THE QUAKER NEWS

OCTOBER 1994

 

FROM THE EDITOR

This is "Bird Show Time", and my favorite time of the year. September, October, and even extending on into November is the traditional time for bird shows all over the country. From now until almost Thanksgiving most weekends will find me driving long distances or flying even longer distances to attend just as many bird shows as I can possibly manage.

There is a great deal of work, time, and expense involved in all this. I desert my family, leave my beloved birds, work incredibly hard at loading and unloading cages of birds, show cages, and all the bird necessities. My own packing is a minor consideration. "What to show" is far more important than "What to wear."

I have many reasons for all this activity. Although I have had a great deal of success, winning those ribbons and plaques is not my primary incentive. I have found even a small show to be a great opportunity to add to my knowledge about birds. As a breeder, being completely familiar with the fine points of what constitutes a really good bird is important to my own breeding program. There is no better opportunity than a show to constantly improve your judgment. I learn so much from friends I have made at the shows.

Sometimes they offer small hints, ways to handle little problems that arise, and sometimes have really major contributions to make. Socializing with other bird lovers who never tire of sharing their experiences makes a show week end a fun experience. Even the venders at the shows have much to offer in the introduction of new products. They are only too glad to explain and discuss their wares and provide helpful literature.

If you have never attended a bird show, do try it. Even if you are not showing your bird in competition, you will find warm, friendly people, anxious to talk and exchange experiences. I think you will like it.

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda;

In response to the letter from Rebecca of Texas, the answer is yes, single birds will nest. Wherever my wife was in the house, Snoopy would go also. When Snoopy reached sexual maturity, he regularly would try to steal a pen from my wife's desk and try to wedge it into different nooks and crannies. We were unaware of the strong Quaker nesting instinct and could not figure out what he was trying to do. He also became very protective of three small bottles of Whiteout that were near the spot where he finally wedged the pen.

As he got older he would constantly try to steal silverware, pens, magic markers, potato skewers, or any other long, thin objects he could get his beak around. He became very protective of dental floss boxes, which as the Whiteout bottles, could be construed as egg like, or at least more egg like than anything else in the house. Eventually we gathered eucalyptus twigs and sticks for him.

In the five years since, he has made nests on top of the fridge, on top of the steak knife block (which would remain intact even after removing the block), in his cage, at the end of the couch, and behind the sink. It does not matter how often we remove the nest, he will start building again, particularly in the spring and fall. When we tore down his cage nest ( it wouldn't fit comfortably in the car anymore), we found several missing forks, knives, and spoons and other assorted kitchen ware. We found that the top of the fridge was not a good nesting place because he would fall off and sticks would fall behind the fridge. Other than that, any flat surface will accommodate the bird, and particularly a semi-enclosed space that is at counter top level or higher seems to be a big hit with Snoopy. It is fascinating to watch the patient vigor with which he builds his nest. I hope you'll give "Echo" the opportunity to be an "architect/engineer."     Dave from Wisconsin

Dear Linda;

About three months ago we acquired 10 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 that we brought in from the woods near by. We have provided them with an uncountable number of twigs and sticks 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 now we are "grandparents."     Rhoda - from New York

Dear Linda;

I was given a Quaker (a male?) last June and in August I got a good deal on another at a local pet shop. A week after they were put together, Captain, the first bird laid an egg.

They also had a whing ding fit when I tried to give them a nest box. I had to take it down eventually. They have ended up with a clutch of five, in the cage floor, in a nest made of willow twigs and pulverized, dry grass. They seem very happy with this arrangement, but will not allow the cage to be cleaned - the Demon birds, my seven year old calls them now. My African Grays and cockatiels never became this aggressive. Are all Quakers so quick to go to nest? Are they all so aggressive?    Grayla from Washington

Dear Grayla;

You were very lucky to have a newly introduced pair go to nest so quickly. My philosophy with the breeding birds is to accept whatever makes them happy. Never mind a nest box if they will lay five fertile eggs anywhere else. And, yes, Quakers will defend their eggs and young against any intruder The hand that feeds them will often be bitten.

