Roughly 5.7 million American households keep pet birds, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners survey done by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). While that may seem miniscule compared to the number of dog or cat households (63.4 million and 42.7 million, respectively), most of these pet parents have at least two feathered family members, according to the study. So, what does it take to rank on the list of best pet birds—and which bird breeds are right for you?
Many birds can be wonderful pets—if you have the right expectations, says Sheila S. Blanchette, an IAABC-certified parrot behavior consultant and trainer, and owner of the avian consulting business Heart of Feathers Education in Havehill, Massachusetts. But too often people come in clamoring for macaws or cockatoos after seeing these cute birds strutting their stuff on YouTube, she notes.
“Then they expect that’s what's going to happen when they get the bird,” she says. “Or they get a smaller bird because they think they require less care.”
Instead, some bird parents may find that the pet bird they’ve chosen is too noisy or time-consuming for their lifestyle. Then they get frustrated and give the birds away. That’s why it’s so important you get the best pet bird for you.
Here is a list of the best birds as pets according to the APPA’s survey, along with some picks by Blanchette. See which pet birds sound right for you, and then follow these expert tips to set yourself up for success.
After you’ve adopted your ideal pet bird, be sure to take your new friend to the vet as soon as possible, says Vanessa Rolfe, DVM, DABVP, owner of the Bird and Exotic Hospital at Greenacres, Florida. Your pet’s provider can run tests to check the health of your bird.
“At least you have the knowledge of that bird’s health status and implications for long term. But you can also hopefully start out with a relationship with a veterinarian who then can help guide you with information you need to help prevent problems in the care and nutrition departments, in the enrichment department, in the behavioral modification aspects and things to look for,” she says.
About 25 percent of bird parents keep some type of parakeet, making this colorful breed the most popular pet bird among parents, according to the APPA. There are dozens of different breeds of parakeet, but the most popular by far is the budgerigar, or budgie. And no wonder—they’re silly, sweet birds with big personalities that vary from bird to bird, says Blanchette. Pet parents also like their small stature: “Their size fits into most any home. Their noise level is low, they do not damage furniture and their toys are not destroyed as fast,” says Sue Dial of Michigan, who has a budgie named Gina.
Another plus about playtime: “Budgies make great company—they love to show off when they play,” says Florida bird parent Sarah Stern.
If you want a more easy-going parakeet, get a lineolated parakeet (also known as a linnie or a barred parakeet or a Catherine parakeet). These are the solid-colored birds who can be a little friendlier than the budgie, Blanchette explains.
Whatever parakeet you get, you want their cage to be wide enough to let your pet move around and get exercise. It should also be high enough so that your pet bird can fly up to the highest perch if they feel spooked, Blanchette says. The Prevue Pet Products Wrought Iron Small & Medium Birds Flight Cage measures 52 inches tall to give small and medium birds plenty of space.
Get toys that are no bigger than your parakeet: ones with paper or hay to shred or bells to ring are good at keeping your bird entertained, Blanchette says. The Super Bird Creations Crinkle Crinkle Little Star Bird Toy has both.
Caring for your parakeet isn’t overly involved, another reason they are one of the best birds as pets. Parakeets need fresh water daily, and small bowls of food in the cage so they can fly from one to another, Blanchette says. Feed your parakeet pellets mixed with a few seeds as well as fresh veggies, like carrot strips or broccoli florets, she says, and you can also put cauliflower rice in your parakeet’s cage, she notes.
Also known as:
Budgies and linnies are the most common types, but there are dozens of other parakeet breeds.
10 to 15 years—but, says Blanchette, “it definitely depends on nutrition, care, and exercise,” which is true for all pet birds.
You can get one parakeet or a pair—but if you get only one, make sure you spend time hanging out and interacting with your bird, Blanchette says. You can train your parakeet to come out of the cage and perch on your finger, but take it one small step at a time. If your pet feels pushed beyond their limits, they’ll nip, she says.
