I decided to create this series of articles to address the top questions I’ve been asked as a veterinary technician. I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. The answers found in these articles will reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies and techniques.
Smart potential pet owners will do some research before making a pet purchase. This should apply for any and all types of pets. However, it doesn’t happen very often. Too many people end up buying the cute little fluffy puppy because it looked so fun at the pet store or the big green parrot because he sat so nicely on his perch and talked so clearly. The problem with this is when the pet gets home, it may or may not be all you expected. With birds, this is a huge issue. They are highly intelligent and take things like being rehomed very seriously. Rehoming a bird can cause significant emotional damage so it is imperative to make sure you know what you are getting into before purchasing a bird.
I’m going to do a quick comparison of some of the more common birds and parrots that one might find in a pet store to help give a better idea of how they differ. Keep in mind that all birds are individuals and will be different from each other. The descriptions I’ll give here are just generalizations on the breeds as a whole.
Amazons – For the most part, Amazons should probably be avoided for first time bird owners. They can come in a variety of sizes depending on the particular subspecies. Their personalities can very just as much but in general they are very strong willed and determined parrot. They need an owner who is experienced with training strong willed birds as they can become quite aggressive if not dealt with properly. If trained correctly, and brought up properly Amazons can be wonderful, loving pets. If you’re looking for a super cuddly parrot that enjoys being loved on and petted constantly, Amazons probably aren’t right for you. These guys are more independent and prefer to do things on their terms.
African Grays – Anyone looking for a parrot knows the African Gray. Why? Their talking ability. African Grays have a excellent ability to talk, speaking clearly and potentially having the vocabulary of hundreds or thousands of words. However, when a person says they want a bird that talks, they are obviously not up to the challenge. A bird that can talk well, such as with these guys, is obviously highly intelligent. That means he needs even more interaction, proper training and needs to be constantly stimulated. African Grays are little clowns. They need hours a day interaction with their owners and lots of stimulating toys and games. Their small size makes them that perfect size for small homes and apartments, however they can be very loud which needs to be considered in buildings and close neighborhoods.
Cockatoos – You know those great big fluffy white birds with the huge crest on the top of their heads? There are even those that are of a slight peachy pink hue. Those are two of the common members of the cockatoo family; Umbrella Cockatoos and Moluccan Cockatoos respectively. The cockatoo is a large family of birds with small ones ranging from about African Gray size all the way up to some even larger than the Moluccan! While very pretty, these birds come with a cost; time. These cockatoos are perfect for the experienced bird owner that is home most of the time, has lots of time for birdie-interaction, and has the training knowledge that is required for a properly mannered bird. If this describes you and you’re looking for that cuddly, needy bird, then the cockatoo is it! Be aware, they can be extremely loud and are quite prone to showing some unwanted behaviors if they don’t get what they want.
Macaws – Macaws are great birds for an experienced bird owner. Their size alone should be a big clue that they are not for the novice. However, there are miniature macaws that prove to be excellent first-time birds but they still have that “big bird” attitude. Macaws can go either way; they can be awesome birds or horrible pets. It all depends on the experience of the owner and how they are raised. They do require a specialized diet with lots of large nuts included, keeping in mind to avoid peanuts. They are more expensive to keep properly due to their size and diet but it can pay off. As far as talking ability goes, they aren’t the best. Some are quite skilled with most having a vocabulary of a few words.
Cockatiels – Technically speaking, Cockatiels are a part of the cockatoo family. However, they don’t generally come with all that “neediness” of their bigger counterparts. Cockatiels can be excellent family pets and are great for first time bird owners who are looking for something a little bigger than a budgie. If worked with early, they can bond with the entire family and fit in just like any other member. Even Cockatiels that weren’t trained right from the beginning have great potential for becoming retrained and turning out to be excellent pets. With proper living conditions, health care and diet they can live well into their teens.
Budgies – Budgies are great little guys and can make good first-time birds as well. However, they are very small which may or may not be best for the family. Smaller means more fragile in this case so if you’re a first time bird owner but want a little size to your bird, go with the Cockatiel. Otherwise, budgies can make awesome pets and become a great little family member. They can learn to speak a surprisingly large number of words, whistle songs and do tricks. The key is to purchase just one budgie; getting two at a time greatly decreases your chances of bonding with your bird as the birds will bond together first. A single-kept bird will want to be a part of the family much more. Budgies come in a wide variety of colors, more so than any other breed of bird. They are also two varieties of types of Budgies; American Budgies and English Budgies. Americans are typically the ones you find in the pet store labeled “parakeet” or even “fancy parakeet”. English budges have a bit more size to them and have large, puffy heads. They can be a little more bull headed than the Americans but are also excellent, excellent pets! Of all the birds I’ve owned in my time, the English Budgies are one of my favorites!
Eclectus – Eclectus, or Ekkies, are known for their beauty. The females have colors ranging from reds to purples to blue while the males are a striking green with hints of blue and red. These are excellent birds for an experience bird owner due to the fact that they have a specialized diet. Many foods, pellets and seeds are likely to cause allergic reaction in Ekkies so their diets have to be properly monitored and specialized. Talking ability is generally low with just a few words in the vocabulary, however males have been known to talk a bit more than females. Personality varies greatly among individuals. In general, females are more aloof and bond to one family member finding it hard to tolerate the rest of the family. Males are more outgoing and comical and generally make for the more “fun” family pet. Ekkies can be quite large depending on the subspecies; some as large as the bigger Amazons.
All birds are individuals are each one will have a different personality from the next. Take time in researching that parrot that peaks your interest. Make sure you are making the decision based on their personalities, your general bird-know-how, and the care, living conditions and time that you can provide. Don’t make the decision solely based on looks; all parrots are awesome to look at but none are the right match for everyone!