What is a Quaker Parakeet?

J.L. Drede
J.L. Drede

The Quaker parakeet, also known as the Quaker parrot or monk parakeet, is a parrot that is native to South America. Its breast and head are usually light gray or white, and its back is a bright green with blue flourishes. It is similar in size to a cockatoo, usually about 12 inches (30 centimeters) in length. In captivity it can live as long as 25 to 30 years.

Unlike any other species of parakeet, the Quaker parakeet constructs nests made of sticks for shelter. These nests are often communal, and can house many pairs of parakeets. Other birds and even some mammals have been known to take up residence in the large nests, which can reach 3 feet (one meter) in length and weigh over 440 pounds (200 kg). These nests last year round, and are incredibly durable, standing up to rain, snow and severe storms.

The Quaker parakeet is a popular pet across Europe and the United States. It is renowned for its intelligence and personality, and can be taught to speak not only singular words but complete sentences. The bird is considered to be social and can get along well with people, although some are bothered by its loud squawking. Like most pet birds they are usually kept in cages and fed standard pet bird food that can be bought at most pet stores. They can be kept alone or in pairs or even in groups.

The popularity of the Quaker parrot has created some problems in both America and Europe. It is one of the more resilient of bird breeds, and if it escapes from its owner's home it can manage to survive, and breed, in the harshest of conditions. Wild populations of Quaker parrots have become so numerous in some parts of the United States that it is illegal to keep as a pet. California, Wyoming, Hawaii and Georgia and many other states have banned the sale or ownership of the bird, in hopes of curtailing its rapidly growing wild population.

Its prevalence as an invasive species is more of a nuisance than environmental concern. While the Quaker parakeet does make meals out of corn and other crops, its damage is relatively small. It is, however, an incredibly loud bird, and the large nests that house dozens of them can become somewhat deafening. The Quaker parakeet is even seen as pest in its native Argentina, where populations have fled the jungles thanks to deforestation and have taken up residence in cities, farms and homes.

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