Buying a pet bird can be confusing. Your
avian-enthusiast neighbor has his opinion, the pet
store clerk has his opinion, endless pet
publications have all kinds of opinion - so how do
you sort them all out and determine what's right for
you and your household?
The choice is essentially
subjective. It depends on your own time constraints,
and economic and environmental realities, but even
with unlimited options in those critical areas, not
every bird is for every person. Your goals,
personality, experience and yes, patience are all
key to making a wise decision. Don't rush out to buy
a certain type of bird just because your friend down
the street recommends it. You have many options -
canaries, mynahs, cockatoos, finches - the list goes
on forever and within a species, you have even more
variety. The names are fascinating - American Singer
Canary, African Gray Parrot, Greater Indian Hill
Mynah - and each bird species is beautiful in its
own way. Whether you are a busy family of four or
you live by yourself, there are some guidelines to
help you choose which species of bird is right for
Why are you getting this bird?
The answers vary from hobby to companionship to
breeding. There are almost as many reasons why
people get birds as there are birds to get! If you
are a first-time bird owner and not sure about
what's involved in owning a bird, start small and
simple. Lories tame easily, finches are easy to care
for and cockatiels are happy birds with soft
whistles. Any of these would be a good choice for a
hobby bird, a companion bird or a bird for a home
How much time are you planning to devote to
your new pet each day?
Your new bird will need regular food, water,
discipline, entertainment, attention and more
attention every day. Try to gauge the amount of time
you think this bird will need, and then make sure
your expectations match the bird. The important
thing is to take a good look at your household's
time commitments and be honest when talking to the
breeder or pet store associate. The better you can
define your own timeframe, the more the breeder or
associate can help you find the perfect bird, one
that will grow and thrive with your love and care.
Where will the bird live?
Every pet needs a place to call home. Your bird will
need a place for his cage to hang, near light during
the day, and with quiet and darkness at night. You
should also consider the size of the cage, since a
large parrot will not fit in a cage designed for
A good rule of thumb for cages is that you can't
buy a cage that's too big for your bird. Cage sizes
run the gamut from large (36"W x 36"D x 60" H - a
good size for a macaw) to small (24"W x 14"D x 18"H
- an excellent choice for a finch). A medium cage
(24"W x 24"D x 30"H) would be ideal for a conure.
With any animal, it is the best to provide the
largest cage possible. The bird should be able to
spread his wings without hitting the sides of the
cage. Ideally, you want a cage that will allow an
entire wingspan on either side. The bars should be
close enough together that he can't fit his head
through the space or get his wings caught between
Depending on the species, your bird may need time
out of his cage for socialization as well. Don't
count on keeping your bird in his cage all the time.
Think about a bird's behavior when choosing a room
for him. While you want him to have a good view,
sometimes a prominent place in the formal living
room is not the best choice. Parakeets, macaws and
lovebirds love to chew which could result in a messy
floor! Choose a room where this won't bother you, or
choose a different kind of bird such as a canary or
finch. Although they like to chew, they don't chew
as aggressively as other species of birds.
You should also consider personalities when
choosing a bird, much the same way you would
consider the temperament of a puppy. Some birds
talk, some sing and some whistle. Many birds are
messy and some have destructive tendencies when left
Do you want a talking bird?
Talking birds can't really talk, but their ability
to mimic is incredible. A bird repeats what he
hears. However, you can't always find out if a bird
is a "talker" simply by watching him for a few
minutes in a pet store or breeder cage. A bird can
be quiet and subdued when faced with unfamiliar
surroundings or people; he may begin vocalizing his
opinions much later. Be sure you want a bird that
talks before buying one. The best talkers by far are
African Grey Parrots, Amazons (double yellow headed,
blue fronts), and macaws (Blue and Gold, Military).
Next are parakeets (budgerigars) and cockatiels. The
latter group is not as strong in the talking
department, but can still make excellent pets.
What noise level can you tolerate?
Picking a bird depends entirely on what you are
willing to endure. There are birds that simply talk,
such as the African Grey Parrot, Military Macaw or
parakeets. Other birds may whistle and scream along
with a bit of talking. Think about the noise level
you're willing to accept on a daily basis and then
make sure you find out exactly what to expect.
Parrots, macaws and Amazons are the best "talkers."
Conures (jenday or nanday) are not as proficient,
but are nevertheless very noisy birds. All of these
parrots and larger birds will scream loudly enough
to make all but the most tolerant of neighbors pick
up the telephone to complain.
