Home | Bird Species Profiles | The Monk Parrot, Quaker Parrot or Grey-breasted Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus – uncommon facts about a common pet bird, Part I

The Monk Parrot, Quaker Parrot or Grey-breasted Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus – uncommon facts about a common pet bird, Part I

Monk Parrot

Often, when we become familiar with a parrot species in captivity, we tend to lose sight of the fascinating details of its life in the wild. This is a mistake, although understandable, as only a few of us become fortunate enough to observe parrots in the wild.

The monk parrot, however, offers those of us living in the northeastern USA a chance to glimpse parrot life in the “wild”, as the species has been established here since the early 1970’s – the result of accidental and intentional releases. One explanation of this raucous bird’s ability to survive our harsh winters is found in its biology – as it ranges into southern Argentina, the monk parrot came to us well-equipped to survive the cold. Also, it is a communal nester, and the only parrot to build a nest outside of tree cavities. The huge, thick-walled stick nest, added to over many years, buffers the wind and allows the birds to huddle together, and thus to retain warmth. So solidly constructed are these nests that other birds, including the stoutly-build 5 foot-tall jabiru stork, often nest atop them.

I cared for 2 groups of monk parrots at the Bronx Zoo, both housed in outdoor exhibits. Free-living monk parrots attached their nests, through the exhibit wire, to the captive’s structures, and communicated with them constantly (among the most vocal of parrots, monks have a least a dozen different calls that elicit different responses among others). In one case the captive birds’ nest was quite low – about 10 feet off the ground – due to the nature of the exhibit. The free-living parrots nested higher up in a tree, directly above it, and spent a good deal of time on the roof of the cage, in animated chatter with their confined relatives (plotting an escape?).

A section of the nest I examined after it was dislodged by a storm was constructed of thick, thorn-covered branches (this, per the literature, is typical) and had 2 chambers – the smaller for a nesting pair, the larger most likely for non-breeders. The entrance holes were oriented downwards, in keeping with what I have read in other’s accounts. A mammalian or avian predator would definitely have had a hard time entering the nest, and in any event the many eyes present would likely serve as a deterrent as well.


Information concerning monk parrots as pets is available at:


  1. avatar

    how long do i wait to put two uacker parrots together?

  2. avatar

    Hello Freddie, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. Please send along some additional info – age and sex of the birds, cage size and their past histories; all affects how they should be introduced. Thanks,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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