Parrots are wonderful and entertaining pets; however, they have a tendency to create a significant mess in and around their bird cages from spent food and bird droppings. Responsibility for a healthy, happy bird requires good housekeeping in addition to playtime and emotional bonding. Of course, anyone would rather spend quality time with his or her birds than on cleanups. Yet, there are plenty of quick and easy bird cage cleaning strategies.
When my husband and I became “empty nesters” (no pun intended!), we decided to adopt a baby African grey, which we named Pepper. As excited as I was anticipating the arrival of our new bird, I secretly dreaded the extra cleaning time we would be spending to keep our home sparkling.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
Birds make messes instinctively, but there are ways to combat the mess.
According to Jane Gesser, bird breeder and co-owner of Critters Closet in Georgia, a parrot’s role in the wild is to disperse seeds from fruits and nuts, both in droppings and in unused portions of food that fall to the ground. Parrots and many other species of birds are nature’s feathered farmers. They help the environment by dropping seeds that germinate and grow.
Unfortunately, pet birds don’t discriminate between our homes and the jungle floor of their native habitat. Owners must take responsibility for cleanliness and hygiene in the home to create ecology of well-being for all who live there.
When Pepper was ready to come home, my husband refurbished an older bird cage to be Pepper’s play area. We also purchased a roomy cage for his main residence and sleeping spot. It didn’t take us long to observe that our new bird created the predicted mess in the vicinity of both bird cages.
After a few weeks of trying different cleaning methods, I developed a simple system that minimizes the time and work necessary to keep Pepper’s areas, especially around the bird cage, as neat as possible. First, I purchased several easily obtainable and inexpensive items for a total cost of roughly $100.
According to Stewart Colby, DVM, practitioner of exotic animal medicine in Alpharetta, Georgia, cleanliness may be one of the single best ways to keep your bird healthy. Bits of pet bird food and droppings can attract insects, which are often vectors for illnesses. It can also become a breeding ground for harmful pathogens. Transmission of psittacosis is associated with dried bird feces. Food that has been left out for too long can grow fungi, and dirty water can grow a variety of bacteria that can make a bird sick.
Where Pet Bird Mess Comes From
The bulk of the mess in the bird cage area comes from food, although droppings and feather debris can be nuisances, too. A key part of my daily cleaning routine involves removing wet edibles from feeding cups and the cage bottom as soon as possible. Wet food attracts insects more quickly than dry foods. Dry nourishment consists of pellets, seeds or nuts, but in a humid environment even these dry bits will absorb moisture and begin to create some of the problems associated with the wet material.
We incorporate moist food items into special socializing time that coincides with our own dinnertime and breakfast. At breakfast, Pepper might get a portion of my oatmeal or banana. At dinnertime, I cut up fresh fruit and vegetables for him. Any uneaten portions of wet food are cleaned up immediately after each meal. Bird cage food cups are emptied and cleaned once a day, and unused dry bird food is thrown out, either wrapped in plastic bags or put down the garbage disposal.
Get To The Bottom Of Things
We cover the bottoms of the bird cages with newspapers. With a little luck, you may find a paper that fits perfectly in the bottom tray. Use the non-colored portions of the paper, and never use glossy pages. You can also order a custom-made cage liner from any number of manufacturers. Liners should be changed daily, preferably in the morning or just before bedtime, especially if your bird has a penchant for foraging beneath the grate during the day. This will keep the cage free of molded bits of food and feces, and it’s a quick and easy way to clean up the daily bird mess.
Newer bird cages have powder coating, which easily wipes clean with a damp paper towel or with soap and water. Many cages also have metal skirts that attach near the base and fan out to catch debris that flies out from between the bars.
Clear Plexiglas sheets attached to the side of the cage serve as a barrier to bits of food and water that Pepper might fling onto the walls. Purchase them at a hardware store and cut to fit the dimensions of the sides of the cage, or choose a custom cage protector from a bird product manufacturer.
I secure each plastic sheet by using a single metal S-hook made of stainless steel that Pepper could not possibly chew through or hurt himself on. The hook slips over the horizontal bar that runs above the level of the feeding cup and the top of the Plexiglas sheet to secure it. The bottom of the Plexiglas piece rests snugly against the metal skirt that is attached along the base of the cage.
Fortunately, my bird has not shown any curiosity with either the Plexiglas or the metal hooks that hold them in place. C-clamps could be another way to hold the plastic in place, and spring clamps might also work well. Whatever hardware items you decide to use, make certain they are made of nontoxic material, such stainless steel. Also, avoid exposing your pet bird to any harmful substance that could be bitten off and cause choking.
I knew immediately that something needed to be placed underneath the bird cages to protect our carpets – and it needed to be easy to clean. A nonporous surface would be ideal to wash, sweep or vacuum the dirt off. Hardware stores sell clear vinyl carpet protectors that come in thicknesses ranging from “low pile” to “heavy duty” carpet runners. The bottom is covered with small plastic grippers that gently dig into the carpet, resulting in a stable surface, which is easily swept or wiped clean. You might also try a plastic chair mat from an office supply store or a custom-made one from a bird-specialty manufacturer.
Once a week, I roll the cage off the mats and take them outside to quickly hose off any sticky food or droppings. The mats can be hung over a rail, and they dry in a matter of minutes.
No matter what you do, there will still be shells, hulls and bits of food that end up on the floor near your bird’s cage. I discovered that the easiest way to clean this dry material off the floor is with a mechanical brush sweeper. This handy device shouldn’t frighten your bird the way a vacuum might, and it discreetly stores in a corner near the cage for easy access.
A hand-held, battery-operated vacuum might be another choice for your cage area cleaning strategy, and a steam cleaner can do wonders to remove dried on bits of food and feces on the actual cage.
Birds cannot be expected to clean up after themselves. Simplify your daily cleaning chores by creating manageable routines based on some preventive measures and basic cleanup habits. The payoff is that you are ensuring a healthy bird along with a clean and healthy household.
Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, December 2005 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
Looking for more cleaning tips?
Pet Bird Tidying Tips
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Omar’s Exotic Birds
Include your pet bird as your prepare for the newcomer’s arrival to your home.
Introducing a new family member does not have to be a traumatic experience for your existing pet bird. Following a few simple suggestions can make a profound impact on how the new individual, human or animal, is accepted by your pet bird.
1) Avoid nasty surprises. Prepare your pet bird for the new arrival by telling it that there is a new member of the family coming. Your pet bird might not understand exactly what is happening but will know that you are sharing some important information, just as you would with any other family member.