 

CHRISTMAS, THE MIRACLE QUAKER

From 13 year old David from Illinois

In early November of 1992 we spotted a green bird in the neighborhood. In early December a blizzard type winter storm struck. We had below zero temperatures and over one foot of snow. Yet outside, there was the green bird. On December 24th we noticed that this bird was thrashing around

in our yard. It took about fifteen minutes but we caught it. We stuck him in a blanketed box and placed him in the basement. His one wing was limp, he was shaking and gasping for air. Realizing that it was too cold down there we brought him up to the linen closet. On Christmas morning we built him a makeshift cage out of a Christmas tree box, newspapers, screening, and an old blanket. We placed him in it and he fell over.

The next morning, by some miracle, he came to life. At 6:30 in the morning he woke up everyone with his high pitched screams. We rushed him to the Vet where he was diagnosed as a very healthy Quaker Parakeet. (We didn't know what breed he was!) We named him Christmas because he's a Christmas miracle. Now he is very devoted to everyone, especially my Mother who took care of him. We don't know his sex or age, although we guess he's between 2 and 4 years old.

Dear Linda;

I just bought an eight week old Quaker today. I already have a three year old Lutino Cockatiel. We are getting ready to move from Washington State to Arizona. Could we transport the birds in their own cages directly in back of the front seats? It is a long trip for them and I am wondering how we will handle it when we get out of the car to get something to eat. There is so much to learn to keep our birds safe while traveling.     Lucille from Washington

Dear Lucille;

Over the years I have carried birds many thousands of miles in my car. Keeping them safe is really just a matter of using common sense. Your two will travel well in their own cages with swings, hanging toys, and high perches removed. Food dishes can be left in place but water will spill - offer it from a thermos of cool, clean water whenever you stop.

Cage covers are essential to protect the birds from drafts or, if driving at night, from flashing lights from on coming cars which upset them terribly. I have never encountered a motel objecting to my carrying a covered cage or two into my room - probably because I have never asked! 

Unless you happen upon a restaurant with a table with a good view of your car in the parking lot, drive ins and take out are your fate. With your young Quaker's wings clipped and the windows securely closed, you can use the long hours spent traveling getting acquainted with your new bird.

Dear Linda;

In our area Quakers have established themselves quite abundantly. One evening, while I was out doing my pet sitting rounds, I noticed something green move in the middle of the road when the car in front of me passed over it. I could tell that it wasn't a branch with leaves. Well, I had to stop because my gut was telling me to. I grabbed a towel that I had in the car and ran back to see what was in the road. What I found was a Quaker with its face all bloody. I knew it was stunned, but it never tried to bite me. It didn't even struggle and it didn't scream or put up a fuss when I picked it up. I quickly gave it a once over to see if anything was broken. The only thing it seemed was damaged was the top of its beak where it meets the cere. The bleeding wasn't heavy and it seemed to be stopping. It was about 7:30 on a Saturday night and I had still one more stop to make, so I wrapped the little bird in the towel and put it on the floor on the passenger side and continued my rounds. When I got home my husband and I, armed with our pet first aide kit, closed ourselves in the bathroom to give it a more thorough exam and clean up its face.

To make a long story short, we have adopted this little Quaker and it is doing very well. The Vet said that it will always have a deformed beak due to the trauma it received.  Pam from Florida

 

QUAKERS AND THE LAW

I have received calls from two concerned Veterinarians about the rulings of the Ohio Department of Agriculture discussed in the July issue of our news letter. The opinion of both these men is that neutering or sterilizing a bird is a highly dangerous operation, often fatal in outcome. They both agreed that pinioning the wings of an adult bird is equivalent to an amputation in a human. Except when performed on a very young bird, pinioning is also a risky procedure as well as being unnecessarily cruel.

The consensus of opinion is that the choices given the owners of Quakers in Ohio to either have their birds sterilized or their wings pinioned, are not valid choices at all. They leave owners no real options but to get rid of their birds.

