FROM THE EDITOR
Many of our readers have brought a new baby Quaker home
this summer and are in the process of taming and training their pet. Whether the bird be
wild caught or hand fed, this needs to be undertaken with the knowledge that it will be a
long, slow process. The objective in your first weeks is to win the trust and respect of
your bird. How to accomplish this depends on both the bird's temperament and yours. There
are many articles and books written on this subject and as many different approaches
suggested as there are different bird behavior specialists.
Keep in mind that a pet purchased as a "hand fed
baby" may possibly more resemble a wild caught bird. Unless the breeder has taken a
great deal of time to handle and socialize the baby during the feeding and weaning process
the descriptive term "hand fed" has little significance except as a selling
point. The only advice I feel qualified to offer is what hasworked best for me. Most
important of all "Go Slowly". Do not push your bird. Give it whatever time it
takes. Always offer little goodies - a peanut, a grape - when you approach the cage. At
first, if your bird appears timid at your approach, just drop the treat into the feeding
dish, all the while talking in a soothing manner. Eventually the bird
will learn that you are not a threat but a source of food. Wait patiently for the bird to
approach you with confidence and you are well on your way to making a friend of your pet.
Hand fed babies who have been socialized by a devoted and
conscientious breeder will quickly become completely trusting with no fear of humans.
Older birds who have been well treated in the past will require only time to recover their
Remember to respect the fact that each bird has it's own
special personality and may not conform to the expectations given you. Much like small
children, our Quaker babies are individuals who never quite fit an exact pattern. One
ability they have in common seems to be the capacity to train their unsuspecting owners in
behavior that pleases the bird, rather than vice-versa.
FROM OUR READERS
We have had our Quaker Louie for nine months. We are a
family of five one of which is four year old Mary. Louie is basically good with all of us
except Mary. He tries to go after her every chance he gets. I know she would really love
to hold him and be his friend. Do you have any solutions to change this situation? P.S.
Mary is full of energy.
Margaret from New York
Dear Margaret:I think your P.S. is the key to the problem.
All companion birds are upset by sudden movements or unexpected loud noises. You may find
some help in this issue's article on biting, but I am afraid the training needs to be
directed toward your energetic little daughter rather than Louie. Even if you succeed in
changing her behavior around the bird, Quakers have long memories and are even
more difficult to change than four year olds.
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My husband and I need some information on the effects of
temperature on Quakers. We purchased them last summer when we were living in Canada.
Through the summer months they did not seem too uncomfortable with the heat and would
splash in their water dish if they became too warm. However this last week we had a much
different experience. We are now living in the Seattle area and the weather has been
extremely warm these past few weeks. The birds began to molt and I noticed the larger male
seemed to be over preening himself. I assumed that he was just removing old feathers.
However, that evening the air became extremely warm in our apartment and the next morning
the cage floor and surrounding area were covered with feathers and down.
Sitting on the perch was a rather pathetic looking little
Quaker. Not only had he removed feathers from beneath his wings, but his chest and little
legs. Fortunately the heat did not effect the smaller female. Now my husband and I are
sure to keep a fan operating and to mist them when the weather is too warm.
My questions to you are: Are Quakers susceptible to high
temperatures? Why should one bird be affected by the heat and not the other?
Dorothy from Washington
I think that you may be jumping to conclusions when you
assume that the weather was the sole cause of your Quaker's plucking. In that the heat was
a part of a stressful change of home, happening unfortunately at the time of a molt which
is also stressful, it probably did contribute.
Quakers are normally very tolerant of either heat or
cold, more so than most other species. Ours here in Florida are in outside aviaries and
thrive in the hot summers as well as the cold spells in the winters. Each Quaker has an
individual and unique personality, and may differ greatly in ability to handle stress. If
the development of new plumage is not satisfactory, and plucking continues, I advise
consulting your Avian Vet for possible physical causes. Meanwhile, lots of love and
attention will help the birds to adjust.
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I am planning to convert my Quaker to pellets and would
like to know if it is OK to use those formulated for Cockatiels. There seem to be no
formulas for Quakers and my Quaker will not eat foods sized for the larger parrots. He
currently eats pellets but not solely, however he dunks them in water first. Is this OK?