2) Allow your pet bird to participate in preparations for the newcomer. Talk to it when setting up new equipment, regardless of whether it is a new cage or a crib for a child. It’s important that your bird clearly understands that the new addition will not usurp its position in the “flock.”
3) Maintain normal conditions as much as possible. If your bird’s cage needs to be moved to make room for the new addition, do so well in advance of the arrival date, so that it does not associate the newcomer with its being disrupted.
4) If possible, don’t overwhelm your pet bird with several new experiences at the same time — even good ones. Sometimes, people purchase a new cage for their existing pet bird when they get another bird. Lower stress levels by doing so long enough in advance for the existing bird to grow comfortable with it. If the old cage is being given to the newcomer, have it repainted and install new perches and toys so that it appears different to its original owner.
5) Be the liaison with all new relationships. Always hold your existing pet bird the first time it actually sees the new arrival, even if it is a newborn child. For example, place the baby in a bassinet in another room then take your bird to see the newcomer. Adjust the baby’s blanket while holding your bird. Let the bird know that it is your first baby. Talk to the baby about how important your bird is. Tell your bird that the baby is important, too, and that you need the bird’s help taking care of it. If you do this, don’t be surprised if the bird begins to squawk when the child is fussy or if there is a problem. Many of my clients have found that their birds behaved like little “nannies” after having this talk with them! Follow similar guidelines with animal adoptions.
6) Do not expect your bird to love everyone you love. Only expect it to be well-behaved when they are around. If the newcomer is a romantic interest, hold the bird the first time it sees your human friend. If your bird accepts going to strangers, ask it to step on the person’s arm, praising it when he does. Take your bird back after stepping onto the other person’s arm, and praise it again, offering a food treat and a cuddle or scratch, whichever it prefers. The newcomer can offer treats if your bird is amenable. Never force the bird to go to someone when it does not want to. Allow your bird to grow comfortable with the new person in its own time.
7) Maintain the bird’s importance in the family. After the newcomer’s arrival, the existing bird can easily be incorporated into activities by placing it on a portable perch or gym or, the back of a metal folding chair or step stool, so that it can be part of the experience without actually needing to be handled. It is not necessary to do this every time you are interacting with the newcomer, but frequently enough to teach your little friend some social manners. Start with very short sessions, and praise your bird profusely when it remains perched. After it becomes more comfortable, brief words of praise, offered intermittently, will keep it there. Food rewards can be offered for birds that are motivated by their stomachs.
8) Consider the safety of all of your loved ones. Be realistic about the limitations of both small children and your bird. In cases where your bird is curious and climbs down to see the newcomer, keep it caged when you cannot supervise it, or place it on a perch that it cannot climb off of. Whatever the situation, remember to praise it. Include it verbally and visually while you are visiting or interacting with the newcomer.
9) Use physical barriers where necessary. When a baby becomes a curious toddler and may invade the bird’s cage, a baby fence or corral works very well when placed around the cage. They are readily available in most baby stores. If necessary, the fence may need to be used for several years until your child learns to respect the bird’s territory and well-being. That is OK. After all, it is better to keep your family intact, whenever possible.
10) Be patient and compassionate. It often takes time to incorporate all the elements of a new relationship with the old. With love, patience, compassion and consideration toward all family members, your new relationship can actually enhance everyone’s lives, including that of your beloved pet bird.
Do you have a kid-hating parrot? Find out what to do here.
Is your bird jealous or territorial? Find out here.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie/Courtesy Omar’s Exotic Birds
Depending on the species of Eclectus, a male Eclectus reaches sexual maturity around 2 years old.
Q: I just adopted a male Eclectus that will be 4 years old in this summer. I have only had him for two weeks, and I understand that they come into sexual maturity about this time. He is an awesome little guy and he is very affectionate; maybe too affectionate. Every time I have him with me, he starts getting sexually aroused. I know I should distract him or put him back on his bird cage, but if I did this I would hardly get to have him with me. Is this just something that happens once or twice a year? I love playing with him but he immediately starts getting aroused and starts regurgitating his food. He is not selective about his affection either; he’s that way with anyone who wants to hold him.
A: Your statement that your Eclectus responds sexually to anyone who holds him does not surprise me. One advantage of living with an Eclectus is that they usually don’t form a strong mate bond with one person. Because of this, an Eclectus is less likely to show aggression toward other people when it is around its primary person.
Sexual behavior in parrots can create some complex problems for the people in their lives. Your Eclectus might have been handled by its previous caregivers in a way that stimulated it in a sexual manner, so this may be, a “normal” behavior for your pet bird. Another possibility is an increase in the quality of your Eclectus care. While we strive to improve the life of any parrot that comes to us from a previous home, sometime the changes can create some unintended consequences.
In the wild, an increase in light and humidity signals the breeding season. To parrots it means that there will be adequate food for their babies. It is natural that these same conditions will also influence the behavior of our pet birds. When my double yellow-headed Amazon parrot hen, Pascal, came to live with me when she was 13 years old, she was not used to an optimal environment. I gave her baths, improved what bird food she ate, added full-spectrum lighting, put new toys in her new cage and gave her a lot more attention. It reached the point where I couldn’t walk in the room without her showing serious sexual behaviors.
I am not suggesting that you cut back on the quality of the care you provide for your Eclectus, but you may need to make some changes at least until it settles down. It might help to cut back on the daily duration of light and cut his showers back to once a week. When you do handle your Eclectus, avoid any petting or stroking that could stimulate it even more. When your parrot is behaving in this manner, avoid making direct eye contact with it for more than a minute or so, as this may contribute to its sexual arousal. If the behavior continues for more than a few weeks, I would certainly recommend that you consult with your avian veterinarian. Sustained sexual behavior and its hormonal overload can create serious health problems. Your veterinarian might be able to help control this behavior with medication.
Parrots require the same diet fundamentals that we as humans need to be healthy. If your companion bird lives inside your home, it’s crucial to supply the right amount of variation in their diet in order to meet those fundamental nutritional necessities by means of amino acids, carbohydrates and fats.
There are many ways you can provide them, and the key is variety. One sole element of the diet cannot supply the correct amount of all the required vitamins and minerals; therefore the right combination of different foods can amount to all that’s needed. You must also consider the natural diet of individual species, amount of stimulation provided by foraging for food, and the quality of the food purchased.
Parrots, and most flying animals, have a fast metabolism and eat high-energy food to meet their high-calorie needs. If your pet bird at home flies, and is active for much of the day —- its diet should reflect such. Carbohydrates are easily converted to energy, and should be provided. If the bird is cage-bound and doesn’t burn off as much of its caloric intake, then fewer carbohydrates are needed.
