Monk Parakeet (Quaker Parakeet)

Myiopsitta monachus

Monk parakeets are medium-sized parrots native to South America. They are abundant and highly gregarious, forming large flocks and building large colonial nests. They are found in a range of habitats but are most abundant in agricultural and urban areas. Recent population increases appear to be the result of the species’ ability to thrive in human-altered habitats. In parts of their native range they are regarded as agricultural pests, doing substantial damage to corn and seed crops such as sunflowers. Monk parakeets accidentally introduced into the wild have established self-sustaining populations in many parts of the world.

Monk parakeets are very popular pets. They are intelligent, interactive, and can learn to mimic human speech. Importation of monk parakeets into the United States is banned under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, but these birds are widely bred in captivity. Captive birds live for 15 to 20 years and so require a long- term care commitment.

Did You Know?

Importation of Monk Parakeets into the U.S. is banned under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Monk parakeets are abundant throughout much of their native range. Populations have increased so much in some places that the species has become a serious agricultural pest. Monk parakeets are easily bred in captivity, so it is unlikely that there is significant illegal trade in wild-caught birds.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Only purchase a monk parakeet from a reputable breeder or distributor to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported animal. Additionally, ask for proof that your animal was captive-bred; PetWatch strongly recommends only purchasing captive-bred birds to ensure that wild populations can continue to thrive.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

The monk parakeet is a highly successful invasive species. Populations have become established in the wild in parts of North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. They were introduced to the U.S. during the 1960s, probably as escaped or intentionally released pets. Large wild populations now live throughout Texas and Florida and in many urban areas, including Chicago and New York. Although they prefer warm climates, monk parakeets can tolerate northern winters; they often feed at backyard bird feeders and on ornamental plants.

Attempts to eradicate feral populations have not been successful. In some areas these parakeets have done serious economic damage by raiding fruit and seed crops, and by building large communal nests that damage electrical infrastructure and cause power outages. Because of the risk of further colonization, it is illegal to possess a monk parakeet in several states; in others, ownership is restricted or regulated.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild. In some states where ownership is permitted, pet monk parakeets are required to have identifying leg bands.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Monk parakeets are intelligent, long-lived birds that require lots of attention for the 15 to 20 years of their lives. They need a variety of toys and daily interaction with humans or other birds to provide mental stimulation. Without proper care, captive birds may develop self-destructive behavior such as feather plucking.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Make sure to research the requirements for keeping a monk parakeet healthy and happy for up to 20 years. When purchasing a pet monk parakeet, ask for proof that the animal was bred by a professional with a permit to sell the animal.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Monk parakeets can carry bacteria including Salmonella and Chlamydophila psittaci, which causes psittacosis, or parrot fever. Psittacosis can be transmitted from birds to humans and birds can harbor the bacteria for years without symptoms. Although less common in the U.S., this disease is potentially life-threatening for humans.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet bird, ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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