Parakeets are among the best birds for pets, especially if you’re looking for bird breeds who can talk. Budgies are very chatty and will pick up human voices, Blanchette says, learning words and phrases if you take your time training them. Get tips for teaching your budgie to talk.
- Infections: Sometimes budgies can catch bacterial infections, viruses or parasites before they’re brought home by their parents, which is one reason to take your pet to the vet ASAP, Dr. Rolfe says. These include a fungal infection called avian gastric yeast, which can attack the stomach lining and keep parakeets from digesting their food properly. Parakeets (and other birds) can also develop scaly face thanks to a parasite that they might have picked up from another bird, Dr. Rolfe says, which can cause deformities to their feet and beaks.
- Fatty liver: Budgies (like many pet birds) store excess fat in their livers, so when the liver cells fill up with too much fat, they develop fatty liver disease. One symptom is an overgrown beak, says Dr. Rolfe. You can prevent it by watching your budgie’s diet, avoiding too many empty calories (like seeds and grains), and making sure your parakeet has plenty of exercise, including being able to fly and move around in a roomy cage, she says.
At 22 percent, cockatiels rank just behind parakeets when it comes to the best birds for pets, according to their popularity in APPA’s survey. These pint-sized parrots are members of the cockatoo family, and their sunny, easy-going personalities score points with their parents.
First-time bird parent Danielle Aamodt of Virginia raves about her cockatiel, Angel: “She will snuggle up to me when I’m tired, she likes to give me kisses on the nose, she’ll whistle to me every time I pass the doorway of our dining room where her cage is and she loves to play with my hair and tickle my ear.” No wonder they’re known to be among the best parrots for pets!
Just be warned: “Cockatiels need things to do,” Blanchette says. When you’re away all day, she advises, get toys that can keep this smart bird entertained while they’re alone. These could include foraging and shredding toys, such as Bonka Bird Toys Foraging Heart Bird Toy—and be sure to change them up every week.
“Even if the same toys are there, and you rearrange them, the bird goes, ‘Something new!’ It's exciting,” says Blanchette. (This is true for all types of pet birds, she adds, but especially important for the parrots.)
You’ll also want a cage that’s roomy enough for your cockatiel to spread their wings, and they’ll also need perches of different types of materials, Blanchette says. For instance, you could pair a rope perch like the JW Pet Medium Comfy Bird Perch with Prevue Pet Products Wood Corner Bird Cage Shelf. And because cockatiels like to bathe in their water bowls, make sure you get a big-enough bowl and change it twice a day, she says. JW Pet InSight Clean Cup Bird Feed & Water Cup was designed with cockatiel-sized birds in mind.
Also, keep bowls of food strategically placed throughout the cage. Feed your cockatiel mostly pellets, leafy greens (kale leaves, broccoli florets), and other vegetables like carrots (shredded or cut in strips), suggests Dr. Rolfe. If you want to give your cockatiel seeds, try chia or flax seeds, which have omega-3s, she notes.
Pay attention to your bird’s body language too, warns Blanchette. If you’re training them to step out of their cage and they hiss and put their head down, you’re pushing too hard. If you ignore their signs, they may nip.
Also known as:
Miniature cockatoos, weeros, quarrions
Cockatiels do fine as an only pet, but when you come home and your little cockatiel is calling you, you need to start interacting with them, says Blanchette. That can be anything from talking, training and just hanging out. Otherwise, they’ll get very noisy. If you do get another cockatiel, put that one in a separate cage nearby. “They can talk to each other, and if they come out, they can play,” says Blanchette.
They can be trained to mimic sounds, so, yes, some can speak words or phrases, Blanchette says. But they also sing, whistle and make all sorts of noises—a vocal range worthy of one of the best birds to have as pets!
- Infections or parasites: Like parakeets, cockatiels can catch parasites from other birds in pet stores or with breeders if they were kept in a large flock and not screened well, says Dr. Rolfe. These can include parasites called giardia, which can cause diarrhea and lethargy, and psittacosis, a bacterial infection that can also cause diarrhea or respiratory illnesses.
