Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Selecting the Right Pet Bird for Your Family

Pet Column for the week of February 14, 2011

Related information:

Related site - Exotics Services at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital

parrot at Open House
The annual Vet Med Open House in early October is a great time to check out a variety of pet birds.

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Brittany Way
Information Specialist

Source - Dr. Kenneth Welle
There are so many varieties of pet birds, the choices may be overwhelming to a would-be owner. Adopting a pet bird is a big responsibility. How do you decide which type of bird will best fit into your family?

Dr. Kenneth Welle, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana and the only board-certified avian practitioner in Illinois, offers these tips to consider before you adopt a bird.

Many people do not understand the longevity and monetary investment that large birds require. "Most species are essentially wild animals and their environmental, nutritional, and social needs can be very challenging to meet," says Dr. Welle. While finches live 3 to 5 years, birds such as the macaw and cockatoo can live 60 to 80 years. Cages for smaller birds range between $20 and $30, but a quality cage for a large macaw can cost over $1,000.

Time commitment should also be taken into consideration when you are choosing a bird. Larger birds develop more slowly than smaller birds and thus are more prone to behavioral problems. Macaws and cockatoos need a lot of mental stimulation and toys. They often get bored if not handled frequently. Humans can also contribute to large bird behavioral problems by inadequate handling or by too much petting or cuddling.

While budgies and cockatiels are less likely to develop behavioral problems because of being handled infrequently, this doesn't mean their requirement for socialization is less, just that the consequences are not as noticeable.

Size is not an indication of how well a species adapts to human households. Small species, such as finches, are not "stepping stones" to owning larger birds, such as macaws and cockatoos.

Dr. Welle says, "Someone considering a large bird should consider volunteering at a bird rescue to develop confidence in handling them, and to learn what it takes to care for them." With extensive research and first-hand experience through volunteering, you'll gain insight into the species that interests you.

If your family is aware of and prepared for the investment of a bird, the rewards of ownership will far outweigh the challenges. From budgies to cockatiels to conures to macaws, the right bird is out there waiting to be adopted into your family!

If you have questions about pet birds, ask your local veterinarian.