FROM THE EDITOR
My Mother has told me that when
she was a child (70 years or more ago) the family pets lived exclusively
on table scraps. When leftovers were short the dog was routinely given
bread and gravy. There was always gravy - no one worried about fat
content of foods. An occasional big treat for the cat was a ten cent can
of salmon. She remembers her grandmother's parrot being fed sunflower
seeds. There were no foods exclusively manufactured for pets.
Now in every super market there
is a whole long isle devoted to pet foods - canned- dry - moist - a
bewildering array of brands to choose from. The number and kinds of
parrot foods available are fast catching up with those for cats and
dogs. It will not be many more years before all seed diets for our birds
are as unheard of as bread and gravy for the dogs.
There are a good many reasons
for the fast growing popularity of pelleted and extruded bird foods.
They all differ only slightly in content. With a diet of seeds each bird
develops individual favorites. The seeds that appeal least to your bird
are discarded - either on the floor or by you when the dish is
re-filled. Even though the exact nutritional requirements of each and
every species has not been determined, research has resulted in the
production of many excellent foods that offer a more balanced diet than
one of only seeds.
The choice of brand becomes a
highly individual decision determined by what your bird will enjoy, and
how well both pets and breeding birds maintain weight and general health
on the chosen brand. Breeders, with many crops to fill, are influenced
by price as well as content in making choices.
In the manufacture of pelleted
foods a steam cooked mash is forced through a die. The food is subjected
to high temperatures and pressures but the feed is not sterilized. The
process in making extruded diets is very similar except that higher
temperatures and pressures are used, and the materials used must be
ground much finer. Fewer bacteria escape the extrusion process and the
result is a higher concentration of food values.
Avoid mixing various brands.
Vitamin and mineral supplements given in any form in addition to any of
the fortified foods can result in toxic overdoses. My program is simply
to make the mainstay of the diet a pelleted food with seeds, fruits and
vegetables offered as treats fairly frequently, and a wise choice of
table food in tiny amounts for the pets.
FROM OUR READERS
I have a question I only trust
you to answer. I'll be in Europe for one month this summer and am
leaving Niko (my Quaker who is my sole room mate and Buddy) with my
boyfriend who is a cocktail owner. My concern is how to make this as
easy as possible for Niko. Should I leave a tape recording of my voice
to play when I am gone? I'm so nervous I don't know how I will relax
without my baby. Actually he is four years old now. I hope he forgives
me and loves me as much when I return as he does now. I won't rest easy
until I know your trusted expertise. Maria from
Thanks for your confidence,
Maria. I have never pretended to be an expert on bird behavior but I
feel confident that the bond you have developed with Niko will survive a
month's absence. He may not be his usual cheerful self while you are
gone but there isn't a doubt in my mind that he will be delighted to see
you again when you return. I suggest having your boyfriend spend as much
time with him as possible before you leave. If possible take Niko for a
visit or two to his future temporary home. Many people use tapes and
phone calls successfully. Relax and enjoy your trip- your bird will be
- - - - - - - - - - - -
My husband and I have retired
and moved from the state of Washington to Arizona. We drove down,
carrying our African Gray and Eclectus in the back seat of our sedan,
our two small dogs as well. Our little Quakers, Billy and Baby were not
allowed to travel through California. They had to be shipped by air and
we were very worried about them, needlessly as it turned out. They
arrived intact and unruffled, much to our relief. The first thing Billy
said however was "food, food, water." which we placed in their
carriers before we left the airport parking lot. Its a shame though that
some states must put Quaker owners through such expense and worry and
trauma to our little friends. Fern from Arizona
We all agree that these
regulations are discriminatory and not needed at all. They are
apparently based on the situation with wild, imported birds which used
to exist, and which does not apply at all to our domestically bred
birds. We have a number of subscribers in California and know of several
Quakers breeders there who seem to disregard these regulations without
penalty. Perhaps in California, as in a number of other states, adverse
public opinion has created a "don't ask, don't tell" situation
where officials would rather not be forced to enforce their own
- - - - - - - - -
We got our first Quaker 2 1/2
years ago. Oatmeal was 3 months old. We didn't have him
"sexed" at the time but felt he was a male. We've recently
been proven wrong. Following a health exam on Oatmeal and our new Quaker
"Tucker" the tests showed that Oatmeal was a female. Tucker
had already been sexed as a male. When we compared the two birds,
Tucker's body looked wider and more angular. He also weighs 10 Grams
more than Oatmeal. They are the same age. Is this a coincidence or maybe
a way to make and educated guess?
