Quaker parrots, also known as monk parakeets, are native to the southern half of South America, being found in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. Feral colonies are now well established in parts of the U.S., which is why they are illegal in some states. They thrive in forest and woodland.
Quaker parrots are considered agricultural pests in many areas and are globally becoming more common.
Their population has exploded in South America over the last century or so due to a variety of human factors, as well as the fact that there are now many established feral colonies in the United States.
Let’s find out more.
Where are Quaker parrots native to?
Quaker parrots are native to South America, in particular the southern half of the continent.
They are found in the southern region of Brazil, and throughout Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and more sparsely in other parts of the region.
It originated in the temperate and subtropical regions of Argentina, where it spread to most of the rest of where it lives today.
These are the places Quaker parrots originate from.
However, the species has established itself very well in many other regions of the world to which it is not native.
Many states in the U.S. now harbor populations of feral Quaker parrots, as do parts of Europe and even Australia.
Quaker parrots, or monk parakeets, were first described by western naturalism in 1780.
French polymath Georges-Louis Leclerc published a natural history of birds in this year, which was the first time it had been taxonomically classified.
At that time they were just as widely distributed throughout the southern region of South America as they are today, although feral populations had not been established elsewhere of course.
Indeed, in most of the places in South America where they are well established, they are considered huge a huge agricultural problem.
They have become so well established, and indeed even more successful as a result of human activity, that they present major problems to crop fields.
Even Darwin himself noted this during his travels.
A variety of factors have played a role in their expansion in population size in the modern day.
Understanding this requires a good understanding of the kinds of direct habitats in which they tend to live.
What environments do Quaker parrots live in?
Quaker parrots can do well in a variety of ecosystems, but they tend to live in lightly forested areas like scrub forests and palm groves.
They can also live in open savannas. Quaker parrots are, somewhat surprisingly, the only species of parrot that builds a stick nest.
They will typically do this in a tree although increasingly they are doing so on manmade structures.
One of the leading factors in the huge growth in population numbers over a short period of time seems to be the expanded eucalyptus forestry in the region.
Eucalyptus trees are cultivated for the production of paper pulp, and there are many huge plantations of such farms in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, as well as elsewhere.
These artificial forests give the Quaker parrots a place to live that is free from virtually all competition from other species.
They can thrive in these environments with plenty to eat and space to raise many young.
Quaker parrots often breed in colonies, too, with many pairs inhabiting single nest complexes.
In other words, Quaker parrots are extremely efficient breeders, and human farming has given them massively easier opportunities to breed.
This has made them a bigger problem as an agricultural pest for food crops.
Given the global distribution of this species, though, we can see that they are highly adaptable and can acclimatize well to a variety of habitats.
Feral populations have established themselves across the United States, Europe and Australia, among other places.
Parrots are highly social creatures, generally—so do Quaker parrots tend to live alone?
Do Quaker parrots live alone in the wild?
Quaker parrots do not live alone in the wild but usually in pairs or large groups.
The sizes of flocks can fluctuate year to year, for example outside of the breeding season flocks tend to be larger.
It can vary a lot case by case, too.
Most Quaker parrots live in flocks of over 100 individuals.
These flocks can get even larger than this, though.
However, it’s equally not uncommon for them to live in much smaller, family groups of five, ten or 15 individuals.
Parrots, on the whole, are very social animals and need a lot of interaction every day with their own species.
Quaker parrots are no different.
They never live alone, or any Quaker parrot through unfortunate circumstances that finds itself alone will soon join another flock.
Flock sizes can vary for a lot of reasons, then.
During the breeding season, flocks will get bigger, and they may be anywhere from a couple of pairs to over 100 individuals.
How long do Quaker parrots live in the wild?
Quaker parrots are not quite as long-lived as some other species, generally living to be between 20 and 30 years old.
They are successful enough in the wild that there isn’t really a huge disparity between their lifespan in the wild and in captivity.
The average Quaker parrot that survives beyond infancy will tend to live two or three decades.
Of course, there are many unexpected factors that can cut a Quaker parrot’s life short.
They are, like many species of smaller parrot, commonly preyed upon by eagles and hawks.
Even some tree-dwelling snakes can target Quaker parrots.
Infant mortality among Quaker parrots is self-evidently less common than it is in other species.
Indeed, while some species of Macaw are critically endangered or even extinct, Quaker parrots are so successful they are a real agricultural problem.
Quaker infants are a lot more successful in the modern ecosystem, then, but many still die at a young age.
Will a tamed Quaker parrot fly away?
Tamed Quaker parrots certainly will fly away if given the chance.
No matter how tame or well bonded to you they are, they are still wild animals with the instinct to fly around and move about daily.
If they are strongly bonded to you, there’s a chance they’ll return.
Given their unique nest building habits, they are more accustomed to staying in one place for long periods of time—but this is still not guaranteed.
You only need to look at the distribution of feral Quaker populations to understand they do and will fly away at the first chance.
This is why they are outright illegal in a number of U.S. states.
They are highly invasive and, as we’ve seen, highly successful and adaptable breeders.
Owning a Quaker parrot means being extremely careful about keeping it indoors.
Are Quaker parrots legal to own?
Whether or not it’s legal to own Quaker parrots depends on where you are—they certainly are illegal in many places.
In the United States, it is illegal to sell or own a Quaker parrot in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming.
They are officially listed as an agricultural pest, and these laws were made in direct response to the establishing of feral populations in other parts of the country.
Other regulations apply elsewhere in the U.S. In New York and Virginia, you can own a Quaker parakeet with banding and registration of the bird.
In Ohio, you can own a Quaker parrot if its wings are clipped or if it is not capable of free flight.
It’s always best to check with your local regulations to ensure you’re abiding by all the rules.
The fact is that many states which have not yet outlawed Quaker parrots may well do so in the coming years if their local climate could support feral populations.
It’s also illegal to sell and own Quaker parrots in Western Australia under any circumstances.
You can see how seriously local authorities take the threat this bird poses. If we are not careful, there will be populations of Quaker parrots living everywhere!
Quaker parrots have exploded in population numbers due largely to how humans have shaped their environments.
They have been moved around to various places where they have been very successful, and the expansion of eucalyptus farms has led to a huge expansion of Quaker parrot numbers.
It’s no surprise that state laws have attempted to curtail the problem of this invasive species, as much as we may love our Quaker parrots at home.