Depending on the species of bird, the diet should reflect the native habitat from which it has evolved. Most parrots eat a combination of seeds, fruits, grains, nuts, invertebrates and insects in the wild. The variation lies in the required content of fats and sugars. Hyacinth macaws, for example, need a higher amount of fat, and consume a larger proportion of palm nuts. Budgies and cockatiels eat mostly seeds in the wild, which means they will be less inclined to eat fruit or fruit-fortified pellets.
Next topic weighs in on the never-ending debate: seeds or pellets? My answer is both. Fortified pellets are increasing in popularity and becoming readily available. Pellets are hardened mixtures of grains, seeds, vegetables and proteins as well as vitamins and minerals. Most manufacturers provide different formulations for different species, so a nutritional imbalance is less likely to occur.
Macaws and conures need more fat than others, and cockatoos and Amazons need less fat and more protein to meet their nutritional demands. Seeds are probably the most common diet for pet birds, and for good reason. Parrots have evolved specialized beaks for cracking shells of seeds and nuts, and seeds provide a good amount of mental stimulation for them. However, seed alone does not meet a substantial portion of their nutritional needs. If the quality of the seed mixture is high (not merely sunflower seeds), then a proportion of one-fourth seeds, one-fourth pellets, one-fourth nuts and one-fourth fruits/vegetables should be provided. Animal protein such as chicken, eggs and small amounts of dairy will benefit the bird also if given. Just make sure not to leave those foods in the bowl/cage for longer than three hours to avoid bacteria growing in them.
Other things to consider are foods to avoid completely. Avocado is the big no. It is actually toxic. Avoid chocolate, alcohol, junk food (chips, etc.), onions, and foods high in salt.
Birds in the wild spend the majority of their day foraging. Supplement that mental desire by putting pellets and nuts in a foraging toy, or make your own with by bending up a toilet paper roll with nuts inside.
Avoid cutting fruit and vegetables into tiny little pieces. It looks pretty to us, but gives the birds nothing to work for. Hang an apple from a string in the cage to give them something to do. To get a picky bird to try something new, warm it up; parrots are often more likely to try food that’s warm, rather than cold.
Your pet bird may prefer to step up on your dominant hand, as it knows it is the more stable perch.
Long before pet birds and parrots learn human words, they communicate to us with body language. Like vocalizations, this comes naturally to parrots. Not only do they show moods, emotions and forthcoming behavior with the way they use their bodies — especially their feathers — parrots also learn to read human intentions by observing human postures. It’s not unusual for pet birds to know more about what their people say with their bodies than their people know about what the birds are saying with theirs.
1) Parrots Know About People
Many parrots know that humans have a dominant hand — a hand we use more and are more adept with — before proplr notice that the bird has a dominant foot. For example, if the bird refuses to step onto a human’s hand or shows insecurity in doing so, sometimes the bird is exhibiting a preference to step up only onto a dominant hand.
This may be because a pet bird that steps up only to a right hand knows that a right-handed human’s left hand is less stable, and it will prefer to step up only onto a right hand because that hand doesn’t wobble as the bird is lifted. Or maybe the bird knows that a right-handed human will try to pet it with the right hand, and it doesn’t want to be pet.
In most of the cases I’ve seen in which a bird exhibits a preference for stepping up onto a particular hand, it is balking consistently at a left hand and stepping up dependably to a right hand. In more than eight out of 10 of these cases, the human reporting the bird’s behavior is right-hand dominant.
2) What A Parrot’s Posture Tells Us
Parrots show us how they are feeling and what they are going to do by using their bodies in different ways. Generally, a parrot with an upright stance and smooth feathers is wary or frightened. Loose, ruffly feathers generally indicate happiness. A bird sitting on one foot with feathers puffed out might not feel well or might just be sleeping in a cool room. A bird that has all feathers sticking as far out as possible, tail flared, with shoulders or wings held out from the body may be courting or getting ready to fight.
3) Your Parrot Will Warn You
Most parrots give at least three clues if they intend to bite (lories are the exception here). First, the bird will look at what it is going to bite; it will open its beak; and it will either spread its legs apart for a firmer grip on the perch (in the case of a larger bird) or it will charge that which it is going to bite (in the case of a smaller bird).
It’s up to the human(s) interacting with the bird to prevent the bite when these signs appear. This might involve not putting a hand or body part within range of the bird’s bite, putting the bird down or making sure something else, such as a wooden toy, is between the bird’s beak and what it intends to bite.
4) Happy Parrot Behaviors
A parrot that feels good will signal its health and happiness with its body. That might mean stretching as though it were doing Tai Chi, where the bird slowly extends one wing and one leg on the same side of the body, returns it to position, and then extends the other wing and leg on the other side of the body. It might stretch its wings up or out, maybe even returning them to their place against its back in a ritualistic, dance-like motion.=”heading3″
A bird that is happily greeting a friend — human or bird — might wag its tail or puff out all its feathers momentarily. A tail wag might also be the equivalent of a human “giggle.”
The parrot behavior of rapidly wagging the tail back and forth may be a remnant of something it felt when shaking water off its tail. The bird might be using it to express the sentiment that a happy occurrence has just passed and that it’s ready for another adventure.
If a bird has been meeting new people and there is concern that the people have been too forceful in their handling (this includes early Step-up training for a new or previously unhandled bird), then returning the bird to its perch and counting tail wags can give a good idea of whether or not the bird enjoyed the interactions.
If the bird wags its tail almost immediately after being put back on its perch, the new interactions were probably not too forceful. But if the bird does not wag its tail for several minutes or doesn’t wag its tail at all, nor puffs out its feathers or displays any happiness behaviors after being put down, then it is telling us that it should be handled in more passive ways in the future.
Some happy birds, especially cockatoos, wiggle their tongues or move their beaks up and down when they see someone or something they like. A happy, contented cockatoo might signal a desire to be petted by fanning the facial feathers over the beak and lowering its head to request petting. A happy, healthy Amazon parrot or macaw might signal an invitation to pet by turning the head upside down, exposing the jaw.
No matter which happiness behaviors we see — solicitations to be petted, beak chattering, tongue wiggling, stretches, tail wags or puff outs — if we are generally seeing more of them every day, then we can be assured that the bird’s training and adjustment are on a positive path.
