Birds of all sizes and varieties -- from macaws to finches,
owls and condors -- have been blessed with the gift of voice
and the ability to use it continuously, day after day.
A bird's vocal organ is never without air and
that organ, the syrinx, allows them to sing two notes at a
time. The significance to you: They are noisy pets.
Despite this, they are wonderfully intelligent
companions that are growing in popularity because they are
pretty to look at and quite independent. If your home is your
sanctuary, a bird will make it your aviary.
Caring for birds is not difficult, but they
have special needs. They like to be active, to be challenged
and must be housed in a place that is not too hot or cold.
Some need 12 hours of darkness or sleep and most love human
interaction or other bird companions. They should all be released
from their cages periodically to explore their surroundings.
You should be sure that a bird is the right
pet for you before taking one home. If your home has glass
doors and other such "hazards," it might be too
costly to bird proof and too dangerous for the bird to live
Some birds in the parrot family will talk in
your language, imitate you and other family members, or the
ringing of your phone and doorbell, so be prepared for false
alarms. Male canaries will sing you to sleep and wake you
up with song in the mornings, so the less vocal female might
be more appealing to some.
Birds have different behavioral patterns but
all will adapt -- though noisily -- to the atmosphere of your
home. Watching the family's activities will keep them entertained
and will also prod them to speak or screech at about the same
volume level as your family interacts.
Some birds, such as finches and lovebirds, are
less vocal than others, but they all love to scream at times.
It's their way of communicating when playing, mating or talking
with you and other birds. It's not always a sign of unhappiness.
A parakeet, lovebird or finch is an ideal choice
for the home, but birds of prey, such as an owl, are not.
The feeding habits of such birds will make caring for them
Marc Morrone, curator for Parrots
of the World in Long Island, N.Y., says the cost of bird
supplies can be as low as $100 a year, or run into thousands
of dollars, depending on the type and number of birds you
The colorful macaw can cost as much as $2,500,
and a bird that size will need a bigger cage and more to eat
than the smaller lovebird, which costs around $125.
Buying your bird and getting everything set
up will probably be the most-expensive part. You'll need a
suitable cage, a cage cover, food cup, millet spray, perches,
vitamins, nesting material, cuttlebones and toys.
Cages range from $12 to hundreds of dollars.
Individual grooming products such as bird gravel to aid digestion
and wheat germ oil to promote bright healthy feathers range
from $5 to $12. Birds eat easy-to-find foods such as pellets,
seeds, fruits and veggies which can cost $100 or more annually.
Your bird will need to visit a veterinarian
about once a year, says Morrone. Expect to pay around $100.
You can keep costly vet visits to a minimum by maintaining
your bird's health. Keep your bird cage clean, the bird well
fed and allow it to do what is instinctive. Yes, your bird
needs to fly sometimes, so you'll need to consult your vet
or another expert about clipping its wings and accomplishing
this safely without losing your pet.
Molting is an important stage in your bird's
life. It will shed its feathers and can become restless during
this process. Be aware of it but don't try to help by pulling
feathers for the bird. Allow it to shed naturally and carry
out its usual grooming. The feathers will grow again and if
they don't, you'll need to see your vet.
Bigger birds such as macaws can live for 40
to 50 years, and smaller ones, such as canaries, live seven
to 10 years on average.