I am thinking about getting a bird for my kids. What is the best kind of bird to get?
A bird is a great pet to have. They are intelligent, beautiful, and make great long-term friends. One question I have to ask though is, how old are your kids? If they are little kids, say, under the age of 7 or 8, they may not quite understand how fragile a bird is, and how strong they can bite. As long as they are told in a calm manner why they were bit, they should hopefully understand and not be
afraid. I am not saying that your kids will be rough on a bird, or that your bird will always bite, but sometimes, especially when the bird does not feel safe, it will bite as its first defense. A younger child may not understand why they got bit and end up hating, or fearing the bird. If they are also too rough with the bird, they could end up mistakenly hurting the bird or worse.
Birds can also carry diseases such as Psittacosis, which is a zoonotic disease (a disease that can be passed from animals to people). Symptoms of the disease can range from a human patient having no apparent illness, to systemic illness with severe pneumonia. Also, if your child has asthma, a bird may not be the best option for a pet. Some birds, like the ones I am going to recommend later as pets, have a dusty quality to their feathers. This “dust” can trigger asthma symptoms.
Now that you have established that you are still getting a bird, there are a few things you should know about birds. There are two major groups, or classifications, of birds. True Parrots (psitticines) include species such as Conures, Cockatiels, Parakeets, Macaws, Cockatoos and Amazons, have larger, stronger beaks which are have the ability to break nuts and large seeds. Passerines, or seed-eaters/perching birds, include species such as Canaries, Finches, Sparrows, Crows, and the exotic Lyrebird.
Most of the large-chain pet stores (such as Petco or Petsmart) no longer carry the bigger Psitticines such as Conures, Cockatoos, Macaws, and Amazons. These birds live a long time (sometimes over 80 years), can be extremely noisy and can chew through a lot of things. They are beautiful birds, but if you are not prepared for a long-term commitment, or are a first time bird buyer, they are not worth spending the money on. Large chain pet stores are still selling some of the smaller Psitticines, like Parakeets/Budgies and Cockatiels.
Cockatiels make great first time birds. They are relatively easy to train, most of the time are easy to handle, and don’t make too much noise. They are smaller birds, so your children shouldn’t be too intimidated by it. Male Cockatiels are average talkers and can learn many words. I had a Cockatiel that could whistle the theme songs to television shows such as “Giligan’s Island’, “The Andy Griffith Show”, and many others. The lifespan of a Cockatiel is roughly between 12 and 15 years. I have heard of Cockatiels living well past 25 years old, but they were taken care of by an experienced bird owner. Cockatiels are generally recognized by the males having two large orange cheeks. I say generally recognized because I had a Cockatiel, which had extremely orange cheeks, which I thought was male, and suddenly one day it laid eggs.
Pied Cockatiel on Left, Lutino Cockatiel on Right.
Parakeets/Budgerigars (Budgies) are the other type of bird I would recommend for a first time bird owner. Parakeets are the American name for this type of bird, and Budgerigar, or Budgie, is the European/Australian name for it. Both names are correct. A Parakeet has a lifespan of between 7 and 9 years, but sometimes this can be extended through proper care. Male and female Parakeets can be determined by examining the color of the cere, or fleshy nostril area above the beak. Males have a cere that is a blue color, and females have a pink/brown color. The darker the color is, the older the bird is.
Male is on the left, Female is on the right.
Parakeets can be trained to whistle some songs, but aren’t great talkers. They mostly like to screech.
If you are looking for a bird that doesn’t make any noise, go to a toy store and buy a bird shaped stuffed animal. There are very few birds that rarely make noise, and they are extremely expensive and hard to take care of.
I hope I answered at least some of the concerns you had about buying a bird for your kids. Birds make wonderful pets if you have the time and patience to handle them. They require a lifetime of commitment and make huge messes, but they are also the clowns of nature and will entertain you and surprise you when you least expect it. If you have any questions about buying a bird, be sure to contact someone who has a lot of experience with many species of birds.
If you live in Southern California, there are a few places I would recommend getting information on birds from:
#1 The Magnolia Bird Farm – Lori is the owner and she is extremely knowledgeable about birds. She is the 2nd or 3rd generation to own the place and put her kids through school selling finches. The address to The Bird Farm is 12200 Magnolia Blvd, Riverside, CA. 92503. Their phone number is: (951) 278-0878. http://magnoliabirdfarms.com
#2 The Bird Bungalow in Canyon Country/Santa Clarita.
Their address is 21021 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country, CA. 91351. Their phone number is: (661) 284-6200. http://thebirdbungalow.yolasite.com