Things to Consider Before you Buy a Bird

Parrots are wonderful, intelligent creatures and can make excellent companions. However, not every one who wants to own an exotic bird should own one. A person wanting to own a parrot should be morally, financially and physically capable of accepting the responsibility of bird owners.

Did you know:

  1. Parrots require interaction with their owners on a daily basis. Some species of birds require more interactions with their owners than others. Cockatoos and lories require a great deal of attention daily. Amazon parrots, macaws, budgies, conures, small African parrots and cockatiels need some time with their owners for mental stimulation and socialization.
  2. Parrots can be expensive to keep and maintain. Initial costs include the bird itself, a large cage, supplies and an initial checkup by an avian veterinarian. Ongoing costs are food, routine vet checks, toys and occasional emergencies requiring avian veterinary care. Avian medicine is very specialized. There are few avian experts around. Tests, procedures, and treatments tend to be expensive. In addition, birds tend to exhibit symptoms only at the point where they are fairly , if not acutely ill, and treatment at that point is often of an emergency nature and therefore more costly.
  3. Birds can be noisy. Parrots are flock animals. In the wild, the way they keep in touch with each other when they are out of eyesight is through vocalizations. Your bird will consider you a member of his flock and will also want to keep in touch with you through vocalization. At dawn, parrots call the flock to start the day, at dusk parrots call the flock to roost. These are normal vocalizations and should not be discouraged.
  4. Not all birds talk. Even though most parrots have the capability to learn human language, not all are interested in speaking. Some of the best talkers are the African Grey, Budgerigars, Yellow-Naped Amazon and Double Yellow-headed Amazon, but even with these, there are no guarantees.
  5. Birds are messy. In the wild, one of a parrot's jobs is to re-tree the forest. In order to accomplish this, it will take one bite of food and drop the remainder (when food is abundant). Therefore, a large amount of your day may be spent cleaning up after your bird. A healthy bird does not live on seed alone. How long would you stay healthy on a diet of seeds and water? Well, the same holds true for parrots. In fact, an excellent rule of thumb for birds is "If it's GOOD for me, it's good for my parrot" Try the 3-bowl system......
      • Fresh Water
      • Fresh Veggies and Fruits
      • Pellets, nuts and seeds
  6. Most parrots need humidity. Most parrots came from the rainforest where the humidity is much higher than in our homes. While many parrots don't enjoy constant bathing, it is important that they at least receive humidity. This can be easily accomplished by them accompanying you into the bathroom while you shower or bathe. For baths, some birds prefer to bathe in a shower, some with a spray bottle, some under a faucet and others in a dish. Try each of these methods until you find the one your bird prefers.
  7. Parrots can be destructive. In the wild, parrots spend a large portion of their day in search of and consuming food. Since food is provided for them in our homes, they need to occupy the time they normally would be spending in search of it. If toys are not provided on a regular basis, they may use your furniture or rugs for a toy. Parrot toys are meant to be destroyed. If the toy is indestructible, the bird may not want to play with it. Toys should be rotated often so the bird does not become bored.
  8. Birds can bite. They sometimes even bite the hand that feeds them and the person to whom they've bonded. It's not like a dog biting. Birds certainly do bite out of aggression, but it's more likely to be out of fear, frustration or anger. Birds nip one another as part of their natural interaction. It's a means of communication that leaves many people feeling hurt and rejected. To put it simply: birds are excellent communicators. Biting is a way of saying "I don't like that," (when we haven't noticed other signals)and a very effective way of saying it at that. We humans are often not so direct or assertive, and we tend to hold a grudge when somebody or some bird is more assertive than we are.
  9. Parrots are generally not appropriate pets for children. Due to their extremely intelligent nature, parrots do not make good pets for children. Parrots are very long-lived creatures and require daily interaction with their human flock. A child will experience numerous lifestyle changes (college, marriage, raising a family, moving etc) which may not be conducive to keeping a long-term, intelligent creature as a pet.


Where Do I Begin

First, you want to take into consideration these things:

What can I afford?

Cost varies according to the type of bird being purchased. You can get a pair of Finches for about sixty dollars, a Budgie for about the same. Cockatiels range from $40 to $100, Amazons $800 - $1500......and a Hyacinth Macaw can command upwards from $15,000! Set a budget, and work from there.

How much space will the bird need?

The larger birds and even some of the smaller ones, are very active and need large cages and areas to play in.

Do I have the time for a bird?

This is probably the most important question. Birds are intelligent, playful, and most of all,* social* animals. Will you have time to play with your bird? To properly care for it? Will it have an opportunity to be part of your family? Also consider time in this sense--Birds are rather long lived. A little Cockatiel can live up to 20 years! An Amazon or an African Grey, could live 50 or 60, there are documented cases of some birds living to be 100! Can you commit to that? It's not unusual for birds to be passed down to another generation. Don't buy a bird if you think you will quickly tire of it.

How noisy is the bird? Will the neighbors complain?

Budgies and Cockatiels are rather quiet. They are good for apartment dwellers. A Moluccan Cockatoo could work in an apartment, as long as you have understanding neighbors. Aratinga Conures are noted for their squawking--Sun conures belong to this genus. Pyrhurra Conures are rather quiet. Of course, there are variations due to the personality of the bird. Remember, noise is subjective and also relative. A quiet bird might only be considered quiet (by some) next to a loud bird.

How destructive is the bird?

Do you have priceless heirloom furniture? Rare books? Keep in mind that birds have powerful beaks. Some birds are less prone to "chewing" than others but chewing is a very natural behavior.

Does the bird need a special diet? Lories and Toucans, for example, require specialized diets. Do you have the ways and means to provide it? Once you've done your research and decided what kind of bird you want, now is the time to go out and buy it. Never, ever buy a bird on impulse!

If you still want a pet bird, there can only be one reason. Birds are fantastic pets! To those of us who love them, they are truly incredible and capable of the most amazing expressions of charm, intelligence, and love. If you have what it takes to be a bird owner, and you know what you're getting into, then you're probably in for the pet experience of a lifetime. Congratulations on making a responsible decision, whether it's to own a bird or not.

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