THE QUAKER NEWS

JULY  1994

 

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 used Exact.

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 follow.

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.

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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 flighted birds. 

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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.

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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 Florida

If PMS was the cause, aren't we lucky that our birds do not follow a monthly cycle!

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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

Reprinted with 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 with.

ATTENTION SCREAMING: 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.

THREATENED OR 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 busy.

BOREDOM: Your 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.

 

FEATHERS

Alysse Rasmussen - Backyard Habitats

Archaeopteryx, which 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.

Vanes are 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 flanges.

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 feathers.

 

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 hundred.

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 legally allowed.

                             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

Jennifer Hubbard Warshaw

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.

Improper 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

Linda Greeson

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 Indigo blue.

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.

Breeding a 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 blue green.

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

The "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.

 

KERMIT

Voted "Most 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 has since.

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 the foot.

WHEN WILL MY QUAKER TALK?

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 - NEW BEGINNINGS

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 multiple-family dwellings.

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 "funnel cloud."

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 neighboring deciduous tree.                                                                                                                                                                    

                      

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.

 

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