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As owners of domesticated Quakers, most of us clip our Quakers wings for their safety. Still, our birds are physically equipped for sustained flight. Sustained flight is demanding. The avian circulatory system must pump oxygen and fuel to the bird's body so that it can fly and hover. At the same time, it has to be able to eliminate waste which hinders flight. Ever notice that your Quaker, even if he/she is clipped, will poop right before, or right after take off?


Mammals and reptiles have 2-way air flow; air passes in and out of the lungs, traveling the same pathway. Birds have a 1-way air flow system, causing air to be filtered twice in a system that does not have the lung capacilty which ours has. Air continuously passes over the bird's lungs and therefore, continuously picks up any and all things in the air they breathe. The air sacs, which you see in the diagram, deliver air throughout the respiratory system, so eventually, any pollutants which enter the bird's body will enter the air sacs and will be delivered as far as the tip of the wing and into the bird's thigh, as well as being passed over the lungs.


Let's look at the diagram of an avian wing below to see how far the air sacs extend.....

Scented candles, candles with metal wicks, perfumes, essential oils, powdery cleaners and talcums, air fresheners, spray deodorizers, fabric fresheners, smoke....the list of things that can pose hazardous to our Quakers respiratory and circular systems goes on and on. Why? The avian body contains many, minute air sacs that can easily be damaged. The air sacs extend even into the wings. It's all about flight.



See the hollow spaces between the wing bones? These hollow spaces contain air sacs, which must fill in order for the bird to sustain flight. They also will fill with whatever happens to be present in the air.

The skull to the left is not a Quaker skull, but will serve our purpose, which is to talk about sight and sense of smell.

For most birds, sight is the most important sense. The avian optic lobe of the brain is larger and better developed than that of mammals. The size of the avian eye in relation to the size of the head is also greater than in mammals. The eyes of birds of prey, such as owls, and those who forage for food nocturnally, will be positioned and shaped differently than our Quaker's, who are non hunters. Quaker eyes are positioned at the sides of their head. Their vision is called monocular vision; meaning they are capable of seeing from the side and front. This extends their field of vision more than that of birds of prey. Birds focus faster and better than humans can because their corneas are softer than those in humans, allowing what is called "accomodation"; the ability to focus on an object. Focussing occurs when the lens of the eye, and/or cornea, changes shape. The softer the cornea, the quicker the focus.


Most birds are capable of seeing 3-4 colors, so when your Quaker sets off the Quaker Alarm when you are dressed in your best red shirt, don't be surprised! Birds also have a third, clear eyelid! The purpose is to spread tears over the cornea so that it doesn't dry out during flight.


Sense of smell is not as developed in passerines, ( those smaller birds, such as wrens, chickadees, larks and swallows), and parrots, as it is in some birds, such pigeons and ocean birds. Above, we learned that the parrot optic lobe in the brain is large. In comparision, olfactory lobes, or ears, are small in parrots because they are of lesser importance.

Quaker's "ears" are fascinating because the openings are covered by specialized feathers. The feathers minimize air turbulence in flight. The visible part of the ear, as we know it, is lacking, but internally, their ears have 3 chambers, very similar to ours. Inside a Quaker's ear, the semicircular canals and the utricle are concerned with balance.

Birds hear very well, but differently than we do. Birds hear in absolute pitch, while we generally hear in relative pitch. To simplify absolute and relative pitch, absolute pitch is pure and not a guess, determined by computing the number of vibrations per second. Relative pitch is a comparison and not absolute. In birds, an absolute pitch becomes embedded in memory. At the same time, let's say we hear a song in one octave. Relative pitch allows we humans to hear that same song in another octave and recognize it. Birds cannot do this. This may be why, when we are teaching our Quakers to "talk", it is important to pronounce a word or phrase in the same tone, over and over.

photo courtesy of Fonzie and Ellen Krueger

Have you flipped your Quaker over today? If you haven't, today is a good day to start. Being able to flip your Quaker so that it lies comfortably on its back in your hand is a great way to examine your bird in cases of emergency, or for vet visits.

The best way to begin is to give your Quaker a good soaking bath and then wrap it in a nice comfy towel and cuddle. After you have been practicing for some time and everyone looks forward to the cuddle session, you can try to flip your Quaker over without the towel, by gently placing your fingers across his or her back, with your thumb resting across, not pushing, on the bird's abdomen. Just rotate your wrist, and presto! A bird in the hand is worth....never mind!

