This question seems to be coming up a lot recently on the BirdTricks facebook page and other places I visit regularly. I appreciate that people have the good sense to ask, but it’s a very difficult question to answer without knowing the person asking it, without getting a sense of the person or what their lifestyle is. I normally spend more effort trying to talk people out of getting birds than recommending a species to them.
Owning a bird takes a lot of time and work
Are you up to it? Those of us with birds understand the higher level of care they require compared to our cats and dogs. Aside from daily cleaning chores that come with having a bird, there are dietary requirements that take more time and thought than just opening a can. With their great level of intelligence, they need constant mental stimulation. And being social creatures, they require out of cage time with their flock and family member. Without attention to these details, a bird can easily become aggressive, loud and/or feather destructive. No one will be happy with this outcome, not you, not your bird.
Since no one can answer this question for you, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror and decide what kind of person you are, and how much of yourself you are willing to give to a parrot. If you are a good, attentive owner, plan on getting up a little earlier for work and making some changes to your social calendar. This might be tough on a younger new owner.
And a lot of money
Birds are very long lived pets. They require lots of toys to keep them mentally and physically active. Store bought toys are expensive, and if they are good toys and you have chosen them well for your parrot, they are promptly destroyed. This is the point of toys. Birds require fresh foods everyday, a good brand of pelleted food, some species require seed and nuts, others have specialized diets. You will be spending some time in the kitchen if you are feeding your bird correctly. A good quality and appropriately sized powder coated cage for a large bird will cost $1000 or more. This is tough on an owner of any age.
But mostly, a lot of patience and good sense
It takes a lot of thought to raise a bird to be happy and independent and a welcomed part of the family. Parrots have the knack for throwing curve balls at their owners. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they will begin a behavior you’ve never seen before. Or decide they now hate their favorite food, toy or person. You will learn to explore why your bird does something before you even try to understand how to go about finding a solution to a problem.
You will have to know your species of bird well, in both captive and wild settings. After a while, creative thinking will be second nature. You will learn that it truly takes a village to raise a parrot. You will find the advice and wisdom of those experienced with the type of bird you have selected to be helpful and comforting, and you will seek these people out.
Does this sound like nonsense to you? Get a fish.
Still want one?
Which bird? To begin with, I don’t believe that there is any species of parrot that should be considered a “beginner bird”. Smaller birds are just as in need of enrichment, good food and love as are the big birds. The only difference is the volume with which they can state a complaint, or the severity of the bite they may issue when you make the mistakes we all did as beginners. If the beak intimidates you, you already know you want a smaller bird.
The very best way to determine which bird is right for you is to talk to someone who has the species you have in mind. There are sites pertaining to EVERY species on the internet. Google conure, for instance, and you will find more info on the many species of conure than you can process in one sitting. Go onto the bird forums and ask if anyone has a green cheeked conure because you are thinking about getting one. They will be happy to share info with you about the good, bad and ugly of that species. As your research continues, you might stumble across a bird species you hadn’t considered that would fit nicely into your life.
Know that the traits listed are what is typical of the species. It doesn’t mean that every bird reads the manual. Some African greys don’t talk, some scarlet macaws aren’t nippy, not all cockatoos need to run the world.
If you decide to re-home your first bird, you should be aware that you are taking on the product of any mistakes or wrong-doings made by previous owners. Often these birds come baggage, some bags are heavier than others. These birds sometimes need special considerations in terms of patience, and may need a push in the right direction in the areas of diet and socialization.
A lot, if not most, of how your bird turns out has to do with your technique of raising the bird and your willingness to put the time and effort into him. You will have your bird with you for a very long time. Take all the time you need now to choose carefully.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.