Monk parakeets make great pets! These fun-loving birds cuddle and kiss their humans, and their extensive vocabulary makes them excellent conversational companions. There are many advantages to owning these birds and very few disadvantages. Here we look at the origin, characteristics, and other fascinating facts about this popular pet parrot, which also goes by the name Quaker Parrot or Monk Parrot.
How Did Monk Parakeets Get to the US?
The native range area of these parrots is South America. Viewed as agricultural pests, they were exported to the United States in the late 1900s. Some of the birds escaped from John F. Kennedy airport during transport and established feral colonies in New York. From that starting point, the birds spread to other places like Florida, Chicago, and Texas. At the time of this writing, the largest known population of feral Monk parakeets is in Florida, with Texas having the second largest population.
These feral birds are called naturalized Quaker birds. Because of their propensity for building their nests on electrical power equipment, like antenna towers and poles, and the danger of agricultural devastation, there are concerns that the naturalized birds could become an invasive species.
In fact, according to a report from the Institute for Biological Invasions, “Quite possibly, the massive exportation of monk parakeets from Argentina in the 1980s was justified by their status as pests.”1 Owning Quakers is illegal in some states, so people should check the specific laws and guidelines for their area before purchasing one.
Quaker Parrot/Monk Parrot Fast Facts
Test your knowledge of these birds by seeing how many of these facts you already knew.
- Origin: South America (range: Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina)
- Alternative names: Quaker conure, Gray-headed parakeet, Cliff parakeet, Grey-breasted parakeet, Monk parrot, Little Green Chickens
- Genus: Myiopsitta
- Species: monachus
- Size: 11 to 13 inches (length)
- Weight: 90 to 120 grams
- Colors: Green, blue, albino, pallid, cinnamon, aqua, fallow, yellow, lutino, pallid blue, cinnamon blue and white
- Best cage size: Cages that are at least 18 inches wide and deep with a bar spacing of approximately 5/8 inch are best
- Sex: determined by DNA or surgical sexing
- Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
- Known Health Problems: Fatty liver disease, feather plucking, Quaker Mutilation Syndrome (QMS – birds self-mutilate)
- Parrot Cost: approximately $50 to $200 for green parakeets; about $400 to $1200 for blue parakeets
- Intelligence: Rivals that of the African Gray Parrot; easily trained, can learn to open cage doors so owners should be on the alert for escape attempts
- Need to vocalize: High; good talkers with large vocabularies but can become loud with their whistles and chirps. Most Quakers start to talk when they are about six months old.
- Need for Human Interaction: High; these are extremely social birds and need attention and mental stimulation to prevent undesirable behaviors like feather plucking or screeching. They may become attached to one person.
Now that we know the facts about the Monk parakeet, let's talk about their unique characteristics.
Yoshi the Talking Quaker Parrot
Monk Parakeet Characteristics
This small parrot is usually green, although breeders are producing them in other color mutations with blue becoming more desired and prized. The bird is green with a grey face, breast, and legs, dark brown eyes, and an orange or yellow bill.
The Quaker parakeet is the only parakeet that builds a nest, and these nests are usually large and complex. Quakers are territorial and can become aggressive if they feel their nest, cage or food is threatened. They breed easily in captivity and produce clutches of four to eight eggs that hatch in about 23 to 26 days. The birds fledge at about six to eight weeks.
Quakers are fun-loving birds who laugh, talk and mimic their humans. Their energy level is high so they are not the best choice for those who do not have the time or inclination for lots of interaction. Because of their extreme intelligence, early parrot training and socialization will result in a better companion as these birds can also be stubborn. They love preening toys and puzzles, and these items give good mental exercise to keep the birds from getting bored.
Best Diets for Healthy Quaker Parrots
The healthiest diet for a Quaker parrot is a varied diet. Sprouted seeds like maize are good choices, but owners should avoid fatty seeds like safflower or sunflower seeds to cut the risk of fatty liver disease. Just like their humans, Quaker parakeets thrive on fresh fruits (think berries) and vegetables. Include some cooked grains such as wheat, barley and millet, pasta, and large quantities of fresh water to keep your Quaker happy and healthy.
Now that you know more about these congenial exotic birds, you may be interested in obtaining one. Be sure to check the legality of ownership, and then contact a reputable bird breeder for more information.