Right now, what we want to look at is the interramal region in the picture to the left. People who have never viewed the interramal region, and see it for the first time, sometimes panic and want to know what that big, fleshy looking hole is under their Quaker's beak! There's nothing wrong with your bird! This is the area that cradles the tongue, and this brings us to discussing your Quaker's sense of taste and other things about the Quaker tongue.

Have you ever given your Quaker a hot pepper and watched it devour it with glee? Birds have fewer taste buds than humans. Humans have approximately 9000 taste buds on their tongue, while birds have approximately 300-400.

Birds also have a bone in their tongue. The avian tongue is also muscular. A bird's mouth cavity does not have a continual saliva or water flow as a mammal's mouth cavity does. The avian tongue has various elevated places called papillae. The muscular tongue and the papillae serve to manipulate food and objects your bird may put in its mouth. Has your Quaker ever put something in its mouth that you tried to take from them? While you are busy trying to remove the object, their strong and dexterous tongue is just as busy moving and hiding that object around its mouth, out of view and away from your fingers.

Long time QPS member and experienced Quaker Parrot breeder Cliff Patterson of The Baby Bird Farm suggests QPS might want to consider a clarification on the respiratory system. Rather than describing mammals as hving a two way system and birds as a one way system, it might be more accurate to describe it as a four way system.


When a bird's chest expands, it inhales air into its lungs. When it contracts, unlike with a mammal, it does not exhale. Instead, it forces the air out of the lungs and into the air sacs and hollow bones. Then, the next time that the chest expands, it's withdrawing the air from the air sacs and back into the lungs. On the second compression, the air is exhaled.




Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air!


PAINT- Most paint contains VOC; "volatile organic compounds". These are the fumes you smell which are emitted as paint dries. VOC are particularly dangerous to the small, but complex avian respiratory system. Several paint manufacturers now carry low, or no VOC paints because new environmental regulations, and consumer demand, have led to the development of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes. Most paint manufacturers now produce one or more non-VOC variety of paint. These new paints are durable, cost-effective and less harmful to human, pet, and environmental health. To learn more about VOC, recommended levels, lists of companies who carry paints low in VOC, visit the RESOURCES page.


Paint manufactured before the 70's contains lead, which has harmful effects on health and development. Lead is only poisonous if ingested or inhaled.

When using any paint or using finsh, make every effort to remove your bird from the premises until all painting is completed and the area is properly aired and free of fumes.


Re-Painting A Bird Cage-Companion parrots can be hard on cages. Ingesting flakes of paint, or inhaling new paint fumes, can be harmful and possibly fatal. If you are planning on re-painting a cage, you should use only paints that do not contain lead, zinc or chromate, paints which are "high adhesion", formulated to bond with the metal surface, are hard-wearing, and fast drying. When purchasing paint to re-paint a cage, look on the back of the paint can and see if it is safe for a human baby. Often, there will be a picture of a mom holding a child's hand somewhere on the can. Do not use Rustoleum or similar paints.

The cage that is to be re-painted should be carefully scrubbed with a wire brush to remove any loose zinc flakes. It should then be sanded smooth by hand. Some non-toxic cage paints are now sold in some pet stores. Ask at your local pet store for their advice on paint choice.

Give a freshly painted cage a week or longer before using. Solvent-based paints take time after initial drying to release the solvent vapours.


Quakers chew. They climb using their beaks as well as their claws and use their tongues to "investigate" objects. Quakers, as all birds, will preen to keep their feathers in good working order. Cages, paints, toys, particularly toys with chains or bells, anything your Quaker might chew on or injest, even by way of preening, must be free of lead and zinc, as these substances are extremely toxic to all birds in doses higher than the zinc they would normally need and receive in a proper diet.

Some zippers, old eye glass frames, and some metal buttons, which are certainly enticing to Quakers, can contain lead and zinc. Zinc toxicity can cause degeneration of the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. Choose a cage with non lead paint coating. Be aware that the metal in most cages will break down over time. Avoid using "twist ties", like the ones used to close garbage bags, for securing things in your Quaker's cage. Plastic or stainless steel Quick Links are a good alternative. Some food bells or sticks are hung with galvanized wire. Food and water bowls should not be made of galvanized metals. Again, stainless steel is a safe alternative. If you are renovating an older house which was originally painted with lead based paints, be very diligent when cleaning scraped paint and residue. In birds, the symptoms of lead and zinc poisioning may often be confused with other illness.



