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Best Pet Birds To Get

Looking for a pet bird? Check out one of the top three pet birds: the budgie/parakeet, the cockatiel and the conure.

Carol Frischmann
Posted: January 16, 2013, 3:30 p.m. PST

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Imagine a new reality show: “Greatest American Bird.” You can bet your tail feathers that budgies (parakeets) cockatiels and conures would make the final three! What makes these pet birds so popular? All three have every quality we’re looking for in a pet bird. Budgies or parakeets, cockatiels and conures talk, they whistle, they can do tricks, and their personalities can charm us for hours.

Best Pet Bird To Get: Budgies Or Parkaeets
Budgies or parakeets have a bold attitude, which matches the many colors mutations they come in. A longtime fan of these birds, BIRD TALK’s Small Bird Columnist, as well as author of “Cockatiels for Dummies,” Diane Grindol pointed out that budgies come in two sizes: the English budgie and the American budgie (sometimes known as an American parakeet). “Though they are the same genetically, American parakeets are smaller and more active than larger English budgies, which have been bred for show.” Don’t underestimate budgies as pets; both budgie varieties melted my formerly large-parrot resolve.

budgies can play with small toys like toy skateboards
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Allison Strums/Exotic Birds By Fran
Budgies and parakeets are great pet birds for children and adults alike!

Grindol mentioned that budgies play by “bopping” another bird’s beak. You can join the game by using your thumbnail as a “substitute beak.” Budgies also seem to like “bopping” small, hollow balls. Budgies can easily learn tricks, like playing fetch, where they toss the ball at you for you to retrieve!

When it comes to small parrots, many people cannot believe that a budgie has the ability to talk. No one is better equipped to dispel that misconception than Diane Grindol. “Male budgies,” Grindol said, “are among the most talkative parrots. In 1995, The Guinness Book of Records named Puck, a male parakeet, as the champion talker of birds, with his vocabulary of over 1,700 words.”

Budgie owners might not even realize that they have a talking bird. “You have to listen closely to a budgie’s speech. It is fast and high, and squeaky. The females rarely talk well,” Grindol said.

Budgies or parakeets love bath time, especially leaf bathing. When people tell me their budgie doesn’t like to bathe, I advise them to put a wet lettuce leaf or two on a plate and stand back. A budgie will hop right on top of the lettuce leaf, fluff out its feathers and start getting wet. It’s always hilarious to watch!

Best Pet Bird To Get: Cockatiels
Do you want a cuddly pet bird? “Cockatiels usually like to be petted,” Grindol noted. “Once you learn to stroke them behind their crest and on their cheeks, they request petting and grooming.”

And if that isn’t enough, they’re quiet, too. “Because they spend a great deal of time sitting and preening, [cockatiels] are good companions when you do quiet activities,” said Grindol. “They love being with you, even when you aren’t directly interacting.”

cockatiel
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Cockatiels come in many color mutations.

Like budgies, cockatiels can learn tricks and come in several color mutations in the gray and brown ranges, as well as white and yellow. While they are not known for their talking ability, male cockatiels love to whistle and can be taught songs, such as “Yankee Doodle.” (Or if you ‘d like, “The Imperial March” from Star Wars.)

“Cockatiels,” according to Grindol, “differ from talkative budgies.” Male cockatiels learn whistles easily and occasionally say a few words. Females typically don’t talk and only occasionally whistle, and have a reputation for being docile. This makes females cockatiels excellent pets for someone who wants a quiet, gentle bird.”

When I got my cockatiel, she amazed me with the way she picked up food in her foot and raised it to her beak, like a kid eating an ice cream cone. (Conures and larger parrots tend to eat food held in the foot, but budgies typically do not.) Watching her eat makes me happy every time.

Cockatiels also raise their leg over a wing to scratch their head. This incredibly flexible feat amazed my friends, who crowned my cockatiel the most limber creature on the block.

Best Pet Bird To Get: Conures
Conures offer the dramatic personality and the coloring of a macaw, packed into a smaller body. In fact, Grindol said, “Conures might be related to macaws, and share many of their personality traits.”

While more affordable than larger parrots, conures nevertheless require a commitment of energy and attention. Most conures live 25 to 40 years.

Most conures can learn simple tricks, such as waving or whistling on command. Conures climb and swing like acrobats and play like clowns. Many conures can learn to talk or imitate household sounds.

sun conure with a green-cheeked conure
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
Conures come in many shapes and sizes.

Grindol pointed out three unusual conure activities: conures enjoy climbing inside a shirt or a pocket; like macaws, they sometimes sleep or play on their backs, and conures love birdie buddy cloth companions. (Grindol advised cockatiel and budgie owners to not provide their birds with cloth companions, because it might stimulate their companion birds’ breeding behavior.)

One thing that conures have in common with large parrots, and which separates them from budgies and cockatiels, is their vocalizations. Most conures can out shout budgies and cockatiels. Long before you see a conure, you can hear it. Conures’ vocalizations evolved to communicate over long distances to flock members in neighboring trees or to keep the group together while in flight. The conure’s vocal range and power both intimidates and inspires awe. For this reason, choose a conure that has a sound level tolerable to both you and your family/neighbors.

Interested in learning more about pet birds for your family? Check out these articles!

The Best Pet Birds For Kids

The Best Pet Birds For Teenagers

New Parakeet Shopping List

Tips To Outfit Your Cockatiel

Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, April 2008 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.

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Reader Comments
Why do they call them American and English budgies when both originate in Australia? (The English budgie has just been selectively bred to be larger but is actually the same bird essentially)
Andrea, International
Posted: 6/19/2013 11:57:02 PM
This was a very informative article. I have a budgie that talks. He is an American Budgie and has learned quite a few sayings. He is adorable!
Tina, International
Posted: 1/21/2013 4:03:05 AM
cute article, we have 2 of the three! and they are much loved! :)
Stephanie, north smithfield, RI
Posted: 1/16/2013 4:49:19 PM
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