THE QUAKER NEWS

October 1998

 


FROM THE EDITOR

One of our readers writes : "I am brand new at owning a bird and want to know how in the world do you play with a bird? I look at my little Quaker and say "Do you want to play?" He looks back with an expression that says "Whatís with this crazy human. "

There must be as many different ways of playing with a bird as there are owners. If you think of your young Quaker as a human baby somewhere between the ages of one to two, activities will naturally come to you. "Peek-a-boo", the old favorite baby activity played with a towel delights Quakers too - the towel hiding your face at first. Dragging toys around the floor for the bird to follow - gentle "scratching" around the face - some like this under the wings. Rolling a grape or nut around, working toward playing fetch, is fun. Cuddle your bird against your chest and sing a few bars of any simple song to him. With repetition you will probably hear the song repeated.

Of course, there is no guarantee that all birds will react in the same way. Birds even of the same species and from the same clutch will differ. What makes Quakers exceptional is that given the opportunity they will often make up their own games with you. They quickly learn to mimic the phrases you use and your laugh at their antics.

What is most important is not what little games you find to play but the undivided attention you give your bird daily in the process of playing. In addition to the "up" and "down" practice so basic to training, they need the demonstration of your love just as a human baby does. The daily play time creates a close bond with your pet no matter how you play.

 

From Bird Clubs of America - UPDATE August, 1998

On July 7th, the worst nightmare of Deby Stewart of Chatter Box Aviary , Edmund, Okla. , came true. Upon entering an outside aviary building she found all 107 occupants dead - from electrocution. The building housed her breeder pairs of Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Conures, Quakers, Parakeets, and Parrotlets.

One of the playful, new Blue Quakers had gotten out of its cage and found the extension cord that was hooked to the 220 volt window air conditioning unit. Thinking this would be fun to play with, it took the cord up into its cage before it chewed through the wires. Upon doing so he turned the entire aviary into an electrified grid. All of the birds died instantly. It also destroyed the window air unit. At least the birds did not suffer, but Deby has greatly. Some of these birds were her first breeder pairs.

Although some were too old to still be breeding, Deby still wanted to provide a good life for them. It was a devastating loss. Our hearts go out to her.

 

FROM OUR READERS

Dear Linda,

 There are bigger parrots, more colorful parrots, more expensive parrots, better talking parrots, but when it comes to cute, loving, smart devoted parrots you canít beat a Quaker. When God gave out "cute" to parrots, Quakers got a Macawís share! My two Quakers have stolen my heartľ and they do it more every day. They are amazing!!!     Tom from Florida

Well put, Tom! I couldnít agree with you more. Are you having any more birthday parties for your parrots? Your wifeís story about one of them she shared with us some time ago was great.

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Dear Linda,

 I own a 4 year old Quaker along with a maroon-belly conure (31/2 years old ). I can relate to a lot of your articles along with learning important information but I donít think enough credit is given to Quakers. My bird has approx. a 75 work vocabulary and is so lovable. My conure has picked up talking from the Quaker. These guys are housed together and are inseparable.     Vicki from West Virginia

So many people ask me whether their Quaker will get along with a bird of another species. Your experience, and that of many others, seems to indicate an answer of "probably"- we have reports of Quakers living happily with quite a few different species - so until you give it a try there is really no predicting..

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An E Mail Letter I Recently Received

Dear Linda ,

I have a delightful little Quaker that I fostered who had been caught by a cat and almost died. He is blind in one eye and part of his head is missing. His beak will only open half way but all this does not seem to bother him. He has the best disposition and rules all the other five Quakers I have. He is constantly busy on the patio floor picking up sticks that are twice his size, flying up to the top of his cage only to drop them and then try again. He will take feeding dishes that are knocked on the floor, drag them to the sliding glass door and push them into the corner, only to decide that that is not the place he really wants and then push the dish somewhere else.

Mango is allowed to fly around our bird caged pool so to his delight he can visit all the other birds, including a cockatoo, a macaw, and two amazons. If he is hungry while visiting the other birds he will eat out of their dishes or else take a bath in their water. They all seem to put up with him and get along fine. I never thought that I would have such a pleasant little bird who is the delight of everyone even with his handicap.

 

Dear Linda,

 I have a normal green Quaker that was a year old in May. I would like to have a Blue but the pet shop owner/breeder I know says he doesnít breed the blue because of too much inbreeding and unknown life expectancy. I have read your book which says that they are "not quite as hardy" as the normal.     Mary from La.

I have been breeding the blue mutation for well over 14 years now and do not agree with your pet shop owner. I breed unrelated pairs and often cross breed with normals to maintain size and strength. The mutation of any species is not quite as hardy as the normal no matter how careful the breeding program. Some of my original birds are at least 20 years old and still producing babies. The blues are more generally available now with a resultant drop in price. The blue color is lovely, but the color of the plumage is the only thing different - all the other characteristics that are so endearing are just the same.