Stain resistant carpeting can add convenience to our lives, just as non stick coatings can. PTFE, (polytetraflouethylene) is present in both non stick coatings and stain resistant coatings. It is becoming apparent that PTFE may be hazardous to humans. Certainly, it is hazardous to birds. We need to weigh the pros of using products containing PTFE against the hazards they might pose to our companion birds. To read more about PTFE and the effect it can have upon the sensitive avian respiratory system, go to NON STICK COATING

We understand that PTFE in non stick coating becomes hazardous by emitting fumes when heated. PTFE in stain resistant coatings is hazardous because of the concentration of fumes, and because when it begins to breakdown under normal use, it becomes airborne.

Many people experience allergic reactions when visiting carpeting stores, which can include coughing, sneezing, running eyes and nose, and some even experience skin rashes. These symtoms are reactions to stain resistant coatings and dye processes used to color carpeting. The same reactions can occur in the home when new carpeting is installed, and again, when carpeting is cleaned, and when stain resistant coatings are reapplied. Because the avian respiratory system is small, but extremely complex, adverse reactions to birds can be rapid and fatal. To better understand the avian respiratory system, visit QUAKER BODY ANATOMY

Many carpets contain an added hazard; formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling gas. It can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans. High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. Some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions.


How a carpet is dyed is important. Processes used to make dyes adhere to carpeting can cause reactions in som people and possibly, birds.



If you are thinking of placing carpeting or area rugs under bird cages, plexiglass sheets or plastic works well as an easy to care for alternative to carpeting and rugs.

Any carpeting or rugs you might purchase should be aired for serveral days before installation. As the paying consumer, you have the right to ask the installation company to air your carpeting for several days prior to the installation date. If you are installing carpeting or rugs yourself, you should plan on airing the carpeting or rug(s) at least 3 days before installation.

All pets and people should vacate the premises during installation until the house is completely aired. If you are installing yourself, keep the house well ventilated during and after installation and wear a mask.

By law, all carpeting and rug samples must be marked if they carry formaldehyde.

Look for carpeting and rugs which are "naturally" or heat dyed, rather than dyed by chemical process.

Continuously looped fibers are less likely to shear, rending less PTFE airborne. An example of continuously looped carpeting is Berber carpeting.

Wool and sisal carpeting and rugs are the most readily available natural fibered carpeting and rugs, many without stain resistant coating. Both can be found in their natural state or naturally dyed, without use of chemical process, although they are more difficult to maintain and clean.

Many cleaning products that we might normally use everyday in our homes can contains things that may be harmful to our birds. Over and over, we repeat on the QPSERC pages that birds can be more sensitive than mammals to various chemicals, especially through inhalation because of the small, but complex make up of their respiratory system. To understand the avian respiratory system, please visit QUAKER ANATOMY

If you have already visited CANDLES & AROMATICS, you have read about the potential hazards of essential oils to birds. We know that alcohols and bleach, especially when used at full strength, can create respiratory distress in humans. Contact and inhalation of bleach and alcohol is significantly more dangerous to birds, even if the product is diluted. Most bleaches contain sodium hypochlorite. Household bleach products that contain concentrations of hypochlorite that are greater than 5% may be problematic to birds. Besides the danger of inhalation that alcohol presents to birds, avians may be at a higher risk of harm from alcohol if it is exposured to their skin or injested. Birds have a thinner skin than some mammals, even though feathers offer some protection. The concentration of the chemicals listed above, the amount of cleaning product used, and how they are exposed to the product chemicals; by inhalation, ingestion, or topically, determines the severity of distress and will effect how the distressed bird will be treated, if treatment is needed or a possibility.

Acids are generally found in toilet bowl cleaners, lime removers, drain openers, and anti-rust compounds. Acids cause severe burns when they come in contact with skin. If acid is inhaled, severe respiratory distress may occur. Swallowing acid can cause burns and ulceration along the alimentary tract (the tubular passage of mucous membrane and muscle extending from mouth to anus; functions in digestion and elimination). Burns to the tongue, mouth, throat, and esophagus may also occur from swallowing acid.

Drain and oven cleaners, electric dishwasher soaps, and homemade soaps containing high amounts of alkali ( lye) are some examples of alkali based cleaning products. Alkali based products are most dangerous if they make contact with skin or are ingested.

