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Quaker Parakeet

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Is the Quaker Parakeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Quaker Parrot; Monk Parakeet; Grey-breasted Parakeet

Scientific name: Myiopsitta monachus

The basics:
The Quaker Parakeet is active, social, and intelligent. However, what makes Quakers one of the most unusual parrots around is the fact that it is one of only two species that can build its own nest. The other one is the Cliff Parakeet, Myiopsitta luchsi, a very close relative, which was only recently split off into a separate species.

The fascinating Quaker Parakeet is a South American native to Bolivia, Brazil, and northern Argentina, but it has introduced itself to several new locations around the New World. In the wild, these social birds build huge colony nests, containing multiple units, where pairs can roost and raise young. Sometimes, the nests become so big that they cause a branch to break, and all or part of the construction falls to the ground. The flocks are talkative, active, and tolerant of human activity, becoming famous in recent years for establishing themselves in several highly urbanized cities in North and South America including Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago, Illinois.

They can tolerate extremes of weather, from the sticky heat of the Bolivian pantanal to the cold of a Chicago winter, so they're hardy birds as long as they've got the right diet. In New Orleans, the introduced Quakers are building colonies in introduced Canary Island palm trees, making it clear that these intelligent birds can adapt and build different nests for different situations.

There is little evidence that these introduced birds venture into agricultural environments. But because there is still some question about the Quaker Parakeet becoming an invasive species, some states in the US ban you from owning or even traveling through with these birds. Before obtaining a Quaker, please check with your state's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for current laws. According to the Quaker Information Center, it is illegal to possess Quakers in California, Hawaii, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wyoming. There may be some technical details or permits you need in some of the other states. Since laws change all the time, double check before you give your heart to a pet you're not allowed to keep.

Appearance:
A modest green parakeet with a gray face and a gray breast marked with a light scallop pattern. While its natural plumage is understated, there are lovely color mutations available, including lutino and powder blue.

Weight:
127 - 140 grams (4.5 - 5 oz.)

Average size:
29 centimeters (11.4 in.)

Lifespan:
20 - 30 years

Behavior / temperament:
Quaker Parakeets continue to attract new fans because they're intelligent, vocal, and social. Like many vocal birds, they can be very noisy, and they may call or scream when you go out of sight. It is wise to invest some time training these birds to talk, so that they can call you by name, instead of with a shriek. A Quaker would, quite simply, never really be alone in the wild, so a single pet Quaker works best in situations where the bird always has someone around.

A neglected Quaker or even a Quaker who just considers itself neglected may be at risk for feather-plucking to the point of mutilation. Any time a Quaker starts over-plucking or self-mutilating, get to a vet fast, to find out if there is an underlying health issue. If the cause is emotional, you will need to work with the vet and/or a parrot behaviorist to see if you can short-circuit the plucking. That said, there are some good, caring owners who hold Quakers who pluck. It is difficult for one person to substitute for the entire social web that a Quaker would encounter in a state of nature.

Keep in mind that a wild Quaker would have a small compartment to hide itself in from time to time. Consider providing a small basket nest or a smaller wooden cavity nest for the bird to use as a security blanket. Replace the nest as it gets chewed up. Also, provide a playpen with plenty of toys for times when the pet is feeling more active. At certain times of the year, when hormones strike, these birds like to weave nest materials, so provide them with items they can use for the purpose like smaller unsprayed mulberry branches or vegetable-tanned leather strips. You may be fascinated to see how gifted your pet really is.

Housing:
An individual pet Quaker Parakeet should have lots of room and toys in order to work off its high energy. The minimum sized cage for a single Quaker would be 24”w x 24”d x 24”h with no more than ¾ ” bar spacing They chew, so the cage should be a metal one with a powder coating. Place a sturdy manzanita perch in the areas where you don't want to replace the perch very often, but also include chewable perches and toys for the bird's entertainment. They also need a separate playpen with its own collection of perches, ladders, and toys. An outdoor aviary set-up to allow a colony to breed might be an interesting project, but don't try it until you have checked to make sure that you can comply with local and state laws regarding the breeding of this species.

Diet:
Bring your new Quaker Parakeet to your vet for a check-up, and take the opportunity to talk about diet. Quakers are considered to be at risk for fatty liver disease, which means that you should restrict high fat foods such as oil-rich sunflower and safflower seeds. Hold back these seeds for special rewards while training, unless the vet says your bird is overweight and should not be eating them at all.

Quakers may need supplemental calcium or simply a cuttlebone, if they are willing to chew the cuttlebone. Otherwise, even though they are not conures, you can follow a good conure diet such as a high quality pellet combined with around 20% chopped fresh fruit and vegetables on the side. A high quality soak-and-cook or a homemade recipe that includes plenty of well-cooked beans, whole grains, and brown rice might be a good alternative. These curious birds might ask for the food on your dinner plate, but never give avocado or chocolate to any parrot species.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

BIG personality, friendly little birds, super smart bird, loving personality, great first parrot

challenging

fatty liver disease, cage aggression, screamer, stubborn birds, LOUD, sexually mature, hormonal issues

interesting

medium sized birds, Good socialization, sexlinked lutino, good fruit diet, mischevious little beings

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