When selecting what type of new pet bird would best suit your circumstances and desire there are a few thing you must consider before making that all-important purchase.
During my 10 years experience I have only dealt with small pet birds so unfortunately for some my knowledge is restricted to these only.
Firstly you must decide what type of bird you would like and if it would be suitable to your circumstances, then you need to be sure you have a home set up for your new feathered friend before you bring it home.
Below is a brief but hopefully informative list of the most popular small pet birds and the ups and downs of their upkeep:
From the parrot family and originally from Australia the budgie is often called ‘parakeet’ or ‘long-tailed parakeet’, the budgerigar is without a doubt the most popular pet bird in the Western world and with good reason; small enough to handle, easy to tame, inexpensive, a startling array of different colours, can be kept on its own, very friendly (if tame), a chatterer, minimum requirement to keep in good health, easy to breed (if you want to), usually mixes well with other small birds (budgies and other species). Ideal in a cage or aviary.
However budgies can inflict a nasty wound if they bite you whilst handling (rarely a problem if they’re tame, but they can draw blood if they sink their beak in), they can also be rather destructive (they love to chew), and budgerigars can be very territorial during breeding (especially if kept with other birds).
In the wild budgies live in large flocks and so need plenty of interaction to save them from becoming bored. They therefore need to be kept busy with lots of toys and your attention, or alternatively kept with another of their kind, so as they can interact with each other.
Originally from Australia, the cockatiel is a very poular pet bird
Another Australian bird often called ‘tiel’ for short, these small parrots are also very popular as pets, due to their calm nature and unique character. A little bigger than the budgie so more space is required (a bigger cage for example), the cockatiel also lives in large flocks in the wild so again interaction and toys are a must.
They can be kept an their own or in pairs or small groups, and easy to keep. Ideal as a cage or aviary bird, and because of their calm nature the cockatiel will normally mix well with other small birds of a different species (cockatiels are often kept in the same aviary as budgerigars and finches with rarely any problems). They can learn to mimic other sounds with patience and determination, and are easy to tame.
However they can also inflict a rather nasty wound if they choose to bite (probably a worse injury than the budgie due to their larger beaks, but again not usually a problem when tame). Ideally if you want to breed your cockatiels they need to be on their own as a breeding pair with no other birds. These birds can also be very destructive due to their desire to have a chew at almost anything, but they are easily startled (so no sudden loud noises or sudden bright lights please!).
Somewhat smaller than budgerigars and cockatiels, and not part of the parrot family, the most popular types of finch are again very popular for good reason: very easy to keep, good natured, small and compact, extremely active, cute, prolific breeders, usually low priced, little space required for good upkeep (the perfect pet bird for apartments, flats and small living areas).
There are many types of finch available on the pet bird market but the most popular are: zebra finch, society finch (Bengalese finch), gouldian finch, java finch (java sparrow), the java being the largest of the four just mentioned (slightly smaller than the budgie).
All of these can be accommodated in a cage of aviary and also usually mix well with other species (I keep budgerigars, cockatiels, zebra finches, Bengalese finches, and javas together in a large outdoor aviary and very rarely have any problems).
As for the initial cost of these little characters the zebra finches usually come out the least expensive (from £3 to £8 each, often with a good deal for a pair), next would be the society finches (from £5 to £10 each, again with a better deal for a pair), then the javas (£8 to £15 each, buy two for a better price), and the gouldian finches coming out on top (the cheapest I’ve seen these is about £20 each right up to £60 – sometimes more – but a deal on more than one can usually be arranged). The reason for the bigger price for the gouldians is because of their great colouring and rarity, a desirable bird that people will often pay handsomely for.
However finches do not always take readily to handling and must be kept in groups of 2 or more.
At least due to their small size a bite is not likely to bother you a great deal.
There are many other types of birds available but the price is usually higher as they are not as common.
Many other types of parakeets however are still rather popular – ring neck parakeet, grass parakeet (bourke, turquoisine, elegant, alexandrine), kakariki (New-Zealand parakeet), rosella, love bird to name but a few.
The upkeep however for all small pet birds is basically the same.
Always remember to shop around for the best deal and if possible buy your new bird or birds from a breeder, or hobbyist rather than a pet shop.
A note on accommodation for your new pet bird.
Most small pet birds will live happily in an aviary, and this is the nearest they are likely to get to their natural environment, but in an aviary your birds will become semi-wild and may not take very well to handling or one on one interaction.
Caged birds however are a different matter, and can often be tame and friendly towards us humans. Make sure that if you plan to keep your bird or birds in a cage then go for the biggest you can afford (within reason of course, no good putting zebra finches in a large wide barred parrot cage); your bird needs to be able to stretch its wings to their fullest extent and still have some room left.
Most pet birds – especially parrot type species – will spend more time climbing than flying, even in an aviary.
For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.
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