Quaker Parrots, also known as Monk Parakeets, are said to be vivacious and noisy ‘big’ birds tucked into 90-140 gram bodies. For guest blogger Joanna Grinberg-Ayala, founder of Diary of a Kooky Parrot blog, this definitely holds true. She explores what life with quirky quaker parrot ‘Basil’ is really like – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is one real owner’s perspective on what these small parrots are like as pets; the post is part of an ongoing series that seeks to educate the public about life with pet birds. Let’s give Joanna and the fabulous Basil a warm welcome!
You can also follow Basil’s antics on either of her Facebook pages (or Twitter):
I was asked to write about my life with a quaker parrot… to show prospective quaker parrot owners what they’re in for. So here it comes – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Our quaker parrot is a huge loud personality bursting out of a small green body.
We’ve had our quaker, Basil, for over 2.5 years now. It’s been wonderful. We all love her like crazy. And she annoys us to no end. Basil shares her space with 3 budgies. Basil is, most likely, a girl. It was never confirmed, but from watching her personality traits and certain behaviors, I think it is pretty safe to assume she is a female.
So, what is life with my quaker like? I will try to summarize her quirky colorful personality:
Grouchy – The main sound we hear the most coming from Basil all day are grunts and grumbles. She sounds like a cranky grump. She grunts when she’s annoyed. She grunts when she’s content. But, when she’s really upset, she yells.
Messy – When Basil eats, the whole room gets trashed. She doesn’t eat in her cage. She doesn’t eat next to her food dish. She takes a seed in her beak, walks all the way to the edge of the cage, chews, and discards the shells onto the floor under the cage. When she gets veggies, she picks out stuff she doesn’t want, and throws it in all directions. When she eats peas, she extracts the filling, and scatters the skins everywhere. Needless to say, no matter how much I vacuum and clean, the floor in the parrot’s part of the room is always covered with bird food.
Noisy – Basil squawks rhythmically every morning for a couple of hours. Especially on the weekends, when we are trying to sleep in, and she wants us to come to the living room. The squawking is loud and annoying, but it only happens at intervals during the day. She probably is not quite as loud as some of the big parrots, but her piercing screeches can be heard from our 4th floor apartment all the way in the street. She’s not shy about reprimanding everyone, from budgies to humans. And, when her cage is locked, she clanks on the cage bars really loudly in protest – often for hours.
Nosy – Basil needs to see everything, check everything, and participate in everything. She likes to watch what I do from her spot on her playground, and loudly comments on everything. She usually chatters or grunts, occasionally resorting to yelling when she disapproves of something, like vacuuming, for example.
Jealous – Whenever I dare to talk to the budgies or snap their pictures, Basil rushes over, photo-bombs my pictures, jumps on my shoulder, nips my neck, anything to divert my attention away from the budgies. Same thing happens when the Kid comes over to cuddle with me. Basil immediately appears, places herself on my shoulder between us, and starts biting the Kid.
Picky – Basil has her favorite foods and nothing else will do. No matter how much I try to mix it up for her, she will only eat a few chosen veggies and fruit. No substitutes accepted. They either get ignored completely, or tossed on the floor with disgust.
Talented – All Basil’s senses seem to have extraordinary sharpness. She can spot a cookie from all the way across the room. She can smell gummy bears hidden deep in my pocket. Her sense of taste is so well developed that she manages to pick out the smallest pieces of favorite foods from my plate and discard anything else on the floor. She can hear me creeping on my tippy toes to the bathroom on early Sunday morning, and starts calling me loudly to come over to the living room. In short, there’s no hiding anything from Basil.
Persistent – Basil never gives up. She will do anything and everything to get what she wants. To score human food, she will bite, dive inside my mouth, wrap herself around my whole face while sitting on my shoulder to reach my lips, lower herself down my face when sitting on top of my head, walk right into my plate and dig in my dish in search of her favorite foods, try to rip food out of my hand, lick the plate, the table and my blouse… You name it. There is nothing Basil wouldn’t do to get what she wants. When she first saw budgies land on the window frame, she went berserk! She could not stand to see the budgies do something she wasn’t able to do. So she started practicing. She tried and tried for days until she learned how to do it too. It wasn’t easy. She’s nowhere nearly as agile as the budgies, she’s big and bulky, and not a great flyer. She kept crashing into the window and falling onto the windowsill, but she never gave up. Until one day, she learned how to do it. Only to triumphantly chase the budgies off!
Nippy – When you read on Facebook about these birds that cuddle with their owners, or sit in their pockets… well, it certainly won’t be about Basil. She must have an obsessive-compulsive disorder of some sort. She can’t stop nipping. Ever! We can never relax when she’s around. She plucks our body hair. She removes moles and pimples. She picks on freckles, scars, and scabs. She nibbles on our necks. She pinches our cheeks. She gnaws on our clothes. She removes our buttons. She never stops chewing on our clothes and us. Results? Holes in our shirts and blouses, missing buttons, bleeding moles, scabs that won’t heal for weeks because they’re constantly picked on… and constant shrieks of – “Ouch!” whenever Basil is around.
