How to Choose the Right Exotic Pet Bird for Your Lifestyle

For people with a taste for the exotic, birds can make wonderful additions to the family. With a wide range of colors, sizes, and personalities, there is almost certainly a bird out there to fit your lifestyle and pet-parenting needs. So what should you consider when choosing a bird?

Birds 101

Most birds don’t want to be held or petted. This is especially true for smaller birds, where larger birds often enjoy perching on their parents and seeking attention. That appeals to some people more than others, but birds are not dogs, which are not cats.

Enjoy their visual appeal and other unique traits. For example, many birds can learn to speak — and not just the great big parrots that tend to star in pirate movies. Smaller parrots, including cockatiels and parakeets (also known as budgies), can learn to repeat many words, too. Of course, birds will repeat what they hear most, so make sure it’s something you want to hear! If you want a bird that sings, get a male.

Housing for the bird in your life must be big enough to allow some free flight. Moveable, natural wood perches and a few toys will help keep your intelligent, feathered baby active and mentally stimulated. Since birds are social creatures, many types live more happily as part of a pair or small group. Protect your birds from drafts, and change cage papers every day. Water dishes should be cleaned and replenished twice daily.

Did you know that large parrots such as Macaws live 35 – 50 years? Some have lived to be 100! Parakeets generally live 5 to 10 years, canaries about 10, and lovebirds 10 – 15. Cockatoos can live 40 to 70 years in captivity.

If You Live in an Apartment

Noisy birds don’t make the best neighbors. While there’s no such thing as a “silent bird,” some are quieter than others. Parakeets, cockatiels, and Senegal parrots cannot scream or screech. Some can learn to whistle or talk, but mostly they just chirp softly. Canaries aren’t usually loud enough to be heard in the next apartment.

Large parrots, such as the Amazon, the African grey, and the Macaw, can screech loudly enough to wake your homeowner’s association from a mile away. They are most likely to make this sound at dawn, at sunset, and when you are not home to entertain them.

Their intelligence also works against them if their bird parents don’t provide the amount of social interaction they desire. Cockatoos are escape artists that have unlocked many a cage while home alone. Bored birds of this size have been known to chew through the spokes on the backs of chairs or other available wooden structures. Once your kitchen cabinets have been destroyed, you can probably kiss that security deposit goodbye.

If You Want a Bird That Can Talk

Budgies (parakeets) and Quaker parrots are often little chatterboxes. While not every bird from “talking” breeds will actually develop a vocabulary, language skills aren’t restricted to the giant birds. Plus they’re affectionate, they’re beautiful, and they make great pets. Note that Quaker parrots are available in Florida, but they are illegal in some other states because they can be harmful to the environment if they go free.

If you have your heart set on a bright blue Macaw or another large parrot, keep in mind that their speech isn’t always as clear as the smaller budgie or Quaker parrot. They also require very large, solid cages they can’t chew through. Like anyone, too much time alone is very hard on a Macaw and can lead to aggression and other behavior problems. Since this type of parrot often outlives its parent, people often include them in their end-of-life plans. However, a big bird is impressive to look at and can seem more like a family member as it wants to interact with its humans.

If You Have Other Pets at Home

Sadly, birds don’t usually mix well with furry siblings. Cats and dogs are natural predators, and birds are natural prey. If you can’t watch them constantly, you will have to keep them separated — all the time. This, of course, makes it hard to bond with any of them or even give them the attention they all deserve. If you work or have human kids, your time is split into even smaller pieces.

That being said, there are cases of families who have learned to peacefully coexist across species. With the right personalities and some reasonable care, it is possible to maintain a multi-pet household. But that is not typical and requires a certain amount of luck.

The Last Bird Word

Considering the lifespan of most birds and the amount of care they need, pet sitters will be a must at some point. And your neighbor’s kid may be much more confident taking care of Sylvester than Tweety Bird. Luckily, our experienced pet sitters know just what to do. You can rest easy knowing that your feathery baby is in good hands (well, maybe not literally in our hands) while you are away.

 

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