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The Care of Birds as Pet Companions

Apr 01, 2021 02:08PM ● By Linda T. Stern
There are many species of birds that are pursued as pets. They come in a variety of sizes, personalities and care requirements.  It is important to research in detail the species of interest to ensure that all their needs will be met. Regular health exams by an avian veterinarian are just as important. 

In the wild, birds are flock animals and a weakness will cause an individual to be kicked out of the flock. For survival, birds hide illness. Slight behavior changes are cause for concern; avian patients may be more ill than they demonstrate.  

When it is not possible to monitor the activity of a pet bird, it should be housed in a cage. The cage should be large enough so that the bird can have a full wing span and large enough for extension of their tail. Toys should not impede this. Toys should also be interactive and safe. String and cloth toys can be swallowed and cause blockages.

In addition, the cage should not be taller than the bird’s human companion. Dominance is expressed by how high a bird is perched. Allowing a bird to perch higher than their human companion tells a bird that it is the boss, which can create behavior and aggression problems. As a result, a larger bird should never be allowed to perch on a human’s shoulder

Birds need full-spectrum lighting to meet their needs. Indoor environmental temperature may be a factor as well.  Feeding a proper diet is very important. Each species has their own specific level of nutritional needs. 

Formulated pellets help to fulfill those needs. An unbalanced diet can be a major cause of health problems. For example, Cockatoos and African Greys have a high need for nutrients such as calcium. Seed diets are missing 20 to 40 essential nutrients. Most people feed seed diets, which provide calories but not a balanced diet. Fruit is mostly sugar and provides little to no nutrients. Vegetables that are starchy, such as corn, are poor choices as well. Seek guidance from an avian veterinarian about specific dietary needs.

Establishing an area where a pet bird can experience flight is optimal, but not always practical. Birds can easily escape to the outdoors or get injured in ceiling fans. It is important to note that clipped wings do not stop birds from taking flight. A bird can be exercised by playing interactive games. This keeps their mind active since most birds are fairly intelligent.    

Spend time researching before making a commitment to keep a bird as a pet. Learn about breed, size, temperament, personality and aggressive tendencies. Be prepared to train a bird according to size and disposition. 

Linda T. Stern, DVM MS CVA, is the owner of Healing Creatures Animal Hospital, located at 3300 Hartzdale Dr., Ste. 108, in Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-730-3755 or visit