What to Know About Quaker Parakeets

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 10, 2022

Quaker parakeets are popular for their charming and funny personality. They can mimic human speech, making them fascinating pets. They’re an excellent choice for families looking to have a smaller bird. Keep in mind, it’s illegal to have a parakeet as a pet in some states in the U.S. This article explains how you can care for your pet parakeet and some of its common traits.

Quaker parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus), also called monk parakeets, are small parrots native to the South American countries of Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina. Birds that have escaped captivity have built breeding colonies in many U.S. states, including Illinois, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Texas, and New York.

They’ve become popular pets due to their funny nature, which helps them easily mix with human populations. However, it’s illegal to keep the quaker parakeet as a pet in the following U.S. states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Other U.S. states — Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Vermont, and Virginia — allow domesticating the bird with certain restrictions, such as getting bird permits or clipping the bird’s wings.

The average quaker parakeet lifespan in the wild is six years, but they’re known to live for as long as 15 years in captivity. Quaker parakeets are small and average around 11 inches (28 centimeters) to 13 inches (33 centimeters) from their head to the end of their long tail. Quaker parakeet colors are mostly green or gray, with bluish-gray foreheads. Their cheeks, neck, and area between the nose and forehead are pale gray, and the feathers on their abdomen are a shade lighter.

The feathers in the lower abdomen, legs, and under the tail are usually green, and their beaks are pinkish-brown. Their wingspan is roughly 19 inches (48 centimeters). Males weigh around 100 grams, while females typically weigh 20% less. Their eyes are usually brown, but some quaker parakeets have blue or even yellow eyes.

A unique feature of quaker parakeets is that they’re the only parrots known to build nests. They spend a lot of time and energy building elaborate nests — which in many cases contain two separate rooms or chambers — using twigs and branches. Quaker parakeets, being highly social birds, build colonies of such nests next to each other in their natural habitats, commonly called apartment-house nests.

These community nests are bulky and very comfortable. A nest structure could contain as many as 20 nests and, in some cases, more than 200. Quakers are migratory birds and journey during winter to find better food sources.

Quaker parakeets are not sexually dimorphic. This means you can’t determine the gender by physically examining them. You’ll need blood or DNA samples to know their gender. The mating season is usually between August and November. In the wild, quaker parakeets live in pairs, and their nests contain separate chambers, each with a different purpose.

They use a chamber for incubation and another to feed their young ones. Female quaker parakeets generally lay four to seven eggs in a clutch and incubate them for around 20 days.

Quaker parakeets are highly social birds that are at their best when interacting with humans regularly. Their popularity as pets is attributed to their comical nature and their enthusiasm and ability to learn to speak like humans. They can become extremely loud when there’s not much human interaction, which is a sign that they need attention. They bond with a specific family member and sometimes display territorial traits.

Quaker parakeets enjoy seeds, fruits, buds, insects, and other tree parts. You can feed them sunflower, safflower, or other small seeds that can easily pass through their tiny throats. Captive quaker parakeets eat sweet potatoes; legumes; and cereal crops like wheat, maize, and barley.

Other good diet options include chopped green and yellow vegetables and fruit varieties. Discard food kept out for more than two hours, as it may spoil and cause health issues. Limit the intake of raisins and bananas (they could cause constipation), and avoid giving them iceberg lettuce and cabbage (which could lead to severe diarrhea). You can check with your vet whether giving your quaker parakeets vitamin supplements is a good idea. If yes, you can sprinkle it on their food.

Keep a separate dish of water to drink, and change it daily. Don’t add vitamins to the drinking water, as it can cause the growth of harmful bacteria. 

Keep a few cuttlebones near your birds' cage. These serve as an additional calcium source and help them keep their beak size in check. Cuttlebones are available in various flavors, such as mango, vanilla, and orange.

The ideal cage size for a quaker parakeet is about 18 inches (46 centimeters) long, 18 inches high, and 22 inches (56 centimeters) wide. But this may depend on your quaker parakeet size. Place a perch in the cage for your parakeet to stand on. The perch should be the right size for your bird’s feet. Keep the perch away from the feeding and drinking areas, as otherwise, droppings may contaminate the food and water.

You can keep your bird engrossed by including ladders, ropes, and bells in the cage. Quaker parakeets are sensitive to sudden temperature changes. So keep the cage away from windows and other areas that are in the way of wind drafts.

Grooming your quaker parakeet can be a great bonding activity and help them become more familiar with you. But get proper instructions from your vet on how to groom its wings and nails before trying it yourself. It’s better to take it to the vet the first few times.

Taming your quaker parakeet becomes easier when you start early. The best way to do it is to feed the bird its favorite treat through the cage. As it becomes familiar, you can feed it directly from your hand. Take care to keep the bird away from your kids until you’re certain about its comfort with your family, as some birds tend to bite.

Show Sources

All About Birds: “Monk Parakeet.”
American Federation of Aviculture: “Observations on a Captive Colony of Quaker Parakeets.”
Animal Diversity Web: “Myiopsitta monachus, monk parakeet.”
Animal Humane Society: “Quaker Parakeet care.”
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Biosecurity Queensland: “Monk/quaker parakeet.”
Quaker Parakeet Society: “Legal status of the Quaker/Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) per State Laws – Compiled 25 April 2020.”

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