You are wise to convert your bird to mainly pelleted
food. There will probably be less soaking in water with the smaller, cockatiel size, but
there is no harm done - just a habit of some and not others. I place the water bowl at the
opposite end of the cage from the food bowl just to discourage the practice a little and
pay particular attention to frequent emptying of the "soup" they make of their
My Quaker is eight months old and does not
talk. He makes all kinds of noises and is a real sassy bird. His feathers are in good
shape, he eats well, and loves to be in the room with me. In fact, if I leave him alone in
a room too long he hops down and comes looking for me. We talk to him all through the day.
Sometimes when he is chattering I think he says "Bobbi", his name. I have
thought of boarding him with talking birds but I am afraid he will pull his feathers as he
did when we first got him. Do you think he will ever talk?
Ruth from Florida
Please do not even consider boarding that
dear little bird anywhere at all. He sounds completely devoted to you and your husband and
would be just heart broken to be sent anywhere without you. Do be more patient. Bobbi is
just a baby. Just keep talking to him, repeating the same words or phrases endlessly. I
think that by the time this issue gets to your home he will be talking up a storm.
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Can you please help me? My Quaker Reekki was getting a
real good bath one day when I noticed two yellow feathers by his neck. Does this mean that
he is split to Lutino? To my knowledge they were not there when I got him as a young bird.
He is now almost two years old. Jo Ann from Missouri
Dear Jo Ann:There is no visual indication at all of a Quaker being
split to Lutino. Yellow feathers appearing in an older bird after several molts usually
indicate either damaged feather follicles or are an indication of liver disease.
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We have a three month old Quaker that we purchased for
our six year old daughter. We named our bird Q.P. since they are his initials. (For Quaker
Parakeet) Since he is a little girl's pet, also for the Kewpie doll. That's how we
Lorie from Arkansas
So many of our readers have come up with unusual and
clever names for your pets. How about a clever name contest? Send in your entries. I will
have to serve as judge and the prize will be a free years subscription to The Quaker News.
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Rosie, our perky Quaker is the brightest spot in our
household. She greets us coming and going - summons us with "Come here, right now.
damn it!" She keeps our dogs in line with "Go lay down. No barking. Barking is
baaad." And of course "I love you. Give Mama a kiss", and "Nite nite
kiss" are endearing. How did we manage without her?
Kaye from Ohio
An old gentleman I knew insisted he could start any bird
talking by swearing. I don't really suggest that as a solution to the silent bird, but you
do notice that most of the phrases Kaye quotes are probably said very emphatically and
plainly to make the dogs mind. Clear, loud, often repeated words will help get your bird
started, and once a few words are spoken, the rest follow quickly.
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I tried something with my beloved Quaker Radar. I shake
up a container of orange or any other kind of juice until it bubbles. Then I pour the
contents into a glass and Radar proceeds to bite the bubbles, drinking at the same time.
This may be a good idea for someone who can't get their
bird to eat fruit. He likes both orange and apple juice the most. Radar is my constant and
loveable companion. We go all over together and travel many miles (ten hours sometimes)
going up north visiting. He is a very good traveler although I often have to put my finger
in the cage and rub his head. (Only when we are on a road with little traffic.)
Joseph from N.C.
An additional word of caution - let Radar have his fun
chasing bubbles only under your close supervision. Quakers can't swim. I was told about
one who fell into his owners oversized coffee mug and drowned.
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About the middle of June I arrived home with my own
Quaker Parakeet, Spike. I had been looking for a bird for a year and met many different
birds. Spike was the most even tempered, sweetest bird I met in that whole year. That's
why I got him. Spike hasn't started to talk or even mutter yet. Is there a certain age
that Quakers start to mutter? What does it mean when Spike yawns? Is fluffing up a sign of
Kim from California
Low, indistinct sounds that you could call muttering are
the start of talking. Birds usually, but not always, garble their first words a bit and
practice the sounds before they are clear. They are all different - some start talking in
the weaning stage, some not until one or two - and very rarely some just never do much
talking. I think that Spike occasionally yawning has probably the same meaning as when a
human yawns. Excessive yawning can be caused by worms or other physical
up can mean that Spike is cold, that he is preparing for sleep, is just a part of his
preening routine, or if it persists and is accompanied by other symptoms, it may mean that
he is sick. By closely observing your bird's behavior, as I am glad to see you are doing,
you will learn his little ways that are peculiar to him alone and be able to interpret his
behavior quite well.
