THE QUAKER NEWS

JULY 1995

 

FROM THE EDITOR

Does this scenario sound familiar? I have been bragging to a visitor about my sweet and tame little Quaker. He perches comfortably on my arm, head cocked to one side, interested in this new person. To my chagrin, as the visitor reaches out a hand to pet my bird, a painful bite results.

Those with experience with birds take considerable time to become acquainted before offering a hand or attempting any physical contact. Those people who have not been around pet birds really do not know how to handle an introduction to your pet.

I have read that this reaction to other than family members is the bird's way of defending the human perceived as its mate from the intrusion of strangers. Since Quakers bond so strongly to their owners and are not timid by nature this seems a more logical explanation for this type of behavior than just fear of someone new.

Some of our readers, like Rosalie, write "My Quaker is sweet and loving with me but bites and screams at anyone else who approaches her. I would like to know if this is normal behavior for this type of bird."

Birds differ so in their personalities even in the same clutch it is difficult to say what is "normal" and what is not. The devotion to the one person the Quaker perceives as its mate is usual. The consequent behavior and how well it is controlled depends on the individual bird and the skill of its owner.

In a breeding situation these courageous little birds will scream loudly and fiercely attack the human hand removing babies from the nest box. It is touching to think that your pet is showing the same strongly protective behavior to protect you in a situation he perceives as threatening to you. The stranger whose hand is smarting may not appreciate your explanation for the bite. Other than to warn the uninitiated not to put themselves in a position to permit a bite, and to reassure the pet with kind words and petting, I confess that I have nothing else to offer as a way to handle the situation.

 

NOTHING NEW

But So Important!

This is the same old message, but just as important as it ever was. I receive an occasional very sad letter telling me about the loss of a beloved pet bird due to accidental inhalation of a toxic substance.

Birds have such a high rate of metabolism and such normally rapid respirations even a very small amount of a toxic substance in the air can be fatal. Years ago miners took canaries down into the coal mines to warn of the presence of poison gases. The poor canary toppled over before the men working the mines were aware of the danger.

Over heated Teflon is not the only potential killer.

Insecticides, especially the spray type, are lethal. When that mosquito starts buzzing around, if your Quaker is anywhere near, reach for the fly swatter, not the spray can. Remove your bird to the outside during the exterminators visit, and keep it there while the house airs out for several hours. Carefully seclude your bird when lawns and gardens are sprayed by your neighbors. Be alert to these summer time dangers.

Do not use hair spray, spray deodorants, or spray on cleaners in the bathroom if your pet is in there with you. Carpet cleaners, burning potpourri, air fresheners - there seem to be an increasing number of products that are potentially dangerous. Do not suffer the loss of your pet through carelessness.

 

LETTERS FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda:

At the present time I do not have a Quaker. I breed Love Birds and wonder if having Quakers in the same general area of my basement would have adverse effects on the their breeding. I also breed Canaries. What I have to find out is just how disruptive to these birds would a pair of Quakers be.   Betty from Illinois

You describe a lovely big basement bird room full of tropical plants and lights. A single pair of Quakers rarely create a problem with excessive noise, but my experience with either Love Birds or Canaries is limited. Perhaps some of our readers can offer you better advice.

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Dear Linda;

About three months ago we acquired ten Quakers from a friend who was unable to care for them. They are untamed, but we have set up a somewhat "natural" habitat for them - an 8' x 8' x 6' aviary with a tree we brought in from the woods near by. We provided them with an unaccountable number of sticks and twigs from which they have built a complex nest system. Now there are eggs and the first baby has hatched. It wasn't originally our intention to breed them, but nature has done what it does and we are now "grand parents." Rhoda from New York

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Dear Linda:

I currently own a two year old Cockatiel named Bernard. He was purchased for my daughter but he bonded with me. We dearly love him. My question is - How different are Quakers from Cockatiels? I know that there is a physical difference but I am interested in personality differences. Merilee from Minnesota

Cockatiels and Quakers have quite different personalities. The Cockatiels are more shy, less aggressive, and also less mischievous and not nearly as much fun to own. Quakers are much better talkers and kept singly not exceptionally noisy. They are highly intelligent, bond to their owners very closely, and generally make wonderful pets.

