Parrots are the most popular birds to keep these days. Parrots are colorful, long-lived, entertaining, and affectionate, when well cared for and properly trained. For the first time bird owner, though, especially children, a parrot can be an intimidating challenge that often ends in disappointment and tears.
It is best to start small when beginning your journey into keeping birds so you can learn the proper way to care for and live with birds, and come to understand birds as living beings.
The smaller, easier pet birds to keep may not talk, but they also do not screech and scream as so many parrot species do, which is always a plus to remember when choosing a pet bird for the first time. They are also easier to care for and cheaper to buy than parrots.
The basic food requirement for each species listed below is a daily fresh seed mix that contains a blend of canary, rape, and millet seeds (for the canary, finches, and dove) while the parakeet enjoys heartier seed like oat.
Read the ingredients list on the seed package at your favorite pet store to be sure the seed is suitable for your pet bird. Include vitamin drops for your bird's water.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are also essential foods provided in moderation. Small apple chunks, cantaloupe, and chemical free dandelion greens are popular items on the menu. Do not feed lettuce to your bird. The scant nutritional value in lettuce is not worth mentioning and causes messy loose stools in the birdcage.
Be sure to wash all fruit and vegetables you intend to give to your bird! You do not want your bird consuming pesticides.
A cuttle bone should also be available to the canaries, finches, and parakeets at all times. Cuttle bone is essential for calcium intake and keeping the beak trim.
Be sure your bird has clean fresh water available at all times.
Keep the birdcage away from drafts, as birds catch cold easily, as well as overheating. The preferable place for the birdcage would be an area that is quiet without a lot of foot traffic, but that gets some morning sunlight.
Below is a list of the pet bird species appropriate for first time bird owners, including children. Each species has charms all its own.
Canary: The canary is a colorful happy bird famous for its song. The male is the musical virtuoso of this species. It is best to keep single male birds as the males fight during the breeding season, and male canaries often stop singing if housed with other males. Males and females should be kept together only during breeding season. The canary may seem a gentle soul, but it has the heart of a lion during breeding season. Besides, canaries are not particularly social birds. A single bird is content on its own.
The canary lives an average of six to eight years. It can become finger or perch-tame if you are willing to patiently work with the bird over a period of weeks, but generally this bird does not care to be handled.
It is best if your bird's cage is large enough that the bird has to fly from perch to perch, as the canary is an active little soul. The more flight time it gets the happier the bird, and the happier the bird the more beautiful its song!
The Society Finch: The Society Finch is a purely man made finch. It has never existed in the wild. This species has been bred in the Orient for so many years that no one is sure what its true heritage is.
The Society Finch's main colors are brown, black, and white with numerous beautiful mutations and feather patterns in between. One such mutation is the Crested, where the bird has a ruffle of feathers on its head.
The Society Finch enjoys parakeet seed mix, egg food, with the occasional greens. Be sure cuttle bone and grit is available, as well as fresh water.
These birds get their name from their strongly sociable nature. A flock of Society Finches in a cage will stuff themselves into a single nest box until there is no room left to move and be perfectly happy.
These happy little homemakers can be such prolific breeders they will breed with other finch species, such as Zebra Finches, another easy to keep bird. The problem with choosing Society Finches is that it is difficult to sex each gender. Most of the time you will not know which bird is what gender until eggs begin to appear.
Diamond Dove: The Diamond Dove from Australia is the second smallest dove species in the world, and my personal favorite pet bird. It is about six to eight inches in length.
Every Diamond Dove has a personality all its own, funny, affectionate, motherly, aggressive, or even diva. The cooing sound it makes is soft. Male doves are louder than females, but not obnoxiously loud.
The most common coloring of the Diamond Dove is the wild bluish-gray with brown, with an orange ring around each eye. The male is the more colorful with brighter bluish-gray plumage, a brighter eye ring, and white in the tail.
These days, though, Diamond Doves come in several gorgeous mutations from bluish-gray with white tails to pure snow white. All have the orange ring around the eyes. The eye ring is heavier in males than in females.
Diamond Doves live on average five to fifteen years, but I have heard of a few that survived into their twenties. If you decide to keep these doves, be sure you are able to provide for the bird for a considerable number of years.
In the wild, these gentle, poky birds spend a considerable amount of time pecking at seeds or greens on the ground. If the cage you have chosen for your bird has a floor grate, remove the grate. Use paper towels on the floor because newspaper ink will stain the bird's feet, and you do not want your bird to consume the ink by chance. Newspaper also has a tendency to dry out a bird's feet.
Diamond Doves eat canary and finch seed, especially white millet, as well as the occasional greens. Keep a bowl of grit inside the cage because the birds need grit to grind up the seeds. Doves also need a bowl of water because they suck water into their beaks while drinking. Keep the water bowl out from beneath the perches to avoid defecation into the water.
Diamond Doves are social birds and easily bred, but you may not want more than one. A single Diamond Dove will bond to you after a matter of weeks. It will enjoy being in your company and will even coo a greeting to you and follow you around the house, if you let it. My Diamond Dove perches on the edge of my laptop while I am writing or pokes through the houseplants on the window ledge.
Of course, this does not mean your dove will not fly out an open doorway or window if given the chance. The blue sky is always calling to our pet birds. This lovely, quiet little bird, though, will charm its way into your heart.
Parakeet: For those of you who simply must have a parrot, then begin by choosing the common Parakeet, or Budgerigar as it is called in Britain.
The Parakeet is seven to ten inches long. It lives ten to fifteen years. This bird comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns. In the male, the skin area above the bill is blue while in the female this area is brown.
Before you choose a parakeet, though, you must consider if you and your neighbors can handle the noise this little parrot makes. The parakeet is nowhere near as loud as its larger parrot cousin is, and its loudest shriek will not peel the enamel off your teeth as a lovebird's scream can, but the bird can still be noisy. If this issue is not a problem, then read on.
Feed your parakeet a mix of parakeet pellets, seeds, and a moderation of fruits and veggies. Cuttlebone and clean water should always be available inside the cage.
The Parakeet will win your heart over with its playful antics. It can learn to talk, but may not learn as large a vocabulary as a large parrot or be as easy to understand. Its smaller beak is also easier on fingers, which is good to know before you start training your parakeet.
Parakeets love to play with bird toys such as ladders, bells, and mirrors. These toys will keep your bird occupied for hours. You may hear your bird mumbling while it plays, as if a child playing "pretend" while lost in imagination.
Start your adventure into keeping birds by beginning with species suitable for a beginner. Soon you will be boasting to friends and family about your canary's brilliant singing voice, your parakeet's obvious genius, or your dove's amazing sense of humor.
Learn from your feathered friend for he or she will teach you all you need to know before you plunge into the heady world of tropical exotic birds.