- Obesity and fatty liver disease: Birds in the wild fly miles to forage for food. Our pet birds don’t get the kind of exercise, and cockatiels aren’t immune from packing on the pounds, Dr. Rolfe says, thanks to a mostly seed diet and being sedentary. Again, Dr. Rolfe says, watch your pet’s diet, giving them more pellets and vegetables than seeds and treats, and make sure they have plenty of room in their cage to flap, fly and move.
Ranking third on the list of best bird pets are canaries. These cheerful, good-natured songsters require low-key TLC—keep your canary’s cage in a room where you hang out and they’ll be happy, says Anne Staudenmaier, VMD, an associate veterinarian in the Avian and Exotic department at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. This is one reason why they are one of the best birds to have as pets.
You’ll want to get a cage that’s at least two- to three-feet tall, like the Vision II Model M01 Bird Cage, so your canary has room to fly, Dr. Staudenmaier says. Set up your perches at different heights and put a couple of water bowls (one for drinking and a larger, shallower one for bathing) and food bowls in the cage, she says. You can give your canary commercial pellets and vegetables like kale, spinach, and sweet potatoes to supplement, she says.
You might also want to take your canary out to fly around in the room—just cover windows and mirrors so they don’t crash. That provides exercise as well as mental stimulation, Dr. Staudenmaier says.
Also known as:
Simply canaries—though there are several breeds, including the Harz Roller and the Red Factor Canary.
10 to 15 years
Canaries don’t need feathered companions, and they aren’t the snuggliest of birds. Still, most outgoing canaries like being in the same room as their humans and being talked to, says Dr. Staudenmaier. And some can be trained to perch on your finger (again, take it slow).
None—and the males are the ones with the gorgeous songs.
- Respiratory illnesses: Canaries have very sensitive respiratory systems, which can be compromised easily. Don’t smoke and keep candles and air fresheners far away from them, says Dr. Staudenmaier. Another thing that can poison them: Teflon-coated non-stick pans or anything that is coated with PTFE (like self-cleaning ovens), says Dr. Rolfe. Buy nonstick pans that don’t contain Teflon or PTFE. If you use a self-cleaning oven or Teflon pans, make sure the kitchen is well-ventilated and keep your canary as far away from it as possible.
- Obesity: Canaries, like so many pet birds, can get too fat from empty calories and spending too much time in a too-small cage. Avoid giving your bird too many sugary fruits (like bananas or grapes) or corn, which is also high in sugar, says Dr. Rolfe.
These birds also rank among the best parrots for pets, according to the 8 percent of bird parents who have one. They come in all sizes and colors, from the smaller green-cheeked conure to the larger sun and blue-crowned conures.
Conures are crazy-smart, says Robert Lewis, the outreach director and adoption coordinator at Northeast Avian Rescue (NEAR) in East Greenbush, New York, which can be a plus for pet parents who have time to devote to their birds. Rose Adler of Massachusetts, parent of a green-cheek conure named Dixie, agrees: “You can teach her anything and she picks it up immediately. In the past two months she has learned 12 tricks, and she got them down in less than 15 minutes each.”
Like all parrots, conures require a daily routine and quality time, which means one-on-one interactions, Lewis says.
“You can turn just about anything into quality time, including laundry,” he adds. “If you've got that bird on your shoulder while you’re folding the laundry, he’s spending time with you, you're talking to him, and he's doing whatever he’s doing.”
When you’re away, make sure you have plenty of enrichment items—foraging toys like Super Bird Creations Foraging Basket Bird Toy and different things to rip up and chew—and the TV or radio on to keep your conure company, he says. Some birds are indifferent to it, but some love the noise.
If they get bored or don’t get enough attention, conures can screech.
“Generally, the bigger the conure is the noisier it is, and they have what is often termed as being like fingernails on a blackboard,” Lewis says.
They can also get aggressive and bite or be destructive. For that reason, they don’t make the best pet birds for beginners, Lewis says.
You’ll want to feed your conure a formulated pellet diet as well as vegetables and some fruits, Dr. Rolfe says. ZuPreem VeggieBlend with Natural Veggie Flavor Parrot & Conure Bird Food was formulated with birds like conures in mind, including flavors like carrots, green beans and beets.
