How to Choose a Pet Bird

Pet birds are a cheerful addition to any home. Their chirping, cheerful songs enliven a room, and teaching a pet bird to talk can be a fun and rewarding pastime. But before you plunge in, understand that there are some drawbacks to bird ownership. Pet birds can be very messy, need different types and amounts of pet bird food and, even though they are caged, require lots of care and attention to ensure optimal pet health.

The Humane Society of the United States strongly recommends that people interested in keeping a pet bird choose a type that has been selectively bred over time and is considered a domesticated animal. Some examples include:

  • Canaries
  • Finches
  • Budgies (Parakeets)
  • Cockatiels
  • Lovebirds

You should avoid purchasing a wild bird species such as a parrot, macaw, cockatoo (not the same as a cockatiel), or toucan, according to the Humane Society. These birds belong outdoors in the wild, and keeping them indoors places a cruel limit on their lives. They also can be very messy and destructive.

4 Bird Selection Tips

These key criteria will help determine your small pet bird selection:

  • Birds of a feather. Most pet birds do better when kept with a companion bird. These include finches, budgies, cockatiels, and lovebirds. On the other hand, canaries like to be by themselves.
  • Singing or speaking. Some types of budgies and cockatiels can learn to talk, if you spend enough time teaching them. Don’t expect anything but pretty chirps and tweets from the other breeds.
  • Lifespan. Budgies live about six years on average, while cockatiels live to about five years and finches live around four to five years. However, individual pet birds can live much longer lives, perhaps 20 years or more.
  • Personality. Pet birds can have a widely varied disposition, depending on the breed. Canaries are lovely singers, but they don’t like to be handled by humans and are, as noted, solitary birds. Finches also don’t enjoy human company, but do enjoy being kept with other finches. On the other hand, budgies and cockatiels are very cheerful, smart, and friendly and enjoy being doted on by humans.

Your Pet Bird Food and Care Guide

Pet birds require a lot of care to keep them happy and healthy. Some things to keep in mind include:

  • The right cage. You should get the largest cage you can afford to give your pet bird plenty of room to fly. You also will need to set up the cage with perches, food and water dishes, and an assortment of toys. You may need to provide special items, depending on the breed of bird. Hook-billed birds like budgies, cockatiels, and lovebirds need to chew, so you will need to provide chewable items for them. Lovebirds are nesting birds, and you should provide them a nest box.
  • The right pet bird food. In general, domesticated birds can all be kept on commercial bird seed sold at stores, but you might want to consider a pelleted food formulated for your particular species. You also should offer them some fruits and vegetables daily. Keep a close eye on the food bowl — high-metabolism species like finches and canaries can starve to death in 24 to 48 hours if their food runs out.
  • The right cleaning schedule. Birds make a mess, so you’ll need to thoroughly clean the cage at least once a week. Take out the cage’s tray and the perches for washing. Just prior to cleaning, give your birds a chance for bath time by placing a shallow dish of water on the bottom of the cage. Also keep food and water dishes clean — pet bird food dishes can fill with seed hulls, creating the illusion that there is food when there really isn’t. Discard old food and water and replace them with fresh supplies daily.
  • The right amount of attention. Human-friendly pet bird species like budgies or cockatiels should be given attention for at least an hour every day. After you’ve gotten acquainted over a few weeks, you can begin hand taming these birds.

With some general knowledge and the realization that birds do require care, you can enjoy the many benefits of bringing a bird into your home.

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