Tucker was an unplanned
purchase from a bird fair. The seller got him from a woman who was
afraid of him because he bit, but she really didn't want to keep him
either. We felt sorry for this scared little bird that had been
mishandled and passed around, so home with us he came. It took just a
few weeks to gain enough of his trust to handle him without getting bit.
Oatmeal, who talks constantly,
is teaching Tucker to talk. Their "lessons" are hilarious, and
end with Oatmeal saying "Good boy" to Tucker. They must be
private lessons, though, since they quit when we come around. Tucker is
just starting to talk to us. Shirley from Wisconsin
How nice to hear a success
story about rescuing a little bird from being passed around and
developed into a happy little pet. I have no really fool proof way to
decide the sex of my baby Quakers. I keep records of my guesses on the
groups I send for DNA sexing on, and am wrong just as often as I am
- - - - - - - - - -
I have two Quakers now about 15
months old. They have a funny little trait of what I call "beak
bopping." They take their beaks and pound them on the surface in
front of them. My breeder suggests that perhaps it is an attempt for
attention. It appears to be an assertive move on their part but I am not
sure what it means. If I tap my fingers assertively on the surface in
front of them, they will repeat the number of taps as if it were a game.
They do not seem to use it as a form of aggression. Nor does it appear
that they want attention when they do it. I have seen them do it to the
cat and dogs, but more often they just march up to the other animals and
let it be known that they are in command (and they are!) If this beak
bopping is an aggressive behavior, I don't want to reinforce it by
repeating it to them; on the other hand, if it is a playful move, they
are lots of fun with it. Can you tell me what it
means? Jan from New Mexico
I am intrigued by the fact that
your Quakers repeat the number of taps that you do with your fingers. I
come up with the impression that rather than being aggressive behavior,
this is a most interesting of trying to communicate with you. It would
be fun to go further with this, teaching them that two taps means
"no" for instance -three taps for "yes" - you may
have a little green geniuses.
In response to Kathleen Carr in
your last issue my Quaker, Kiwi, loves for me to sing to him. He sings
this verse with me to the tune of Rockin' Robin:
Kiwi rocks on his tree stand
all day long,
Rockin' and a rollin' and a
singing his song.
All the little birdies on
Love to see Kiwi when he's doin'
Rockin' Kiwi, tweet tweedle e
Rockin' Kiwi, tweet tweedle e
Oh rockin' Kiwi, we're really
going to rock tonight.
It's hilarious. He performs
with head bobbing, dancing around, etc. We sing it every day.
I have had many readers report
that their Quakers are singing whole verses of little songs, adaptations
of catchy tunes with usually the bird's name included. Perhaps some of
our pets who are slow to talk will respond to singing. It's worth a try
and a change from endlessly repeating the same phrase.
- - - - - - - - - -
Toby, my 3 year old female
still plucks and sometimes mutilates his chest and underwings. We have
seen two avian vets to no avail. Hormones as a final resort. Have been
using herbal meds and she does seem happier but still rips her feathers
out. I recently read about something called QMS or Quaker Mutilation
Syndrome, which makes me wonder if this is more common in Quakers than I
had thought. Do you know of any other Quaker owners who have had this
problem? I would appreciate any input from them. Barbara from N.Y. The
only problems I have personally experienced with feather plucking have
been with Sun Conures and African Grays. The only Quaker "pluckers"
are a few hens who at breeding time line their nests with their own
feathers but no mutilation is involved. Apparently causes for this
distressing habit are many and successful treatments are few. Both
Barbara and I will appreciate any help from our readers.
