FROM THE EDITOR
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
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
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.
FROM OUR READERS
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
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
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
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.
- - - - - - - - -
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
- - - - - - - -
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.
- - - - - - - - -
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
- - - - - - - - -
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.
- - -- - - - - - -
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.
Cothran - a seven year old Quaker
Some times it's there when I am
needing a lift.
Sometimes it seems like the
It cleans up my droppings where
ever they land.
This is a poem about Mama's
Sometimes it tickles me and
makes me laugh.
But some times it's scary and
picks at my shafts.
Sometimes it holds my carrot
But some times it takes me
where I don't want to be.
I never know what it might do
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
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.
the South Jersey Bird Club News
Are you aware that there is a
killer among us? This killer could be anywhere in your home -
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
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
PET BIRDS FOR
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.
WITH LIQUID CHLORINE BLEACH
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.