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Choosing Your Pet Bird

Pick a pet bird that fits your lifestyle, living situations and expectations.

Liz Wilson, CVT, CPBC
Posted: July 19, 2013, 7:00 p.m. PDT

White-bellied and black-headed caique
Look at your living situation (e.g. if you live in an apartment, do not get a loud bird) to determine what species of bird you can bring into your home.

Q: I often read that when selecting a pet parrot, you should wait until you find the pet bird that "chooses” you. I’ve also heard of adoption groups that will not adopt a pet bird to someone unless the pet bird chooses that person specifically. I’m curious about this, as I’ve had parrots for years and have wonderful close bonds with each of them, but none of them "chose me.” What is your opinion of this concept?

A: While I agree that it is a lovely idea to wait until you can find the pet bird that chooses you, I suspect that this is not always a sensible requirement, nor is it necessarily a realistic one. I equate this with love at first sight.

While some of us were lucky enough to experience this magical occurrence, most people do not. Nevertheless, that does not mean that none of the rest of the population ever finds love, nor does it mean that their relationships are not as strong over the long term. Indeed, the relationships that grow slowly, based on evolving trust, are the ones that often last the longest. Additionally, it is often difficult to make a distinction between true love and a crush.

As a prime example, the 35-year-long relationship I have shared with my blue-and-gold macaw, Sam, had an extremely rocky start. She was an adult imported bird whose owners loved her but had encountered circumstances that dictated they could not keep her. Not only did she not "choose me,” but she also learned to dislike me rather vehemently for quite a while due to my own ineptitude with her in the beginning. However, with patience and consistency, I was able to repair the damage I had caused and win her trust. As a result, Sam and I have been the very dearest of friends for decades.

Another problem with the concept of letting a bird "choose you” is that you are automatically limited to purchasing or adopting a bird from local sources, no matter how bad they might be. I shudder to hear the sorts of things that can happen when people purchase their birds from less-than-reputable sources, both from a medical and psychological point of view. Not only can people purchase sick birds that might cross-contaminate their own birds, but many parrots from substandard sources are not handled properly, increasing the odds of future behavior problems. In addition, when forced to shop locally, you are also limited to choosing whatever species is available at that moment in time.

Choosing A Pet Bird
Though it’s unlikely, should I ever choose to purchase a baby parrot, I know exactly how I would do it. Based on my experience with parrot behavior as well as a veterinary technician, I would contact the very best breeders of the species I wanted. I would explain in detail what I was like and what I wanted from a parrot, and describe my home. Then I would ask them to choose what they consider the best baby for me and my environment. A good breeder is quite capable of doing this, as they know their babies quite well, and this sort of approach can work beautifully.

At the risk of sounding like a cynic, I also tend to question the number of people who say they purchased a parrot because "the guy in the pet store told me I had to get the bird because it had never liked anyone as much as it liked me!” Of course this is possible, though I sincerely doubt that such a thing happens as often as I hear that it does. Instead, I suspect that the employee (who is likely to be working on consignment) uses that excellent line to encourage people to buy a particular bird. I have learned over the years that the most accurate and honest information is generally offered by someone who has no agenda and will not personally profit from what they tell you.  

From my experience, a well-socialized baby parrot can learn to love just about anyone who handles it with gentle respect. The same is true for most adult parrots as well, whether or not the relationship starts with "love at first sight.”

Access your lifestyle and expectations before buying or adopting a pet bird:

  • How much available space do you have to house a pet bird? Generally speaking, the larger the parrot, the more space required.
  • Do you expect the pet bird to talk? (Keep in mind that the only way to guarantee a talking pet bird is to find one that already talks.)
  • Do you have noise considerations (e.g. shared walls or noise-sensitive neighbors)? If so, you might need to opt for a smaller parrot species.
  • Do you want a pet bird that you can be cuddly with, or would you prefer watching two birds interact with each other, such as a pair of finches?

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Choosing Your Pet Bird

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Reader Comments
Adopting a bird is one of the most rewarding things in life!
Megan, Fairmont, WV
Posted: 6/27/2011 6:42:37 PM
I'm a person who was chosen by one's bird. I'm a finch person by nature but when I was checking a bird store in the Big City A yellow crowned Amazon went into ecstasy when he saw me. He jumped onto my arm and sang and talked. The people at the store were amazed. I thought about it for a couple weeks and then brought him home. The only person he likes is me and everyone else needs to be guarded. I have bought him a macaw size cage so when company comes. . . everyone is happy. He is delightful when it is just me.
Linda, Tonasket, WA
Posted: 5/4/2011 6:52:03 PM
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