July 1997 Magazine
There are many factors to consider that will help you determine which species of bird is right for you. Your level of experience, budget, time commitments, environment, and personality are all key elements in choosing the right bird.
Parrots have long life expectencies ranging from 15 years for a cockatiel, to 70 to 100 years for larger parrots. Parrots form strong bonds with their owners. It can be very traumatic and stressful for them to be sold to another family. Be sure you can make the commitment before you purchase a parrot.
Remember that each bird is an individual and has his/her own unique personality. General species characteristics may not apply to individual birds.
Have you previously owned a parrot?
Do you have other birds?
Have you done a lot of research on birds?
Do you know how to take proper care of the species you are considering?
Do you have an Avian vet?
Do you have other resources available to you?
Before you purchase a bird read as much material as you can on various species of birds. Research as many different species as possible. Talk to several breeders, pet stores, and avian vets to find out as much as you can on particular species of birds.
Make sure the place of business you are purchasing your bird from will answer all of your questions and is willing to continue to answer your questions long after the sale is made.
First time bird owners may want to start out with a smaller bird, such as a Cockatiel, Lovebird, Finch, Parakeet, or a Canary. Smaller birds may be less intimidating and easier to handle than their larger cousins. First time bird owners should purchase a bird that was handfed and well socialized. Birds who were handfed and handled as babies are usually tamer and friendlier than parent raised babies.
Conures, Quakers, and smaller African birds are usually the next bird purchase for people who have owned smaller birds. These birds are a little larger but are still easy to handle.
Macaws, Cockatoos, Amazons, and Greys require owners with previous experience in owning parrots as pets. These birds need a firm hand and new owners may find them intimidating.
Birds who have been abused, neglected, or have behavioral problems should be purchased by people who have a great deal of experience working with birds. These birds may require special care, taming, training, diets, environments, and handling.
How much can you afford to spend to purchase the bird?
How much can you afford to spend on a cage, toys, food,and other accessories?
How much can you afford to spend for the initial vet check up?
How much can you afford to spend on the on-going costs for emergency and annual vet care, food, toys, etc.?
Your budget is an important factor when deciding which bird to purchase. If you are on a limited budget you should keep that in mind when deciding which species of bird to purchase. Larger birds require larger budgets. In general, the bigger the bird, the more it will cost to maintain the bird.
How much free time do you have?
Do you travel often?
What is your daily routine?
If your daily schedule is very demanding then you should consider purchasing birds that do not require a great deal of time to take care of and socialize, such as Finches and Canaries. Parrots need to have time out of the cage each day to interact with their family.
If your job requires out of town travel, than you need to consider whether you have someone who can expertly take care of your bird during your absence. Parrots can become stressed and lonely when their families are absent which may lead to behavioral problems. Frequent travelers who cannot take parrots with them should consider this before purchasing a parrot.
Make sure your routine will allow for daily food preparation, cage cleaning, and playtime. Parrots are intelligent social creatures who need daily interaction with their owners, fresh fruits & veggies, and a clean cage. Have plenty of toys available for independent playtime to keep those beaks busy and in good condition.
How much room do you have for a cage, playstand, and accessories?
Do you have other pets?
Do you have young children?
What type of building do you live in?
How much noise can you, and other family members, and neighbors become accustomed to?
I always suggest purchasing the largest cage that your budget and space will allow for. Make sure you can adequately house the species of bird that you are considering to purchase. Playstands and other accessories will also take up space. Cages should be placed in an area of the home where the bird can interact with the family. Artificial full spectrum lighting should be installed if natural light is not available.
There are many multiple pet households, but you have to consider whether existing pets and a new bird can co-exist safely and happily. Multiple pet households must be able to keep their pets separate and supervise their pets at all times.
Young children and parrots may not get along. Children can be loud and their quick movements can startle birds and make them nervous. Birds and children can also become jealous of each other. If you have young rambunctious children then you may want to consider waiting until the children are a little older before you purchase a parrot.
Your residence may determine which species of bird to purchase. Apartment and Condo dwellers may want to purchase birds who are known to be less noisy, such as Lovebirds, Cockatiels, Finches, Canaries, PYRRHURA Conures, and Lories. The purchase of a bird is a life long commitment and you will want to avoid any potential problems with your neighbors which could result in having to find a new home for your pet.
Aratinga Conures, Cockatoos, and Macaws can be quite loud with their daily chattering and screaming rituals. When you are visiting pet stores and breeders be sure to listen to the birds vocalizing. Are the sounds music to your ears or annoying interruptions? Birds vocalize to communicate and you should expect and be able to tolerate a fair amount of chattering and screaming from a pet bird.