- - - - - - - - -
My Quaker, Cuckoo Bird, is very
bonded to me. At the age of three months he was trying to regurgitate
and feed me. He is now a mature bird, almost four years old. He spends
quite a lot of time regurgitating his food and then swallowing it, over
and over. In between he has learned how to masturbate.
I discussed this with his vet,
and he has assured me that I do not have a little sex fiend, that some
birds do it a lot, and that Cuckoo isn't special in this regard. That
all the regurgitation is not harming him, that there is nothing to be
done, so let him be. Hormones for birds, he says, are still in the
experimenting stage. I don't doubt Cukoo's vet, its just that I would
like a second opinion from you since you raise them and know them so
Don't tell me Linda, that it
has turned into a habit and that I should distract him or give him more
toys. I tried all that and I can't devote all the waking hours trying to
distract him. Millie from Montana
You made me laugh, Millie,
because what you predicted was exactly what my reply was going to be -
it has become a habit- try distracting him with new toys, etc.. etc. the
standard answer. I agree with your vet. Cuckoo Bird is definitely in
love with you, and is showing his love in the only ways he knows. At
four he should soon be settling down with less of this type of activity
- less "teenager" and more adult in his activity. What makes
these little birds so fascinating is how individual they are - each with
special characteristics that you may look far to be duplicated in
- - - - - - - - -
You include so much about
possible dangers and things that can go wrong in our news letter. Are
these birds so delicate that just about anything can cause them
harm? Sue from Texas
And here I have done it again!
Another article on home safety in this issue. Quakers really are not
delicate at all. They are very sturdy birds, much more resistant to
disease than most other species. I have perhaps been overdoing it on the
warnings about dangers, but when I receive a letter telling me about the
accidental loss of a pet due to either carelessness or lack of knowledge
I know just how heartbroken the writer is. I want to do everything I can
to prevent these things from happening to my readers. I promise - no
more warnings for at least a couple of issues.
his proud Momma, Barbara, from Colorado
Sometimes it kisses me, gentle
But sometimes it bites where my
It's usually hungry for some
kind of treat,
This is a poem about Bunkie's
I never know if it is in a good
It might want to strike, or it
might want some food.
Sometimes it acts like a sly
This is a poem about Bunkie'
Sometime it is waiting to play
with a toy,
After all, it belongs to a
One time it gave me a kiss on
This is a poem about Bunkie's
Sometimes it is silent, or else
it may speak.
It snaps at the places it knows
that I am weak.
But I know that it gives me all
the love that I seek.
This is a poem about Bunkie's
At a bird show I attended
recently I was given some samples of Kaytee's Nutra-Puffs which provide
an attractive, wholesome treat and training aide. It is colorful,
yellow, orange, and red, and a lot better nutritionally than the human
snack it resembles. The manufacturer recommends limiting it to 5-10
puffs a day. For Quakers I suggest sticking to an upper limit of five as
a hand held treat.
GODZILLA IN THE
from Flights of
Imagine being kidnapped by
Godzilla and held captive in a small room in a foreign place. Each time
Godzilla brought your food and water, he just burst into your room
unannounced. No matter how many times he did it, you could get caught
off guard and would still be frightened.
That may be what your bird is
thinking. Take time to announce yourself when you enter your bird room
or come home at night or leave in the morning.
Birds in the wild have a
"signature call" which they use to communicate and reassure
each other. A whistle, phrase, or tap on the wall will let them know
that a friend is entering their area.