5) Signs Of Stimulation
Eye movement wherein the iris (colored part of the eye) grows larger and the pupil (the black center of the eye) is quickly made smaller is called “pinpointing” or “flashing.” This is a sign of motivation and might be a sign of motivation to talk, to court or to bite. Likewise, strutting around with feathers flared, combined with pinpoint, sometimes with wing flipping (quickly twitching the wing tightly against the body), solicitation (body flattened, wings slightly out, trembling, or shifting the weight from one foot to the other) are clearly signs of breeding-related stimulation. A parrot strutting around in courtship mode is more likely to be aggressive than peaceful if it encounters human hands or other intrusive body parts.
6) Trick Birds Will Play On You
Some parrots, especially mature cockatoos, Amazon parrots and African grey parrots, might learn to amuse themselves by playing tricks on humans with their body language. Such birds might give outward signs of friendliness and solicitation, then bite when they are approached with fingers. This can be very uncomfortable to the humans who got a big welcome and then are slashed and bleeding. If a person who knows that a bird does this warns you, take their word for it — some cockatoos can lie with their body language as adeptly as a faithless lover can lie with words.
Macaws, even very friendly ones, may enjoy fake “stabbing” when they meet new people even though they have no intention to bite. They do this apparently because they like to test people and see whether they will jump away.
7) A Content Parrot
A bird settling in for the night or for a nap, will stand on one foot, with the other foot pulled up inside its feathers, may fluff facial feathers over the beak (if it is a cockatoo), close or slightly close the eyes and grind its beak. This is a sign of contentment and, since birds are better behaved in all areas if they have enough rest, humans are best advised to allow their birds to rest — leave a resting bird in peace.
Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, September 2011 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
September can be a difficult month for some pet bird and parrot family members in homes where there are school-aged children or teachers going back to work. Birds love their human flock and are naturally programmed for flock life. If their needs are not taken into consideration, negative behavior, such as screaming or feather destruction, can arise. If, however, the situation is addressed early and appropriately, the change can be relatively simple for both people and their beloved birds.
Although some birds dislike the racket of having people around all the time and are thrilled when school begins again and things quiet down, the calm after an exciting summer of constant company and summer hubbub can almost be jarring, and extremely sociable pet bird family members may begin to show undesirable behaviors as a result of boredom. Ideally, it is best if possible negative consequences can be avoided; however, if it is too late, a few simple changes may be all it takes to get your little pet bird back on track.
Psittacosis was once known as parrot fever.
Put yourself in your pet bird’s place. What are the summer months like at your house? Are they like any other month? If so, you have little to worry about. Status quo has been maintained, and your bird should continue with his normal behavior. If, however, the past few months in your home were different than they are now, you may begin to see some changes in your pet bird’s behavior, too.
Similar changes may be seen during any time in which your pet bird has become accustomed to a different environment or routine. It is important to determine if, and/or how, your parrot is reacting to the addition or the absences of those particular situations. For example, if your pet bird likes a bit of noise and visual stimulation, put a television on a timer, and have it play when you leave for work. Around noon, program it to shut off for a few hours until about an hour or two before you return home. Have it click on again so your pet bird has some entertainment before you arrive home. Coming home during a television program can greatly cut down on the desperate types of interactions that arise from a parrot feeling abandoned during your absence.
Figure out what your pet bird likes to watch. Many parrots enjoy children’s programs or musicals. Take care when offering nature shows, since your bird may love them until he sees a parrot or other prey animal being savaged and killed by a predator.
Bring Your Parrot Into The Mix
During the first few weeks of acclimating to school and after-school activities, it is easy to forget about how your pet bird has been affected by the changes in his home. For example, if he experienced considerably more interactions during the summer, he may feel abandoned by his family. Maintain his feeling of being an important part of his flock. Luckily, this can be relatively simple.
Most pet birds can be placed on a moveable perch and taken from room to room while their principle people are getting ready for school or work or eating breakfast. They do not require being held constantly, but enjoy simply “hanging out” with their flock, as they would in the wild.
Give them something to look forward to by offering a favorite food or treat when you place them back into the cage right before you leave. This will leave them with the feeling that, although things have changed, they have not been abandoned by those they love and depend upon.
When returning home vocally greet your pet bird member right away, using his name. Then, once things have settled down a bit, take him out on the perch with you for a little while, as you do whatever needs to be done at that time. Although having a bird out in a kitchen while food is cooked is not a safe practice, he can be there during the prepping period and returned to his cage with a treat or favorite food as the food cooks.
Even paperwork or homework can be done while under your bird’s “supervision” while he perches nearby. Again, holding him is not necessary during those times, but placing his perch so that you can easily make eye contact when you look up intermittently will help him feel included in the activity.
Give your bird something to do when you leave in the morning. I ask mine to look after each other and to keep an eye on the house. They enjoy this interaction and fluff up with importance at being told their “job” for the day. Do they understand all that I say? I do not know. I do know, however, that they enjoy being asked to do something for me and that it fulfills some sort of need they have to relate to me on that particular level.
When I return, I thank them for doing the job I assigned them and tell them that they did a great job. I ask them about their day and tell them that I hope it went well for them. I share a little about my day with them; if it was good, or hectic, or if I’m tired. I then tell them that I love them and that I must go fix dinner, or do whatever task I need to do at that time. I often hand them a little treat or a piece of their favorite fruit before leaving the room.
Even with multiple birds, a simple two-to-three-minute interaction like this can completely turn the evening around. They have received a few minutes of my undivided attention, and I have praised them and rewarded them for a job well done. Usually, that is all everyone needs to feel content at the end of the day, until I have time to be with them later.
Household changes can be positive, or negative, for people and their pet birds. By anticipating how our feathered family members may be affected by those changes and addressing the situation before a problem arises, the transition from one situation to another can be relatively painless for all involved.
BIRD TALK Magazine chatted with Steve Milpacher, director of business development for the World Parrot Trust, and asked him about the role the World Parrot Trust plays in the avian community today.
BT: What is the World Parrot Trust?
Milpacher: The World Parrot Trust (WPT) is a vibrant global organization devoted to helping parrots survive in the wild and thrive in our homes. Simply put, we protect parrots.
The World Parrot Trust has helped parrot conservation for more than 20 years.
For wild parrots, the WPT moves quickly to aid urgent initiatives and support long-term projects to save these wonderful birds. Wherever possible, we work with key stakeholders to bring about meaningful and permanent change. Our work includes field research and conservation programs, protecting and restoring habitat, advocating for legislative change, conducting education and awareness programs, and encouraging ecotourism.