Many detergents contain peroxides. Peroxides in concentrations greater than 10% may be harmful to skin.

Aerosols suspend liquids in air. This makes those carrying fumes and chemicals particularly dangerous to the avian respiratory system.



Birds should be removed from areas where cleaning products are being used, so as not to expose birds to fumes or direct skin contact, and not returned until the area is completely aired.

Cleaning products should never be mixed. Mixing cleaning productions can cause hazards chemical reactions.

A paste of baking soda and water, painted in the oven and on oven racks, works as an alternative to store bought oven cleaners. The paste can be left on in a cool oven before it is wiped away.

A mixture of vinegar and water is effective for disinfecting and wiping down cages and toys. Vinegar should never be mixed with bleach or ammonia.

NON STICK COATING - A Real & Present Danger


In the fall of 2004, the ABC News program 20/20 aired a segment about non stick coatings. For years, bird owners have tried to enlighten the public, as well as new or doubting bird owners, about the hazards non stick coatings can pose to our companion birds. The 20/20 segment did much to bring to light a real and present danger ignored by many because of the convenience which products surfaced with, or containing, non stick coatings provide.

Convenience is often chosen over avian safety. Before the invention of handheld, electronic detectors, canaries were used in mines to detect the presence of toxic gases in mines. Any sign of distress from the canary was a clear signal that conditions underground were unsafe for mine workers. Clearly, this is a good illustration of the sensitivity and uniqueness of the avian respiratory system. Please visit QUAKER ANATOMY to learn more about the avian respiratory system.

Polytetraflouethylene, (PTFE), was discovered in 1941. It is found in the fumes of non stick coatings. The danger of PTFE is that the fumes are odorless and colorless and it is not clear how long it lingers in the air. PTFE is found in most non stick cook and bakeware. Non stick coatings are made by many maufacturers, under many different names. One brand name does not cover all non stick coatings, so the consumer must be watchful, do their homework, and take care to read labels offered by products before purchase. Additionally, non stick coatings can be found in and on many products and applicances besides cook and bakeware that you might not suspect, such as:

  • Irons with Nonstick Sole Plates

  • Some Ironing Board Covers

  • Portable Heaters

  • Self-Cleaning Ovens

  • Heat Lamps and Bulbs

  • Breadmakers

  • Curling Irons

  • Hair Dryers

  • Stovetop Burners

  • Coffee Makers

  • Some Light Bulbs

  • Some Portable Heaters

  • Some Clothing

  • Some Cleaning Products

  • Some Toaster Ovens

  • And there's more....

The first case of human suffering from polytetrafluoroethylene problems was reported in 1951. In humans, polytetrafluoroethylene produces flu like symptoms and is called "polymer fume fever," and is rarely fatal. For birds, contact with PTFE fumes can often prove fatal, occurring within as little as 5 minutes of exposure to the fumes.

Non stick begins to emit fumes as soon as it is heated. It was thought at one time that PTFE became dangerous only when over heated. It is now reported that temperatures as low as 285 degrees F can release PTFE fumes which can prove dangerous and fatal to our birds. In the case of cookware, a pan does not have to be burnt to emit PTFE fumes, or to become dangerous to our birds. If we are lucky enough that our birds are not effected immediately, the fumes emitted into the air linger indeterminably and they do circulate. If you have multiple birds residing in your home, the fumes may not effect all the birds, effect them all at the same time. The toxic fumes become airborne and travel on air currants in the house. The air currant containing the toxic fumes can by-pass one bird and come in contact with another; the fumes acting similarly to the way smoke would when it becomes air borne.

One well known manufacturor of polytetrafluoroethylene claims that its coating remains intact at 500 degrees F and that it takes only 5 minutes for one of their pans coated in non stick surfacing to reach a 736 degrees F. It takes only 3 minutes and 20 seconds for competitive brands of non stick coating to reach the same temperature. Researchers at the U of Missouri documented the death of 1,000 chicken chicks at 396 degrees F, exposed to the "offgas"; gases emitted by nonstick coated heat lamps. The boiling point of water is 212 degrees F at sea level, lower than the point where PTFE fumes begin to emit into the air. Foods that are fried should be fried at 350 to 360 degrees F.





Read product labels carefully to unsure that a product does not contain non stick coating. If a warning label is not available, or you are unsure about a product's makeup, even after reading a label, don't hesitate to contact the product manufacturor to ask if their product contains non stick coating.