“I tend to be very particular on the fruits that I recommend—so not to give the high sugar, highly domesticated fruit but fruits with less sugar and more phytonutrients,” says Dr. Rolfe.
Some examples include berries, especially wild blueberries, and kiwis, she says—and keep the portions small.
Also known as:
Conures (though there are many types)
Depends on the breed, but these pet parrots can live 20-plus years.
Conures, like most parrot breeds, will consider their humans part of their flock, says Lewis. As long as you can give them lots of love and attention, they are fine alone.
In general, conures aren’t known for their abilities to talk. “There are some that talk, some that talk more than others, and some who never say a word,” Lewis says.
- Avian bornavirus: This virus affects mostly larger parrots, from conures and on up, says Dr. Rolfe, affecting as many as 30 percent of parrots. “It often doesn’t cause any symptoms whatsoever, but in some cases it sets up an autoimmune disease where the bird's immune system starts attacking the nervous system of the bird's body,” she explains. This can include the gastrointestinal tract, which means the bird has problems digesting food, spitting it back up or pooping it out whole.
The most popular bird among adopters is the African grey, Lewis says. The reason: Of all the birds that can talk, the African grey is considered the best talker, which is what attracts people to own one. But besides their talking ability, he says, this medium-size parrot is super intelligent, charming and sociable, making it one of the best parrots for pets.
Ricky Lowrimore of Texas loves the way his African grey is both affectionate and independent. “Irma can astound me sometimes by answering my questions, then other times she can be like a baby and wants her way,” he says. “But I love her best because she knows when I’m sad and she will come to me and cuddle.”
Because they’re so smart, an African grey needs plenty of mental stimulation—foraging and puzzle toys that are stuffed with treats to find, shredding toys, lots of time with you, Lewis says.
“Boredom is a bird's worst enemy. If they start getting bored, that's when bad situations start to happen,” he explains, including shrieking, feather plucking, and aggressive behavior. (It’s fun for your grey to watch you jump when they bite!) They also are addicted to their routine and hate even slight switch ups, Lewis says.
For African greys, Dr. Rolfe says, get a cage that lets your grey flap without touching the sides, and feed a combination of pellets, vegetables and some fruits that are low in sugar and high in phytonutrients (such as papayas, berries and kiwis). Make sure your pet gets their omega-3s, too.
“I recommend getting high quality, fresh grade walnuts in the shell. Let your bird crack the hull and get the meat out or crack it a little so she can get at the meat,” says Dr. Rolfe, who also recommends freezing walnuts so they don’t go rancid.
Also known as:
There are two types of greys, the Congo African grey (CAG) and the Timneh African grey (TAG).
Over 30 years
African greys can be choosy about whom to bestow their love and kisses, says Lewis—usually, they play favorites with one member of the family.
In a word, Wow-worthy. If your idea of a best pet bird includes the ability to speak and understand words and phrases, the African grey is your breed. “We have an African grey who’s a permanent resident at the shelter and after four years she still says new things I've never heard her say almost on a daily basis,” says Lewis. And while not all greys will talk, all of them will imitate the sounds they hear around the house—from the beeps of the smoke detector and microwave to a ringing phone—and repeat them all day long. If you’re sensitive to noise, “that can grate on the nerves in a hurry,” Lewis says.
- Fungal infections: Aspergillus is a fungus, which can be found in your AC or heating systems or from organic debris wafting in from outside. When birds breathe in the spores, this fungus can start growing on their respiratory systems, says Dr. Rolfe. “It’s nasty— it puts all sorts of toxins into the bloodstream, it invades their tissue and eats up their lungs,” she explains. Check and clean the filters of your heating/air conditioning unit.
- Feather picking: Feather picking isn’t just a concern among African greys; it can affect all parrots, Dr. Rolfe says. There are a number of physical ailments that can cause this symptom, including parasites, mites, allergies and diseases, she says. But parrots can pluck their feathers out of boredom, stress, and frustration, too. So, if you see your African grey doing this, take them to the vet.