We strongly advocate for eliminating the trade in wild-caught parrots to end a destructive and unsustainable practice affecting tens of thousands of birds each year. We do this with international campaigning and by supporting the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild parrots caught in the trade.
For birds no longer in the wild, we strive to provide parrot caregivers with the very best information available on parrot care by publishing a range of print-based, multimedia and online resources intended to enhance pet bird welfare and their long-term well-being.
BT: How did the World Parrot Trust start?
Milpacher: The WPT was started in 1989 at Paradise Park, a family-run bird park located in Cornwall, United Kingdom, with the simple premise to help parrots survive in the wild and to thrive in captivity and a determination that, “What is best for the birds, guides everything we do.” Owners of the park, Michael and Audrey Reynolds, provided the inspirational leadership and initial funding to start the Trust, in addition to free office space and facilities.
Under their guidance, and with the addition of a full-time executive director in the year 2000 — parrot biologist James D. Gilardi, Ph.D. — the WPT has grown from a modest beginning into a conservation and welfare powerhouse. It has become one of the world’s largest member-based parrot conservation and welfare organizations, with the support of thousands of caring members in 50 countries. Because of this support, the WPT is able to carry out dozens of scientific conservation and welfare projects around the globe each year.
BT: What are the challenges facing the World Parrot Trust in the changing bird community?
Milpacher: Our biggest challenge is getting the word out to as many people as possible, as often as possible, to make a difference.
Parrots are known worldwide as some of the most recognizable, beautiful, charismatic and intelligent of all birds. They inhabit a range of environments — from snow-capped peaks, to tropical rain forests, to arid desert areas — and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Sadly, however, parrots are also the most threatened family of birds on Earth, with almost 100 species threatened in the wild, a full one-third of the approximately 360 species that make up this group. It is for this reason that parrots need help to survive in the wild.
Millions of families worldwide also share their household with one or more birds, as parrots are often a popular choice for a pet. Most of these companion birds are much-loved, receiving the very best their caregivers can offer, and end up leading long and healthy lives. Unfortunately, not all parrots are treated this well and, although a small percentage, many languish in captivity as a result of poor care. It is for this reason that parrot welfare in captivity is also of great concern to the Trust.
We welcome the participation of everyone and anyone who can help us to help parrots.
BT: How does the World Parrot Trust promote parrot conservation?
Milpacher: The WPT encourages and supports parrot conservation through a varied approach ranging from providing educational information in a variety of formats, to hosting meetings with key stakeholders, to encouraging opportunities for people to see wild parrots with special events, such as our upcoming Parrot Lover’s Cruise.
Our educational programs can be found in local communities where parrots naturally occur and on the Internet, through our website and monthly email newsletter, “Flock Talk,” and within our communities on Facebook and Twitter. In printed publications we promote parrot conservation through our quarterly magazine “PsittaScene” and by collaborating with parrot magazines such as BIRD TALK. We also present information about parrot conservation at veterinary and avian conferences around the world.
In regions where parrots naturally occur, the WPT coordinates meetings and workshops where we encourage the collaboration of parrot enthusiasts and researchers, local communities and government leaders, and the participation of local and international conservation/welfare non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to find long-term solutions to aid parrot conservation.
Most recently we have been participating in exciting initiatives like the Parrot Lover’s Cruise, where enthusiasts discover some of the bluest waters and best sightseeing in the world while getting an education while onboard.
Learn more about the World Parrot Trust at their website.
Q. I’m a relatively new cockatoo owner and am having a problem with my Sonya being very afraid of everything. Initially, she was an extremely trusting, loving bird that adored interacting with me. Then I was gone for three weeks, and she stayed with my breeder. Since coming home, she is extremely fearful of all the activities she did before, including stepping onto my hand. If I approach her cage, she backs into a corner and shivers. I’ve tried her favorite treats, talking to her sweetly and trying not to make her do anything that scares her. She will crawl out of her cage if I open the door and leave the room. But trying to go back in is a nightmare. The whole situation sends her into another trauma, and thereby creating a cycle of fear. Help!
Reading aloud is one way to interact with your pet bird.
A: So-called “phobic” episodes in parrots can be a terribly painful for all involved. The good news is that there are ways to get your little girl through this.
Start by keeping a diary. Track the times of day when your ’too seems most skittish and when she is calmest. Note if your clothing makes a difference. Identify the things that seem to trigger her fears. Does she only fear you? Track anything that might relate to the situation, no matter how small. Try to be coolly scientific, and note things carefully and clinically. Her calmest times of the day (often in the morning) are the ideal periods in which to work with her.
The behavior modification mantra is quite simple. Reinforce the behaviors you want, and ignore those you don’t. Since you do not wish the fearful behavior to continue, ignore it when it happens. Reinforce any brave behaviors lavishly.
At this point, a few methods are available to you, which I will detail in a moment. All are equally useful despite their divergent approaches, and all share a common foundation of positive reinforcement. Under no circumstances should you use aversives with a frightened parrot, as you will simply give the bird more reason to fear you.
As Phoebe Linden, aviculturist and parrot behavior consultant, said, you need to counterbalance the negative incidents you’ve shared with a greater number of positive incidents. So if she only fears you, have others do “scary” things like servicing her cage daily. More importantly, I suggest you not allow Sonya out of her cage until you have a better handle on things. Terrorizing her daily to return her to the cage can negate any positive effects of your training.
Target training entails teaching an animal to touch something (like a chopstick), and it is favored by trainers as the first step to almost everything. Once you have target trained an animal, you can teach it to follow the target. This will enable you to return your cockatoo to her cage without stress. Information about target training can be found in multiple sources, such as tips found on this website. However, if working with a truly phobic bird that cannot be approached without triggering a dangerous panic attack, you need to desensitize it to human proximity prior to target training.
Joanie Doss, trainer and writer, suggested identifying how close you can approach the bird before her body language indicates fear; this is the reactive space. Once that space is identified, back up a step at a time until she relaxes, and mark that invisible line with masking tape. Then several times daily, stand at the tape for a couple of minutes.
Initially, do nothing; don’t even look at the bird. When she is comfortable with your presence, look briefly at her, talk and sing softly. (Predators are silent when stalking prey.) Gradually add such things as moving your hands and, when Sonya no longer acts afraid, take a step forward, and put down another piece of tape. Now repeat. By using this gentle desensitization, you teach your ’too that you are not a threat.
Above All, Patience!
By carefully evaluating your cockatoo’s body language, you can assess her level of fear. Drop back slightly whenever she acts afraid, but don’t make a fuss. Reward her lavishly for signs of bravery. By going at her speed, you will be able to reclaim the loving relationship you once shared.