 

SOME FACTS ABOUT QUAKERS

MUTATIONS - Blue, Lutino, Pied, Cinnamon. Albino

LENGTH- 11 to 12 inches

WEIGHT - 150 grams

LIFE SPAN - 35 to 40 years

AGE TO START BREEDING - 12 months to 2 years

USUAL BREEDING SEASON - late summer and early winter

NUMBER OF CLUTCHES/ YEAR - 2 to 3 (often will double clutch) NUMBER OF EGGS PER CLUTCH - 4 to 8

PULL FOR HAND FEEDING - 3 weeks

CHICK'S EYES OPEN AND AWARE OF SURROUNDINGS - 10 to 14 days CHICKS FULLY FEATHERED OUT - 5 weeks

CHICKS WEANED BY- 8 to 10 WEEKS

IF NOT HAND FED, FLEDGE BY 6 TO 7 weeks

START TALKING - six months

FULLY MATURE AT about 2 years

These figures represent what can generally be expected. As in any "average" number, there are many individual variations. For example, a few of my Quaker babies are already starting to talk during the weaning stage. There are a rare few adult Quakers who never choose to speak, and every possible variation in between.

 

FEATHER PLUCKING

Linda Greeson

The distressing habit of feather plucking is not limited to our Quakers, although they are more prone to strong bonding and separation anxiety than most other species. The chief problem, in my experience, is that Quakers also more quickly form habits - good or bad - and these habits are harder to change. In fact, they can be down right stubborn at times.

In most of the literature on the subject, boredom seems to be offered as the most common cause of feather plucking. It is true that our active, curious little Quakers are happiest when there is a lot going on in their lives. Confined to a cage for long periods of time without a frequent change of toys to keep them occupied, for reasons difficult to understand, they may decide that plucking out their feathers, one by one, is a fun way to pass the time. The disfiguring result and the persistence of the habit is completely dismaying for the fond pet owner. Some birds may limit their activity to creating a bald spot on the breast, but others extend to all feathers within their reach.

Before we rush down to the pet store to buy yet more toys and suffer feelings of guilt over our busy schedules that do not provide our pet with sufficient play time, we should consider the possibility of physical causes, rather than psychological. Certainly these should be eliminated before deciding that providing a companion bird is the answer. This solution very often ends only in additional problems even more difficult to handle. Jealousy is often suggested as another cause.

Most Avian Veterinarians suggest that psychological causes should be considered only if no physical cause can be determined. Investigation of the bird's history and a physical exam may be all that is required to make a diagnosis and to suggest treatment. In other cases, identifying the cause may require considerable use of the process of elimination.

If the onset of the habit is sudden, infection of the bird's gastro - intestinal tract with the parasite Giardia is often the cause. This is a common condition in pet birds, diagnosed by examination of the droppings, and effectively treated with oral medication.

If the habit recurs at regular intervals it may coincide with reproductive cycles and may be an exaggeration of normal courtship preening behavior.

The problem may be caused by deficiencies in the diet, particularly Vitamin A. This vitamin is essential for healthy skin and feathers and is often lacking in a primarily seed diet. Excessive dietary fat may also be the culprit. The use of oil based vitamin products in the drinking water is another simply eliminated possible cause. The bird with oil stained feathers will industriously preen the area. When not successful in cleansing its feathers of the oil, it will start plucking out the offending feathers.

When not given the opportunity to bathe frequently and treated to light misting with warm water often, the dryness of our air conditioned homes has a bad effect on the Quaker's plumage. The feathers become brittle in texture, do not respond to preening efforts, and the bird's decision is to remove them.

When the more common causes of feather plucking have been eliminated, the Vet may proceed with more sophisticated tests. He may do a magnification of the feather structure and surrounding tissues to discover possible superficial fungal disease. In unusual cases, tests for thyroid or liver disorders are indicated.

Once started, feather plucking can become habitual and continue even though the precipitating cause has been eliminated. Chronic repetition of the habit can cause sufficient damage to the follicles to prevent future growth of the feathers. A restraining collar may be required in these cases.

There are probably as many recommended treatments for feather plucking birds as there are Avian Veterinarians. These may consist of simple changes in diet or dietary supplements, advice on management of behavior or hygiene, or as sophisticated as prescriptions for tranquilizers, opposite sex hormones, thyroid supplements, or a host of others. In any event, start your detective work early in the game and do not delay consultation with your Vet.

