to Long Island Sound in Bridgeport's most
prestigious neighborhood, Black Rock. Over the ensuing 15 years the fir
tree has become home to more than 40 quaker parakeet nests and over 150
quakers. Some of the nests are "condos" housing several pairs of
quakers. What an experience it is for sightseers to drive by this fir tree
in the winter and see innumerable green parrots winging their way above
snow covered manicured yards to patch up their year-round homes!
The quaker nests in
the Bridgeport fir tree ranged in size from 34 inches in length by 23
inches in width to 9 feet in length by 5 feet in width. Three nests had
three separate entrances and one nest had five entrances! These were truly
The fir tree in
which the quakers were nesting in Bridgeport was known to be over 100
years old. Records had been maintained on this area of Bridgeport so
confirmation of the tree's age was possible. While this stately fir had
survived gale force winds, torrential rains, and parching summers, it just
couldn't hold up against 40 quaker nests and a particularly local passing
On June 9th, 1993 at
approximately 4:00 p.m. EST a "funnel cloud" tore through
Bridgeport uprooting trees and causing general destruction in its path.
The funnel cloud took a path through Bridgeport which included the street
on which the quaker nesting tree was located. The aged fir tree was
uprooted and laid at about a 45 degree angle against a very large
Within days new
nests began to appear in locations in Bridgeport, Stratford and Milford.
Quakers require only a few days to construct new housing. The blueprint is
in their heads. The construction materials are all around. Only a nesting
location need be found.
Two weeks ago, while
visiting the very prestigious Fairfield University campus, there in one of
the larger trees on the campus behind the arts center, were two very large
quaker nests. Quakers seem to love settling in neighborhoods where they
can live in style!
Other than losing
the year's clutch of young from the several Bridgeport breeding pairs, no
lasting damage seems to have resulted to Connecticut's wild quakers from
this disaster. They seemed to have disbursed further afield.
Some even began
building a nest near the quaker exhibit at the Beardsley Zoo! It appears
the birds on exhibit at Beardsley had vocally notified passing quakers
that Beardsley Zoo was a choice nesting location.
David Wright, our
feral Quaker expert, has offered to work on the difficult and frustrating
job of compiling valid, current information from those states having
regulations effecting Quakers. Many of you have requested this
information, important not only to breeders and pet owners in these
states, but to those of us traveling, moving, etc. We sincerely appreciate
David's efforts and hope to have his report for you in the July issue.