Selecting the Right Bird for You and Your Family

By Don J. Harris, DVM

Exotic birds can be delightful pets—just ask any of the millions of companion bird owners throughout the world who enjoy a rewarding and satisfying relationship with their feathered friends. Creating a long-lasting positive relationship with your bird may be the result of choosing the right bird for you and your family in the beginning. This crucial first step is part of being a responsible pet owner, but it is often overlooked in the rush to acquire a new bird. Identifying what characteristics you want in a bird, and researching different species and their characteristics can go a long ways in helping establish a long and happy relationship.

Rarely will one bird fit more than a few of the desired characteristics. You may acquire a bird and expect it to speak, only to eventually realize this particular species never talks. Others may discover that a large colorful macaw is also a large intolerably noisy creature. Many potential owners have expectations that cannot possibly be fulfilled by the species they choose. The best way to obtain the “perfect” pet is to first determine which characteristics are most important to you. Then shop for the bird that fits those criteria. Certain species arise as leaders in a variety of categories, and this list can be used as a starting point in making your choice. Remember, there are always exceptions, so once you have narrowed down your decision to a particular species, look at the parents and gather information from the breeder about an individual bird’s behavior.

Some bird owners may want to avoid certain “unpopular” characteristics like those listed below. Others may not see these same characteristics as undesirable. It’s up to bird owners to weigh all characteristics of a species or an individual bird to make the best decision.

In the end, individuals interested in owning a bird should first decide what they expect from a pet bird.
Once this question is answered, an appropriate species can be identified and researched. Only then can the
potential for a long and mutually beneficial relationship be realized.

  • Appearance – Finches, Macaws, Eclectus, Lories, Toucans
  • Speaking ability – African Grey, Amazon, Mynah
  • Natural vocalization (song) – Canary, Cockatiel
  • Intelligence – African Grey
  • Social attributes – Cockatoo, Budgie, Cockatiel
  • Small size – Canary, Finch, Budgie, Lovebird, Cockatiel
  • Low maintenance – Amazon and smaller
  • Cleanliness – Most smaller species
  • Loud – Macaws, Cockatoos, some conures
  • Messy – Macaws, Mynahs, Toucans
  • Aggressive – Female Eclectus, Male Amazons