Choosing the Right Bird

Sun Conure at Bird Vet
Sun Conure
At Animal Clinic of Morris Plains

Birds can make fantastic pets but they require a long-term commitment from responsible pet owners. The right choice of pet bird requires considerable thought and the decision depends on many factors, such as the age of the primary owner or caretaker and the ages, temperaments, and sensibilities of other family members and pets. Some pet bird species require direct interaction and thrive with physical contact and human affection; others appreciate human interaction but they do not appreciate direct physical contact and can be traumatized by too much handling. If you do not envision putting in the time to develop a close relationship with a bird that is somewhat dependent on your attention and physical affection, you might prefer a pet Canary or Finches rather than a large Parrot or a Cockatiel or Cockatoo. If you envision having a small friendly bird who appreciates your attention and enjoys being scratched and petted and played with, a Parakeet or Lovebird or Cockatiel would be a good choice. Different exposure to handling in infancy is an important determinant of bird interactions with people. Generally, birds that are handled more and hand-fed early in their lives become much more people-oriented than birds reared by their natural parents. So it is important to observe the way that employees handle birds in the pet store and to ask about their infant bird feeding practices.

Cockatiel, Bird Vet

Most pet birds are quite vocal and their ability to mimic human speech, animal noises and even the sounds of electronic devices is something that their owners find enjoyable and amusing. But some of them also call and screech in ways that can be annoying to some people in the family. For example, an African Grey Parrot would be a good choice for an experienced bird owner who looks forward to teaching a bird human phrases and to being tricked by a pet bird that learns to ring just like your doorbell and your smartphone or to sing along with ringtones. Pay close attention to the sounds that a prospective pet bird species makes in the pet store, because that is the sound that will become part of your home. The African Grey would not be a good choice for someone who appreciates a quieter home. Unlike many other small pets and exotic pets, some birds typically bond very closely to a specific person; and unless multiple members of the family consistently spend as much time with a pet bird as the primary caretaker, birds tend to bond exclusively with the person who takes care of them.

A pet adult Congo African Grey Parrot in Norway.
A pet adult Congo African Grey Parrot in Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Veterinarian Paul Sedlacek, an expert in avian and exotic species, explains that birds have somewhat sensitive nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems and they can get extremely stressed from being frightened or startled, such as by being barked at by the family dog, even if they are protected from physical harm by a wire cage. As a general rule, if you are thinking about getting a pet bird, you should make sure that every member of your household (including) other pets already understand or can quickly learn that birds are delicate and must be handled and treated very gently.

They do much better in non-smoking homes and in environments without other regular sources of smoke or pungent aromas. They require constant access to fresh water and food and consistently very clean cages. Since birds cannot use litter boxes, you should be prepared to clean bird cages much more often than necessary for other small pets and exotic pets. Because of their diets, some pet birds, like Hookbills, require even more frequent cage cleaning. Many of the species of birds favored by avian enthusiast, especially larger parrots, can live much longer than the average person, sometimes as long as 100 years. Although this is the exception, ages into the 30?s are not uncommon. Generally, larger birds live the longest and require the most serious commitment from pet owners. Smaller pet birds live approximately as long as many small or medium-sized dogs and do just fine left alone or with companions in their cages. These challenges can sometimes mean that a bird may not (yet) be the right pet (or the right first pet) for every child or every home but they are also part of the enjoyment of caring for a pet bird for those people who are prepared for the responsibility.


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