 

Dear Linda;

I have a ten year old Quaker named Beanie. He was given to me when he was about one year old by my ex-husband who purchased him shortly after our divorce as a just weaned, hand fed baby. Since Beany had been left alone for long periods of time while my ex-husband traveled, he had become quite unfriendly and untrusting. After Beanie and I moved to Houston we spent many lonely evenings together and bonded quite closely. A couple of years later, though, this close relationship was not in the best interest of my new boyfriend Clark (now my husband.) On our second date Clark and I were sitting side by side on the couch and Beanie was furiously plunking at his cage latch. Suddenly the door sprung open and Beanie, in diving board fashion, catapulted out and headed straight for Clark in attack mode. When Beanie is out of his cage he sits on my shoulder, perched always between Clark and me and is on guard, beak opening when Clark walks past. Although I was quite touched that he considers me to be his mate this has caused quite a few problems. Once when I returned from a three week trip, Clark showed me a video tape of him scratching Beanie's tummy and giving him kisses. To this day I accuse him of getting a stand in Quaker for that stunt.    Bernadette from Texas

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Dear Linda;

I got my Quaker, Echo, when he was 10 weeks old. Two weeks later he was talking. I really think that in addition to the individual bird's maturity, the amount of attention and stimulation the bird gets from its owner will determine when a bird will begin talking.

Echo and I have always had great fun together. From the time he was comfortable in his new home, we have spent a lot of time together every day. We dance, sing, and play with the dogs together. (The dogs are a great source of entertainment and even verbal stimulation to Echo). The first word he learned was his name. After that he just started talking. It seemed that if I wanted him to learn something he would delay in saying it, but every day conversation pops up in his vocabulary even now. He gives the dogs commands, "Outside" and "Cinnamon, come here." He strikes up a casual conversation with "What are you doin ?", and he chastises me with "Quit that!".

I also tend to believe that birds understand at least in part, what they and we are saying. I have had several conversations with Echo that I could have had with a human. There was a time when he was being disciplined for biting me. I grabbed his beak and firmly said "Stop that." He said "Ow!" I replied "Yes, Ow, now stop it." He then finished up with an adolescent sounding "OK"!

I like to say that Echo is tri-lingual. He speaks bird (the wild birds outside), dog, and human. He has my laugh, my sneeze, and most of all my heart. Quakers are truly special, endearing, and amusing pets. I would say that the best thing you could do to encourage your Quaker to talk is to involve him in the household activities ( as long as it is not dangerous for him). The more he is exposed to, the more he will have to choose from for his first words. Rebecca from Texas

Dear Linda;

I have just started breeding Quakers and want to know what vitamin and mineral supplements you use. Kathie in Florida

Because the Exact pelleted food that we use to supply 90% of our Quakers' diets also supplies optimum amounts of minerals and vitamins, we use no supplements at all in our aviaries. When an exclusive pelleted diet is fully supplemented, as almost all of them are, the addition of additives can be considered an overdose and can be harmful. When the diet consists of only a portion of pellets and the rest seeds and various vegetables and fruits, a proportionate amount of additives is indicated. The dosage can be determined by considering the proportion of the diet which is not pelleted food. Use care not to overdose - read labels and compute amounts carefully.

The type of additive which is sprinkled on top of fruits and vegetables is preferred. Adding liquid preparations to the drinking water results in increased bacterial growth and contamination of the water.

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Dear Linda;

I recently "inherited" a ten year old Quaker who says only "Hello" and "How are you?" now and then. He seems to be content to be left alone in his cage. Is this bird too old to learn to talk and play? Mildred from Vermont

Quakers are intelligent animals who can learn through out their lives. You may have this bird for another ten to twenty years. It is never too late to teach new things and modify behavior. Just be sure that your Quaker has had sufficient time to adjust to his new surroundings and learn to trust his new owners.

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Dear Linda;

I have a one year old Quaker (Bach) that I found when he was already weaned. He's terrific, a walking tape recorder. His vocabulary consists of over 50 phrases and songs. He's my sweetheart.

