Having an avian friend in your life can be one of the most fulfilling decisions you can make. A parrot can be a great pet that brings joy and excitement in your life, if chosen correctly. There are several factors to consider when selecting which species of parrot you want as a pet. This article is intended to provide some of the basics.
The Bird for You
One of the biggest factors in selecting a pet parrot is the lifetime the bird. Many parrot species can live a very long time, for example many larger parrot breeds can live up to 50 years. This means that your pet parrot could be with you the rest of your life, and in some cases may even out live you! If you don’t want a bird that can live past half a century, then you might want to select from the smaller bird species like budgies and cockatiels which can still live a long life of up to 20 years.
In addition to age, below are some of the basics of common pet parrot species:
Great for first time bird owners. Small and easy to care for along with being very sociable and chatty birds. Budgies are the most common psittacine species in the world. When properly cared for and given enough time to play and interact with you, these birds can become very attached to their owners and may even learn to talk back! Needs include a spacious cage with plenty of toys. The cage needs to be at least double the size of the bird’s wingspan, which equates to approximately 3.5 cubic feet.
Like the budgies, cockatiels are a great bird for novice owners, because they are small and relatively easy to care for. They are the smallest in size out of all the cockatoo species. They need a cage with enrichments and plenty of social interactions with you and the bird. Cockatiels can become very attached to you if you give them enough attention and time out of their cage with you. Females may sometimes lay eggs. If that is the case, do not remove the eggs, because then the cockatiels will continually lay eggs and deplete their calcium reserves. If this happens you will need to make adjustments to your cockatiel’s diet, by adding in extra calcium supplements. You can also purchase fake eggs and place them in the cage to help control laying.
Love birds enjoy being in pairs, however it is not mandatory. If you have the time to give a single lovebird enough attention and play time throughout the day then it can do just fine by itself. Female lovebirds are more aggressive than the males. Lovebirds also do not do well with other bird species so keep them separate if you have any other birds.
One of the larger species that one could have as a pet. They are much larger and louder than most of the pet bird species out there. There are around thirty different breeds of cockatoos and each with their own unique traits. Your bond with your cockatoo is very important for the bird. Specifically, they need a lot of attention and time with you in order to be healthy and a great pet. If they form a good bond with you, they will speak to you and mimic sentences or phrases you say. If you do not give them enough attention or play time, they can become very depressed resulting in destructive and self-harming behaviors.
The largest of the parrot species and best fitted for an experienced bird owner. Macaws are highly intelligent and sociable birds. They enjoy cuddling and spending time with their owner as well as socializing with flock mates. Like cockatoos, if macaws don’t get social time with their owners or other birds, they can become depressed or develop other mental health disorders. They need an extremely large cage with plenty of enrichments to keep them occupied.
Considerations Before Committing to a Parrot
In future articles we will focus more on husbandry, behavior and care of each of the above species. Regardless of the parrot companion you choose, it is important to consider the commitment you are making. Parrots are loud (in excess of 150 decibels for some species), messy, and can be expensive in terms of health care and basic needs. Since they are so intelligent when compared to other birds (e.g. chickens, doves, etc.), they can be more challenging behaviorally. Bringing a parrot into your home is often equated to having a toddler that will continue to behave the same way for decades. If parrots do not have enough social interaction or their natural behaviors are met with punishment (e.g. yelling at your bird to be quiet), they may develop anxiety, self harming behaviors like feather plucking, and other behavioral disorders. Learn more about understanding what your parrot is trying to tell you in this article.
Parrots are also more potentially destructive and dangerous than other birds, and large parrots with bigger beaks command respect. Parrots can bite with pressures between 300 and 400 psi, which is more than enough to cause deep punctures requiring stitches. A parrot bite may also cause parrot fever, a rare infection caused by Chlamydia psittaci, or other infections.
While there are many challenges to owning a parrot as described, identifying the best species of bird for you will go a long way toward optimizing your experience for you and your future parrot companion. This article is intended to give you some of the basic information on common species in order to better match owner and pet. When deciding on a parrot, further research and consultation with exotic bird sellers and your local avian veterinarian is suggested. You can also ask us using our Ask A Question page!
This article was written by Ari Sallus, Joseph Gendreau and Dr. Maurice Pitesky at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine-Cooperative Extension.