New Mexico's Pet Resource EDITORS' PICKS



By Darlene Parker-Vigil

Birds make wonderful pets. But, before you decide to take on the responsibility of owning and caring for one of these delightful feathered friends, you should carefully consider the type of bird that best fits your lifestyle. There are over 300 different species of psitaccine (parrot) birds; 50 of these are the most commonly owned and discussed.

Below are some other considerations that should be helpful to the first-time bird owner.

1. The right bird for your lifestyle. Larger parrots are highly intelligent creatures that bond and need plenty of attention from their owners. Also, some birds are real talkers, some are screamers and some even like to snuggle. Learn as many breed-specific traits as you can about the bird you are considering.

2. Lifespan. Smaller birds, including finches, canaries, parakeets, lovebirds, and cockatiels, can have a 10- to 20-year lifespan, give or take a few years. Larger parrots can and will outlive their owners if given proper care and nutrition. These birds can life 65 to 100 years, so remember to include them in your will.

3. Nutrition. Birds need to be cared for and fed properly to live a happy, healthy life. Nutrition is of utmost importance. A recommended diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, chicken, pasta, pizza, rice, beans, yogurt, etc. (80% people food and 20% seeds, soaked grains and pellets). You should avoid feeding your bird avocados, sugar, salt, pork, beef, caffeine, carbonated drinks and chocolate. You must also regularly provide your bird with fresh water, sometimes as often as twice a day.

4. Housing. Acquiring the proper cage can be a challenging task. For larger birds, you will need a cage that allows your bird to fully flap his wings comfortably without hitting the sides; I also recommend a cage with a playpen on top for larger birds. This will allow them to be out more. A large cage is recommended for small birds as well, since they’re usually not allowed out of their cage for exercise.

5. Health. It is critical to find a good avian veterinarian near your home in the case that your bird should need medical attention. Unlike our feline and canine friends, birds do not need vaccination shots. However, it is a good idea to have your vet check your bird at least once a year, if you are introducing new birds into your home. You’ll want to cover your bird at night in the winter if you have a drafty house. Smaller birds need extra TLC since they tend to be more fragile.

If you have other animals (dogs, cats, etc) or young children, you will want to attend to your bird with a keen, watchful eye at all times. Otherwise, your parrot should be kept in a separate room with closed doors.

In closing, I encourage you to do thorough research on your companion before you make the decision to take on the responsibility. Not everyone should own a bird, but for those pet owners who are ready for the responsibility, I cannot recommend a more loving, amusing pet than a fine feathered friend.

Darlene Parker-Vigil is owner of Feathered Friends of Santa Fe. She has been raising exotic birds for fifteen years and had the first exotic bird shop in the Southwest that specialized only in domestic hand-fed birds.

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 1998 issue.

For more information on parrots as pets, see Parrot Ownership by Freddi Hetler.

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