JULY 1996



Many of the questions put to me are about what behavior is "normal" for a Quaker. When do they wean? When do they talk? My answer is always that , perhaps more so than in any other species, each Quaker is highly individual. They all share a few common characteristics but their distinct personalities are one of the reasons they are so loved.

Your bird will probably not conform exactly to the expectations given you in reading material or by friends. We must remember that "average" means mid way between two extremes. The average age at which Quakers start talking

ranges all the way from a few weeks of age to the rare few who never get beyond "Hello". It is typical for them to develop a vocabulary of 15 to 20 words from six months to a year, but just as with human babies, there are wide variations.

Since last breeding season I have housed seven of my normal Quaker babies together in a large flight, allowing them to grow up to be breeding birds. The variations in their personalities and rate of development was repeatedly brought to my attention. Some really weaned themselves by eight weeks; others needed at least a night time feeding until ten or even eleven weeks.

They looked so much alike that it wasn't until I needed to differentiate those bonding with each other that I used drops of food coloring on their heads as quick identification. Two purple dots was mating with one red dot early on, and another pair soon followed. The other three showed no interest in each other, and may not be ready for breeding until next year.

When I serviced the cage I was used to hearing a lot of calls of "Hi Baby" and "Whatcha doin?" but until the food coloring ID I did not know which ones had added calling the cat to their vocabularies.

These were prospective breeders who were deliberately not exposed to too much human attention, although they were hand fed. Babies who are well socialized in their early weeks definitely change the picture as to what is normal or to be expected. But with loving care and adequate attention even the early neglected babies will manage to meet the standards of those more fortunate within a few months.


Dear Linda - I purchased a baby Quaker last August and it has become such a big part of our family. Our "Harley" is such a sweet bird. He was talking after only three weeks in our home and while I was still hand feeding him once a day. I'm sure I have done a lot of things the wrong way but I am trying so hard to learn his "language" as well as he is learning ours. He loved to crawl into my clothing and go to sleep so now every night he goes "night-night" by my rocking him to sleep in a receiving blanket! I then lay Harley, blanket and all, in the bottom of his cage. That is where he sleeps until morning when he crawls out with a high pitched "Hey!". He then eats a butter cookie for breakfast and starts his day by reciting his vocabulary a few times and re-arranging his twenty some toys hanging in his cage. As you can see we love Harley very much. He is as much a part of our family as myself, my husband,and my 13 year old son. He is like a baby that never grows up. Candy from Florida

If you want to keep that wonderful little bird for many more years, as I know you do Candy, please substitute a more healthful food for that cookie. I once figured out that considering the bird at an average weight of 125 Grams in comparison to a human of 135 pounds, giving one quarter of the usual cookie is the same as a human eating 100 cookies - too much sugar, salt, and fat for the little fellow. A piece of fruit, a peanut, or a bite of whole wheat bread would be far better for him. An easy treat is uncooked pasta, right out of the box. It comes in interesting shapes and even colors. Read the labels to select the right one for your bird - what is healthful for you is for him too.



I own an Umbrella Cockatoo (Termie) and a Quaker (Petie.) About two weeks ago when I was elsewhere, my escape artist Termie figured out a new way to get out of his cage.

He went over to Petie's cage and opened the door. They normally are the best of friends, but Petie does not like the cockatoo Termie in his cage. I'm not sure how long they were fighting but the end results were pretty bad. I found Petie within an hour but he was already in shock. I rushed him to our wonderful Vet who started an IV and put him on medicine to control brain swelling. We didn't know if Petie would survive. The next day the doctor called and said Petie was much improved and that we could come to visit him.