It is my intention to breed the two Quaker babies I am getting when they are old enough. My question for you is Can they be raised together in the same cage and be treated like I do Bach? In other words, can I still love em and spoil them a little? Jean from Maryland

The very best way to have a successful breeding pair is to start them off in the same cage as babies. It is all right to make pets of them to a limited extent. Your objective is still to have them bond to each other. They can still like you but must first love each other. This will happen quite naturally if you do not overdo the cuddling.

 

WEANING - HELPFUL HINTS

For many of our breeders and pet owners who have been hand feeding it is , or soon will be, weaning time. This can be a frustrating experience with any species, although it is really easier to accomplish with our Quaker babies than with most others.

Over the years I have heard and read many suggestions for making it easier and I have tried out many ideas of my own. Some hints are helpful, but there is no magic solution. Common sense, infinite patience, and considerable work are requirements for a successful weaning program.

We have found that a very early start helps. As soon as the chicks start moving around in their box we suspend a spray of millet from the cover for them to pick on. Little is really ingested, but the idea is presented to them that those beaks are intended for more than being held wide open to beg.

As soon as the chicks are promoted to life in a cage, even though feedings are still being given at regular intervals, efforts to wean are started. Spray millet is the old reliable first food to offer. Slices of soft whole wheat bread are picked on at an early age. While the bulk of the feedings are being given with a syringe, bits of food are offered from my fingers to give the bird the experience of feeding itself. I am reminded of the days when my children were babies. I would let them fumble around with one spoon while all the while I was busily shoveling the food into their mouths with another spoon - messy but effective.

As the babies grow and the number of hand feedings given daily are being gradually reduced, low, shallow dishes of a variety of foods are offered. Until they are mature enough to sit on perches the food is placed on the bottom of the cage where it is easily accessible. Corn is a good starter food, the canned kernel type being easy and convenient to use. We offer the Exact pelleted food they will be eating as adults partially chopped as necessary.

We offer the babies a large variety of foods for several reasons. As adults, we want our birds to be accustomed to many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. In addition we find that their tastes are highly individual and completely unpredictable. One baby will show a marked preference for a little of our mashed white potatoes another will just "pig out" on yams, or green peas. A bit of corn bread left from dinner provides a feast for most. Any wholesome soft food suitable for humans is worth a try. Do not become discouraged with the first refusal. Often foods ignored at first will be accepted on subsequent trys. They prefer food to be warm or at least at room temperature. Most will refuse even their favorites right from the refrigerator. Constant attention must be given to the removal of uneaten food from the cage before it has a chance to spoil.

Quakers will soon take an interest in small pieces of fruit, banana, apple, orange, or grapes. Green beans and broccoli are well accepted. They enjoy an interesting change in color and texture. Picking up a green bean or a slice of orange is a form of play at first. Eating at this stage is not their main interest but gradually increases in importance.

At an early age all birds experience a "slimming down" period. At this stage in their development instinct tells them that in order to fly it is necessary to shrink their crops and lose some weight. Their number one goal in life is to learn to fly, not to eat. The faster they become convinced that they can use those wings, the faster they get back to the business of eating. For this reason whenever possible, with the saftey of the bird in mind, we delay clipping wings until this slimming down stage is over. At this time there is much stretching and vigorous flapping of wings, accompanied by a firm refusal to accept anything but a small portion of the hand feeding formula they have previously been relishing. They are really dedicated dieters - would that I could develop such will power!

Observing this reduction in food intake and loss of weight, even the experienced breeder tends to become anxious. I have found that it is best to wait out this period patiently. If I feel that the bird is getting too thin, I offer hand feedings in small amounts more frequently. The birds will usually accept a few cc's of formula quite eagerly before the determination to stick to their diet reasserts itself. It is not productive to force feed an unwilling bird. It is not only a frustrating experience for the breeder with aspiration a danger, but the bird's response destroys what should be a pleasurable interaction. It is not the actual feeding process that makes for a tame baby. The interaction with the feeder and the enjoyment of the petting and talking accompanying the process is more important in establishing a bond with humans.

There is no rigid schedule possible to us to decide when weaning should be completed. Eight weeks is the usual age but even in the same clutch birds can be highly individual.

