After long discussions and much thought, you and your family have decided that the right pet for your household is a bird. But, what kind of bird should you choose?
There are so many possibilities: pigeons, finches, and even parrots. You’ll want to decide before you head to a breeder, pet store, or bird rescue. Otherwise, it’s too easy to choose a bird based on how beautiful, or talkative, or clever it seems to be, and then to discover that it wasn’t the right choice at all.
Think about what kinds of birds appeal to you. When you think of ‘pet birds’, are you thinking of canaries or cockatoos? Are you thinking of falcons or waterfowl? Take a look at pet websites (such as this one!) to see the many kinds of pet birds there are. Once you’ve considered the shiny surface of the matter, here are the questions to ask yourself so that you can narrow down the right bird for your family.
BIRD KEEPING REGULATIONS
We might as well get this one out of the way, right out of the gate. It is simply illegal to keep most kinds of birds as pets in Australia. When you’re looking at all the pet bird options on the Internet, some of them will be ruled out by local law. For example, the sport of falconry has been illegal here for decades, so a pet peregrine falcon would be out of the question. (Ref earthwings.org)
Australia has federal laws governing which birds can be pets, and the states and territories also have local laws. Check to make sure your pick is legal in your area.
Considering the local legal issues brings us to another question: Are you planning to move? Ever? A bird that is legal in New South Wales might not be legal in Victoria. There are many species that may not be taken out of or into Australia.
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities maintains a helpful website about the national laws (http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/wildlife-trade/exotic-animals/index.html). If you’re in New South Wales, take a quick look through this helpful list: [PDF 484 kB] http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/CurrentSpeciesList.pdf
Some of the parrots live longer than humans do. This is a serious commitment. If you choose one of these, you will need to plan for arrangements for its care after you pass on. Doves and finches have shorter life spans than the average parrot. Also, finches can be re-homed with less stress to the animal, if the birds outlive their keeper. Parrots tend to become very attached to their humans.
COST OF UPKEEP
The proper food, veterinary fees, and accessories for pet birds can prove to be expensive. Count on an average of $100 or so per month, for a pair of small conures. By contrast, the food and accessories for a handful of finches run less than half that. If you need to worry much about the cost of the bird itself or the cage, your budget probably can’t handle the parrots, softbills, or doves.
Are you living in an apartment? Find out if there are any noise restrictions. It’s amazing how much sound some birds can produce. These vocal talents might narrow down your choices.
How much time and effort do you have available to commit to the care of the bird? Parrots need hours of interaction and flight time every day. A small flock of finches will get along quite nicely as long as the food, water, and bedding are kept up.
The flipside of this is, how much interaction are you hoping for? Do you just want to watch the pretty birds or listen to their songs? Canaries and other finches would be a good fit. Do you want to race your birds or teach them to ‘home’? Check out the doves and pigeons. Do you want to teach your bird to talk, or ride a miniature skateboard? You’re looking at parrots and some of the softbills.
Cockatiel feathers break down into fine powder, and so they are not the best choice for people with lung disease or asthma.
Just about any parrot larger than a budgie can break the skin with his beak, and some of the larger ones can break small bones. Does anyone in your household have clotting problems or other health issues that might make small cuts dangerous? Are there small children in the family? If so, maybe a softbill or a dove or a budgie might be a better choice than a cockatoo.
Birds are wonderful pets, but it’s only fair to them and to you, to know what you’re getting into when you bring one home to be part of the family.