When it comes to cage birds, there are a vast range of options available. So much so that selecting the best pet, especially if you’re new to keeping birds, can be a major challenge. Bearing in mind just how long pet birds can live – many will live for 10+ years – it is essential to select a suitable species from the outset. In this way you’ll not only enjoy the experience of caring for your pet, but your pet too will be happy as you’ve selected a species that does well in captivity.
Fortunately there are a number of pet bird species that make excellent pets and are suitable for beginners. The goal of this article is to give a brief introduction to some of the best starter birds so that you’re better able to make a more informed decision at the pet shop.
Budgies are the classic pet bird. Originating from Australia, this small parakeet has become a world-wide sensation and is one of the most commonly kept and bred cage birds of all. This is hardly surprising. Budgies come in a wide range of colour forms which can make selecting a suitable budgie great fun; from greens to yellows, blues to whites, there is sure to be a colour form which appeals to you.
In addition to the many colour forms are the excellent personalities seen in budgies. These are intelligent birds who seem to do well in captivity. They’re typically hardy and long-lived – in captivity they may reach 20 years of age or more. They may even breed for you.
In addition budgerigars are friendly and inquisitive birds that will quickly become tame and enjoy spending time with you. These birds exhibit real personalities and no two are identical, so it can be a thoroughly rewarding experience to get to know your bird in detail and build a real relationship with your pet.
Cockatiels can be thought of as the budgie’s larger cousin. Hailing from Australia just like the budgerigar, cockatiels can grow to 30cm long or more when their tail is taken into account. Note that this larger size also means that a comparably larger cage will be needed, increasing the costs of buying cockatiels when compared to budgies.
The larger body size of cockatiels makes these rather more impressive birds than budgies, though to be fair they are available in a far smaller range of colours. Typically cockatiels are only seen in greys, lutino (a pale yellow) or a pied form, so there are fewer options available in terms of appearance.
However if you’ve always wanted a parrot of your own, but lack the space or funds to buy a true parrot, you’ll find a cockatiel to be far closer to what you want than a budgie. With their high-pitched whistle and constantly-moving crest, cockatiels can be real characters and quickly settle into a long-lasting bond with you, their owner.
Lovebirds are small birds with big personalities. Of a similar length to budgerigars, though stockier and without the long tail, lovebirds are so-called because of the affection they show one another. Interestingly, this same affection typically isn’t shown to other species of birds, and lovebirds are known for their pugnacious bullying of other cage birds like budgies. It is critical, therefore, if you opt to buy some lovebirds that they don’t have access to other pet birds.
While discussing the negatives it is also worth mentioning that the raucous call of lovebirds is enough to drive some people to drink, while others seem unconcerned with the noise. In other words, before you bring some lovebirds home, take the time to assess the noises they make to see how you feel about them.
These issues aside, lovebirds can make excellent and trusting pet birds. They will quickly bond with their owner and can become some of the most affectionate pet birds of all. They’re also available in a dizzying array of different colours and types, including the peach-faced lovebird and the Fishers lovebird.
As finches, canaries are the smallest birds mentioned here. They also typically won’t become “tame” – they’re highly unlikely to enjoy sitting on your hand or interacting with you. On the other hand they should at least learn to tolerate your presence near their cage with time.
So if you can’t tame or truly build a relationship with a canary, you might ask what the point of these jaunty little birds really is. And here there are two answers. For one, canaries have been selectively bred over the years into a wide range of different, unusual and beautiful forms. Unlike the other species mentioned previously we’re not just talking about colour forms, but also completely different plumage and body shapes. Canaries are one of the most visibly diverse cage birds of all which can make them truly mesmerizing pets to keep.
On the other hand of course the canary’s singing ability is legendary and really has to be experienced to be appreciated. Note that only the males sing, so if you want a singing bird you’ll need to choose your pet carefully, but a canary singing away in your home really is an incredible experience.