Marlborough Bird & Animal Hospital

21 South Main Street
Marlborough, CT 06447


 Pet Birds

There are hundreds of species of birds in the pet trade today. Most come from South America, Australia, or Africa. These birds usually live in temperatures much warmer than ours. The climate of these areas range from tropical rain forests to arid grasslands and everything in between. It is important to find as much information on the bird you plan to purchase prior to even purchasing the pet. There are many species differences you need to be aware of, such as, diet, housing requirements, social interaction, life expectancy, and daily maintenance to mention just a few. Some birds are good at mimicking such as African Greys, Mynah birds, Amazons, and Macaws, while others are better at singing such as canaries, finches, budgerigars, and Cockatiels. Most birds love to be held, though some birds such as the Mynahs and finches prefer not to be handled.
When choosing a bird it is important to know the source of the bird—wild caught or captive bred. Wild birds tend to stress easy, have parasitic problems, and do not bond with their owners. Unfortunately, many of these birds are smuggled illegally into this country. Captive bred birds bond readily to their owners (especially if hand raised) and do not have a negative impact on the endangered wild populations of the species.
The rule for caging of pet birds is ‘the larger the better’. The cage should emphasize length rather than height. It should be easy to clean and not contain galvanized metal. Most small cages designed for finches and budgies are inappropriate. Perches should vary in diameter and consist of nontoxic hardwood—avoid sandpaper perches. Position perches so that they are not placed above/below other perches. The need to avoid drafts is highly exaggerated as is covering the cage at night. Covering the cage prevents the circulation of fresh air into the cage. Do not overcrowd the cage with toys. Birds do like to keep themselves busy by playing with toys, but attention should also be given to the amount of space in which the bird has to move around. The minimum amount of available space should allow the bird to fully open its wings without hitting its wing tips on toys or caging material.
A well balanced diet should be offered to your bird. Many breeders spend hours handfeeding a good balanced formula to baby birds to then have the bird converted to a seed mixture at weaning. Seeds are not balanced, do not contain vitamins, and are lacking 3 of the 10 essential amino acids that are important for healthy life. Your bird depends on you to supply adequate nutrition to it, just as a pet cat or dog would. We recommend Harrison’s foods, but there are other formulated diets available that may meet your pet’s nutritional requirements. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not necessary if fed an appropriate diet. Fresh clean water should always be available. Any supplement added to a bird’s water is discouraged—these break down within hours of adding to the water and promote the growth of bacteria and algae. Whether to supply grit or not is controversial—we do not recommend the use of grit for any bird.
Sean M. Pampreen, DVM
Average life span of some birds commonly kept as pets (oldest reported): Zebra finch-5 yrs(17), Canary-8 yrs(20), Mynah-3 yrs(8), Toucan-4yrs, Budgerigar-6 yrs(18), Cockatiel-5 yrs(32), Eclectus-8 yrs(20), Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo-15 yrs(40), African Grey-15 yrs(50), Pionus-5 yrs(15), Amazon spp-15 yrs(80), Macaw spp-15 yrs(50), Conures-10yrs(25), Pigeon-15 yrs(26)