Termie needed a nail trim, so we brought him along to the vet's. We had no idea Petie and Termie would see each other but they brought Termie back while we were visiting. With great caution we put Petie up to Termie's face. What happened next was a real shocker! Petie reached over and started preening Termie. It was as if nothing had happened. I have to add another trait to Quakers now - forgiveness. What a wonderful bird

Petie came home two days later and he seems just fine. He does like to be held more now, but that is no problem. He and Termie are the best of friends still. Joy from Virginia

Joy sent a lovely photo of her little green Petie snuggled up to the big white Umbrella cockatoo. Just think how much courage it took for little Petie to defend his home against a bird at least ten times his size.

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Dear Linda;

Our year old Quaker, Billy, has an astounding vocabulary that puts the larger parrots to shame. We had told him "You dropped your peanut." two or three times. One morning as I was carrying dirty clothes to be washed I dropped my robe on the floor. As I bent to pick it up Billy said "Whoops - you dropped something." We had never said that to him, but he is a miniature Einstein.

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Dear Linda;

I have had my Quaker Sonu since he was a baby. I weaned him off of formula which was not an easy task for me. Most of the time I got it all over him. He is now 2 1/2 years old and I love him dearly. My problem is that I hate to leave him alone. My husband and I went on vacation last summer for a week and I worried constantly. The sitter was not the greatest and did not spend much time with him (like she said she would and charged me $20 a day). When I called she said Sonu wouldn't come out of his house (cage) and wasn't talking. So we made an appointment and I called her at my home and I spoke to Sonu. He was so happy to hear me he yelled "It's Marlene, It's Marlene!" After that he was better and started to come out of his house and talk a bit. I feel like he needed to know that I didn't abandon him.I would love to know if anyone has any advice for me on how to handle this or of I am worrying for nothing.

Most of my friends think I'm crazy and feel like I put all my love into Sonu. So I say "What's wrong with that?" I know he loves me too. I feel like I have the child I never had. A big part of my life does revolve around him and unlike real children he will always be a child. I've learned so much about myself and birds in general since I have Sonu. He has taught me gentleness and patience. I now speak up when I see someone abusing a pet of any kind. They are such precious gifts. Marlene from NY

Finding a caring and reliable person to care for your bird in your absence is a problem for many. Members of your local bird club probably have experience and advice to share with you. One of our readers leaves a tape recording of her voice greeting her pet for the sitter to play. There is no way to make a devoted pet completely happy without you, but perhaps our readers can offer helpful advice based on their own experiences.

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Dear Linda;

Is there any way you can tell the sex of a Quaker by the way it acts or by its size? Toby is one year old, talks very well, He (or she) loves to chew any and all paper it can get to. Is this a sign of a female? Richard in Washington

There is no way to make more than a guess on a Quaker's sex just by observation. Males are usually a little larger but then I have been fooled by some pretty big hens. There is usually a wider space where the two sides of the pelvic bone can be palpated. Both males and females are equally active in nest building activities. At best, you can't count on being right more than 50% of the time.

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Dear Linda;

Your October issue had a good article on biting but doesn't seem to go far enough into how to break them from this. My Quaker, Pepper, is ten months old. He has a lot of freedom outside his cage when I am home and likes to be on my arm or shoulder. He nibbles on my bare skin and especially my ears. He gets too rough and hurts. He knows "no, No" and "Don't bite!" but soon seems to forget this. He seems to play tricks. He will rub his beak on my arm and then quickly nip. Its as though he was saying "See, I tricked you." He has a temper and gets mad when I stop him from getting into things he shouldn't be into. Then the only thing I know to do is to put him back in his cage. This doesn't seem to bother him much because he is soon playing with his toys or talking.

Louise from Oklahoma

I can only add to the suggestions in the article that you consistently call a halt to the nibbling before it progresses into biting. Work on finding a method of not dramatizing the situation while making it clear that you do not approve. It takes great patience and persistence on your part, but know that you are experiencing the "terrible twos" of babyhood. Now is the time to develop this baby into a wonderful adult.