 

Dear Linda,

 How can one hold their bird in learning how to clip wings and toe nails?    Elizabeth from Florida

It took quite a few bites, Elizabeth, but over the years I have developed the art of holding even larger birds than Quakers with one hand with the bird wrapped snugly in a towel, leaving my other hand free. I gently pull out the foot or wing I wish to work on. The towel holds them securely and prevents their hurting themselves. An added benefit is that the bird is angry at the towel and not me. This takes some practice and I would advise training with a live demonstration before attempting it. Dick Ivey of Bird Clubs of America writes "My favorite and safest posture for a bird is feet down on a newspaper, held by someone, and pulling the foot out gently for clipping nails, or clipping wings. Remember that holding the bird upside down even in a towel may free his dirty feet to clamp his nails into your hand, and that can hurt. I like to cover the head loosely in the towel as I hold the jaws to keep the bird from looking (bad image heís getting). Also the bird may be more immobile by being in the dark."

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Dear Linda,

 I would like to thank you for sending me the back issue of The Quaker News with the article on molting. Your note was so considerate. As you know I was very concerned regarding my Quaker Jasmineís "constant molting." As per your advice, I took her to my Avian Vet a few weeks ago for a check up and spoke to him about my concerns. All test results (blood, culture, etc.) came back fine and that was a great relief to me. He assured me that she is molting now. The particle and powder and particle residue that occur at other times is normal.

I think that I just over reacted. I love my pets very much and am fastidious in their care. Their cages get cleaned on a daily basis and I mist them quite regularly- daily in the summer months. I also make sure they get fruit and vegetables every day. I know they are well cared for and loved.

So, perhaps I am the typical over-protective Mother. I plead guilty! But, as you know, parents who are truly concerned about their youngsters are always alert to all kinds of problems. I want to try to be one step ahead of any potential problems. Iíve only had my Quaker two years (my first bird) and was thrilled to discover your publication. It is one of the best investments Iíve ever made.   Janice from New York

Just as when we are raising children. It is difficult to draw the line between being over protective and being negligent in our reactions to symptoms our birds show. The birds are so skillful at disguising illness ( a hold over from their wild stage when the rest of the flock would destroy a sick bird) they make the decision as to when to consult the Vet even more difficult. You need never apologize for a decision to seek professional help when it was really not necessary, Janice. It would be far worse to lose a beloved pet because treatment was delayed too long.

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Dear Linda,

 In the "Parrots" magazine, issue 22, June:July 1998, page 12, I was very upset by their comments on Quakers. I hope someone will find the time to read this article and give feed back on it. Basically it said that "Quakers donít make good pets. Put them in an aviary." I have a Quaker that is very personable. Worst trait is that "she" will squawk to get my attention, how ever not enough to get rid of her. I hope to see a comment in an upcoming issue.     Susan from Illinois

I fired off a letter to the editor as soon as I could locate the magazine. It does not have a wide circulation which, realizing how badly misinformed they are, is understandable. As for the squawking - I know that you are familiar with the remedy - give attention when your bird is quiet - with hold it when she is noisy. Even negative attention - calling out to keep quiet, etc. is rewarding the undesirable behavior.. This sounds so simple, but somehow difficult to do.

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Dear Linda,

 I lost my two year old Quaker, Benny, several months ago. My problem is that my other two year old Quaker, Niko, is mourning Benny, and I thought another Quaker would cheer her up. But she wonít have anything to do with Andy after four months. Niko will get down at the bottom of her cage and put her beak on the floor, scratching the floor and squealing loudly. It is very disturbing. Niko is very high strung (hyper). She is continuously running around in her cage, especially when she eats. Taking one bite, she runs around, then takes another bite. She will squawk as soon as I leave the room. If she canít see me, she squawks. That really gets on our nerves. She also stopped talking when Benny died. Just a few days ago she started saying a few words again. We are about to try finding another family to take her. It would have to be someone who knows how to handle a problem Quaker. I really donít ant to do that. The only thing that stops the squawking is when I go to her cage and talk to her quietly- or play peek a boo which she and Andy love. Do you or anyone you know have a solution to this problem? Is there anything that would calm her down that would not harm her? I cannot afford much as our income is low. My husband thinks I should sell her to someone who knows how to take care of a situation like this. But what would that do to her? I sure can use some input about this. I would appreciate it. I just canít afford Sally Blanchard!      Lucille from Arizona

I donít pretend to have Sally Blanchardís skill in handling problem situations, but I have an idea that what you have done is create a closely bonded breeding pair. With the loss of her mate , just as she is at the age when ready to reproduce, poor Niko is just not able to adjust. Her scratching around on the bottom of the cage may be a frantic search for nesting material. Her hormones are percolating - nature is telling her that this is the time to make babies, and she has lost her "better half."

