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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MUTATIONS - Blue, Lutino, Pied,
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
START TALKING - six months
FULLY MATURE AT about 2 years
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.
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.
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
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.
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
A NOTE FOR OUR
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
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
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.
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).
can currently be located in:
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,
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.