Prospective bird owners have overabundance of options to choose from when selecting a feathery friend. Considering the amount of previous experience in owning birds, as well as the time and monetary commitment you can spend can help you select the right pet bird. As discussed in a previous article on selecting pet parrots, caring for larger cockatoos or Macaws poses challenges that may overwhelm new bird owners. Fortunately, there are several smaller bird species to choose from that are great for beginners. This article will discuss various non-parrot species of birds that make good pets for someone who has little to no prior bird experience.
Very similar to pigeons, doves make an amazing pet for novice bird owners. They don’t make a huge ruckus other than their soothing cooing calls and love socializing with humans as well as other doves. While many birds my try to bite their humans or pluck their flock makes, doves rarely exhibit these behaviors. Doves require daily socialization, and housing doves in pairs helps to meet their needs. While there are many types of doves, Diamond Doves and Ringneck Doves are the most common species for pets. They tend to be between 7.5 to 12 inches long and require a cage of at least 24” width x 36” depth x 24” length dimensions. Doves usually live past 10 years and can live up to 20 years.
Some of the most specious birds in the animal kingdom, finches range widely in coloration and pattern. These songbirds will fill your home with plenty of different pleasant whistles and calls. Although great birds for beginners, finches avoid direct interaction with their owners. This makes them poor pet for those seeking cuddly or docile companions. Only finches hand-raised since hatching tolerate frequent handling, and they tend to make their discomfort known through biting and pecking. Finches prefer to socialize with other finches, though not all finch species get along. Be sure you are picking a cohesive group when purchasing a flock. Finches are relatively small, only 3 to 6 inches long, and need a horizontally oriented cage to have flying space with cages approximately 24” width x 14” depth x 18” height. They have a typical life span of five to ten years. Finches also love taking bird baths, so have a bowl with clean water for them in their cage.
Initially bred as songbirds and later used to detectors carbon monoxide and other deadly gas in the mining industry until 1986 (hence “canary in a coal mine”), domestic canaries remain popular pets in American households. These songbirds belong to the finch family and originate from the Canary Islands and surrounding archipelagoes. Canaries do not like to be handled or caged with other birds, so they make the perfect companion for someone who wants a singular small bird.
Canary varieties fall into three main categories based on selectively bred traits: canaries bred for coloration, for shape and conformation, and for song patterns. Contrary to their popular yellow depiction, canary coloration varies widely including bright reds and earthy browns and blacks. Canaries have some of the best songs out of all birds. Male canaries will often have a better song and will sing more often than females. Both may sing less or not at all during winter months. They are only 3 to 4 inches long and only require a cage of dimensions of 18” width x 14” depth x 18” height. Canaries can live over a decade.
These three different types of birds are all great examples of species for first time owners. These birds all require enrichment, toys in their cages, proper care, and a good diet to be happy and healthy. There are many other bird species to choose from, so research further before you select your avian friend. You can ask pet stores, bird rescues, and us at our Ask a Question page for more information on species selection. Future articles will dive in more on each breed to provide more relevant information regarding diet, behavior and health.
This article was written by Ari Sallus, Joseph Gendreau and Dr. Maurice Pitesky at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.