TEACHING A PARROT TO BITE
(Use of this article only with
written permission of author)
from Guide To A Well Behaved Parrot -
Mattie Sue Athan
WITH permission of Barron's Educational Series
Nature produces the parrot's tendency to use its hard
sharp beak to bite. It is a tendency that possibly blossoms to fruitation frequently in
captivity. Humans and a poorly planned captive environment can easily reinforce the
tendency to bite. An understanding of the parrot's instinctive behaviors combined with
aggression-prevention handling mannerisms, a well designed environment, and planned
responses to the bird can reduce a parrot's natural tendency to bite.
I see several instinctive behaviors that probably
generate the initial bite: crankiness, the flocking instinct, territorialism, and sexual
related aggression. Combine these with proactive behavior by humans, unintentional
reinforcement and misunderstanding of how the bird uses the beak and you have a biting
The flocking instinct often contributes to the
development of biting in a young parrot that interacts regularly with more than one
person. Because sick or injured group members might attract predators, a "good
citizen" of the flock might naturally try to drive the weaklings away.
In family settings this perceived "weakling"
might be the nicest person in the family, the smallest person, the quietest person, the
oldest person, or another pet.
Of course, in human society attacking
"weaklings" is an extremely inappropriate behavior. In birds it must be
socialized out by denying reinforcement, by providing responses that the biting bird does
not want, and by teaching acceptable alternative behaviors to replace the undesirable
behavior. One must be careful not to unintentionally reinforce any form of hard biting on
humans or other animals. Many varied responses will be interpreted by the bird as
reinforcement of the bite. I usually presume that reinforcement of a negative behavior is
unintentional; although I have seen resentful or hostile humans openly reward companion
parrots with kisses, praise, or food rewards following a bite or attempt to bite a spouse,
parent, sibling, or other pet. This can lead to dangerous tendencies in the bird that will
not always be expressed against the person one might wish. It is a form of
"behavioral bird abuse." A domestic hand fed parrot that has been reinforced to
bite matures into a viscous, dangerous creature with an uncertain, probably unhappy
An attacking parrot can easily be reinforced with
laughter on the part of the favorite person. Although the behavior is self-rewarding (done
for the pleasure of doing it), laughter from the favorite person could well be the next
most sought after response by the bird. And not laughing is very difficult! Here is a
clumsy creature who cannot hold its bell and look at the food dish at the same time
without falling off the perch, trying to kill someone 100 times its size! Laughing the
first time the baby bird attacks your significant other is setting a dangerous precedent
of reinforcing violence. We know that it is not funny if our 14 month old child tries to
kick the dig; and we wouldn't permit, much less reinforce that behavior. A companion
parrot has many of the same aggressive reactions as a human toddler; it is just as
inappropriate to reinforce them in a parrot as it is in a human.
A more appropriate response to the stimulus is a stern
look; a loud "Stop it!", wobbling or shaking of the hand if the bird is perched
on your hand or even picking the bird up to accomplish the correction, a loud clap of the
hands, step ups, or time out wherever the bird does not want to be. Simple crankiness on
the part of a baby parrot can start a cycle of biting that is easily unintentionally
reinforced. TzaTza is going through his first molt. It must be an emotionally intense time
for a six month old Quaker. Last month he looked like a little round green satin apple.
This month he looks like a lawn that was "mowed" with scissors.
He is moody, confused. He wants to be petted but his neck
is so full of stiff new pin feathers that he bites when I touch it. I have given up trying
to accommodate the pets he still begs for, but I spend a lot of time kissing his little
beak and blowing into his neck. He seems to enjoy both, closing his eyes like a cat
squinting in the sunlight. Sometimes he is quieter then usual. He is defensive of his
cage. Yesterday he bit my nose when I had a white cosmetic mask on my face and approached
him too quickly.
Both of these bites were responses to stimuli from the
human. These bites are best avoided by altering the behavior that stimulated them. A
cranky baby parrot with a head and neck covered with stiff pinfeathers may seek comfort,
but petting those pointy little pinfeathers will bring only a response to pain. Better to
give the bird a bath to soften the feather sheaths, A nip by a cranky baby who got poked
in the neck with a pinfeather, I believe, is best ignored.
As a matter of fact, most early bites from hand fed
babies are probably accidents.
A nip on the nose by the baby sitting on its cage can be
treated with a stern look, a loud "Cut it out!", and a swift lockup inside the
cage below. Prevent the nip on the nose by:
Avoiding the cranky bird if your appearance
is not usual ."Prompting" the bird's good mood by saying "good bird"
before you prompt for physical contact.