Especially in spring at the
height of the mating season birds have hormonal rages perhaps beyond
their control. This is the time when many pet owners give up on their
pets instead of giving them a different type of attention. If your angel
becomes a bit testy, ride out the storm. Back off. Give your bird some
breathing room. These temporary bad moods will fade.
Sunshine State Cage Bird Society's News Letter
My employment at the treatment
plant in Bradenton (Florida) affords me the opportunity to observe some
of the local free Quakers that abound in the area. The most that I have
seen together numbers 55 and represents about five distinct familial
groups. They come to the local next door golf course to do some feeding
and mostly to socialize. They play in one of the larger trees and can be
heard for quite a distance. They alight upon the ground and pick at
seeds and jockey for position with one another. I believe that each
distinct colony, of up to 20 individuals, are possibly interrelated and
a meeting such as I have observed at work, allows fresh genes to enter
the colony. These Quakers hang around much of the day, seemingly having
nothing else to do, but soon they will be building their stick nests.
Wild babies hatch from March to October and most pairs will clutch
twice. The other feral parrots, the Nanday Conures, also flock together,
however they and the Quakers do not get along.
Quakers do have some enemies
among the crow population. Often I have seen crows chasing Quakers and
once, while the assembled group was feeding on the ground, a large crow
actually pounced on one of the Quakers hard enough to see the feathers
fly. Needless to say, I quickly opened the doors of my truck and
everybody dispersed. In hindsight, I wish that I had waited and watched
so I might know what would have happened. The larger size of Quakers and
their flocking nature probably limit the kinds of predators in their
habitat. Man is probably their largest single threat. Quaker colonies
are reported from Florida to Boston. I have made an effort to find some
of their colonies around Bradenton. I know of eight such groups and
suspect the location of another two.
MOST LOVED AND HATED PARROT
by Mattie Sue
First I had come to see a grey
parrot who never seemed to quite adjust and now I was on a call for a
yellow nape, the new third bird in the home. But the family's first
love, and favorite companion bird, was a common monk parakeet.
" Why didn't anyone tell
us that the quaker was the perfect parrot? We kept hearing such
wonderful things about African greys and yellow napes, and such rotten
things about quakers, we thought we were missing something. But our two
large bird experiences have only served to show us how wonderful our
quaker is. He talks with cognition, learns new things all the time, goes
to anybody (away from his cage); and - after ten years - he's still
finding new ways to amuse us!"
I'd heard stories like this
before: quaker owners may be disappointed in larger birds even though
they bought the larger birds because they heard they were
"better" than quakers. Then I happen on someone who's seen
groups of monks, maybe imported or breeding birds, saying "I don't
And I might hear someone who
has known maybe a half dozen quakers ( and sometimes even someone who
wouldn't recognize a quaker!) use those same words "I don't like
It doesn't even sound like
these people are talking about the same bird. There must be tremendous
differences between the nice and not-so-nice quakers, for no other type
of parrot seems to evoke such vehement and opposite opinions. An
unsocialized quaker can be an obnoxious animal, but handfed baby quakers
don't come into the home obnoxious. Why then, do so many of them end up
that way? Poor patterning and poorly planned environment are the
culprits here. A quaker doesn't have to be a little hooligan, for these
birds arevery predictable and respond dependably to common behavioral
In Myiopsitta monachus - the
monk or quaker parakeet - I see all the mimicking ability of the budgie,
African grey, and yellow nape in a sturdy, easily manageable size.
Indeed in some places, these little grey - cowled feathered monk(eys)
are called "the poor man's yellow nape". In terms of price,
size, temperament, talking ability, and accessibility, handfed domestic
monks are everything one could expect of a companion parrot. My own
quaker - who receives minimal attention in this home of many pets - is
an amazingly astute conversationalist. Tza-tza likes to talk on the
phone (although he can't figure out how to get the phone to answer
without my help). When I have one of my asthma attacts he coughs along,
then asks "Are you OK?"