These medium-size pet parrots are gregarious, Lewis says, which may explain why they tie with the African grey in terms of popularity—7 percent of bird parents have either an Amazon or an African grey, according to the APPA’s survey. These brightly colored outgoing birds are good talkers as well.
Their parents can’t get enough of them. “We love our yellow-naped Amazons because they have so much character. They also have great body language—we know their moods pretty quickly. We were surprised at how affectionate and loving they are, yet we love how feisty they are and how specific their needs and wants are,” says Sunny Updegrove of Ohio, about her two pet parrots, Jalapeno and Miss Rocco.
To give these best pet birds their best lives, provide lots of social interaction, with mentally stimulating toys (foraging, shredding, puzzles) that are changed around weekly, Lewis says. Otherwise, your Amazon will get noisy and destructive because they’re bored.
The JW Pet Hol-ee Roller Bird Toy lets bird parents stuff its casing with foraging materials or treats, and with a bell inside, also works all on its own. Super Bird Creations Bottoms Up Bird Toy presents a different challenge, with see-through canisters that you can fill with treats. It's up to your parrot to figure out how to get them.
You also want to watch your pet bird’s diet (and exercise). “So many of them have obesity issues we actually have to limit even the pellets sometimes,” says Dr. Rolfe. To fill up your Amazon, give them as many vegetables as possible. When you do give your pet parrot fruit, go for ones that are low in sugar and high in nutrients—berries are great choice, while grapes are not, Dr. Rolfe notes.
Also known as:
There are plenty of types of Amazons, including the yellow-naped and orange-winged Amazon.
40 to 50 years
Like all parrots, they need a lot of attention, Lewis says. Babies are especially friendly, so if you get a young bird, put in the time early to get a companionable pet with a (mostly) good disposition. “Eighty percent is nurture and 20 percent is nature,” Lewis says.
Among the best bird pets that can talk, Amazons are prized for their ability to pick up words and phrases. Try these 10 tips to teach your parrot to talk.
- Obesity and heart disease: Amazons tend to become obese, and that puts them at risk for heart disease. One way to prevent heart disease: exercise. “Just allowing your bird to climb up on top of the cage once a day when you get home is not really exercise,” says Dr. Rolfe. “These birds are athletes of the highest order and so aerobic exercise—wing flapping, flight— those are all good things to get them to stay healthy and not have as many cardiac issues over time.”
- Infected nares: A parrot’s nostrils, or nares, are found on the sides of his beak, and they get can infected from a lack of vitamin A or bacteria and fungus in the home (usually coming from an A/C or heating vent), says Katherine Quesenberry, DVM, MPH, chief medical officer at Animal Medical Center in New York City. You’ll see a nasal discharge, either thick and gooey or a thin, clear liquid. Take your pet to the vet so the infection can be cleared up (and the source of the infection can be found).
- Respiratory illnesses: Tropical birds like Amazons can suffer from low humidity during northern winters when indoor heat robs your home of moisture, and become susceptible to respiratory illnesses, Dr. Quesenberry says. She advises Amazon parents to get a cool-mist humidifier, and clean it out regularly to make sure it’s free from mold.
Smaller parrots tie with Amazons and African greys in terms of popularity, according to the APPA survey (all come in at 7 percent). One type of small parrot is the parrotlet, which is even smaller than parakeets. Why is this small parrot on our list? Because parrotlets make for some of the best parrots for pets, especially if you are a first-time parent, Blanchette says. While they may be tiny, parrotlets have big, charismatic personalities and can be trained to do all sorts of things, from stepping onto your finger to turning around or waving, she says.
Again, you’ll want spend quality time with this bird, or else your pet parrotlet can pick at the bars of their cage, rip things apart in your house or pluck at their feathers, Blanchette says. So, like all birds, get a roomy cage, put in plenty of interesting toys that are changed up weekly, and get up close and personal with your bird, Blanchette says.
