Birds are beautiful, intelligent, and don’t need to be walked or housebroken. But be careful about the kind of bird you pick!
Birds Make Great Pets, But! By Dr. Ashley Priddy
SOME BIRDS LIVE A VERY LONG TIME
Pet birds vary greatly in how long they live. Some of the larger Parrots have surprisingly long life spans. Amazons, for example, can live 50 years. Macaws live 60 years. Cockatoos can live for 65 years! Depending on when you buy such a bird, your responsibilities may well include making long-term arrangements for it for when you are no longer around.
SOME REQUIRE A LOT OF ATTENTION
Pet birds can be very intelligent, and even learn to talk and do tricks. But this also means they can get bored easily and, if not kept occupied with appropriate toys, may end up destroying not only their feathers, but also their environment. Many require out-of-cage time and interaction with their human. Some will be noisy and messy (with a lot of bird seed and other food ending up outside the cage), and picky about their diet. (Nutritional problems are fairly common, and bird seed mixes don’t provide a complete diet.) You will also have to take special care about their home environment because, in general, birds are sensitive to temperature and air quality.
BIRDS THAT ARE EASY TO CARE FOR
Canaries are small, colorful birds who (often) sing if they are alone in their cage. In captivity, they live about 10 years and don’t require much attention or out-of-cage play time. They do, however, need a lot of exercise, which means a large flight cage. Because they are easily bored, you should provide your Canary with lots of toys. In addition to Canary pellets, their daily diet should include sprouts, fruits and vegetables. Canaries tend to be territorial. If you have more than one, they might fight.
Finches (7-to-10 year life span) are also small and can be colorful—depending on the kind of Finch you get. Zebras are mostly blue, black and white, with thick red beaks. Gouldians are very colorfully dressed in broad swatches of gold, orange, green and purple. Javas are smartly decked out in gray, black, white and brown, with thick, bright red beaks.
Unlike Canaries, Finches are very social and need to be kept in flocks of 3 to 4 birds in order to thrive. This means that they need an extremely large flight cage. They prefer to stay in their cages and do not like to be handled, though they often bond with their owners. Finches do best on a seed-based diet that is supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Parakeets (aka Budgerigars or Budgies) are about 8 inches long—a bit larger than Canaries and Finches—and come in many colors. Their average life span is between 5 and 9 years, though some have been known to live into their teens. They are intelligent, happy birds that love to play and can be trained to whistle, sing, and talk. They can live in small cages, but should be allowed out for at least a couple of hours every day in a secure area to explore and exercise. They enjoy spending time with their humans but are also happy alone. In addition to special food pellets, your Parakeet should be fed fresh fruits and vegetables. One final plus: this bird is easy to clean up after.
SOME HEALTH ISSUES
Most birds are susceptible to metabolic and nutritional disorders that occur when their diet is unbalanced, so making sure your bird is eating properly is really key. Feather plucking can be related to boredom or to parasites. Egg binding occurs when a bird is unable to expel an egg from the reproductive tract. This problem is usually seen in overweight female birds that don’t get enough exercise, though calcium deficiency can be another cause. In every case, you will need to consult a good avian vet.
FIND AN EXPERIENCED AVIAN VET
Once you have your new pet bird, you should immediately schedule an initial visit to a veterinarian who is a member in good standing of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV). You want to be sure your pet is in good health and that its doctor is fully qualified to keep it that way. During this first visit, the vet will check to see if your bird is harboring any diseases that need treatment. The visit should also include a discussion of proper feeding, housing, care and grooming of your new pet.
Dr. Ashley W. Priddy (BVMS) is licensed by the North American Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and is a Member of the U.K. Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He is qualified to practice veterinary medicine in North America and the European Union. Currently, he is working at the Holt Veterinary Clinic at 5619 SMU Boulevard, Dallas TX 75206, www.holtvet.com.