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Dear Linda;

Thank you for introducing our family to Quakers with your article in Bird Talk. We've had Mickie since June,'95. He is talking and very happy. He wants to build a nest. What materials can he use? He is very anxious to find out. Adele from Vermont

Quakers are very inventive in finding materials for nest building. Stolen household items will be worked in with shredded paper if nothing else is available. This type of activity needs to be supervised. The lead in a pencil, if chewed, can be a killer. Toothpicks can be too sharp, and straws need to be limited to those not plastic coated. The flexible, fine ends of branches or vines are their favorite. Choose those which are safe -that is nonpoisonous and not exposed to insecticide sprays -You will be amazed at how efficiently they produce a serviceable basket weave pattern.



By Burkie Cothran - a seven year old Quaker


Some times it's there when I am needing a lift.

Sometimes it seems like the worthiest gift.

It cleans up my droppings where ever they land.

This is a poem about Mama's hand.

Sometimes it tickles me and makes me laugh.

But some times it's scary and picks at my shafts.

Sometimes it holds my carrot for me.

But some times it takes me where I don't want to be.

I never know what it might do tomorrow.

It might bring me joy; it might bring me sorrow.

But I know that it gives me all the love that it can -

This is a poem about Mama's hand.

Submitted by his proud Mama, Barbara from Colorado



Many people, new to bird keeping are anxious to know if there are shots for birds just as there are for our dogs and cats. Unfortunately, the shots that are available for birds are only for very specific and deadly diseases. The birds do not always tolerate these vaccines. If they are not in an environment where there are risks of contracting these diseases the need for taking the risk to vaccinate them is questionable.

ATTENTION!                             ATTENTION! ATTENTION! 

From the South Jersey Bird Club News

Are you aware that there is a killer among us? This killer could be anywhere in your home -

Polytetiaflouroethylene, or better known as Teflon fumes Teflon, or non-stick coatings, are found in some self cleaning ovens, bread machines, micro waves, clothes dryers, space heaters, hair dryers, irons, ironing board covers - and the list keeps growing.

Any heating element may have Teflon in it. Call the companies that manufacture your products and check. Have them put it in writing or ask them to send you a booklet that tells you if there is Teflon in the products you own.

Teflon starts emitting fumes from the start of heating. Don't think that because you use Teflon at low temperatures and have been doing so for years that your birds are safe. They are not! You have just been lucky. People say "My birds are not next to the kitchen. They are in a back room. The fumes won't go that far back". Not true. Let's be very clear. If you use Teflon or any non-stick cookware, or any of the products with Teflon in them, eventually it will kill your birds. Please keep your birds safe. DO NOT USE TEFLON!


Scientists are discovering that owning and caring for a pet can reduce the liklihood of recurring medical problems or the difficulties brought on by aging. There are demonstrated health and wellness benefits for older folks.

A study done at UCLA found concrete evidence that pet ownership contributed to the physical and emotional health of the elderly. The study analyzed the medical well being of 938 people over age 65, covered by Medicare, and enrolled in a health maintenance organization. It showed that 37% of the pet owning participants made fewer visits to the doctor. Pets seemed to protect people against the stressful events that occurred in their lives. Other research suggests that pet ownership may reduce blood pressure, promote healing after a heart attack, reduce anxiety, and boost spirits.

These UCLA studies were apparently done about the ownership of dogs and cats. The bond our Quakers form with their devoted owners matches or exceeds the close relationship with any other pet. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine caged birds can relieve their owners' stress better than a dog or cat. They say that birds provide a calming visual stimulus and more important, people seem drawn to birds' verbal talents. In addition, caring for a bird does not involve going for walks or emptying potty boxes. Even a very frail elder can manage very well with perhaps only cage cleaning duties needing to be assigned to someone else.



By Laurella Desborough - From Flights of Fancy

All yard breeders and pet owners are faced with the necessity of routinely disinfecting equipment such as bird bowls, perches, cages. flights, baby brooders, and nurseries. An all around disinfectant that is inexpensive and readily available at your local grocery store is liquid chlorine bleach. In order to achieve maximum effectiveness using bleach, certain procedures should be followed.

