I’ve always been fascinated with flight and as a child would walk home from school looking down and imagining I was high in the air flying a jet peering down at rivers and mountains. I could spend hours at airports watching planes land and take off. Sometimes, I’d dream that I could actually fly. So it wasn’t surprising that as a veterinarian, I wanted to learn more about pet birds, how they functioned, and how to fix them when they were injured.
We can all enjoy birds as they fascinate us with their unique talents of mimicking sounds and speech. Some soft-billed birds, such as canaries and finches, can sing delightful songs. Birds have an uncanny intelligence and, as flock animals, can make strong bonds with their human partners. Plus, they come in many brilliant beautiful colors, shapes, and sizes. I keep my pet cockatoo at work with me on a perch in the front office. He immediately wins friends by cooing and whispering sweet nothings to my patients. When you look into his eyes, it almost seems like a human intelligence is looking back. He steals your heart when he reaches his foot out to let you know he wants to snuggle. I’ve never seen anyone disagree when he brags, “Meka is a pretty bird!”
So, the question then becomes, is a bird a pet you might consider? Ask yourself a few questions first. A bird needs a large cage and regular maintenance. Some birds live beyond 60 years. In fact, the oldest known parrot lived over 100 years. Birds depend on a regular schedule and can stress when there are changes in their routine. Just like you and I, they need regular loving and get their feelings hurt if they are neglected… even for a single day. Some birds can get very loud when they’re feeling good or feeling neglected. Some species of parrots can go through hormonal surges when they get older and actually become moody. So, if you are thinking this is not a problem, then maybe a bird is a good choice for you.
But if you really want a bird, it’s best to do some serious research first. Think of what kind of bird you might want living with you. Some people go by looks, color, size, or even the amazing aspect of the ability to speak. Sure, these are fun factors to consider, but not a wise way to select a pet bird for a long-term relationship. Take the time to learn about the various traits of each species by spending time reading about them, visit pet stores, or even talk to breeders asking questions and getting to know the species you think you might like to be around. Many breeders or pet stores will allow you to spend time at the facility, bonding with a bird before purchasing it. It’s important to make sure you are a good match with your new companion. Also, remember that bigger is not necessarily better. I think finches, canaries, budgies, and cockatiels make excellent bird companions and are somewhat easier to maintain than a Hyacinth Macaw, the largest of the parrot species.
As I tell my clients, it’s extremely important to know the traits of each species you’re considering before buying. For example, Cockatoos are extremely affectionate but can be overly emotional. African Greys are extremely intelligent but can be high strung. Amazons are intelligent and playful but some can get moody when they reach sexual maturity. These are not necessarily obstacles as long as they have been taken into consideration before purchase. So, if you’re considering a new feathered friend, don’t just fly out and buy one. Do your homework. When selected correctly, they make wonderful pets and companions.
So what are you waiting for? Start soaring, and let the adventure begin!!!
Next time, we will talk a little bit about the amazing biology and physiology of our feathered friends!