Birds can make for some of the most gentle, friendly, and long-lived pets you can invite into your home. The Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital vets give their recommendations on the best types of companion birds to brighten up your home.
The Types of Birds Pet Owners Love
While Birds make for excellent companions, not all birds take equally well to domesticated life.
Listed below are 10 of the most common types of pet birds. They are all friendly, intelligent species capable of learning a few tricks and adding some colorful plumage to your home! Some of them can even hold something of a conversation, with a little work!
Every bird has different needs for excellent care, so we are here to help you choose a feathery friend that is right for your lifestyle.
When you're shopping for all types of pet birds, always buy from a reputable breeder or bird store. Healthy and well-socialized birds will make the best pets.
Parakeets (AKA Budgies or Budgerigars)
Parakeets are perhaps the most popular type of pet bird the world over. They are exceptionally affectionate and friendly companion birds when properly trained and cared for.
Parakeets are among the most low-maintenance types of birds kept as pets, being among the smallest companion birds as well as relatively easy to train in their youth. Males especially are known to be great birds for first-time owners, as they bond easily with their owners and are simple to train.
Noted for their beautiful and varied feathers, parakeets are very active and playful birds eager to please; parakeets are talking birds who can be taught to mimic spoken phrases as a delightful party trick.
When left to their own devices, parakeets are singing birds, filling your home with the sounds of happy chirping! Parakeets can be kept as single pets or in pairs. Once you've settled in and trained your first parakeet, they are great birds to consider adding a second, as they'll love having a playmate when you're away!
Weight: 1 ounce
Length: 6 to 8 inches
Lifespan: When cared for properly a pet budgie has a life expectancy of 7 -15 years
Physical Characteristics: Found in a variety of colors including neon green, yellow, blue, violet, and more with black bars on the head, wings, and back.
Cockatiels are among the most communitive and emotional birds. Famed for the crest on the top of their head, they use it to communicate exactly how they are feeling to their flock (in this case, you!)
The crest on top of a cockatiel's head indicates the bird’s emotional state; a flattened head crest means the bird is fearful or angry; a completely vertical crest indicates your cockatiel is startled or excited.
While some manage to train their cockatiels to talk, they are much more well-known for their quirk of mimicking sounds around them including phones, alarms, and even outdoor birds.
Female Cockatiels are among the most gentle of avian pets, while male cockatiels have a little extra spunk and are more inclined to mimic sounds and perform for their owners.
Perhaps the cutest thing about Cockatiels is their trademark whistle, be sure to watch out for it; if they whistle for you, it’s a compliment, cockatiels are the type of bird that whistles at things they like!
A member of the parrot family, these smart little birds crave social interaction and require an owner who can provide them with the time and attention they need to thrive and prevent loneliness, or depression. It’s recommended to keep cockatiels in pairs so they do not get lonely when you have to leave the home; single cockatiels can be kept as pets, but they require near-constant attention from their owner to stay in high spirits. Another thing to consider before adopting cockatiels is that they require a very large cage filled with perches to get the right amount of exercise and feel comfortable in their home, so make sure you have enough space for a proper cockatiel habitat set aside.
Weight: 3 ounces
Length: 12 to 13 inches (adults)
Physical Characteristics: Predominantly gray feathers with orange spots around the ears and yellow and white accents. Males are yellow-headed while females are almost completely gray.
Lifespan: With proper love and care a pet cockatiel can easily live for 15 - 20 years. In rare cases, these birds have been known to live for as long as 30 years.
Though they’ll enjoy your time together, doves typically aren’t overly demanding of their owners’ time or attention. This makes doves the ideal type of pet bird for owners with busier schedules or who cannot be home all the time. These birds are easygoing; when you do handle or hand feeds them, doves can be incredibly gentle and sweet domestic pets.
They nonetheless are, like most birds, social creatures and if kept alone should get plenty of time to fly about and interact with their human caretakers. Doves are great pets for older children who can understand the importance of gentle handling. Many dove owners love them for their soothing coos.
Unlike parrots, doves cannot climb up and down cage bars but instead need to fly from perch to perch, this necessitates a huge cage for the tiny birds to feel at home.
Weight: 5 to 8 ounces
Length: 11 to 13 inches
Physical Characteristics: Brown and dull gray feathers, black eyes, beak, and a collar surrounding the neck. Alternative colors include orange, white, and pied (ring-necked doves).
Lifespan: When well cared for a pet dove can live from 8 -15 years depending on the species.
For centuries the canary has been a popular companion for birdkeepers. Canaries are a diverse bunch, having been bred into more than 200 breeds, each with its appearance and temperament.
Canaries are shyer than other birds on this list and do not like to be handled, so you might need to put in a little extra work to overcome their timid nature and bond with your new friend after taking a Canary home. Much like doves, canaries require a large flight cage to stay happy and healthy.
Canaries are famed for their singing voice, but it is only the males who sing. If you're looking to befriend a flighted bard to serenade your home a male canary may be the pet for you, while those seeking a more quiet friendship should look into caring for a female canary.