Tza-tza bathes daily, then I
have to change his water again or he drinks bath water all day. He even
grooms his own nails by blunt filing them on the rough bars of his
wrought iron cage.
Monk parrots are well
appreciated in the pet trade which may be the only place in the world
where they are truly wanted. Gale Whittington, owner of Colorado Seed
and Pet ( a 45 year old bird store) says "The quaker is extremely
hardy and one of the best talkers. I sell more quakers than any other
Although they continue to be
demonized by agricultural interests, being illegal in several states,
feral quakers have not proved as dangerous as once feared. They have not
proliferated or become widespread in areas in the US where they are
established. I believe that most of the 3,000 or more birds living wild
in the US are escaped wild caught imported birds, for I doubt that
today's handfed domestics have the necessary skills to survive outdoors.
Monks have a grey cowl across
the head with lighter grey cheeks and scalloped markings on the upper
chest. Although resembling conures, monks are the lone members of their
Genus. There are two subspecies, one with distinct grey markings on the
chest, one with a more plain grey chest. Lutino (yellow) and blue
mutations have developed in captivity. There are no readily observable
Quakers are named after one of
their infantile behaviors. Babies exhibit a sort of "palsied"
response when feeding and begging. Some birds retain this body language
longer than others, some revert to it occasionally when they are
courting, ill, or otherwise needy.
Highly social and eager to
please, domestic quakers usually love to be cuddled. Some birds never
learn to step up because they like to be picked up like a baseball (with
the palm around the back).
Their talking (and noise
making) capacity is legend. Hand fed domestic quakers often rival
African greys in their ability to acquire huge vocabularies. Hand fed
domestics seldom develop the calls of their imported predecessors who
had a loud, raucous "cultural" language. Wild quaker sounds
can be so repugnant, interlopers flee just so they don't have to hear
the noise. On the other hand, wild quakers are sometime tolerant, even
accepting the presence of certain other species in their huge communal
Companion quakers are also
quite African grey-like in their tendency to bond too strongly to one
person or location, so controls must be maintained to minimize this
territory-related aggression. We see few significant behavior problems
in domestic quakers with a diverse environment including a large
assortment of well-used, frequently rotated toys. If adequate behavioral
and environmental controls are maintained to prevent the development of
aggression, domestic quakers can be outstanding companions. As several
of my clients have discovered, they might even be "better"
than some of their larger, more-famous cousins!
Bird Club News
FAMILY ROOM OR LIVING ROOM
1. Try to keep your birds over
a linoleum or tile floor with some sort of pattern that camouflages
spilled food. Seed that falls into carpet may become moldy and hatch
2. Plastic or PVC vertical
blinds are ideal for the bird room. They resist chewing and do not
contain the lead weights that drapes do. Watch the chains and pull cords
around curious beaks though.
3.Keep a few non-toxic plants:
Spider plants are particularly valuable because they absorb air-borne
toxins. Ferns and ficus plants are safe too. 4. Birds love to chew on
remote controls. Keep controls in drawers when not in use.
5.Allow your birds to watch TV
and listen to the radio, even when you are not home. The media
stimulates their minds.
6. Favor upholstered furniture
that has no wooden arms to be chewed and no leather to be pierced by
sharp toenails.7.Limit the hobbies you pursue around your birds. Felt
tip pens are toxic as are nail polish, oil paint, fishing weights,
costume jewelry, and ceramic glaze.
8.Whenever a bird is out of its
cage be nearby.
9.Do not allow large birds to
play with small ones; cage your Amazons while your budgies or cockatiels
10. Provide large enough cages.
Give birds room to flap their wings, and be sure cage bars are close
enough together so no bird can stick its head through.
11. Choose plain lamps for the
bird room -not Tiffany style or leaded in any way. Favor lamp shades
that birds cannot perch on.
12.Save your newspapers for the
bottom of the bird cages. Use sheets with black ink; colored ink is
13.Note the absence of ceiling
fans which can severely injure flying birds. Air cleaners and covered
fans can help rid the bird room of feather dust. Do not aim any fans
directly at the birds.