The Chair Approach: Another Desensitization Technique
Parrot behaviorist Sally Blanchard favors placing a non-threatening chair at the edge of this magical reactive space. Positioning the chair at a slight angle, sit and read books or magazines aloud for a few minutes, using Blanchard’s “soft-eyes approach,” look up at the bird briefly, then look away. Keep your face slightly averted, never using the two-eyed predator’s stare. Pretend you are totally unaware of the bird’s existence.
Do this for a few minutes several times a day while watching the bird’s body language with your peripheral vision. Once the bird relaxes in your presence, start turning your head more toward the bird, continuing soft eyes. Hold up the book so you can share pictures with her. This approach focuses on getting the bird to want to come to you. (More on Blanchard’s approach can be found in the Companion Parrot Handbook.)
Add a small table, and try parrot behaviorist Mattie Sue Athan’s idea of doing a jigsaw puzzle just out of reach. Odds are excellent that a parrot will have difficulty resisting all those colorful little pieces. Just make certain you are not overly fond of the puzzle.
Poicephalus parrots are quite varied for being such a small genus. This is especially true in regard to their vocalizations and body language.
The most mysterious and intriguing language our Poicephalus parrots (Pois) demonstrate is their body language. It can be quite fun trying to figure out why they do some of the things they do. Body language can reveal whether a pet bird is calm and content, fearful, aggressive, having fun, wanting attention or if it is displaying mating behavior.
Poicephalus parrots, such as Senegal parrots, have unique behaviors.
Eye pinning in parrots, for example, indicates excitement. It can be excitement in playing or interacting with their favorite person. It can occur during beak exchanges (kisses) with their mate, while doing their rolling purr. Or it can be the first indication of being bitten, a warning to stay away.
Poicephalus parrots that attack or appear aggressive might be more fearful than we think. In the wild, a bird has the choice of fighting or fleeing. A parrot fleeing a situation takes flight. Just before taking flight, the feathers are slicked down, and the bird appears long and lean, even sitting upright with eyes pinned.
An aggressive posture is quite different than the attack-from-fear posture. The Poicephalus parrot’s eyes pin, it leans low on the perch, its feathers are all fluffed up, and the bird holds its head low, while rocking from side to side, like a cobra. Some Pois even hiss; watch out or you might be bitten! I have seen red bellies do this attack behavior in their cage, even when alone. When I go over to investigate, there is nothing there. They will also “play attack” and roll around as if wrestling with an imaginary toy or flockmate. They seem to invent things to attack or play with even though they have plenty of toys in their cages.
Uplifted wings indicate a happy attitude, and quick left-to-right rocking from foot to foot usually shows excitement and play. Red-bellied parrots and Jardine’s parrots, as well as the brown-necked parrots (unCape parrots), also hop. They bounce and hop on their perches, across the cage floor or on any other suitable surface. Some of the other Poicephalus might also display this behavior, although not as readily.
The male brown-necked parrot often hops across the perch, bows his head and flashes his wings when posturing for the female. Many of these behaviors are also seen when the male is just playing, but not with as much enthusiasm as when he is soliciting a female’s attention.
Beak tapping is also a behavior more common in brown-necked parrots and Jardine’s parrots. They will very rapidly bang or hit their perch or other hard surface with the side of the beak. I have seen this used to get attention and also to serve as a warning. Brown necks also have a way of showing off their huge beaks. They will open their beaks very wide, throw their heads back and shake their heads, as if to say, “Look at this big beak, I don’t have to bite to scare you.” My husband’s bird warns me away by opening and closing his beak rapidly while sticking out his tongue in between.
Brown heads, on the other hand, can be the exact opposite in some of their behaviors. In the wild, juveniles are found in large groups, as if in a nursery setting. They will sit motionless for what seems like forever. Many pet brown heads have these moments of comatose posture, which can be alarming to their owners. It seems it is just in their genes. I have seen similar behaviors in the Meyer’s and, to a much lesser degree, in some of the other smaller Poicephalus species. I don’t see anything that could be perceived as threatening when Poicephalus exhibit this behavior, but who knows what they might perceive as a threat.
Some Poicephalus are notorious for lying on their backs. Many times I have seen one of my birds on its back on the floor of the cage. I have run to them, my heart racing, and when I almost reach the cage they simply flip over and look at me like I am crazy. Jardine’s do this more frequently than other Poicephalus. Both the Jardine’s and the brown neck play on their backs, oftentimes under paper. They also play with toys that are hung from the cage top and with foot toys, much like a juggler. Brown necks lie on their backs and walk along the cage bars or a hanging chain, propelling themselves along, sliding on their backs the length of the cage.
Many Poicephalus owners know the signs of mating displays, and often refer to the dance they do as the “hat dance.” A Poicephalus will rapidly click its beak, droop the wings and turn in circles, all the while making little grunting sounds. If the bird is out and interacting with you, it is a good idea to change the subject, or maybe return your bird its cage.
I would like to mention that many people think parrots mate for life, but this is not the case. It has been shown that wild parrots switch mates after years together. In captivity, birds that have been breeding and raising chicks for years might all of a sudden turn on each other, and one is killed. Knowing the signs of mate aggression ahead of time has prevented many deaths with breeding pairs. In these cases, they are separated and placed with new mates to live many years together. In knowing this, it may not be wise not to purchase a “friend” for your Poicephalus. If an owner wants another Poicephalus, then by all means they should get one, but they should not think it will be a buddy or mate for the one they already have. The small Poicephalus are quite happy being the center of attention.
Some Poicephalus seek out tight little corners and things to hide out in. Some toys can stimulate nesting behaviors and should be avoided. If your Poicephalus gets a bit nippy or starts the mating dances, check to see if there isn’t something in the area that might be stimulating him or her.
Vocalizations are used as contact calls and to express aggression, fear, contentment or attraction. Parrots also use vocalizations just for fun. The “fun” noises are what sometimes drive us crazy; many parrots seem to be drawn to the most obnoxious, and definitely the loudest, call.
The Meyer’s and brown-headed parrot, overall, seem to be quietest of all the Poicephalus, but they have their noisy side, too. Their normal vocalizations are quite pleasing, mostly little chirps and chatter. Almost all Poicephalus have a trill, similar to a cat purring but with a bit of melody and perhaps a garbled whistle mixed in. Of course they all can growl, much like an African grey.