1. Prior to using the bleach solution, thoroughly wash and rinse any item to be disinfected.

2. Make up the bleach solution daily. Testing reveals significant deterioration of the bleach solution within 24 hours.

3. Use the correct proportions of bleach to clean water: a three percent (3%) to five percent (5%) solution is effective. For three percent solution use 1/2 cup (4 oz.) of bleach to one gallon of water.

4. Leave objects to be disinfected in the bleach solution (covered by the solution) at least one minute for non-porous surfaces, five minutes for clean, porous surfaces and 15 minutes for organic surfaces.

5. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove caustic bleach residues prior to returning to use.

6. The disinfecting bleach solution may be sprayed onto surfaces such as walls, cages, or floors unless it beads up, then should be wiped onto these cleaned surfaces and allowed to stand for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the nature of the surface (non-porous, porous, or organic). 7.Don't use the disinfecting chlorine bleach solution in conjunction with most dish washing detergents, hand soaps or detergents, some rug shampoos. car shampoos, hair shampoos, and some automatic dish washing detergents as they are not compatible with bleach and destroy its effectiveness. Calgon and Electrasol are compatible with bleach. Laundry detergents are generally compatible with bleach but most laundry soaps are not.

8. Chlorine bleach, correctly used at the 3% to 5% solution is effective as a disinfectant for all the known viruses, fungi, and bacteria with the exception of chalmydia (which causes chiamydiosis or psittacosis). There for liquid chlorine bleach would not be recommended where chlamydiosis was a suspected known disease in a pet or breeder situation. Wavicide or Roccal would be recommended disinfectants for chlamydiosis.



by Gillian A Willis - from Flights of Fancy

Forget all those expensive toys for your birds. After spending a small fortune on toys to keep my birds entertained I have found that pine cones are their favorite toy. Birds ranging in size from lovebirds to the large macaws enjoy them. In addition to providing entertainment, the chewing is good exercise for their beaks. Bird that are prone to feather plucking can be distracted by having a pine cone to chew on.

Pine cones are non-toxic but they should be collected from an area that has not been sprayed with pesticides. Make sure that they are completely dry before storing them, other wise they may develop a mold. They can be dried by placing them on paper and then left out in the sun or by placing them in an oven set at a low temperature.

The dried pine cones can be tied with string and attached to the side of the cage. Ensure that the string is taut so that the birds cannot catch their toe nails or leg bands in any loops. Pine cones are the perfect toy. They are natural, they are safe, they are fun to destroy, and they are free.



by Linda Greeson

Published in Bird Talk Magazine June, 1995

During the years that I have been working with Quaker Parakeets I am often amazed at the stories about their abilities to talk reported to me by their loving owners.

"Shiloh is now one year old and talks up a storm. His first word was "kisses" and a smooching sound at only two months of age. This is typical of the many letters I receive. I rarely hear complaints about a companion Quaker not talking after one year of age. "My ten month old Quaker named Barney says 53 different phrases which total 105 different words" is more representative.

The mischievous nature of the Quaker is often reflected in his speech. Many will quickly learn to say "Ouch!" or "Stop that !" before giving the owner a little bite. They follow this with delighted laughter. It is difficult to get angry no matter how much the pinch stings.

I have never been able to decide which is most important in teaching a bird to talk - innate inherited ability or the techniques used and amount of time spent in teaching. My own experiences are of little help in making this heredity versus environment judgment. I am so busy with the care of breeding birds that I rarely have time to spare for more than casual teaching efforts. About the only special effort that I routinely make to encourage talking is to use the same phrases I want the bird to learn with each contact. My voice is quite naturally loud and clear. When offering a slice of apple I repeat "I love apples." It does not take long before your friends are impressed by your bird's response to the offer of a treat. It may be some time before the most clever Quaker distinguishes between apple, cracker, or vegie, but with time and patience this will happen.

