We are going to finish up our series on exotic pets this month with a discussion about birds. There are a large number of different types of birds that are kept as pets in the US. The most popular group is the psittacines, which includes budgies, cockatiels and larger parrots. Other common birds we see as pets are finches and canaries.
Budgies, or parakeets as they are commonly known, are small psittacines. They are relatively inexpensive to buy and keep. Many of them have not been “hand-raised”, or reared by people as soon as they are hatched, so they can be a little more timid. With consistent handling and encouragement, however, they can be wonderful little friends. They can be maintained on a seed-based diet but supplemental human foods such as fruits, veggies and pasta, are very beneficial to them. With patience, they can be taught to talk and do tricks as well.
Cockatiels are an excellent choice for a first bird. They are intelligent, curious and can live 15-20 years. It is definitely a good idea to purchase a hand-raised baby. They have imprinted on humans and will be very happy to be in your company. They come in several colors in variations of grey and white. They also can eat seed but should be supplied with other foods as well. Both budgies and cockatiels are native to Australia and can be seen in large flocks. However, if you want your bird to be a pet devoted to you, it is best to have just one. When you have multiple birds together, they tend to revert to the flock behavior and may not be as engaged with you.
The largest psittacines include amazons, african greys, cockatoos and macaws. These birds are much more of a challenge to own. They are highly intelligent and tend to be very needy of their owners. They require, or more accurately, demand a lot of attention. They can become bored easily which can lead to behavior problems such as feather-picking and aggression. On the flip side, these birds can be very loyal and endearing pets. They can live a very long time- 50 to 70 years- so you have to consider that when buying one of these types of beautiful birds. Unlike the smaller psittacines, these birds should not be maintained on a seed diet. Complete pelleted foods are a good choice, supplemented with human foods, They can eat almost anything, including fruits, vegetables, healthy cereals, pasta, eggs and some meats. When you make dinner for yourself, make a little plate for your bird as well. Birds can be very picky about food (much like your average three-year-old), and you may need to present a new food item several times before they will try it. Keeping them in a cage all the time is not fair to these devoted pets and many owners have perches set up in the house they can sit on. It is recommended that you have the wings clipped to keep them from flying around the house because they can easily become injured. Wing clipping involves just trimming some of the long primary (or flight) feathers on each wing. This needs to be done about twice a year because the feathers will grow back in after they molt.
Birds tend to hide illness very well, so any changes in behavior, eating habits or appearance should be treated seriously because they tend to not look as sick as they really are. If you have any questions or are considering buying a pet bird, please feel free to call us to discuss any concerns you may have.