What is your price range?
Cost is not something to ignore, and besides the
initial cost of purchase, you need to consider the
maintenance costs involved in owning a bird.
Estimate the cost of food, health care, housing and
equipment for your pet before committing to bird
ownership. Sometimes a less expensive bird can be
much more enjoyable and easier to raise.
First-time bird owners should not buy expensive
or high-maintenance birds, such as large macaws and
cockatoos. As much as you might like a scarlet
macaw, if you've never owned a bird before, it's a
good idea to try a less expensive bird to see how
you and your bird get along and to see how
manageable the ongoing expenses of bird ownership
You're the Best Judge
Different people prefer different birds, and your
answers to the above questions are going to result
in different combinations of characteristics. So
what bird should you buy? Ask anyone whose opinion
you value, read and study. If you're serious about
getting a bird, you should consider searching for an
avian veterinarian now and asking for his or her
opinion before you begin. Review the list of common
bird types below, and educate yourself more about
the types that seem to be the most compatible with
your lifestyle and preferences.
Finches are the smallest of the pet birds. They
chirp frequently and are relatively easy to care for
because they don't make much mess and do not like to
be handled. Finches do need the company of other
finches so will want to keep at least two or more.
Also, finches require space to fly so a flight cage
is strongly recommended. Canaries are also small and
a member of the finch family. While they are quieter
than parrots, they have beautiful vocalizations,
especially the male birds. They can be kept singly
or in pairs; however, male canaries should not be
housed together. Canaries do not like to be handled
which makes them relatively easy to care for. They
do need room to fly so a flight cage is strongly
Parakeets, also called budgerigars or budgies,
are small members of the parrot family and are the
most popular species of pet birds in the United
States. They are easy to care for and some can even
learn to speak! Parakeets are active and need daily
time out of their cage to interact with their
Lovebirds are considered the most beautiful of
the small parrot family. They are curious,
energetic, charming and can be territorial.
Lovebirds have a unique chatter and a naturally loud
call. Single birds bond best with their owners;
however, if you do not have time every day to
interact with your lovebird, it is best to have a
Cockatiels are small, crested members of the
parrot family and one of the most popular pet bird
species. Their gentle personalities and easy care
make them great pets. Cockatiels bond easily with
their human companions and will follow them
everywhere. They are known for mimicking repetitive
sounds and noises. Conures, a small to medium-sized
bird, as a whole are playful, affectionate and
intelligent. They can be noisy, often screaming for
attention or to communicate their feelings or
emotions. Conures are good-natured, easy to train
and require lots of toys to chew on.
African Grey Parrots are outstanding mimics of
human speech and everyday sounds. They are alert and
highly intelligent as well as gentle and
affectionate. African Greys love to learn tricks and
games and, because they are so intelligent, they
require lots of stimulating toys.
Amazons are the quintessential "parrot" of
literature and cinema. They are excellent talkers,
playful, gentle and like to be the center of
attention. Amazons are also very intelligent and
like to learn tricks and require lots of toys to
keep them busy. They form strong bonds with humans
and need lots of daily interaction outside of their
Cockatoos are one of the most affectionate and
loving of all parrots. They are highly intelligent
and inquisitive which may be why they are known to
be "escape artists" as they are adept at getting out
of their cage. Cockatoos require a great deal of
attention, interaction and playtime with their human
family, and can become stressed and ill if left
alone too much. Their crest can indicate their mood.
Small macaws, such as Hahn's and Noble, are
intelligent, affectionate, playful and one of the
best talkers of all the macaws. They are fast
learners, and like to show off. These macaws can be
taught many tricks and need many stimulating toys.
They are aggressive chewers and can be quite loud.
Large macaws, such as Military and Scarlet, are
among the largest members of the parrot family. They
are sensitive, affectionate and intelligent birds
with a loud voice. These macaws are social and adapt
well to human interaction; therefore, they need a
lot of time outside of their cage. Large macaws bond
easily with their primary caregiver. They, like
their smaller counterparts, are aggressive chewers
and need a lot of stimulating toys.
Lorikeets/Lories differ only in the size of their
tails: lorikeets have longer tails than lories. Both
are intelligent, active, playful and friendly.
Lories and Lorikeets are very clean, affectionate
birds that need the company of other birds. They
require daily attention and a variety of toys.
Because they are intelligent and playful, they can
be taught tricks. However, because their nectar diet
can cause runny stools, they can be messy.