Weight: Less than 1 ounce
Length: 4 to 8 inches
Physical Characteristics: These lovely birds can be yellow or green, bright orange or brown. Known for their vibrant color and ability to carry a tune, canaries are ideal if you’re a beginner who isn’t sure if you want a bird that requires a lot of attention. While they’d prefer not to be handled, canaries are happy to play the entertaining beauty. But beware, these little birds are fragile and can be easily frightened.
Lifespan: Canaries typically live for between 9-10 years if well cared for, although in rare cases these little birds can live for 15 years or even longer!
The mighty hyacinth macaw is the largest of all parrots. Not everyone has the space to care for these gentle giants, but those who do can be rewarded with an enduring and deep friendship with these incredibly social and cuddly birds.
Hyacinth macaws love to be handled by their owners and want nothing more than your affection. Their cobalt blue plumage is incredibly eye-catching, and the yellow around their eyes and curved beak gives the appearance of a perpetual smile!
Hyacinth macaws are pricier than most types of pet birds and require a well above average sized space to call their own, but those with the means to care for these beautiful boys can have a lifelong companion, as these parrots are known to live for over 30 years when properly cared for.
Weight: 42 to 51 ounces
Length: 40 inches
Lifespan: Often live 30+ years
Physical Characteristics: Solid blue plumage; yellow patches around eyes and beak; black beak; dark gray feet
The complete opposite of their titanous cousin the hyacinth macaw, the lovebird is the smallest type of pet bird belonging to the parrot family.
These little birds shouldn't be passed over, however, as they have all the personality and affection of their larger counterparts. Lovebirds are named for the loving attentive bonds they form with their mates, as well as their owners. Lovebirds do not need to be kept in pairs, as many believe they do, and a single bird is best if you want an animal that's eagerly bonded to its human flock. With that said, owning a pair of lovebirds can also make for great companionship without as much pressure on owners to provide for all their social needs.
Lovebirds are not the easiest pet birds to care for--while they are easier pets than larger parrots, they are still a step up from other common kinds of pet birds known for being more gentle like doves and parakeets. Lovebirds are known to test boundaries and occasionally try to show dominance through nipping or aggression, so they are perhaps not the best choice for households with young children.
Weight: 2 ounces
Length: 5 to 6 inches
Lifespan: Properly cared for lovebirds can easily eclipse lifespans of 20+ years
Physical Characteristics: Mostly green, orange upper body and head, blue lower back and rump, red beak, white eyerings
African Grey Parrots
African grey parrots are a poor choice for first-time bird owners, but many veteran bird keepers have fallen in love with these demanding companions. African grey parrots are believed to be the smartest birds in the world and are capable of learning a huge vocabulary. Some African grey parrot owners report that their birds often seem to speak in context, and are very in tune with their handler's emotions.
Because of their outsized intelligence, these parrots need somewhere in the vicinity of 5 hours of stimulation every day to keep from falling into boredom or depression. They are easy to train once one is familiar with using positive reinforcement and operant conditioning as training methods, but some learning will be required for inexperienced bird owners, but the attention demanded by these birds makes them a more advanced type of pet bird than most others. Those looking to make a serious commitment to a forever friend can find an intelligent and loving companion in an African grey parrot.
Weight: 15 to 18 ounces
Length: 13 inches
Lifespan: Often live 30+ years
Physical Characteristics: Varying shades of gray on the body; with striking red tail feathers
Pionus parrots are most renowned for being affectionate birds that still maintain their independence. While they're happy to socialize with their owners, this type of pet bird will be ok spending long hours on their own to amuse themselves with toys or exercise.
They are of medium size and require 3+ hours outside the cage every day to exercise, but are low maintenance compared to parrots of similar size and intelligence. Pionus parrots make for great first parrots, especially compared to more demanding macaws.
Because they are laid-back and relatively quiet birds, they are a great type of pet bird for apartment dwellers
Weight: 8 to 9 ounces
Length: 11 inches
Lifespan: Often live 30 + years
Physical Characteristics: Blue head and neck; green body; black patches over ears; red on the underside of the tail; black beak with red sides
The South American green-cheeked conure thrives on spending time socializing with their caretakers. Known to be a little mischievous, these intelligent and playful pranksters bond with their owners through their charming personalities and showmanship.
Compared to other species of conure, this type of pet bird tends to be much quieter, they will rarely learn how to talk.
If you're looking for a very friendly companion who is a little on the quieter side, then a green-cheeked conure might be perfect for you!
Weight: 2 to 3 ounces
Length: 10 to 11 inches
Physical Characteristics: Mostly green with gray head and breast, blue-tipped wings, and maroon tail. Other colors include yellow, cinnamon, and turquoise.
Lifespan: With plenty of love and attention these friendly birds can live as long as 30 years.
These are just some of the most popular types of pet birds, if you would like advice on how to choose the bird that's right for you, our Mooresville vets might be able to help.