Parrot Oddballs Part IV: The Quaker Parakeet
In this installment of my “odd parrots” series, I’ll be discussing a species that is common in its natural range and is also quite common as a pet, in areas where it’s legal to keep them.
Unlike the other species of parrots I’ve discussed in this series, the Quaker Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is fairly normal in appearance and can fly and lives primarily in trees. What makes Quakers so unique is their nesting habits. Most parrots nest in natural cavities, such as in trees but also occasionally in cliffs and termite nests. Quakers, however, will build their own nests out of sticks.
Quaker nests are rarely simple affairs. Instead of being just one small stick structure meant for one pair of birds, Quaker nests are communal affairs that can house several pairs of birds. Quaker nests can get fairly large and may house up to twenty pairs of birds, each of whom will have their own private chamber in the nest.
A pair of Quakers may start a nest up in a tree (or even on a utility pole) if the home nest they came from got too big. However, Quakers will also renovate nests of other species for their own purposes. In parts of South America where their range overlaps that of the Jabiru Stork (Jabiru icteria), Quakers will take over the bottom of Jabiru nests and start nesting in there. They will do this even if the Jabirus are still using the nests.
Below are some photos of Quakers and their nests I took in the Pantanal region of Brazil:
Quite a few of the nests I saw were actually under the crowns of leaves on palm trees. The dead, dry leaves hung around the nest, which kept the nest somewhat concealed and protected it from the elements. I say the nests were “somewhat” concealed because the Quakers were incredibly chatty so one could easily find Quaker nests by listening for them. Quakers are very busy birds, even when it’s not the breeding season. Birds were always coming and going to and from the nests, all while chatting away. Quakers do not only use their nests for raising young and use them as housing year round.
Below are pictures of Jabiru Storks and a Jabiru nest:
A Jabiru nest is made out of sticks, like a Quaker nest. In the Pantanal region of Brazil, most Jabiru nests will have Quakers living in the bottom. The Jabirus tolerate the Quakers and the two bird species don’t seem to get in each others’ way.
Feral Quakers live in many parts of the globe, including the United States and Europe. Most individuals in feral Quaker colonies are the descendants of escaped wild-caught birds. Quakers are likely so successful at colonizing new places since they can build their own nests and do not need large trees to nest in. Quakers can survive in some very urban areas, including Chicago and New York City. They sometimes get into trouble with power companies, since a large Quaker nest on a utility pole can cause power outages. Quakers are actually illegal to keep as pets (or must be wing clipped) in some areas because of their supposed potential to become invasive. However, most captive-bred birds don’t have very good survival skills. For that reason, captive parrots should never be set free.
Quakers can make interactive, charming pets and some become great talkers. However, they can be demanding and quite noisy.