Many of the Meyer’s that I keep have a “beep” that really sounds like a high-pitched (sometimes broken) smoke alarm. Hearing half a dozen beeping Meyer’s doing this beep can be quite alarming to the senses. This noise seems to be one that all Meyer’s are capable of. In a pet situation, one should try to find another sound that is as much fun as the beep. Banging pots and pans might be more pleasing. The beep is not so obnoxious at first, and it can even be cute. However, do not fall into the trap of beeping back; it will only get worse.
Many Senegal parrot owners, including myself, have heard their Senegals say “Baby-b-b-b-b-b-b,” although some owners interpret it as “Me-me-me-me-me,” which works, too. Those who have been around Senegals often describe their vocalizations as, “Oh yeah, the fingernails on the blackboard sound.” Of course we Senegal parrot owners never even think of that. Red bellies seem to fall into the same category as far as lots of sounds, but they are probably the best talkers of all the small Poicephalus species.
The brown-necked parrot and the Jardine’s are in another category altogether. Their larger size seems to make them louder than their smaller cousins. Capes as a group can be very raucous in their contact calls, and they try to outdo each other in volume. Both seem to have the melodious purr, with a lot of body action to go along with it. Jardine’s bob their heads while whistling the rolling purr, thus sounding like “br-r-r-r-r-i-i-t.” I have learned to imitate it quite well, and it seems to be a friendly greeting when I approach some of my breeder birds. This sound and demonstration is also used when mates interact, while giving light “kisses.”
The brown neck has a large variety of sounds, from a low hiss to the raucous contact call, with many in between. They can be good talkers and imitate the human voice quite well. I currently have a brown-necked parrot in my bedroom, and a timneh grey in the living room, which is at the opposite end of my home. They imitate each other perfectly, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart. It gets quite frustrating early in the morning when they start doing contact calls between the two rooms.
Overall, the Poicephalus are among the quieter companion parrots we live with. Much like an African grey, where some talk and some do not, it depends on the bird and the situation. So it is with the noise levels of the Poicephalus; some can be more vocal than others. Birds that are the only bird in the household tend to be much quieter. One client of mine said her brown-necked parrot (the un-cape) was very loud, but is now quiet. She seemed to think it was a stage he went through.
There are so many ways to look at language when we are living with these wondrous creatures. It is so amazing to me to look over and see one of my Poicephalus smiling back at me. Just how do they do that when they have no lips?
See How Poicephalus Parrots Sleep
Poicephalus spend a fair amount of time on the floor of their cages sleeping. I have some that curl up in a corner on the floor to sleep, while others almost lay on their perches to sleep, and then there are others that sleep in a comatose position. One Jardine’s of mine used to sleep on his back in the food dish. It just depends on the bird.
Some Poicephalus take naps at very appointed times of the day. The brown-necked parrot will sleep for long lengths of time in the middle of the afternoon. The brown-necked parrot even sleeps with its beak tucked behind under its wing.
No description of the sleeping habits of Poicephalus would be complete without mentioning how the brown-necked parrot sometimes drools at night. This can be very disturbing for the uninitiated brown-necked parrot’s owner. So far, through tests and lab work, we have found nothing to be worried about.
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While the normal green and gray coloring of the quaker parrot does not immediately qualify it as a brightly colored bird, beauty is only feather deep. It is the character of the species that makes them stand out from other parrot species,” said Giovanni Cordeiro, whose 40 years of experience with birds includes 10 years with quaker parrots.
Character, indeed. While every parrot species is different — as is every individual pet bird and parrot — there are several traits that make quakers, well, quakers.
Quaker Parrot Nests
Quaker parrots are unusual in that they come equipped with attitude, determination, intelligence — and a desire to make and keep a home, said Ellen Krueger, a member of the Quaker Parakeet Society since 1999 and owner of quaker parrot Fonzie since 1996.
Psittacosis was once known as parrot fever.
Think a parrot building a nest isn’t unusual? These aren’t your typical nests. “These often large, dome-shaped clusters of sticks comprise multiple chambers, each occupied by a single pair for roosting and breeding. The human equivalent to this structure is an apartment building,” said Cordeiro, who has an honors degree in zoology and lives in Australia.
In fact, the nests are often comprised of three compartments or “rooms,” and are usually attached to other quaker nests in the wild, added Alyson Burgess, a quaker owner of three years in the southeast who is one of the avian experts at About.com. “These quaker ‘neighborhoods’ can become quite large and serve as evidence of the communal nature of the species. This inherent love of interaction makes them great pets for owners who want to form a close bond with their bird,” Burgess said.
While most quaker cages aren’t large enough to house an avian apartment building, quaker parrots still try. “They also exhibit the building behavior in a domestic environment,” said Krueger. “They build, weave and create nests within their cages. That is so cool, you can’t believe it.”
And just like their human counterparts in apartments and houses, quakers parrots don’t always like drop-in guests. In fact, quakers can become extremely territorial of their nests. “Most quaker owners report being attacked by their otherwise very gentle and loving pet when trying to retrieve them from within the cage,” Cordeiro said.
This might happen even without a nest in the cage. Quaker parrot territoriality has confused and concerned many a quaker owner, especially new ones.
“Not all quakers are territorial around their cages, but some are,” said Shelly Lane, who has had quaker parrots since 1995. “Unfortunately, a lot of new owners misunderstand and think that their bird suddenly turned mean on them, which isn’t the case at all. Their quaker is just displaying an instinctive behavior.”
Along with fiercely protecting their nests, quakers’ other common quirk is “borrowing” items from … wherever.
Anything Is Up For Grabs With Quaker Parrots
“Without any doubt, what sets quakers apart from other parrots is a ‘pack rat’ obsession with objects — retrieving and carrying them to their cage and carefully arranging them in the nest/cage,” said Kathleen Carr, who lives in the southeast with six quaker parrots.
And depending on what you’re missing, that behavior may be cute or not so much. “Their natural instincts for building stick nests will provide hours of amused observation from their owners,” Cordeiro said. “By 1 year of age, both male and female quaker parrots will start stealing pens and other stick-like household objects to jam into various corners of the house or their cage. It may be many years later during a major cleanup that you eventually find your favorite gold pen stashed in some obscure part of the house.”
“We’ve had household items like pencils, forks and letter openers go missing that eventually turned up in a pet quaker’s nest,” Carr said. “One day, I came home from work for lunch and found my husband’s eyeglasses in one of the nests. He’d left them on the dining room table when he went to take a shower and didn’t check to make sure the door to our bird room was closed. Beaker, one of our males, made off with them and my very-puzzled husband had to wear his prescription sunglasses to drive to work.”