Quite often a bird which has been doing well on its own responds to the stress of a change in ownership by regressing and a week or two of hand feeding is required to maintain good health.

One little trick which I have found speeds up the process of getting the birds to eat on their own is to put a mature bird in the cage with the babies to serve as a teacher. It is best to select a hen for this position; a male will become interested in teaching his pupils more than eating. The teacher bird rapidly grows fat on all the goodies

being used to coax the babies to eat and needs to be replaced quite often.

Making a judgement as to when to put away the hand feeding equipment involves some close observation. Is a sufficient amount of the food offered being eaten and not being just scattered around on the bottom of the cage? When the bird begs so piteously is his crop round and full? This would indicate that the begging is either out of habit or an attention getting ploy. With access to a gram scale weight can be closely monitored. For the pet owner, feeling a sharp breast bone through those fluffy feathers is an indication of too little food intake. We usually make a final check on the fullness of the crops of our weaning birds in the late evening and often prolong a single night time feeding "just to be sure."

We must remember that hand feeding is an alteration of nature's plan. In the wild, where birds fledge naturally. the adult parents can be observed feeding their young for what for us would be excessively long periods of time. For the good of our birds, it is wise to lean toward a weaning schedule geared toward the birds' best interest rather than our own convenience.

FORBIDDEN FOODS FOR QUAKERS

AVOCADOS - are one of the most toxic foods for birds. Even small amounts can be fatal.

CHOCOLATE - contains theobromine which occurs naturally in the cocoa bean. It acts as a stimulant and as a diuretic and is very dangerous to a bird's already high metabolism.

CAFFEINE is not a healthy substance for your bird. It serves to increase the bird's already high metabolic rate. Sharing your morning coffee with your pet is a bad habit to start. Soft drinks containing caffeine are equally harmful.

SUGAR in itself is not toxic but should be avoided except in very small amounts and not given frequently. It is empty calories, providing none of the essential nutrients. Given as frequent treats it does not promote good health.

ALCOHOL even in very small amounts can be fatal for your Quaker. That "cute trick" of letting your pet sip on the foam at the top of your glass of beer may cost its life.

EGGS,POULTRY, and MEATS are not harmful in themselves but good sources of essential nutrients. Salmonella grows very quickly on these foods so much care must be taken to serve them fresh and remove uneaten parts quickly.

ABOUT WOODEN TOYS

With a little observation and experience we usually come to the conclusion that our pet Quakers enjoy their wooden toys most of all. Of course, their chief source of enjoyment is chewing the toy and destroying it as rapidly as possible. Considering the cost of the toys, we are tempted to stick with the longer lasting acrylic or nylon toys. Combining wooden toys with leather, rope, or rawhide can extend the life of the plaything while still providing the same benefits.

While most birds will not actually eat something that is not food, it has been reported that some have run into serious problems with splinters from wooden toys.

A new toy should only be offered when time permits close observation of your pet, whether it be wooden or any other material. Some manufacturers have started to offer packaged, pre-drilled wooden toy parts for re-stringing on the chain you have already installed and deemed safe.

Natural wood from our trees will offer hours of play time but its use must be carefully screened. Branches that have been lying on the ground may be infected with mold or bacteria. Trees along roads and highways are subject to pollution from automotive emissions. Even "safe wood" maple, citrus, manzaneta, etc - must be from trees which have not been sprayed and have been scrubbed thoroughly before being offered to our pets.

Most toy companies use milled hard woods with varying degrees of hardness. Pine is the softest and rock maple and walnut probably the hardest in common use. Almost all are colored brightly with vegetable dyes and food coloring, making them more attractive.

The ultimate choice is made by your pet. With our active, busy Quakers frequent changes of toys are advisable. After a few days or a week out of sight, the old favorite will be welcomed enthusiastically. Keeping something there for your pet to chew on is good therapy.

A THANK YOU

Thanks to all of our readers who wrote in to Bird Talk Magazine about my recent article on Quakers. The big reader response is succeeding in bringing more attention to a species long neglected in bird literature.

THERAPEUTIC PROCEDURES IN AVIAN EMERGENCIES

by Dr Kevin Flammer

Reprinted from Sunshine State Cage Bird Society's NewsLetter

 

DEHYDRATION AND SHOCK - can be corrected by fluid administration.

