Birds have recently become very popular as pets. And for good reason. They have many positive attributes, but very few negative characteristics. Many people who meet a good bird for the first time are amazed at how friendly and affectionate birds can be. They offer a great deal of companionship and will return all of the love you can give. More and more people are discovering that caged birds bring color, song or vocalization, and amusement into their lives. Many birds form strong attachments to people and make excellent companions.

We, as a society, are becoming more and more concentrated. Less and less space is available. Therefore we are forced into living in smaller dwellings. Apartment life has become the norm. This may be one of the reasons for an increased popularity in owning a pet bird. Birds do not need to be taken for walks; they are not susceptible to fleas; they do not have an odor; and most apartment complexes do not require a pet deposit for a bird. In addition, they are small, requiring less room than other pets. Another factor dictating the popularity of birds is the cost. Birds are the cheapest pet to own and manage. The initial cost of purchasing a bird varies depending on which bird you get. The monthly feeding cost is less than five dollars in most cases. In addition, they do not need costly, monthly heartworm prevention. Mites and other parasites are not a common problem. Regular maintenance is very low. Cage paper should be changed daily. Fresh food and water should be given daily, or more often if necessary. The cage should be scrubbed and disinfected weekly although their droppings have no odor. These tasks should take less that ten minutes per day and less that 45 minutes on the weekend. Birds are very clean animals.

Investigate the needs of the bird you are interested in owning. Some birds may require special seeds, fruits, or vegetables, while others need large cages. All birds require social contact.

The cost, care, and time commitment required to keep birds vary as much as individual characteristics such as color, size, personality, and life span. First-time bird owners should avoid the more expensive species. Finches, for example, are relatively easy to care for and may live only five to eight years. Canaries and budgerigars (parakeets) have a life expectancy between five and 15 years and are easy to care for; large parrots may live more than 30 years. Costs increase with traits and rarity. The cost of a male canary, for example, may be twice that of a female because only males sing. Birds of the parrot family are highly social, trainable creatures; however, large species can bite and can be expensive, ranging from $150 for a conure to more than $6,000 for a macaw.

If You Choose A Pet Bird

Cost
How much can you afford? Don't forget to factor in the cost of a cage and other equipment you will need, and ongoing costs such as food, toys, and veterinary care. Birds can be anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. The larger or more exotic the bird, the more it will cost, and caging for large parrots can be very expensive. Avoid the temptation to take a bargain-priced bird; a healthy hand-raised bird is well worth the cost in the long run.

Commitment
How much time do you have to spend with your bird on a daily basis? If you don't have a lot of time, re-think getting a single parrot (this includes cockatiels and budgies). Finches or a canary might be a better choice if you are not home much. You must also consider the commitment needed to care for your bird over its whole life span. Larger parrots have long expected life spans (50 years or more) and some bond so closely with their owners that adapting to a new home can be difficult.

Noise Level
Parrots often screech. There is no way around that, so if you live in an apartment or townhouse, a large parrot may not make you popular with your neighbors (especially very loud parrots such as cockatoos and macaws). Similarly, if you don't handle noise well, some birds may not be a good fit for you. Budgies, cockatiels and lovebirds can be fairly noisy in their own way, but not as loud as larger parrots. Finches, doves, and canaries are better choices if noise is a concern.

Space
How much space do you have for a cage? You can't skimp on cage size; even smaller birds like finches and canaries need sizable cages because they generally only get exercise within their cages. The larger the bird, the larger the cage needed. Parrots (including budgies and cockatiels) will also need time outside of the cage for extra exercise. It is good to give larger parrots a special space of their own outside the cage, such as a play gym or stand.

Mess and Destruction
Birds can be messy (for example, when eating), and it is not always easily contained in the cage. Also, some produce lots of feather dust (a fine white powder produced by special feathers, most notable with cockatiels and cockatoos as well as pigeons and doves). Parrots are also fond of chewing, so you will need to thoroughly bird proof your home for times outside of the cage, not only to protect your belonging from destruction but to prevent injury or poisoning to your bird.

Diet
Most species of pet parrot require a diet made up of pre-formulated diets (e.g. pellets), a variety of fresh foods such as greens, sprouted seeds, grains and fruits, along with some seeds (generally, the larger the parrot the fewer seeds that should be fed). Some birds (e.g. lories, toucans) require very specialized diets, but some (finches, canaries, doves) have less complicated dietary needs. Find out exactly what your selected species of bird requires and decide if you can provide it.

Socialization
How much do you want to interact with your bird? Some birds do not really take to handling (e.g. finches and canaries), while others bond very tightly to their owners and can be quite cuddly (e.g. cockatoos, some other large parrots). If you do want a bird you can interact with socially, you need to be be able to commit the time to do so, as the more social birds can be very demanding of attention and resort to neurotic behavior if denied the interaction that they need.

Talking and Training
Many people choose parrots for their ability to talk. While certain species are renowned for their talking and mimicry ability, think twice if that is your motivation to get a parrot. Even within species known for speech, the ability to talk varies between individuals. However, most parrot species are intelligent and can be trained to do various tricks and behaviors. Even some of the smaller parrots can be trained to whistle tunes and can be quite entertaining.

Please read on to learn more about some of the bird species you could consider for a pet.

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