No doubt but that you have a difficult problem to solve. Without realizing it, you have probably made a pet bird into a breeder bird. I know by long experience that there is a world of difference in their behavior and their resultant personalities. Now you are faced with the task of changing her back into a pet. Perhaps there is a "Prozac for birds" that your Vet can recommend, or at least some sort of tranquilizer to help Niko with the adjustment.

My solution to creating a bond between two strange birds is to cage them very close together but in separate cages, often for many weeks or even months. I then put them both in an entirely new cage at the same time. This prevents either one from being territorial . This usually works for me.

If you feel it is really necessary, I would offer Niko to a breeder rather than to another home situation. If your nerves can hold up, (and your husbandís,) perhaps just the passage of time will solve your problem. As strongly as Quakers bond, Niko may need more than a few months to settle down

 

AVIAN TESTING AND EXAMINATION

AFA In Brief - June, 1998

Reasons for different examinations and some of their uses:

1. Physical Exam- The physical exam is used to guide the veterinarian to any part of the bird that may be diseased, injured, malformed, or mal-functioning. This is an extensive, thorough procedure that can detect a wide array of diseases and conditions in multiple body systems.

2. Fecal Parasite Check - This is used to rule out infestation with intestinal parasites such as worms, coccidia, and giardia.

3.Examination Of Droppings - Since the droppings are a combination of urine and feces they serve as an indication of both gastrointestinal and renal health.

4. Gram Stains - The gram stain is used to detect gram negative bacteria and yeast. A vast number of birds are either ill because of gram-negative bacteria or have become immunocompromised from other disease processes and have been invaded by opportunistic organisms such as yeast or gram-negative bacteria. Identification of such infections aids treatment and recovery of the patient.

5. Complete Blood Count (CBC) The complete blood count is a sensitive indicator of the general health of any animal. The parameters routinely examined include a total and differential white cell count (WBC), hematacrit, red cell characteristics (RBC) , Thrombocyte count, plasma characteristics, and the presence or absence of blood parasites. Changes in many of these parameters are indicative of many different disease processes and are often noted before any other sign of disease is present.

6. Chlamydia psittaci Testing - This is used to determine if the avain patients may be a carrier of "psittacosis", "ornithoris", or "parrot fever", a disease that can be spread from bird to bird and bird to man. This is a treatable condition.

7. Polyomavirus Testing - Polyomavirus cause budgerigar fledgling disease (BFD) and can cause high mortality in aviary conditions amongst young birds. Birds with this virus should not be exposed to other birds or bred at all and often have a greatly shortened life span. There is no effective treatment for this disease at this time.

8. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. PBFD is a virus that can affect many organ systems at many stages in a birdís life. There is no effective treatment of this disease at this time

(Editorís note - In case this information may be rather overwhelming - or depressing at least, remember that our Quakers have a wide reputation for being among the hardiest of birds and far more resistant to diseases than most other species.)

 

ARE QUAKERS AGGRESSIVE?

Linda Greeson

Some of our readers have written about problems with their Quakers acting aggressively with their other birds. Analyzed a little , even though I am admittedly no expert on bird behavior, I can see that much of this behavior can be interpreted as reaction to fear, rather than an indication of an aggressive nature.

Debbie writes : "We have just added our 12 week old Quaker, Simon, into the family. We also have a Parakeet, Zack, a Caique, Rascal, and a Pionis Isabel. The Caique, who is a male, and a friendly one year old who is not aggressive, flew off his play area at the same time Simon either flew off or fell off his. Next thing I knew Simon was trying to nip Rascalís beak and feet in an aggressive manner. I did separate them and mentioned to my husband and the kids that Simon should probably not be out of his cage at the same time as the others. Is this a common problem?"

If you look at this situation from Simonís point of view you can interpret his behavior as being defensive rather than belligerent. He is really still just a baby, learning all sorts of new things. He is daily making adjustments to a strange, new environment. Just balancing on a perch is a fairly recently developed talent. Fear is a self protective instinct, a residue from his ancestorsí life in the wild where only those birds constantly alert to danger survived.

Consider Simon, proudly practicing his recently learned skill suddenly falling to the floor. Even more frightening is the sight of another bird landing on the floor beside him. His instinct is to protect himself from danger. His spunky, courageous nature directs him to attack, not run. I do not see him as hostile or belligerent but as a frightened little bird trying desperately to survive in what he perceives as a life threatening situation. Having been so recently presented with all these birds, all these humans, and an entirely new life, has been a lot for just a baby to accept and make an adjustment to.