When hand feeding my baby birds I always talk to them. This is as much a part of my routine as preparing the feeding formula. Almost always, one or two of the clutch will clearly be repeating "mm mm good!" or "Want more?" before they are weaned. Others will pick up my greeting of "Hello guys!" later in the larger cages as they are learning to eat on their own. Although I have kept no detailed records of this, I know that some of the babies, who did nothing more than squawk for food during their stay with me, later delighted their owners by speaking in complete sentences.

I have observed that those owners of pet birds, not only Quakers, who are most successful in teaching their birds to communicate often fit a pattern. These people are usually quite talkative themselves and naturally have clear, expressive speech. They often tend to exaggerate verbally. They just naturally talk a lot, not only to family and friends but to their birds as well. Talking skill in companion birds are not limited to those owned by people with these characteristics. Quakers will pick up words and phrases they hear frequently, sing simple little songs, whistle, or imitate other birds and animals with no effort at all by the owner. There are times when this ability to mimic is not altogether appreciated. After some time out on the patio our talking birds are often busy whinnying like the horses in the nearby pasture. Back in the living room, until they get off on another kick, you could readily assume that the horses were stabled in the house.

Although Quakers speak clearly and are readily understood, they lack the ability of the larger birds for perfect imitation of the human voice. When my African Gray calls out "Come on in!" in response to a knock on the door, his voice is mine in every respect. Neighbors find it hard to believe that I am not the one welcoming them in. The pet Quaker mimics the Gray's words perfectly but does not quite make the pitch and tone needed to fool the neighbors.

All parrots do learn readily from each other. At one time we had a few birds in our aviaries who had been raised in Spanish speaking homes. The Quakers in adjacent cages were soon calling out "Como esta?" and "Que pasa?" with quite credible Spanish accents.

I have often been asked why birds so quickly pick up the undesirable words they only hear occasionally. I think that this is because when profanity is used it is invariably with considerable emphasis. Quakers are equally quick to learn to whistle and sing simple tunes. Another "short cut" for busy owners is to sing the same little song when working around the cages. Your pet will surprise you by sitting quietly, head cocked to one side, while you are entertaining him and later will give you back your song.

Parrots are considered by many who study these things to be of higher intelligence than dogs. It follows then that any emotionally well adjusted parrot can be trained successfully at any stage of life. Training in the later stages must progress more slowly than when working with a developing baby but it is not impossible. With the life span of a Quaker being estimated at thirty to forty years, the introduction of an older bird to the family is not uncommon.

Quakers have remarkably long memories. They will naturally use familiar, frequently heard sounds but they often surprise us by unexpectedly clearly repeating an expression not heard for years. This may be in the voice of a former owner as is the case of a little Quaker hen I have set up for breeding. Normally my husband assumes the task of servicing the cages in our aviaries. On the rare occasions that I take over this duty, I hear a perfect imitation of the former owner's sweet little voice saying "Be careful now." This is followed by a good imitation of my own laugh.

Some years ago we repeated "Merry Christmas!" and "Happy New Year!" to our little group of pet birds often enough to have them all calling out greetings during the holidays. Shortly after the holiday they dropped these phrases, probably because there were no pleasant reaction to their efforts. When the holiday season came around again, it was the Quaker who, with only slight encouragement, started them all on greetings again.

With few exceptions Quakers seem to start quickly adding to their vocabularies at about one year of age. They continue to learn new words and phrases. My impression is that additional small accomplishments continue almost indefinitely. The elderly bird will continue to perform whatever has been learned over the years and to occasionally add something new.

Your pet Quaker may not be one who learns to talk in complete sentences or to sing several verses of a song. Just the experience of approaching his cage in the morning and being greeted by a bright eyed little creature saying "Good morning, honey!" makes the whole companion bird experience worthwhile. They do not have to be bird geniuses to be loved.


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