Quaker parrots (or monk parakeets) are known for their charming, comical personalities and their willingness to learn human speech. It is an excellent choice for bird lovers who want all the fun of a large parrot in a smaller package. They are a very popular pet, good for dedicated beginners, and adapt well to living in a "human flock" setting.
Common Names: Quaker parrot, Quaker parakeet, monk parrot, monk parakeet, green parakeet, gray-breasted parakeet, Montevideo parakeet
Scientific Name: Myiopsitta monachus
Adult Size: 12 inches from beak to tail, weighing between 4 and 5 ounces
Life Expectancy: 20 to 30 years in captivity, some even longer
Origin and History
Native to a small portion of South America, the Quaker parrot's range extends from central Bolivia and southern Brazil into parts of central Argentina. They typically live in the woodlands and are known for building strong community bonds.
The most interesting habit of wild Quakers is that they are the only parrot to build nests. While other species will find tree cavities to call home, these birds spend a lot of time creating elaborate dwellings from twigs and branches. Their nests even have multiple rooms, one for the eggs and another where young chicks will move to make room for more eggs.
Flocks of Quakers will often build nests right next to each other. Each mating pair gets its own dwelling, but share walls with their neighbors to create what has come to be called "Quaker condominiums" or "Quaker apartments." Some have reached an estimated 200 pounds and are the size of a compact car.
The Quaker is a very hardy bird and can survive life in cold climates. Because of this, as well as their prolific breeding, feral colonies of Quakers have been spotted in many urban areas throughout the world, including the United States. They travel in small flocks and build their condos in some of the oddest places, such as the tops of power line poles.
Quakers have been seen in Chicago, New York, and all over southern Florida as well as Puerto Rico. Speculation as to how these feral flocks developed leans toward the birds escaping from homes and then finding each other, flocking up, and raising families.
Quakers are very confident and social birds by nature—they seem to be a very large bird in a little bird's body. Bold and outgoing, they tend to chatter a lot and they are quite active little birds. They love to interact with their "flock" and are known around the world for their exceptional talking ability.
In captivity, they tend to bond very closely with one person and are known for their loyal nature. Most handfed Quakers are quite gentle and many make wonderful pets for younger bird owners.
The only times when Quakers are known to show aggressive tendencies is when they are neglected or their home is threatened. A bored parrot is not fun to be around and these little guys need just as much attention as the bigger birds.
Since they do take pride in their home, they can become possessive over their cage as well. If you are introducing another Quaker to one you already have, allow the two to get acquainted in separate cages and form a bond first. They have been known to injure "intruders" severely, even resulting in death.
If you have a dog or cat, you will also want to keep an eye on your Quaker. They can be rather fearless and try to take on even the biggest dogs. While some furry pets may be scared (or shocked) by the feathered attacker, others may not.
Colors and Markings
The normal colors of an adult Quaker are a vivid green on the head, wings, and back. The bird's most distinguishing feature is the gray breast, cheeks, and throat which resembles Colonial-era Quaker clothing and how it received its common name.
They have gorgeous blue flight feathers and a lighter green tinge on the underside of their tails. Their beaks are horn-colored and their feet are grey. Overall, they look like a stalky cockatiel.
Captive breeding programs have also produced a variety of beautiful color mutations in Quakers. One of the most popular is a blue hybrid Quaker parrot that was developed in the early 2000s. Breeders have also created albino, cinnamon, lutino, and pied Quakers.
Males and females look alike. As with all monomorphic bird species, the only way to know for sure the sex of your bird is through DNA sexing or surgery.
Although it is easy to become enchanted with these sweet little birds and they're inexpensive, take caution before rushing out to get one. Since Quakers can adapt to living in different climates, they are illegal to keep in some parts of the U.S.
In some places, particularly southern states, feral Quaker populations have established breeding colonies and pose a risk to crops and native bird species. A handful of these states will euthanize pet Quakers if they are found. Be sure to check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and your local laws to make sure that it is legal to keep a Quaker so that you (and your bird) stay out of trouble.
There are many Quaker parrots who have lost their homes for a variety of reasons and are available for adoption. Contact your nearest bird adoption and education foundation for information on how to adopt one of these playful companion birds.
Like other parrots, Quakers who are neglected will resort to feather plucking. They require stimulation and self-mutilation is a common, though unhealthy, way parrots deal with boredom and angst.
If you have the time and patience to put into their care, Quakers are relatively easy to rehabilitate compared to other parrots. Often, it's the broken bond with their original owner that affects them most. They just want to be loved and feel part of what they consider their flock. If you provide enough love and attention, they can turn around.
Once you develop the connection to a Quaker, you'll enjoy years of companionship. They enjoy cuddling and being petted on the head and many owners look forward to the excited squeaks that greet them when they get home.
These birds are delightfully entertaining as well and they're often referred to as little clowns. Most Quakers develop a great vocabulary and can even put together multiple phrases to get a point across. They can get sassy, too, which just plays into their spunky character. Mimicking sounds and singing are other talents of this little beauty.
The loudness of this parrot is subjective. Some owners say that it's a quiet bird while others think they're too noisy. Indeed, Quakers are little chatterboxes, especially when you get more than one bird in a room. They certainly don't give out the ear-piercing screams of other parrots, but they will call out on occasion. A number of owners say that it's not at a level that bothers the neighbors, though.
Quakers are known to be extremely good eaters and their diet should mimic the fruits, vegetables, and nuts they eat in the wild. They thrive on fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and healthy table food. Root vegetables, peppers, and colorful produce are critical in their diets.
They do well in homes when this diet is supplemented with quality commercially formulated pellets and healthy seeds, such as hemp, flax, and chia seed. The occasional millet sprig is a welcomed snack.
Some Quakers tend to become overweight if allowed to indulge in too many fattening nuts and seed treats like sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millet. To prevent this, be sure to offer your Quaker fresh greens, legumes, pasta, and other vegetables as the main food source.
As with all parrots, fresh water should always be available. You should also avoid toxic foods for birds like avocado, chocolate, and coffee.
Quakers are very active birds and need to have an adequate amount of space in which to play. Their cage needs to be a minimum of 18 inches square, though they'll do even better in the largest one you can provide. Make sure it's tough, too. These birds not only like to chew, they are well known for learning how to open the cage and escaping as well.
Provide your Quaker with plenty of toys and a play gym as a place to burn off their energy and play. Providing toys on the gym is always welcome and they will give your Quaker parrot something to do. A bath inside the cage should be considered a must with this bird and acts as another form of entertainment.
The nest-building instinct is still alive and well in captive Quakers. Your bird may try to weave things into the bars of his cage or may choose to begin nesting in a corner of your house using random things he finds. For this reason (and others), it's best to supervise these curious birds during the hour or two they're allowed out of the cage to exercise each day.
This time outside of the cage is important in order to ensure that your pet stays happy and physically fit. Lots of small toys such as balls, bells, and smaller chew toys will engage and interest your bird in playtime activity. These very intelligent birds will often have fun with puzzle toys, some figuring out the secrets at a surprising speed.