Pet Ownership Goes to the Birds

People who visit a store or breeder in the search of a pet bird may instantly become smitten with the larger breeds that interact more with their human companions. A bird like a macaw that can speak or a cockatoo that shows off impressive plumage can seem like the ultimate prize. However, many people do not realize that birds require specialized care and often strict diets. Therefore, before you bring home Polly because she can recite a few words, do your research into what bird would be best for your home.

Size Matters

As with any pet, a larger bird will require more care. The bird will need more food, produce more droppings and could be noisier than smaller species. Also, a large bird will need a large cage and likely additional room to stretch his wings or take a quick flight.

Novice bird parents should begin with an easy-to-care-for small- or medium-sized bird. Aviary experts should be able to point you in the direction of a bird that requires minimal care as you test your wings with this type of pet.


Birds, like people and other animals, have their own unique temperaments. Some species, like a canary or finch, are content to be independent. However, parrots and other hookbills need social interaction and daily exercise to be happy. What do you prefer?

Bringing home a bird that will not fit into your lifestyle could make for an unhappy and unhealthy bird -- and a poor experience for you. Some breeds are loud, attention-craving creatures that can't be forgotten even when you are busy. Birds that do not receive the attention they need could squawk more loudly or self-inflict harm, such as pulling out their feathers.


Some birds can live for years -- even outlasting their human companions. Macaws, for example, may live to be 100. Purchasing a bird is often an investment into a long-living mate. If you don't want to spend your senior years caring for a bird, choose a species that will not live as long.


Some birds are content to munch on run-of-the-mill birdseed mix. Others need specialized diets of pollen and fruit nectar. It's important to discuss dietary needs with bird sellers before you purchase your bird. You want to know the cost and effort involved in caring for the pet. Without the right diet, a bird can quickly become sick or malnourished.

Special Needs

Most birds for sale have delicate respiratory systems and are used to living in tropical climates. Therefore, they can become susceptible to illness from certain products used in and around the home or if the room is drafty. Be sure you understand what you can and cannot use around your bird. For example, some air fresheners, menthol vapor products and cleaning supplies will have to be kept away.

Wing/Nail Clipping

It is generally adviseable to have your bird's wings clipped, although the topic is controversial and some bird owners choose not to do so. It is an individual decision you must make.

Clipping the wings disables long-distance flight for birds. It also prevents them from ascending to tall heights. Birds in captivity face dangers, such as ceilings, walls, fans, and lighting fixtures that are not present in the wild. Contact with these items can be hazardous. But clipping prevents many types of accidents as well as a bird potentially flying away.

Nail clipping is also important because a bird won't be able to adequately grab a perch or stand on his feet if the nails have grown too long. Just like a dog or cat, a bird's nails are sensitive and can bleed if they are clipped too short. You may want to leave this type of work to a veterinarian or professional groomer.


Larger birds will have a more expensive purchase price. Some exotic species also will cost a lot. Some birds can run hundreds to thousands of dollars, and that's before a cage or other supplies are bought. Consider cost as part of the overall equation before buying a bird.

Bird Buying Cheat Sheet

Here are some common birds for sale and their general statistics.

Canaries: Live anywhere from 8 to 20 years. Relatively small in stature and independent.

Cockatiels: Popular birds thanks to their social nature. They're medium in size and could live 10 years.

Finches: Small birds that are independent and don't require much interaction. They may benefit from companionship from other finches. Very active, they hop around and tweet.

Lovebirds: Often sold in pairs, lovebirds do not need a mate to be happy. They can live 10 to 15 years and are relatively inexpensive.

Parakeets: Some of the most common birds you'll find at the store, and one of the least expensive. With good care, a parakeet can live a long life and impress with its beautiful coloring.

Parrots: These birds require a lot of attention and can grow large. They are also more expensive than other species.

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