HYOTHERMIA -(low body temperature) Correct by placing in a warm environment.

STARVATION - Correct by tube feeding. Do not start tube

feeding until you have corrected dehydration and hypothermia.

BACTERIAL SHOCK - (endotoxemia) treat with appropriate antibiotics

STRESS - Minimize by reducing handling and become efficient when bird needs to be treated. Keep the bird in a warm, quiet place.

FLUID ADMINISTRATION - Fluids can be administered via intravenous, subcutaneous and oral routes. For oral feeding one of the commercial formulas used for infants can be substituted for drinking water. Do not use the oral route if the bird is extremely weak.

TUBE FEEDING - Potential complications of improper tube feeding include esophogus or crop rupture and delivery of the food down the trachea and into the lungs. Either of these events is usually fatal, so this procedure is best performed in a veterinary hospital.

WARMTH - Place the bird in a cage heated to approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid over heating. An overheated bird will pant, smooth its feathers, and extend its wings.

UNDERSTANDING VET DIAGNOSTIC PROCEDURES

CBC -(Complete Blood Count) The white blood count identifies cells that are involved in the inflamatory and disease fighting process. An elevated white blood count often indicates that the bird is fighting a microbial infection. A reduced white count may indicate that there is an overwhelming demand for these cells(i.e. a massive infection) or bone marrow suppression ( as with viral diseases). A red blood cell count determines if the bird is anemic. A CBC also includes hemoglobin determination and a crude test for total solids.

CHEMISTRY PANEL - A group of 5 to 10 tests that measure various chemicals in the plasma or serum. Useful for assessing if there is damage to internal organs, low blood sugar, or calcium, and for assessing kidney function.

FECAL GRAM STAIN - A crude but rapid test that is useful for evaluating the microbial status of the digestive tract.

CULTURES - Often collected from cloaca and or choana (Back of mouth) to test for abnormal bacteria and fungi.

URINALYSIS - Useful in birds that are producing excess urine to see if there is elevated urine sugar or casts that might indicate kidney damage.

RADIOGRAPHS (x-rays) - Useful to investigate trauma and to see if there are alterations in internal organs.

ULTRASOUND - A sound picture of internal organs that is especially useful for characterizing abnormal internal masses and the cause of enlarged organs.

LAPAROSCOPY - A view of a bird's internal organs through a fiberoptic telescope. Very useful for sexing and collecting biopsy specimans from internal organs.

Tests are available for three diseases that are difficult to determine from the tests above: Chlamydiosis, Beak and Feather Disease, and Polyoma virus infection.

This information may be somewhat depressing to read about, but if your pet is ever sick enough to be in the hands of a veterinarian it is helpful to have some knowledge of what the professional is trying to accomplish. Perhaps some of you read the suggestion in Causes and Cures in the July Bird Talk that those suffering from immune deficiency syndrome purchase Quakers as pets as they are more hardy and healthy.

STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS - HUMANS AS PETS

Reprinted from Flights of Fancy

Humans are bright, talkative, and often affectionate. These charming giants can be trained to perform a wide range

of tricks. Be warned, though, an improperly socialized human can be clumsy and even dangerous. When choosing a human, keep an eye out for poking, grabbing, and cage rattling. Fortunately even the most antisocial human can be broken of these unpleasant behaviors. Also be wary of humans who shout the same phrase at you over and over, especially the phrases "poliwahnakracker" and "hello". These humans clearly have severe psychological problems and should be avoided.

Editor's note: Nobody I know can figure out what "pollwahnakracker" means. Suggestions, anybody?

Costs: Humans cost nothing and will often pay for the privilege of being your pet.

Vocalization: Humans tend to chatter away, every waking hour, often making no sense whatsoever. However, with proper training, they can be taught to whistle, especially if you start them off at an early age. On the other hand, if you can learn to mimic their chatter back to them, they will become quite excited, sometimes to the point that they will offer you their food. This is one of the highest compliments a human can give a bird.

Activities: Humans are quite clever and curious. They need a wide variety of toys to keep them amused. Some birds have found that their humans are quite content to sit for hours staring at a television. I do not recommend this, as it makes for a boring companion mammal.