As with all parrots (and pet birds), you can supplement food pellets with vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli florets) and fruits that are low in sugar, Dr. Rolfe says. Avoid fruits like apples, bananas and oranges for those that are higher in phytonutrients (like papayas and berries), she says.
Also known as:
Pocket parrots. There are several species, including the Pacific parrotlet and green-rumped parrotlet.
15 to 20 years
You can get one parrotlet or two. If you get two, the birds will probably bond more to each other than to you, Blanchette says.
They can be taught to say words, but those words may not be crystal clear, says Blanchette. They’re not as noisy as other types of parrots, so may be the perfect one for apartment dwellers.
- Yeast infections: When parrotlets preen, they’re spreading oil from a gland they (and most pet birds) have at the base of their tails. “They put a very precise and specific type of oil on their skin and feathers. So, when we apply more oils to them, from our hands or from lotions or creams on our bodies, it can actually upset the balance on the skin and lead to overgrowth of yeast or bacteria,” Dr. Rolfe says.
- Accidents: Parrotlets are tiny birds, and can get stepped on accidentally by family members, Dr. Rolfe says, so be sure to supervise when you let them out in the room. If you have dogs or cats in the house, make sure you keep your bird’s cage in a secure area—and always be aware of your other pets’ whereabouts, no matter how friendly or relaxed they seem around your bird, she says.
If your definition of small is somewhat bigger than the pint-sized parrotlet, then consider the pionus, which makes Blanchette’s top 10 list. Pionus parrots are medium-sized, but still smaller than an Amazon or African grey. They’re not as noisy, and are more easy-going with a sweeter disposition than Amazons.
“The blue-headed Pionus makes an excellent pet parrot for first-time bird parents. They are easy to care for, very loving, playful and they have a mellow temper. They can make great apartment birds,” says Silvia Schwarz of California, parent of blue head Aegis.
“They love to learn,” says Blanchette. “The bird needs something to do. They need training. It can be silly as playing soccer with your sock on the floor or taking a piece of a puzzle and putting it in the bowl. All of these things get this bird to think, and how to work in its environment.”
The Polly's Pet Products Fun Roll Bird Toy gives birds an outlet for chewing and shredding instincts with a replacable calculator paper roll.
Feed your Pionus the way you would most other parrots: formulated diets containing mostly pellets and more vegetables, like leafy greens, than fruits, Dr. Rolfe says. “I do find that the general population tends to equate fruit and vegetables as nutritionally equivalent and that doesn't seem to be the case for birds. Vegetables are much more important than fruit in general because of the higher nutrient content, especially the calorie ratio,” she says.
Also known as:
Red-vented parrots. There are eight species of Pionus, including the blue-headed and white-capped Pionus.
About 25-40 years
Pionus thrive on their own as long as they have plenty to do and at least two to four hours of time with you a day (and setting up their food doesn’t count into this quality time), says Blanchette. One thing to note: They aren’t as choosy as the African greys, and can bond with every member of the family, making them one of the best pet birds for families, she says.
They can learn to speak, though their verbalizations probably won’t be as showy as African greys or Amazons, Blanchette says.
- Fungal infections: Like many parrots, a Pionus can breathe in aspergillus spores, which can grow and take over the respiratory systems in birds whose immune and respiratory systems are weakened by stress, poor diet or indoor air pollutants (like cigarette smoke). Try to keep your pet in a well-ventilated room and feed them fresh, nutritious foods.
- Teflon poisoning: Like all pet birds, Pionus parrots are vulnerable to the toxic fumes of non-stick Teflon and PTFE coated pans. Ban them from your kitchen, and use ceramic or nontoxic non-stick pans instead, Dr. Rolfe says.
Six percent of all bird parents keep finches—and yes, finches thrive when kept in pairs, Dr. Staudenmaier says. But to keep them from breeding, get two males or two females. Like canaries, finches can pretty much entertain themselves as long as you give them a wide cage to fly around in, such as the Prevue Pet Products Small Bird Flight Cage, and put it in a room where you hang out, like the family or living room, Dr. Staudenmaier says. To keep them stimulated, get foraging toys and materials for making nests (shredded paper works fine), she says. The Super Bird Creations Paper Party Bird Toy has bright, rolled paper sticks for birds to shred.
