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Choosing a New Pet Bird

Opening your heart and your home to a new pet bird can be a rewarding and satisfying experience, but navigating the world of birds can be somewhat daunting. Many pet birds are relinquished to shelters each year because their pet parents discover that they can’t properly care for them. Here’s how to choose the bird that will be the best fit for you and your family:

Time

How much time do you have to devote to your pet bird? Almost all pet birds thrive on daily human interaction, and may develop destructive behaviors if they are neglected. Birds, like parrots and conures, require quality time with you out of their habitat, while some species, like finches, do well when in the company of other finches and don’t require as much of your time. Also consider how much time you’ll need to set aside each day for regular care including feeding a nutritious diet, cleaning the habitat, exercise and training.

Space

How much space do you have for your pet bird? The space you have available in your home, your proximity to neighbors and your personal preferences will help determine which bird may be best for you. If you don’t have much room, you might want to consider a single parakeet, as they don’t take up much space and are typically quiet enough even for apartment living.

Noise

The amount of noise you can tolerate can play a large part in the type of bird you choose. Will you enjoy a bird that talk, sings, chirps, tweets, cackles or mimics? Will loud, repeated sounds annoy you or others in your home or neighborhood? On the noise scale, macaws and cockatoos rank near the top. Male canaries sing pleasantly, but frequently. Cockatiels can also be noisy with their constant whistling; males are typically louder and more vocal than females. Less vocal birds include parakeets, finches and various types of pionus parrots.

Affordability

How much can you afford to spend on caring for a pet bird? Take into consideration not only the initial cost of adopting or purchasing your pet bird, but also the cost of the habitat setup, ongoing supplies and regular veterinary visits. If you’re a first-time bird parent, you may want to start with parakeets, conures, canaries or finches. Many of the larger birds like large macaws and cockatoos not only require more experienced caretakers, but they can also be more expensive to care for.

Lifespan

Many birds are long-lived with proper care and diet. Several species have longer life spans than dogs or cats, and birds like macaws and cockatoos can live 40 to 60 years or more. While you’ll want your entire family to be on board, many birds bond with their favorite person.

One or more

Some species of birds, such as finches, are happiest when in the companionship of other members of their species. Others do best when kept alone to bond with their pet parent. Some species, like cockatiels, can either be kept alone to bond with their pet parent or in pairs to bond with each other. Choosing to have one bird will require more of your attention than having two or more, especially if the bird was not hand-fed or socialized as a baby. Different species of birds should never be housed together.

Personality

Some pet birds love to cuddle and spend one-on-one time with their pet parents. Some enjoy singing or whistling more than talking. Some species are quiet while others are boisterous and vocal. Do your research to determine what type of personality traits you are looking for in a bird and make sure everyone in your household is involved in the selection process.
If you’re considering an intelligent species known for his ability to talk or do tricks, like a cockatoo, Amazon parrot or African Grey parrot, your primary aim should always be for the enjoyment of his companionship. There’s never a guarantee your bird will learn to talk or follow cues. Training your bird takes time, consistency, patience and repetition.

Healthy bird, happy bird

After you’ve evaluated all of the criteria and narrowed down your search for the right bird, you’ll want to be sure that the one you bring home is happy and healthy. A healthy bird has bright and clear eyes, beautiful feathers, an alert expression, no sign of mites and a clean vent.

Metal bands

Most pet birds have metal bands around the lower portion of their legs. These bands are used for identification and to indicate where they came from. Bands are important if your bird ever gets lost. They should never be removed because they serve as your bird’s birth certificate. If your bird has a band, and his leg is ever injured or becomes swollen, consult with your avian veterinarian.

Adopting a mature bird

Many pet parents prefer to choose a young bird because they want to train their new pet themselves and bond with them over their lifetime. However, there are many rewards and advantages to adopting a mature adult bird. Mature birds can be well-trained and friendly; and there are many adoptable birds in need of lifelong, loving homes.
If you adopt an adult or senior bird, gather as much information as possible about his current diet, medical history, personality traits and unique needs. Patience is an important requirement—some may bond with their pet parents right away, while others may take time. If you decide to make a change in your bird’s diet, do so slowly with advice from an avian veterinarian.
Set up an initial visit with a board-certified avian veterinarian for a complete checkup. Establishing a relationship early on makes it easier for your bird when she needs nail or wing trimmings or if she becomes sick. Your veterinarian can also offer feeding and training tips.