Life With Quaker Parrots
When considering whether a quaker parrot is right for you, ask yourself if you are right for a quaker.
“Quakers do best in homes where they are made to be part of the family and are included in daily activities,” Burgess said. “They thrive on socialization and are happy to spend the majority of their time with (or on) their owners.”
In a home where the attention supply doesn’t meet demand, a quaker parrot can start to exhibit some undesirable behavior.
“Not being the center of the universe is a good idea from the start, but dependable attention is a must to keep the bird friendly, busy and happy,” Krueger advised. “Quakers will, of course, take as much attention as anyone is willing to give. And once they’re used to it, they will count on it. They will have a hard time adjusting to not having it if it goes away.”
And as social as they are, even quakers need some solitude. They love company and interacting with the family, but also need time alone and a good night’s sleep, Krueger said. “A tired quaker is a noisy quaker that can be cranky.”
Some quaker behavior is simply parrot behavior, not unique to the species. “Like most parrots, they can be loud and can give a painful bite,” Krueger said. “Quakers have a loud, sharp squawk, but not the worst. If a quaker wants something and doesn’t get it right away, it will ‘Ack! Ack! Ack!’ for long periods of time without stop. That’s the worst thing Fonzie does that annoys me.”
No look at quakers would be complete without addressing their considerable vocal abilities.
“While quakers do have the capacity to be loud when they want to be, they are generally one of the quieter parrot species,” Burgess said. “They will speak and chatter throughout the day at a moderate level but are not as prone to screaming as some birds, such as conures.”
The quaker parrot is known for its talking abilities, though there are, of course, no guarantees that a particular bird of any species will talk. “A quaker parrot that is spoken to at the hand-raising stage will start to use words as early as 3 months of age,” Cordeiro said. After about a year, they will pick up words relatively quickly, depending on the owner’s efforts.
Along with saying a potpourri of phrases, some quakers entertain their owners by seemingly speaking in context. “I would often wave and say goodbye to our companion quaker when leaving the house, and he recently surprised us when he said ‘Bye bye’ in response to just a wave of the hand,” Cordeiro said.
Lane’s quaker parrot, Gator, is particularly good with names. “He knows my name, my husband’s name, the dog’s name and the names of most of the other birds,” she said. “There was a time when we had some quakers in another part of the house, so he could hear them but couldn’t see them. Apparently, this made it harder for him to learn their names. One day they were being rather noisy, and Gator yelled out to them, “Quaker! Quaker bird! Be quiet!” To this day I don’t know how he picked up the phrase ‘quaker bird,’ but the only time he uses it is to refer to a quaker whose name he doesn’t know.”
However, the quaker’s great mimicking ability may not always be so entertaining. “If there is one behavior that a quaker owner will find highly amusing and yet somewhat disturbing is their ability to pick up on various bodily sounds: Sneezing, coughing, burping and, yes, breaking wind,” Cordeiro said. “The quaker parrot will also laugh with you, laugh at you or laugh at your friends.”
Friends Or Foes?
Carefully consider all potential roommates for your quaker parrot — both avian and human. Experiences keeping quakers with other birds ranged from the good, the bad and the ugly.
“While some quaker parrots may take to other birds easily, others may never get along with another bird,” Cordeiro said. “Making the assumption that two unacquainted quaker parrots will get along just because they are of the same species is also foolhardy, just as it is to assume that throwing two humans into the same room will make them instant friends.”
Burgess has found quakers generally even tempered and tolerant of birds of other species. “Some quakers can show slight cage territoriality, possibly due to their nesting instinct.” For safety’s sake do not house a quaker with a bird of a different species.
Carr learned first-hand that not all quaker parrots get along with other birds. Two of her quakers broke out of their cage and into other birds’ cages. A cockatiel was seriously injured and a budgie didn’t survive the attack. “It goes without saying that I’ve figured out ways to better secure their cages, especially in the spring when their hormone levels intensify this behavior,” Carr said.
Krueger said that some are fine as only-birds, while others have a life partner that they would be very lonely without.
Caring for a pet bird can be a rewarding and enriching experience for a child. But in the case of quaker parrots, how young is too young?
“A certain level of respect should be given to the ability of any hooked bill bird to inflict injury to facial areas, particularly of toddlers and young children,” Cordeiro said. “While it is difficult to generalize the best age for a child to begin caring for another living creature, particularly one as opinionated as the quaker parrot, a person in their mid-teens would have a greater capacity to ‘stand up to’ the demands of this parrot species.”
“Since quakers can be open with their opinions and their responses to things that go against their wishes, a child of 7 or less should always be supervised around a quaker,” said Krueger. “They can be loving and gentle with people they love, but they will also let anyone, including a child, know when the line has been crossed. A young teen or mature pre-teen could care for a quaker, but still, adult backup is a good idea. Again, education is a must before anyone of any age gets a quaker. Or any bird, for that matter.”
Along with human interaction, toys provide an important source of mental and physical stimulation for quaker parrots. They don’t need an iPod or an XBox like you, but quakers appreciate variety and things to occupy their time. Appropriate-sized toys are the same as those for cockatiels and small conures.
“Dismantling toys as opposed to playing with them is a ‘highly rewarding’ task to the average quaker,” said Cordeiro. “When picking toys for the quaker, try obtaining those that are likely to stimulate the mind.” Also provide a mix of materials — chewable, climbable and indestructible — that hang in the cage or can be held.
Quaker parrot ownership depends on the individual person and the amount of research and time they’re willing to donate.
“If the person has read what to expect with a quaker and is prepared to give the kind of attention and stimulating environment a quaker needs, a quaker can be a wonderful first bird,” said Ellen Krueger, who has written and illustrated four childrens’ books about her quaker, Fonzie. “They are so smart and funny; they win people over with their personalities and talking ability.”
“Quakers are highly intelligent birds that know how to and will use their dominance to gain control of the less-experienced parrot owner,” said Australia’s Giovanni Cordeiro. “Without a full understanding of bird behavior, many new bird owners end up with a bird that will frustrate all their efforts in developing a well-behaved companion pet.”
In some ways, a quaker parrot might just combine the best of both worlds. “Quakers are a little more challenging to build a relationship with than a budgie or cockatiel but are much easier than most larger species of parrots,” said Shelly Lane, who has operated the website QuakerParrots.com for more than 10 years. “A quaker is an excellent choice for a first-time bird owner, assuming that the new owner is willing to learn how to handle the bird and to work with it.”
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