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