14. Rollers on large cages make
15 Cover each bird cage with a
cloth cover each night so the bird can get some privacy and sleep. Have
a vacuum handy for quick pickups around the cages.
16. Be sure neither your
ironing board cover nor your iron is teflon coated. Do not use spray
starches around your birds. BATHROOM
17.Keep the toilet lid closed
so flying birds cannot land in standing water.
18. Birds may try to fly into
mirrors. Have only small mirrors near your flock and give your birds
opportunities to explore them at close range so they realize they cannot
fly through them.
19. Turn off running water and
empty basins birds may have access to. 20. Chemical cleaners and spray
deodorants carry airborne toxins that harm birds nearby.
21. Many birds love to shower
with their owners. Perching them on the curtain rods keeps them out of
direct, hard spray.
22. To keep flying birds from
crashing into windows, apply decals. Never leave windows or doors open
without screens covering the opening. Birds may escape and curious,
hungry mammals may enter your home.
23. Keep your cats and dogs
away from any birds allowed out of their cages. Watch dogs are a good
security measure to protect valuable caged birds from theft.
24. Recycle any bird seed your
pet birds don't eat for the wild birds outdoors. Wash your hands
thoroughly after handling the outdoor bird feeder so you do not carry
germs from the wild birds to your pets.
25. Do not apply to your
outdoor plants any chemical fertilizers or pesticides that may drift
indoors and poison your birds. KITCHEN26. Don't cut your birds' fruit
and vegetables where you cut chicken. Residue that never completely
wipes off may contain salmonella.
27.Birds may drown in tall
narrow glasses of liquid. Don't leave any lying around unattended. Keep
birds from sipping alcoholic drinks too.
28.Dry your hands with paper
towels while servicing your birds to keep from transmitting germs that
may stay on cloth towels.
29. Fixing pop corn for
yourself? Make extra (don't butter or salt it) for your birds.
30. Hide the cords to all
appliances such as toasters and can openers so birds cannot chew on
31. If your pet bird happens to
be out of its cage and in the kitchen with you, be sure you are not
frying, whipping, or opening a hot oven. 32. Freeze or refrigerate bags
of bird seed for at least 24 hours to kill moth larvae.
33. Keep packages of frozen
mixed vegetable on hand for your birds.
34. Always have a stock of
greens on hand in your refrigerator for your birds. Some of the most
nutritious are spinach, carrot tops, alfalfa sprouts, chard, mustard
greens. and kale.
35. Consider serving leftovers
such as macaroni and cheese or pizza to the birds. They love Italian
36. Teflon, Silverstone, or any
other trade name given to the non-stick coating PTFE, kills birds once
it heats to 530 degrees Fahrenheit. Take no chances of overheating such
pans . Use only stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans.
37. Never purchase and use
"non-stick burner drip pans, designed to catch runoff from pots.
Normal usage heats these items to toxic levels in five minutes.
38. Keep smoke and strong
cooking odors from your birds' lungs. Turn on the range fan when you
39. To clean the oven, apply
chemicals only if your birds are several rooms away and doors are
closed. If your stove is equipped with a self cleaning oven, remove
birds from the house while you run the clean cycle. Ventilate for four
hours after cleaning before you allow birds back into the area.
40. Do not allow hot water to
run unattended. Shower loving birds may scald themselves in the stream.
Never leave standing water in the sink; a bird could drown in it.
41. Sterilize bird dishes and
utensils in the dish washer. Be sure curious beaks do not have access to
dishwasher detergent. 42. Always have your avian veterinarian's phone
number readily accessible for emergencies.
Editor's comment: Most of these
precautions are not necessary if your bird is kept under close
supervision while out of the cage. Regard the Quaker as you would a
mischievous two year old, and keep those wings clipped.