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.
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
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.
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.
Teflon is not the only potential killer.
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
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.
- - - - - - - - - -
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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- - -
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
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.
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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- - -
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
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
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.
- - - - - - - - -
"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
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
- - - - - - - - -
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
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
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!
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
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.
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
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
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
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
by Dr Kevin
Sunshine State Cage Bird Society's NewsLetter
SHOCK - can be corrected by fluid administration.
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.
- 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.
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.
- Useful to investigate trauma and to see if there are alterations in
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.