Quite often if we try to look at the situation causing problems from the point of view of the little bid involved, a different interpretation and a different solution evolves. Eliminating fear and developing confidence is a long, slow process.

I interpret a great deal of Quaker behavior as an indication of the courageous, bold nature of our birds. I do not believe that they are naturally belligerent or hostile. They do react to whatever they perceive as a threatening situation with active defense. Once convinced that no danger exists , your Quaker will develop amazingly friendly relationships with any species and will bond to humans with a devotion equaled by none other.

 

OVER THE COUNTER MEDICATIONS FOR PET BIRDS

Edward L Spenser M.S. D.V.M.

From South Jersey Bird Club Newsletter

You think your favorite bird is sick. Your first thought is to run to the pet store to get some "medicine." After you get there, you ask the clerk what to do and you are steered to a shelf with many "remedies" labeled for pet birds. You may wonder "Whatís the story with these store bought remedies? Are any of them effective? Do they do anything at all or should I call a Veterinarian?"

All products considered "drugs" for man and animals are regulated by The food and Drug Administration ( FDA) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). This act and accompanying regulations were placed into law in order to control the quality, safety, and effectiveness of drugs used in man and animals and to try to eliminate the quackery and dangerous patent medicines that were rampant years ago. One of the FDA centers is the center for Veterinary Medicine which is responsible for administering the laws that apply to animal drugs and devices. That responsibility includes drugs for pets and the huge market of drugs, devices, and medicated feed additives for food animals like cows and chickens.

According to the FFDCA, if a product is labeled to treat or prevent a disease in any animal or man, it is considered a drug. It must therefore be proven safe and effective for its purpose in that species. That almost invariably means that the sponsor is required to obtain FDA approval to legally market the product in the US. For animal drugs this takes the form of an approved New Animal Drug application(NADA). The approved NDA requires the sponsor to supply significant evidence of the products safety, efficiency, and manufacturing controls that assure purity, potency, stability, and consistency. In addition, the sponsor is required to continually monitor the product for manufacturing problems, adverse reactions, and other problems that might effect the product and report any such problems to the agency.

What does this have to do with my pet bird?

It has everything to do with your pet bird. There are many products in the pet store labeled for treating disease of pet birds. With only one or two rare exceptions (not readily available on pet store shelves) none of the products that are on the pet store shelves labeled for treating diseases of pet birds are approved by the FDA. The safety and effectiveness of these products for the treatment of disease is unproven under the scientific standards used by the FDA. Unfortunately , such products have not traditionally received much regulatory attention, as opposed to food animals and traditional companion pets such as dogs and cats. Most of the FDAís resources are channeled into regulating the drug for food animals to insure the safety of our food supply. This may change in the future, due to the proliferation of unproved dugs for treating the diseases of pet birds. There is minimal, if any, scientific data that establishes that any of these unapproved pet bid products are safe and effective for their intended uses. In addition, unapproved products do not undergo the ongoing FDA monitoring of the manufacturing process. Unlike approved products, the public has no way of knowing if these products are being manufactured under appropriate manufacturing standards or not. There is no oversight of these products such as is required of approved products. The firms that market these products defend them by claiming that they have been marketed for many years. However, a successful marketing history does not establish that they are safe or effective. It establishes for the most part that the firms have successful marketing strategies.

It is the opinion of many expert avian veterinarians that most of these over-the-counter products do more harm than good Wearing both of my hats as a practicing avian veterinarian and a veterinary medical officer at the FDA, I agree.

Birds are experts at hiding their symptoms of disease. This is a defense mechanism developed to insure their survival in the wild . They often do not appear ill until their diseased state is advanced. Birds have a high metabolic rate and consequently require frequent influxes of energy (nutrients) to survive(think of the hummingbird). They usually have minimum body fat and thus have little energy reserve. So, if they get sick, they go down hill very rapidly. If you experiment with over-the-counter medicine, by the time you realize that the bird is really in trouble and seek a veterinarianís advice, it might be too late to help your pet.

Traditionally, small animal veterinarians had been reluctant to treat pet birds because of the high mortality rate. Use of these medications can add significantly to this rate due to the loss of valuable time. Recent advances in avian medicine and surgery are changing those old preconceptions and the quality of care available now is much higher than twenty or even ten years ago. There is a considerable body of experience in the modern, well educated veterinarian that can offer much to the pet bird. New knowledge, along with new instrumentation and surgical techniques, diagnostic methods, and drugs have brought avian medicine a long way.

Editorís note: limitations of space did not permit use of entire article - more in next issue.

 

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