the Quaker Parakeet and Its Mutations ... Exciting Prospects For Future Aviculturists



Since their first documented breeding in captivity, in a Vienna garden in 1867, the popularity of the charming Quaker Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus, has grown with aviculturists and pet owners alike throughout the world. Although usually referred to as the Monk Parakeet in European aviculture, most enthusiasts in the U. S. simply refer to it as the Quaker.

The first blue mutation apparently appeared in Belgium in the 1940s. Currently, new colors are starting to appear on a fairly regular basis and the Quaker, as a species, has enjoyed an acceleration in popularity in the last decade.

My first personal experiences with the species began in 1971. I was offered a pair of birds that had "paired off" in a cage containing a number of imported birds. Of course, at that time, surgical and DNA sexing procedures were not yet available so we were compelled to do a lot of guessing when attempting to choose breeding pairs. We used to laugh and say that if a pair produced eggs you were certain one bird was a hen, and if the eggs were fertile it was a true pair! Needless to say, I was very pleased to be offered a pair of birds that had been allowed to pair by natural selection, thereby assuring, hopefully, a breeding pair.

They were, indeed, a well-matched pair, and lost no time in producing offspring. We were immediately enchanted with their cute little fat cheeks, and amusing gyrations while being handfed. They were obviously extremely intelligent, and each had a distinct personality of its own. Their individual idiosyncrasies became apparent at very early ages, and some were mimicking sounds around them and attempting to talk well in advance of being weaned. Since the babies were offered as pets, we soon heard lengthy tales of their delightful antics from their new owners. We soon became "hooked" on Quakers, and their potential as pets.


In 1989 we were able to acquire some blue Quakers from the late Tom Ireland of Florida. These birds were rather small, and he informed us that they had not been particularly good breeders. We decided to split them up and out-cross to wild-caught green birds. The results were dramatic, and when splits from the different pairings were mated, the first blue offspring produced were appreciably larger. We therefore felt we were headed in the right direction with our breeding program. Then in 1993, we were able to acquire several unrelated bloodlines of the blue mutation from Europe, along with the first red-eyed cinnamons to be imported into the U.S.

Since that time, we have seen several new mutations emerge. The blue mutation is simple recessive. The European cinnamon is sex-linked. This makes the inheritance pattern of the cinnamon blue combination both sex-linked and recessive.

A red-eyed cinnamon mutation that is recessive appeared in Texas in 1996. There is a similarly colored mutation that originated in Florida that is sexlinked, and has dark eyes instead of red. It seems there is a bit of variability in the depth of color in the darkeyed birds from Florida. A bird in my possession, for a brief period of time, could be described as a lovely lime green. While others that I have seen pictures of are much lighter in color. A yellow bird, also with dark eyes, has subsequently been produced from the stock in Florida. This almost extreme variability is relatively common in other mutations. Most recently, I have observed wide variations in the color and density of the yellow-suffused or spangle Cockatiel.

In 1996 we were able to purchase a single lutino Quaker and the green birds that produced it. That first "lutino" proved to be a male, and we have since raised several more offspring of both sexes from the parents. With lutino offspring of both sexes being produced by normal appearing green birds, this lutino-appearing mutation is obviously recessive.

There are green birds with yellow feathers showing up on a regular basis, so legitimate pieds should be established in the near future. I use the term legitimate regarding the pieds because pied-appearing characteristics, in any species, are not always a true mutation. Many times they are related to age, diet, or even a metabolic imbalance.

There are also green birds with blue-tinged feathers throughout the body. These variations, as with the pied, are not always a true mutation either. My fertile imagination has hypothesized that if a true mutation with these characteristics were to become established, it would probably lead to the production of a creamino Quaker similar to the Indian Ringneck mutation. For a new color or variation to be considered a viable genetic mutation, it must be reproducible. So far, to my knowledge, neither the pieds in the U.S., or the blue-green birds have proven themselves reproducible in a predictable manner.

It seems obvious that there are many new stars on the Quaker horizon in the form of new color mutations. And, of course, many combinations of the colors we...