Foods: Humans will eat just about anything. Be careful what you feed them, though. Given a choice, a human will eat foods high in fat, sugar, and caffeine. While such things are fine as a treat, a steady diet of chocolate covered doughnuts and coffee will significantly shorten their lifespan. Make sure that your human gets plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. In short, anything you eat should be fine for your human.

 

QUAKERS AT LARGE

Calling All Quakers

by David Wright

It was with some great amusement that I read a May 21st article in the Sunday New York Newsday which described the wild quakers nesting on the campus of Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. The article stated that there are dozens, perhaps a few hundred quakers nesting atop the light towers of the athletic field. What makes this article particularly ironic is that New York State fish and game officials launched a concerted program in 1973 to eradicate the wild living quakers in and around New York City. Well----They're baaaaaaack! Actually-they never left.

At about the same time I was feeling bemused by the New York Newsday treatise I received my quarterly copy of The Connecticut Warbler, the official publication of the Connecticut Ornithological Association. In this most recent addition of the Warbler the results of the 1994 Christmas Bird Count were published. For the first time quakers had been observed and counted in the Greenwich-Stamford area. These observations document a trend which has been occurring in recent years of quakers moving both east and west along the Connecticut shoreline. Greenwich is probably no more than 40 miles from the Brooklyn College Campus. An easy foraging flight for hungry quakers who are known to fly up to 35 miles one way in search of feeding locations.

Perhaps the ultimate irony for the fish and game employees of New York State of 1973 will be when the quakers of Connecticut unite with the holdouts from Brooklyn. It is reasonable to expect this to occur as we have watched the feral quakers in Connecticut flourish along our coast. As the feral colonies continue to disperse I am always intrigued to hear of a new location in which quakers have settled. The latest settlement of which I am aware is at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Those of you who have been reading this column for some time probably remember that the Beardsley Zoo took in a number of feral quaker babies which had been rescued by volunteers from the Connecticut Audubon Society after a storm had felled the tree in which the babies were being raised in the summer of 1993. Beardsley Zoo staff hand-fed the rescued babies and placed them in a flight on the zoo grounds. We all sat back and began wondering how long it would be before the wild quaker population would discover their captive cousins.

As early as last June of 1994 quakers were overflying the zoo on a fairly regular basis. By January we observed the first nests on the zoo grounds. What makes this event somewhat unusual is the zoo is located about 3 miles inland. Generally, quakers in Connecticut have nested in the very immediate vicinity of the Long Island Sound shoreline. Why would these wild quakers decide to settle so far inland? We are certain the caged quakers at the zoo attracted the attention of the quakers flying over the zoo on foraging forays. The wild quakers settled in evergreen trees (as is their custom in Connecticut) less than 30 yards from the quaker exhibit on the zoo grounds. The quakers in the Beardsley exhibit must have signaled their contentment with a captive, plentiful diet!

So what communique signals "good grub served here" in quaker language? Quakers are known to have at least eleven separate and distinct vocalizations. They are the: (1) threat call; (2) alarm call; (3) flight call; (4) contact call; (5) isolation call; (6) preening call; (7) chatter call; (8) distress call; (9) greeting call; (10) food begging call; and, (11) feeding call. The contact call is the most frequent quaker vocalization and consists of a very loud initial squawk tapering off a bit during its duration. The contact call is given while flying overhead in flocks, foraging for food and combined, at times, with the greeting call. It is quite possible that the quakers flying over the zoo were staying in touch with one another via the contact call while the "resident" quakers were producing the contact call in response to being fed. The quakers flying overhead may have understood the context and determined food must be available in the area inasmuch as they were hearing from some satisfied quakers calling to one another in a feeding situation.

With the variety of vocalizations produced by quakers, and their ability to fly fairly long distances on foraging trips, it is very possible that the quakers of Greenwich will one day be flying in and around Brooklyn. At the rate the quakers are colonizing the Long Island Sound shoreline it won't be many years before quakers will once

again be flying over and nesting on Long Island where the wild quaker odyssey began in 1968. I suppose for the wellintentioned New York fish and game authorities of the early 1970's that would be the ultimate irony.

 

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