High-strung – Basil hardly ever relaxes. Ever. She has to see everything the budgies and we are doing. She can be getting a massage, half comatose from pleasure, but she keeps jumping nervously at every sound the budgies make. And, often, just has to fly back to show the budgies who’s in charge.
Bossy – She rules the flock. She cannot stand to see the budgies sitting around and relaxing. She will do anything to keep them on their toes. She controls their eating times. She decides where they get to sit. She chases them back and forth all day long. No budgie can relax when Basil is around.
Volatile and vindictive – When Basil gets mad it’s either ear-piercing yelling and wing flapping, or vicious biting and trashing her surroundings. When I don’t share my food with her, she walks over to the computer mouse, tries to push it off the desk and bite through the cable. Or, she tries to vandalize my computer keyboard. Or shred whatever papers are lying around. She never lets anything go. Someone or something has to pay, be it one of us, our clothes, or whatever object is at a near distance.
Cunning – Basil learned to sing her own rendition of Happy Birthday song, which sounds like – Appy Poo Day. As a treat, I offer her a piece of cereal, and call it a cookie. She learned to demand the cookie by yelling really loudly. In the past, she would attempt to sing and dance through the entire song, but, with time, she got wiser. Now all she does is sing one phrase – “Appy Poo Day”, and immediately yells – “COOKIEEE? COOKIEEE?”
Destructive – This goes without saying… Like every parrot, Basil loves to chew and shred her surroundings, which includes but is not limited to computer keyboard, computer mouse, cables, furniture, books, documents, walls, curtains, blinds, doors, pictures, frames, and so on… and so on…
Strong-willed – Everything has to be on Basil’s terms. She will only step up when she feels like it, she will only fly over when she’s in the mood, she will only graciously allow us to pet her, when she decides it’s time for a massage. And even then, she will less than gently redirect our fingers with bites, when the massage is not up to her expectations. When she’s not in the mood for pleasantries, it’s stink eye, painful bites, or ignoring our attempts at affection. In other words, don’t mess with the quaker!
Exclusive – Basil only tolerates the three members of our Family. No one else can get near her. She will ignore them; give them a stink eye, and outright bite if they try to get too close. Occasionally, she will graciously honor some people, like Grandpa or Aunt, by agreeing to sit on their shoulder, but they better not be trying to get too chummy with her. Or else!
Manipulative – When I eat something yummy, Basil nearly jumps out of her skin. She tries everything, from biting my lips to diving inside my mouth. When nothing works, she places herself on my shoulder, kisses my cheek and repeats – “I love you”, in hope that that will score her a piece.
Stubborn – When Basil wants to be with Dad on the couch, she flies over a million times in a row. She starts nipping on him, he gets annoyed, puts her back on her cage, she flies over to the couch and waits for him before he’s made it back. He puts her back on the cage, she flies over. He puts her back, she flies over… See where this is going? Same happens with the swing on her playground. She likes to twist it upside down so the budgies cannot use it. Dad fixes it. Basil goes back and turns it upside down. Dad fixes it, Basil turns it, dad fixes… All day long!
Independent – Basil self entertains herself all day by chasing budgies, destroying toys, papers, and furniture, and planning her shenanigans. She does not need us much. She does come over for scratches occasionally, and to try to wrestle food form us, but other than that she is very self reliant. Maybe it’s because she has other birds to occupy her attention. Maybe it’s her personality.
Competitive – Basil competes with the budgies over everything – space, food, toys, and my attention. She competes with the Kid over access to Dad and me. She fights for what she thinks is rightfully hers, and firmly asserts her position in the Family hierarchy. At the top, that is.
Spoiled – What can I say… Basil owns the apartment and us. She flies over to the table on the weekends for breakfast. She walks all over the table. She dives into our plates. We humbly offer her pieces of our meal, and she picks and chooses discarding unwanted pieces all over the table and the floor. She has us all wrapped around her little tail. We feed her, massage her, and tend to her as she wishes. In return, she graciously honors us with her occasional attention on her terms.
Occasionally sweet – Basil has moments of weakness, when she fluffs up on one of our shoulders, naps a little and repeats – I love you! Kiss? Of course that causes our hearts to melt. Or, she joins us on the couch, snuggles under the blanket, and allows us to massage her little fluffy body. Recently she has been allowing us to reach under her wings, which is a huge accomplishment for us, since she is not a very trusting birdie.
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I do not know how my experience compares with other quaker parrot owners, or rather people owned by quaker parrots. I only knew one other quaker personally. His name was Oscar, and he was much calmer and much less annoying. When Basil and Oscar met, he minded his own business, while Basil did all she could to bite him. I suspect it had to do with their gender. Female birds are usually way more snippy and nosy.
What else can I say? Like every crazy parrot lady I am nuts about my birds. Every time Basil perches on my finger, I feel grateful that I have been honored with a bird’s trust and love. I love Basil’s green fluff. I love her warm feet. I love to massage her around her beak. I love to kiss her, and sniff her, and pet her, and just have her next to me, whenever she lets me, of course. Her colorful personality has been a great source of entertainment to all of us. And when we go for vacation, we miss her and the budgies every single moment. We would not trade her for any other bird. She has become an integral part of our family, with all her quirks and demands.