Quakers Are Great Talkers

Throughout the years I’ve worked with Quaker Parakeets, I’ve been surprised by the tales their loving owners have told me about their ability to communicate.

“Shiloh is already a year old and speaks nonstop. At just two months old, his first words were ‘kisses’ and a smooching sound.” This is representative of many of the letters I get. “My twelve month old Quaker called Barney talks 53 distinct sentences totaling 105 syllables,” is a more typical complaint.

The Quaker’s mischievous character is often reflected in his words. Many people soon learn to say “Ouch!” or “Stop that!” before biting the owner. They respond with ecstatic laughter. No matter how much the squeeze hurts, it is tough to get enraged.

I’ve never been able to discern which is more significant in training a bird to talk: intrinsic hereditary talent or instructional approaches and time invested. My own experiences do not assist me make this decision on genetics vs environment. I am so preoccupied with raising birds that I seldom have time to devote to more than cursory teaching attempts. The only thing I do to promote talking on a regular basis is repeat the same words I want the bird to learn with each interaction. My voice is fairly loud and clear by nature. “I adore apples,” I say when I give a piece of apple. It doesn’t take long for your pals to be amazed by your bird’s reaction to a reward offer. It may take some time for even the most astute Quaker to tell the difference between an apple, a cracker, and a vegetable, but with time and patient, this will happen.

I always chat to my young birds when I hand feed them. This is just as much a part of my daily routine as making the feeding formula. Almost often, one or two of a clutch will be plainly repeating my “Mmm mmm good.” or “Want more?” before they are weaned. Others will catch up on my welcome of “Hello guys!” when they learn to feed on their own in the bigger cages. Although I did not keep extensive records, I am aware that several of the newborns who did nothing except screech for food during their time with me afterwards amazed their parents by speaking in whole phrases.

I’ve seen a tendency among pet bird owners, not only Quakers, who are successful in teaching their birds to speak. These folks are often extremely chatty and have naturally clear, expressive speaking. They often exaggerate vocally. They just speak a lot, not only to family and friends, but also to their birds.

Talking abilities in companion birds are not confined to those owned by persons who have these traits. Without any effort on the part of the owner, Quakers will take up words and phrases they hear regularly, sing small little melodies, whistle, or mimic other birds and animals.

There are occasions when this capacity to imitate is underappreciated. Our talking birds are often busy whinnying like the horses in the surrounding field after spending time out on the patio. Back in the living room, you might easily conclude that the horses were stabled in the home until they went on another kick.

Although Quakers communicate well and are easily understood, they lack the bigger birds’ capacity to perfectly imitate human sounds. When my African Gray responds to a tap on the door with “Come on in,” his voice is mine in every way. Neighbors are surprised that I am not the one who greets them. The pet Quaker flawlessly replicates Gray’s phrases, but lacks the pitch and tone required to trick the neighbors.

All parrots rapidly learn from one another. We used to have a few birds in our aviaries that were reared in Spanish-speaking houses. The Quakers in the next cages were soon shouting “Como esta?” and “Que pasa!” with convincing Spanish accents.

I am often asked why these birds catch up on phrases they only hear on rare occasions. I believe this is because profanity is almost always used with great emphasis. Quakers are very fast to pick up a whistle and sing basic songs. Singing the same little tune while working about the cages is another “shortcut” for busy owners. Your pet will surprise you by sitting peacefully with his head tilted to one side as you amuse him, and will later return your melody.

Many people who research these subjects believe that parrots are smarter than dogs. As a result, any emotionally well-adjusted parrot may be effectively taught at any age. Training must be more gradual than when dealing with a growing newborn, but it is not impossible. With a Quaker’s expected life span of thirty or forty years, the addition of an elderly bird to the family is fairly unusual.

Quakers have astonishingly long memories. They will naturally employ recognizable, often heard sounds and phrases, but they regularly surprise us by clearly repeating a statement we haven’t heard in years. This might be the voice of a previous owner, like in the instance of a little Quaker hen I’ve put up for breeding. Normally, my husband is in charge of cleaning the cages in our aviaries. When I take up this responsibility on rare occasions, I hear a flawless copy of the old owner’s adorable tiny voice saying “Be cautious now!” when I open the cage door. This is followed by a convincing impersonation of my own chuckle.

We used to say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” to our tiny flock of pet birds so regularly that they would all scream out greetings throughout the holidays. They abandoned these terms shortly after the holidays, most likely because there was no positive response to their efforts. When the holiday season came around again, it was the Quaker who, with just a little encouragement, got everyone back into the spirit of welcomes.

With few exceptions, Quakers seem to begin rapidly expanding their vocabulary at about one year of age. They are constantly learning new words and phrases. Additional little triumphs, in my opinion, may go on endlessly.

A parrot’s physical traits seldom reveal the bird’s age. A Quaker in his or her old years may display signs of aging like as scaly legs or a more horny beak, but seldom impaired activity. The senior bird will continue to execute whatever it has learnt over the years and will add something new on occasion. You can teach an old bird new skills and words with patience.

Your Quaker may not learn to speak in words or sing numerous lines of a song. Approaching his cage in the morning and being welcomed by a bright-eyed tiny creature saying “Good morning, Honey!” makes the whole companion bird experience worthwhile. They don’t have to be bird experts to be adored.

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