Mandatory Bird Education For New Owners?

I keep in contact with people from a number of bird rescues. I am friends with some on Facebook and I make sure to keep them in my feed so that I have a daily reminder of all the homeless birds out there. I see many more coming into these facilities than I see going out.

As I scout around the internet, I am alarmed by questions such as: “I just got a sun conure. What do I feed him?” REALLY?? You brought a bird into your home without a clue what he eats?? That seems unfathomable to me.  Know that my gripe is not with the uneducated owner, but with the person selling the bird who allowed the uneducated owner to leave the premises without any knowledge of what they were doing.

I understand how this happens at pet stores. Pet stores are in the retail business, not the animal welfare business. It simply so happens that the products they are selling are alive and intelligent, and have needs. It’s about money. I doubt a shoe salesman gives a second thought as to the well-being of the sandals he sold earlier in the week. “I sure do hope she is coordinating them with her handbag!”

I make it a point to pull and read pet store pamphlets on bird ownership, should they supply them. In them, is information on general care and maintenance – similar to the manual for my blender. While some of them mention that if needs are not met, problem behaviors might erupt, they fail to mention WHY these behaviors exist or what to do when they happen. I don’t expect much more than this from a pet store. They are running a business, selling stuff. It’s is a deterrent to sales to warn the buyer that the product might become undesirable. Don’t buy your pets from pet stores.

I hear, however, the same questions about general care coming from people who have purchased birds from a breeder. This infuriates me. How can you let a bird that you have raised from the egg go home with someone who does not understand their dietary needs and emotional complexities.You are sending this bird off to a miserably inadequate life or an untimely death, in some cases. SHAME ON YOU.

I would make a lousy breeder, in terms of any financial success. I would be denying purchases to people left and right, if I was able to part with my babies at all. If anyone well qualified did come to me for a bird, I would probably refer a person like that to a rescue because it’s the right thing to do. I would find myself out of business quickly.

In purchasing a rescue bird, there is a qualification process where an applicant might find themselves referred to a bird that was not their first choice. A responsible rescuer might find that the potential new owners lifestyle, home environment or an inability to give a certain level of care might not be the best for a particular bird.

For instance, someone with young children and other pets might not make the best home for a bird that is easily stressed. Nor would a rescuer place a bird with ongoing medical needs into a home where finances didn’t allow for vet care. In all cases, the responsible rescuer will not let any bird out of sight without the necessary education in bird care. Some of the bigger rescues offer classes in bird care to the public and it is a requirement that you attend one before you re-home any of their birds.

Is it unreasonable to expect the same from a breeder? I know most breeders can’t deliver education in a classroom setting, but there is, in every case, the opportunity for one on one training, even if it’s done over the phone. The average person does not know where to go for information on something as precise and specific as bird care. No human being should EVER be permitted to walk away with a pet bird without the following:

  • A complete species specific guide about the bird they have chosen, such as typical personality traits, levels of activity, style of play, known health propensities, and inclination toward behavioral problems.
  • A list of the physical needs of the bird, such as proper caging, accessories, toys, and warnings about toxins and other household dangers.
  • A complete description of species specific dietary needs. When to feed, how much to feed and a complete list of safe, unsafe and un-preferred foods.
  • An awareness of the extreme intelligence of birds and the responsibility to nurture that intellect with appropriate toys and interaction. It should be made clear what behavioral problems might stem from any neglect in this area.
  • A description about the wild counterparts of their chosen species that includes information about their diet, habits, breeding cycles, how the flocks interact socially with an explanation of how these behaviors correlate to captive birds.They should be encouraged to continue exploring their species as new information is always surfacing.
  • A guide to recognizing sign of illness in a bird.
  • A list of preferred local avian vets, boarders and groomers.
  • A list of internet links to reputable forums where a buyer can go for help and support with behavioral, dietary or other issues.

This wouldn’t be too difficult for breeders to do. Most breeders specialize in just a few species of birds which would only require adapting information to each of the species. I, personally, would have buyers read this information in my presence and have them sign something stating that they read and understood the information. Pet store could and should do the same.  Don’t you agree?

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


Pat Farina

to Monika Gaba Page – avocado is poisonous for all birds!! Here is just one great website on things that are poisonous to pet birds: It’s great that you know that – a lot of people still don’t. Yes, PetSmart has pamphlets – but very limited/basic information in them – good amt of it is “common sense” but they are only 2 sides of one page – gives the impression that if that’s all it takes to describe the bird’s care – it can’t be so difficult to keep one!!! (I actually overheard someone say that!!) …. and some large pet stores have had several problems with sick birds in their populations. Much better education is needed for prospective owners. It would be a great idea to have mandatory education!! …. but many hurdles to jump here – and many problems to work out for this to happen. It would be an exciting topic to discuss at length and an interesting process to be a part of!!

Pat Farina
Candice C

I agree wholeheartedly with EVERYTHING said here.

Candice C

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