Quaker Parrot (Monk Parakeet): Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Pair of Quaker parrots in a tree

Bo Chambers / Getty Images

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 popular pet, good for dedicated beginners, and adapt well to living in a "human flock" setting. However, in some parts of the U.S., they are illegal to keep in as pets. Check with your local laws before getting one.

Breed Overview

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.

They are the only parrot known to build nests. These birds spend a lot of time creating elaborate dwellings from twigs and branches. Their nests even have multiple rooms. Flocks of Quakers will often build nests right next to each other to create Quaker communities. Some nest communities can grow to the size of a compact car.

A hardy bird, feral colonies of Quakers also live in many urban areas throughout the world. In some places, particularly the southern U.S., wild Quaker populations pose a risk to crops and native bird species.

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Temperament

Quakers are very confident and social birds by nature. These birds are delightfully entertaining; they're like little clowns. They have the personality of large birds in a little bird's body. Bold and outgoing, they tend to chatter a lot and are known for their exceptional talking ability. These little guys need just as much attention as bigger parrots.

In captivity, they tend to bond very closely with one person and are known for their loyal nature. Once you develop a connection with a Quaker parrot, you'll enjoy years of companionship. They enjoy cuddling and petting on the head, and you can look forward to excited squeaks that greet you when you get home. Most handfed Quakers are quite gentle and can many make excellent pets for children. 

Speech and Vocalizations

Most Quakers develop a vast vocabulary and can even put together multiple phrases. Mimicking sounds and singing are other talents of this little beauty. Quakers are little chatterboxes, especially when you get more than one bird in a room.

The loudness of this parrot is subjective. Some owners say that it's a quiet bird, while others think they're too noisy. They do not make ear-piercing screams like other parrots, but they will call out on occasion. Their noise level should not bother the neighbors.

Quaker Parrot Colors and Markings

The typical 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. This coloration resembles Colonial-era Quaker clothing and is how this bird got its 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 mutations is a blue hybrid Quaker parrot developed in the early 2000s. Breeders have also created albino, cinnamon, lutino, and pied Quakers.

This bird is a monomorphic species, which means the males and females look exactly alike. The only way to know for sure the sex of your bird is through DNA sexing or a surgical sexing procedure.

Caring for a Quaker Parrot

Quakers are very active birds and need to have an adequate amount of space to play. Their cage needs to be a minimum of 18 inches square, though they'll do even better in a larger enclosure. Make sure it's toughly constructed. These birds not only like to chew, but they are also well known for learning how to open the cage and escaping.

Put a bowl with fresh water inside the cage for a birdbath; this can provide hours of entertainment, exercise, and mental stimulation.

Quakers can get aggressive if they feel their home is threatened. Since they do take pride in their home, they can become possessive over their cage. If you are introducing another Quaker to the one you already have, allow the two to get acquainted in separate cages and form a bond first. Otherwise, the other bird will seem like an intruder. They will fight and even kill to protect their home.

If you have a dog or cat, you will also want to keep an eye on your Quaker. They can be somewhat fearless and try to take on even the biggest dogs.

Common Health Problems

The most common health issues with Quaker parrots are feather plucking and fatty liver disease. In most cases, you can avoid feather plucking ff your birds receive sufficient exercise and social interaction with you. Self-mutilation is a common, though unhealthy, way that parrots deal with boredom and angst. Quakers are relatively easy to rehabilitate compared to other parrots.

Fatty liver disease is most often caused by eating high-fat foods, namely eating a seed-based diet. A well-balanced, varied diet—with seeds only given as occasional treats—can help keep your bird healthy.

Diet and Nutrition

Quakers are known to be excellent eaters and their diet should include the fruits, vegetables, and nuts they typically eat in the wild.

As a captive bird, their main diet item should be a high-quality, commercially formulated pellet mix. Provide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and healthy table food. Root vegetables, peppers, and colorful produce are critical in their diets.

Feed these birds about 3 tablespoons of pellets per day and offer at least a 1/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables in the morning. Discard the fresh foods that are not eaten by the end of the day. You can offer a second feeding of fruits and vegetables a couple of hours before bed.

Some Quakers tend to become overweight if allowed to indulge in too many fattening nuts and seed treats like sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millet.

As with all pet birds, fresh water should always be available. Never give foods that are toxic to birds like avocado, chocolate, and coffee.

Exercise

Provide your Quaker with plenty of toys and a play gym as a place to burn off their energy and play. Quaker parrots need at least two hours of outside-of-the-cage time in a bird-safe room. Close windows and doors, turn off ceiling fans, block fireplaces, and remove potentially toxic plants and other pets from the room.

Balls, bells, and smaller chew toys will engage and interest your bird. These brilliant birds will often have fun with puzzle toys.

Allow Quaker parrots to exercise their nest-building instinct. Your bird may try to weave things into the bars of its cage or may choose to begin nesting in a corner of your house using random items it finds. Make sure you supervise these curious birds during the time they're out of the cage. 

Pros
  • Social, affectionate, and gentle around children

  • Intelligent, a great talking parrot

  • Quieter parrot, should be able to live in an apartment building

Cons
  • Needs a lot of personal attention and mental stimulation

  • Illegal species in some parts of the U.S.

  • Tends to get territorial with their cage or dedicated space

Where to Adopt or Buy a Quaker Parrot

Check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and your local laws to make sure that it is legal to keep a Quaker parrot. Since many Quaker parrots can lose their homes for a variety of reasons and are available for adoption, contact your nearest bird adoption and education foundation if you are interested in getting one.

On average, breeders sell Quaker parrots from $300 to $1,000. Online rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find Quaker parrots include:

Look for a bird that is bright, alert, and active. Make sure the breeder is knowledgeable about their birds and is forthcoming about their breeding practices and the origin of their birds.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you are interested in learning about similar bird species or looking for a pet with characteristics like the Quaker, you might consider the

If you want a bird with a talent for mimicry, take a look at some small and medium talking birds that might be a good fit.