Approaching more slowly. Quick movements are
more often than not the culprit here.
Accidental reinforcement also includes pulling back every
time the bird puts its beak on the hand. This will cause the bird to believe that the
perch is unsafe. It will respond more aggressively by testing the potential perch before
stepping up. The behavior of putting the beak on the hand before stepping up must be
ignored if the bird is to trust the perch (hand) and respond dependably to step up.
Poking and pointing at a bird with quick movements are
extremely proactive. This is a problem with people who are animated talkers. Waving or
wagging fingers swiftly in a bird's face is interpreted by the bird as an invitation to
fight, particularly if those fingers are enhanced with brightly colored fingernails. While
many birds really enjoy being petted with long fingernails (they feel like a beak!) and
can tolerate brightly colored fingernails, if biting persists, one must really examine the
way those fingers are being presented to the bird. A pointed appendage - finger, toe, or
nose - approaching quickly into the bird's face is an almost irresistible stimulus to
Don't "thump" the bird on the beak. This is
ultimately a counter productive act. I believe that it is a little too enraging not to
inspire grudges that will be avenged when the opportunity presents itself.
Many bites are either accidental or a matter
of interpretation. An accidental bite, unintentionally reinforced or responded to with
much drama can easily become a permanent habit.
CHARLEY COMES HOME
A Tragic Story With A Happy Ending
Glenn F. Kruse
As an Aviculturist and caring for and raising birds such
as Red and Yellow canaries and several kinds of Finches and attending several bird fairs,
my interest was drawn to getting a pet parrot. After talking to several bird breeders and
reading articles on different types of parrots I decided on getting a Quaker Parakeet.
I bought a six week old Quaker from a breeder and named
him Charley. When I picked up Charley on Fathers Day, June 18, at the breeder's house his
wings were clipped so he wouldn't fly away. I was hand spoon feeding Charley a parrot
formula in the morning and evening and he was starting to eat a little on his own. This
went on for three days.
On the third day that I had Charley I took him outside to
show him to a neighbor. To my surprise Charley flew away over a garage and into a high
tree. His green and gray
coloring blended in very well with the leaves of the
trees. We spotted Charley high up in a tree and got a ladder to rescue him but he took off
and flew away. It was about eight PM with night and darkness coming.
The next morning I got up early and went through the
neighborhood calling his name which he probably hadn't learned yet at such an early age. I
posted lost bird signs on poles, called the police department, the animal shelter and
humane society, placed ads in the local paper, but two days after Charley flew away there
were no calls or sightings of him reported.
When I got home from work on Saturday, June 24th there
was a message on my machine from an animal shelter. I called back and read to them the
letters and numbers on Charley's leg band and it was my bird. When I went to him and
talked to him he was so excited and flapping his wings and squawking to get out of the
cage. I also was excited and happy and almost flapping my wings.
They told me that they got a call that there was a weird
looking bird or parrot in a park in the next village which is some two to three miles from
my home and across a river.
I am so thankful and feel lucky that Charley is now home.
I had his wings re-clipped. He hasn't been outside since. I wonder why?
Some of our breeders may by this time of the year have
about given up hope for some pairs to produce a clutch of babies. The placing of a hen and
cock together does not automatically insure that baby birds will be produced. Many of the
larger birds, and a few of the smaller birds like our Quakers, may take years to bond to
each other. It can even happen that a bird will never become compatible with the mate
chosen by the owner. Many have minds of their own about an acceptable mate.
The hen may be more interested in mating than the cock
and give up on her attempts to be fertilized. She then goes about nesting as usual but
lays and tries to incubate clear eggs. Some Cocks are intensively territorial and
concentrate on defending their cage space rather than on the hen.
More often an eager cock finds himself with a reluctant
hen. He may be so tired of his mates "having a headache" that he drives her into
the nest box and keeps her there without food and water. Occasionally the female is badly
plucked by an aggressive male.
We also encounter the "next door syndrome." The
cock ignores his own hen and spends his time actively courting the hen in the adjoining
The most effective way to insure compatibility in a pair
is to place them together in a cage at an early age. Allowed to grow up together they will
When adult birds are being paired, placing both hen and
cock in a new, strange cage at the same time is often effective. There will be no defense
of territory. They will both be frightened and will find security in each other. Allowing
them to become acquainted in adjoining cages first helps this maneuver to work well.
Quite often the solution is just the passage of time.
"Let's give them another year." is a frequent decision - and it often pays off.