Found in dry semi-open lowland forests, palm groves, Acacia scrublands and other areas often near human habitation of South America, the Quaker parakeet is quite common throughout its range. Due to its ability to thrive near human habitation, the numbers of this species has increased with the spread of human settlements across most of its range. Additionally, Quaker parakeet colonies have done remarkably well when introduced in other areas, especially in Europe and North America. There are three recognized subspecies of Quaker parakeets. The nominate subspecies Myiopsitta monachus monachus is found in Southeastern Brazil, Uruguay and Northeast Argentina. M. m. cotorra is found in Southern Bolivia, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Northwest Argentina. M. m. calita is found in Western Argentina.
The Quaker parakeet is mainly a green bird. The forehead, cheeks and chin are a light grey that extends to the breast which has a scalloped appearance. The belly and thighs are an olive yellow that becomes more greenish yellow towards the vent. It is a compact little bird with a long tapered tail. The Quaker parakeet measures 11 ˝ inches (28-29 cm) and weighs between 90 – 140g. In the wild, its main diet is made up of the seeds of a wide variety of plants, with palm nuts and thistle being a favorite. Fruits, berries, flowers, leaf buds and occasionally insects are also consumed. In addition to the wild food sources, Quaker parakeets near human settlements have become serious crop pests, feeding on corn, sunflower, peach and citrus crops.
In captivity, Quaker parakeets can make the ideal first pet bird, especially for someone wanting smaller pet with a “large bird” personality. They are gregarious little birds that are full of energy and are always on the move and always entertaining their owners. They are relatively inexpensive to house and feed. There are many cages available on the market that are perfect for Quaker parakeets to suit any budget. A single pet bird should be housed in a cage that at the very least allows for enough room to flap its wings and move around the cage. A 20” x 20” cage would be the absolute minimum for a single pet bird that is allowed out of its cage for regular exercise. We have found Quaker parakeets to be voracious eaters and will sample any food item placed in their food dish. A good Quaker parakeet diet should consist of a commercially prepared avian pellet, a high quality seed mix and chopped produce. Each morning, our Quaker parakeets receive a portion of what we call, “parrot salad”, which always consists of two parts ZuPreem AvianMaintenceTM Fruit BlendTM pellets; four parts vegetables (corn, peas, celery, shredded carrot, steamed yam, chopped kale, chopped broccoli) and one part chopped fruit (apple, cantaloupe, papaya). We will often add sprouted seeds, cubed and dried whole wheat bread, cooked brown rice or any seasonally available (often on sale at the market) produce to the above mix on a rotational basis to provide variety. In the afternoon, we feed our Quaker parakeets a small portion of a quality safflower-based seed mix.
To the best of our knowledge, there are currently 10 primary color mutations in the Quaker parakeet that have been established or are working on becoming established. A primary color mutation is a color that is created by a single mutation of a gene that controls one of the three elements of color in parrots. These elements are psittacin – yellow, orange, red and pink pigments; melanin – the black, brown and grey pigments; and structural color – colors caused by interference effects instead of pigments. It is beyond the scope of this page to go into great detail about how the elements of color interact to create the colorful plumage of parrots; however, it is important to understand that the melanin and structural color interact to create blue and green plumage. In addition to the 10 primary color mutations, there is an almost endless array of combinations of mutations, making breeding for the different color mutations incredibly exciting. In addition to their wonderful personalities both in the aviary and in the home as pets, the appearance and establishment of new color mutations in Quaker parakeets has caused the popularity of this once over-looked species to one of “high-end” status.
Descriptions of the various color mutations are available here.
Collar, N.J. (1997). Family Psittacidae (Parrots). Pp. 280-477 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions: Barcelona