Blanchette also recommends several small bowls for putting their food in so they can fly from bowl to bowl. The best foods for finches include pellet-based ones with some seeds mixed in, as well as greens like spinach, watercress and lettuce, Dr. Staudenmaier says. And get two bowls of water, she says—one for bathing, one for drinking, both of which you should change daily.
Also known as:
The three most common types of finches are society, Gouldian and zebra.
About 10 years max.
They’re gregarious birds, Dr. Staudenmaier says, so they do need the company of a (same-sex) mate. And while they don’t really need human interaction, they do like it when you’re in the same room watching their antics. Some finches can be trained to perch on their parents’ finger, she says, but in general they’re not that into human contact.
They don’t talk but they’re very vocal. “Their vocalization sounds like they're gossiping about the humans. The beep, beep, beep, beep—I just think they're very appealing in that way,” says Blanchette.
- Respiratory illnesses: Like canaries, finches have sensitive respiratory systems, so you want to keep them from cigarette smoke, air fresheners and other indoor pollutants, Dr. Staudenmaier says. And like most pet birds, Dr. Rolfe says, they’re susceptible to aspergillus infections.
- Mite infections: These are commonly caught before you bring your finches home, as these tiny blood-sucking arthropods are spread from bird to bird, Dr. Rolfe says. Some examples include air-sac mites, which cause finches to wheeze, or scaly face mites, which deform beaks and feet. Learn more about pet bird mites.
No, they’re not common pet birds—in fact, only 3 percent of bird parents keep doves. But they should be more popular, say experts. Here’s why: Docile and easy-going, doves love hanging out with their humans once they get used to them, says Blanchette.
“They're pretty happy if you just watch TV. They may want you to roll a little bell around to play with. Or they may want to just sit and get petted on the head,” she says. They’re perfect for people who want to keep birds as pets, but don’t (or can’t) invest the time it takes to care for a parrot, she says. And in her experience they don’t bite, Blanchette says, though she adds, “Every bird is different, with different personality and different family environment.”
Doves need a wide cage with several perches and they like bells, toys where they can pull strings (or pieces of hay), and swings, Blanchette says. JW Pet Swing N' Perch Bird Toy provides birds like doves a comfortable place to swing and perch.
For food, give your dove pellets that are especially formulated for doves, says Dr. Rolfe: “There are seed mixes but they tend to get calcium deficiencies with seed mixes.”
Also known as:
Just Doves—but a fun fact about these birds is that they’re closely related to pigeons.
About 10 years.
They take to other doves, but you can keep just one, Blanchette says. And once they get to know you, they stick to your side. Lewis knew one parent whose pet dove loved to fly alongside him as the two went down the hall to the apartment building’s laundry room. How’s that for a constant companion?
- Calcium deficiency: Most of the time your dove will get the calcium they need from a balanced diet. But if they’re more into seeds, try giving them sterilized crushed eggshells or ground-up oyster shells, both good sources for calcium, Dr. Rolfe advises.
- Trichomoniasis: This is a parasite that attacks the mouth and esophagus and is passed from bird to bird. Besides causing diarrhea, the parasite can cause lesions in the bird’s mouth down to their stomach, making it hard for them to eat, Dr. Rolfe says. Keep cages and food and water bowls scrupulously clean, she says, and take your dove to the vet if you notice a sudden loss in appetite.
As you can see, no matter which of the bird breeds you add to your family, a vet can play an important role in your bird’s life.
“You want to pick, ideally, a veterinarian who has shown a strong interest in learning about birds,” Dr. Rolfe says. “They could be board certified in avian medicine like I am, or at least have a strong interest, perhaps as a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians.”
This holds true for all of the top 10 best pet birds, whether you are a beginning bird parent or already a pro.
“Even people who have a lot of long-term bird experience potentially can find new updated useful knowledge,” she adds.