Shopping for a Bird


lovebird-1-1365617-639x511What kind of bird do you want?

The first thing you need to do is decide on the right species. This requires a bit of research and involves you knowing exactly what you want. I have a brief species guide here.

How big do you want your bird? Size plays a large role in other bird characteristics. It can affect noise, the amount you’ll have to spend on a cage and toys, the lifespan and the price. The larger the bird, the more expensive it will be to set up and maintain.

Larger birds generally live longer. Budgies can live up to 15 but often die much earlier due to malnutrition or tumors. Cockatiels and other big smaller birds like conures and Senegals can live from 20-30. Most of the parrots like amazons and African greys can live 50-80. Macaws have been known to make it to 100. A larger bird means a much longer commitment.

In general, the bigger the bird the larger the price tag. Species that are less common or more difficult to breed will also cost more. Galahs and Goffins are both similarly-sized cockatoos but Galahs are far more expensive. Newly-developed colors can also cost quite a bit.

Many parrots scream. If you live in an apartment or can’t handle a loud animal then you need to factor this into your decision. Volume isn’t the only thing to take into account though- if possible, research what your preferred species sound like. Sometimes a particular noise will be bothersome to you but not others.



Each species varies in character and it’s very important to pick one that you can get along with. Some people like cuddlers while others prefer boisterous birds that are more hands-off.

It’s no use picking a species that is very rare and belongs in a breeding program (unless that’s why you’re searching for it). Some species are available year-round while others will have babies at certain times of the year. If you’re adopting you may have a harder time finding your preferred species. Certain states in the U.S. breed more birds and will have a better selection.

This is the last quality in the world to be looking for in a bird. Anyone who picks a species solely on it’s ability to talk is making a grave mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice thing to have, but it’s only the icing on the cake.

Once you’ve decided on a species you still need to buy it. The following are things you need to look for while you’re actually out shopping.

Birds that are moving around in the cage and making lots of noise are often healthy, happy birds.

The bird should look healthy. Colors should be bright. Feathers, eyes, vent, nostrils and everything else should be clean.


This bird is sick. It’s slouching and it’s feathers are a bit ruffled and unkempt.




These birds appear healthy: clear eyes, neat feathers, ACTIVE posture.

Other Birds in the Cage
Check the other birds in the cage. Do they look bad? If so you’d best move along. Maybe they are ill and the one bird you like just isn’t displaying any symptoms yet.

Recently I’ve seen more people pushing others to adopt birds rather than buy a baby. As a breeder I’m obviously biased, but I’ve taken in my share of older birds and I really don’t recommend it to novice owners. You’ll have no idea what kind of behavior problems a used bird may have, nor the experience to combat said problems. Training will be much more difficult. Underlying health problems are also a concern. You just don’t know what you’re getting. If you are new to birds I highly recommend getting a baby from a reputable source. You’ll be starting with a clean slate.

In general don’t buy from pet stores. Their price will be double that of anything offered by a private breeder. Shop around to get an idea of what the usual price is.

Again, avoid pet stores, especially if they are a larger chain like Petco. They have no business selling live animals and often buy animals from large scale wholesalers. The only exception would be a store that specializes in birds and has a good relationship with several reputable breeders.

The seller can tell you a lot about the bird being offered. You want to buy from someone who is knowledgeable, helpful, knows the bird’s history, and is reputable. If the seller is junk most likely the birds will be too.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.