Birds can be quite messy. If seed and droppings on the floor, and daily sweeping/vacuuming will be troublesome for you, then you should reconsider whether a bird is the right pet for your household.
Birds have delicate respiratory systems. They need to be housed in pollution free environments. Cigarette and cigar smoke can cause lung cancer in birds. Air fresheners, pesticides, non-stick coating pots and appliances, cleaning solutions, and other fumes can kill a bird instantly or from long term exposure. Hepa air filters will help your bird breath easier but you should not depend on them to remove all hazardous fumes. If you can't live without your air fresheners, cigarettes, and non-stick cookware then do NOT purchase a bird.
What are your expectations?
Do you want an affectionate bird?
Do you want a more independent Bird?
Certain species of birds are generally known for certain personality traits. Please remember that there are always exceptions and birds are individuals. Early socialization, training, discipline, and whether the bird was handfed (and the method of handfeeding) also contribute to the birds personality.
Finches and Canaries are relatively small so they don't require as much space as larger birds. They are also quieter than larger parrots. The song of a male Canary is quite delightful. These birds generally do not require much handling.
Parakeets are a popular first time bird. Their small size, gentleness, price, and talking ability make them desirable for beginners.
Lovebirds and Parrotlets are the smallest two species of parrots. They have big bird personality in a diminutive size. They require a larger size cage than you would expect. They are quite playful and enjoy daily interaction and handling. They may also learn to speak a few words. Lovebirds are full of energy and can become a bit nippy. .
Cockatiels make wonderful first time pets. They are gentle, affectionate, and playful. They are a little larger than Lovebirds and Parakeets. They enjoy whistling and males can learn to speak. Handfed babies are readily available. These birds are hardy and breed quite well which make them ideal pets for the beginner.
Conures are usually the next step up from a small bird. Aratinga conures can be quite noisy and some people may find the pitch of their screams annoying. The Pyrrhura family are notably quieter. Conures are quite playful and many Conure owners have been startled by their birds laying on their backs on the bottom of the cage. They enjoy being handled by their owners and head scratches are greatly appreciated. Most can learn to speak a few words in a gravely type of voice. Blue Crowns have the best potential for speech.
African Greys are highly intelligent birds who are very sensitive to their environment. They are not for people with little or no experience in bird keeping. They are very desirable as pets due to their uncanny speaking ability. They can mimic household sounds so well that they fool their owners regularly. Greys like routine and sudden changes can cause them to become stressed. They need to have time out of the cage each day and interaction with the family on a daily basis. Greys have the tendency to bond with only one family member unless they are handled frequently by all of the members of the family.
Amazons are another species of bird noted for their ability to talk, sing, whistle, and mimic household sounds. They are basically green in color which makes identification difficult for the novice. They make excellent pets for the experienced bird owner, but they tend to bond with one family member. They are playful and they enjoy interacting with their owners, but they can be quite noisy with their ear shattering screams, which may irritate other family members and neighbors.
Cockatoos are very affectionate and can be very demanding of their owners time. Cockatoos need experienced owners that can deliver a firm hand. They can be quite loud with ear shattering screams. They are strong chewers and require a constant supply of objects to chew otherwise your furniture is fair game. They require a large, strong, escape proof cage. Most Cockatoo owners find they have to purchase locks for their bird's cage to keep them from escaping. Cockatoos really enjoy daily showers and grooming. The hardest part of owning a Cockatoo is trying not to spoil them. They prefer to be with their owners 24 hours a day.
Macaws are one of the most colorful species of parrots. The mini Macaws are very playful, smart, and do enjoy spending time in the lap of their owners. The larger Macaws are definitely for the most experienced bird owner. Their massive beaks and large size can be quite intimidating for the beginner. They need to be handled with gentle guidance and a firm hand. They need an extra large cage with plenty of perches and toys to chew. Their screams will be heard throughout your entire neighborhood.
Before you decide on which species of bird to purchase you need to consider all aspects of bird ownership. Owning a pet parrot can be fun and rewarding but the bird's welfare has to be taken into consideration. Choose your bird carefully and do not make an emotional decision.
Winged Wisdom Note:Anne Johnson has been a companion bird owner for 12 years and has been breeding birds for the past 6 years. Anne is the owner and creator of Avian Antics , a well known manufacturer of bird toys.
Cockatoo parrot picture courtesy of Glasgow Enterprises