 

QUAKER ANTICS

"Jammer enjoys crawling down our shirts, turning himself around, and finally poking his head out and perching on the shirt, cheeping loudly and happily. He enjoys greeting us by walking very rapidly - sometime sideways, sometimes backwards, twirling around. It is very comical to say the least." Jeannelle in Ohio

"I belong to a bird club. At the meeting sone of the Quaker enthusiasts brought their birds, including one young woman who carried her bird in the cleavage of her blouse."

 

A NOTE FOR OUR QUAKER BREEDERS

A friend of mine who breeds large numbers of Quakers recently told me that he was surprised to have a Lutino Quaker born in his aviary. The parents are wild caught normal greens. He does not know at present whether this is a naturally occurring mutation or if the male is split to Lutino.

If another Lutino does not show up in future breedings, the probability is that this is a natural mutation. If another Lutino does appear in future clutches, he can assume that his male bird is split to Lutino. In this case, he will run up the flag, open the champagne, or whatever, to celebrate his incredibly good luck.

I have learned a lesson from my friend's experience. In the future I will keep all my baby Quakers until their pin feathers appear. Who knows when a Pied or a Cinnamon will pop up in my aviary.

 

QUAKERS AT LARGE

Where are they now?

by David Wright

Characteristic of so many well-intentioned projects, many seem to become mired in depth and scope or side-tracked by other activities seemingly more important. Such was the case with my attempt to put together an article detailing the laws of each state pertaining to quaker ownership. My travel schedule for my job took me away a great deal over the past several weeks and, unfortunately, that travel derailed my much more interesting quaker projects. I hope you will forgive me and grant me some additional research time. I pledge to do better in the future.

Those of us studying free-living or feral quakers are often besieged with the common question of "How can parrots live here?" Wherever "here" is is usually a yard or neighborhood where temperatures dip fairly low during the winter and where snow is common. Those seeking such an answer usually are unaware that parrots have adapted to all types of habitats and had a historically more diverse distribution than that enjoyed by members of the parrot family today. Quakers appear to be even more adaptable than most other types of parrots. We have certainly witnessed a great deal of adaptability in the feral quakers living in Connecticut.

So what are the limitations to quaker distribution throughout North America? Surprisingly, weather and temperature do not appear to limit quaker settlement or dispersal. We have found the significant limiting factors for quakers living in the wild are: (1) availability of year round food; (2) proximity to a large body of open water; and, (3) availability of large trees in which to build nests. Why large water bodies are vital to quakers we have not been able to ascertain to date. Areas such as New England's coastline provide all the elements required for quaker survival. However, quakers have not yet moved inland in New England presumably due to the lack of year-round, open, large waterways.

Naturally, the question that next comes to mind is "Where are quakers currently living at large in the United States?" The easy answer is take a map of the United States and find any well-forested area with large amounts of open water throughout the winter and somewhere in that area you'll more than likely find quakers living in colonies in the wild.

From many sources we have compiled the following list of areas where quakers are known to be living in the wild. This list is knowingly incomplete since quakers are continuing to found new colonies and we are not aware of where these new colonies might be until we locate a report on a new colony published in an avian journal or other reliable birding magazine. For purposes of this article, only locations supporting an "established" colony are included. (Established colonies are considered those with more than one pair of quakers, exhibiting breeding behaviors, and present for three years or more).

Free-living quakers can currently be located in:

Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford, West Haven and New Haven Connecticut; Rehoboth, Delaware; Coconut Creek, Dade County, Fort Lauderdale, Manatee County, Key Largo, Lake Wales, Lakeland, Miami, Naples, North Pinellas, Sarasota, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Stuart, Tampa, West Palm Beach and West Pasco, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; Brooklyn, Bronx, Buffalo, and Long Island, New York; Portland, Oregon; San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico; Warwick, Rhode Island; Austin, Buffalo Bayou, and Dallas, Texas; Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia.

Quakers have been reported in many other areas but do not yet appear to be "established" in these areas. In the future we'll examine some surprising locations where quakers have been found and why, in some cases, they are no longer there.

 

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