The Monk Parakeet, also known as the Quaker Parrot, (Myiopsitta monachus) is a species of parrot, in most treatments the only member of the genus Myiopsitta. It originates from the temperate to subtropical areas of Argentina and the surrounding countries in South America. Self-sustaining feral populations occur in many places, mainly in North America and Europe.
The nominate subspecies of this parakeet is 29 cm long on average, with a 48 cm wingspan, and weighs 100 g. Females tend to be 10-20% smaller but can only be reliably sexed by DNA blood or feather testing. It has bright green upperparts. The forehead and breast are pale grey with darker scalloping and the rest of the under parts are very-light green to yellow. The remiges are dark blue, and the tail is long and tapering. The bill is orange. The call is a loud and throaty chape(-yee) or quak quaki quak-wi quarr, and screeches skveet.
Domestic breeds in colors other than the natural plumage have been produced. These include birds with white, blue, and yellow in place of green. As such coloration provides less camouflage, feral birds are usually of wild-type coloration.
The Monk Parakeet is globally very common, and even the rather localized Cliff Parakeet is generally common. In Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, Monk Parakeets are regarded as major agricultural pests (as noted by Charles Darwin among others). Their population explosion in South American rural areas seems to be associated with the expansion of eucalyptus forestry for paper pulp production, which offers the bird the opportunity to build protected nests in artificial forests where there is small ecological competition from other species. The Cliff Parakeet occasionally plunders maize fields but it is apparently not considered a major pest as there is no serious persecution.
The Monk Parakeet is the only parrot that builds a stick nest, in a tree or on a man-made structure, rather than using a hole in a tree. This gregarious species often breeds colonially, building a single large nest with separate entrances for each pair. In the wild, the colonies can become quite large, with pairs occupying separate "apartments" in nests that can reach the size of a small automobile. These nests can attract many other tenants including birds of prey such as the Spot-winged Falconet (Spiziapteryx circumcincta), ducks such as the Speckled Teal (Anas flavirostris), and even mammals. Their 5-12 white eggs hatch in about 24 days.
The Cliff Parakeet, as its name implies, rather nests in cliff crevices. This taxon rarely builds communal nests, but individual pairs still prefer to nest in close association.
Unusually for a parrot, Monk Parakeet pairs occasionally have helper individuals, often a grown offspring, which assists with feeding the young (see kin selection).
Monk Parakeets are highly intelligent, social birds. Those kept as pets routinely develop large vocabularies. They are able to learn scores of words and phrases. The lifespan of Monk Parakeets has been given as 15–25 years.
Care and Feeding
Specialized pelleted diets are highly recommended and should consist of 60–70% of the diet; use fortified seeds in moderation as they are higher in fat and less nutritious than pellets.Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as apple slices, grated carrots, raw broccoli, and green, leafy vegetables. Do not feed birds fruit seeds, avocados, chocolate, alcohol or caffeine as these can cause serious medical problems.
If your bird is used to a seed diet, convert to pellets gradually. Fresh pellets or seeds and fresh, clean, chlorine-free water should always be available. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be given daily; discard when not eaten within 24 hours; Macaws appreciate quality and variety in their food.
Birds acclimate well to average household temperatures; be cautious of extreme temperature change; cage should be placed off the floor in an area that is well-lit and away from drafts. A cage that is at least 18" W x 18" D, with metal bars spaced no greater than 1/2" apart, makes a good home for your parrot; as with all animals, it is best to provide the largest habitat possible; a flight cage is strongly recommended.
Perches should be at least 4" long and ½ to 3/4" in diameter. A variety of perch sizes to exercise feet and help prevent arthritis is recommended. A metal grate over the droppings tray will keep the bird away from droppings; line the droppings tray with cage paper or appropriate substrate for easier cleaning. To avoid contamination, do not place food or water containers under perches.