There is alternative cook and bakeware you can use that does not contain non stick coating. With proper curing and everyday care, stainless steel, cast iron, enamel, and hard anodized cookware are as easy to clean and use, and usually last longer than cook and bakeware with non stick surfaces. Non stick surfaces begin to break down immediately under normal use. It does not have to be overheated or scratched to begin to break down, emitting fumes and particles. Again, once the breakdown of PTFE has begun, it is unclear how long PTFE remains in the air.

The FDA requires that bulbs be given a non stick coating as a shatter shield when bulbs are used around food. If you plan to use a light to help warm a brooder, or keep a sick bird warm, read the box and any labels to ensure a non stick coating has not been used. If the box or label does not say it has a special or non stick coating, check the bulb itself. Non stick coated bulbs usually have a bubbly or cloudy surface.

REMEMBER!-Non stick coatings and surfaces are made by many different companies and manufacturors, under many different brand names. You need to be alert when purchasing products that contain the words: non stick, PTFE, and polytetrafluoroethylene. Do not rely on just a manufacturor or brand name.


Veterinary References Confirm the Dangers of Overheated Teflon

Blandford TB, Seamon PJ, Hughes R, Pattison M, Wilderspin MP. "A case of polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning in cockatiels accompanied by polymer fume fever in the owner." Veterinary Record, 1975, V.96, No. 8, p.175-176.

Duff P. "Acute inhalant toxicosis of cagebirds." Veterinary Record, 1997, V. 141, No. 4, p. 107.

Ehrsam H. ["Fatal poisoning of small pet birds following accidental overheating of cooking pans lined with polytetrafluorethylene."] Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd (Switzerland), 1969, V. 111, No. 4, p. 181-186.

Forbes NA, Jones D. "PTFE toxicity in birds." Veterinary Record, 1997, V. 140, N. 19, p. 512.

Holt PE. "PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) toxicity in birds." Veterinary Record, 1997, V. 141, No. 7, p. 180.

Lumeij JT. ["Risk for pet birds following exposure to burn products of pans coated with PTEF and butter."] Tijdschr Diergeneeskd (Netherlands), 1997, Vol. 122, No. 24, p. 720.

Stoltz JH, Galey F, Johnson B. "Sudden death in ten psittacine birds associated with the operation of a self-cleaning oven." Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 1992, Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 420-421.

Temple WA, Edwards IR, Bell SJ. "Poly (polymer) fume fever - two fatal cases (cage birds)." New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 1985, Vol. 33, No. 3, p. 30.

Temple WA, Edwards IR, Bell SJ. "Poly fume fever - two fatal cases (poisoning of Psittaciformes by fumes from heated teflon saucepans)." Australian Veterinary Practitioner, 1985, Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 66.

Wells RE. "Fatal toxicosis in pet birds caused by an overheated cooking pan lined with polytetrafluoroethylene." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1983, Vol. 182, No. 11, p. 1248-1250.

Wells RE, Slocombe RF, Trapp AL. "Acute toxicosis of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) caused by pyrolysis products from heated polytetrafluoroethylene: clinical study." American Journal of Veterinary Research, 1982, Vol. 43, No. 7, p. 1238-1242.

Wells RE, Slocombe RF. "Acute toxicosis of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) caused by pyrolysis products from heated polytetrafluoroethylene: microscopic study." American Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Vol. 43, No. 7, p. 1243-1248.

Plants & Perches


All birds benefit from the use of natural branches in cages and on play gyms. Natural branches of different lengths, circumferences, and textures help prevent foot ailments such as arthritus, help prevent sores forming on feet, help keep nails and beaks trim and healthy, and can serve as a source of entertainment for the bird who likes to chew. Quakers are known to be the only parrot to build nests in the wild. Many domestic Quakers retain the building instinct. Natural twigs and small pieces of branch can satify the building urge.

Not all branches and plants are safe for birds. Some plants and trees may produce toxic or allergic reactions in avian species. This compiled listing of safe and toxic plants is only what is currently believed to be safe or toxic for our birds. It is always suggested to check with your avian veterinarian if you question the safety or toxicity of a particular particular plant, tree, or foliage.

No plant, tree, or foliage is safe if it has been sprayed with pestisides, toxic chemicals, or insecticides. Before using, inspect for insects and parasites, scrub all branches with a disinfectant, (such as diluted chlorine bleach), then rinse thoroughly, and dry well.

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