Scientific name: Serinus canarius
Size: Five to seven inches long
Lifespan: Seven to ten years
Ever wonder where wild canaries live? These super singers come from the islands off the northwestern coast of Africa—the Canary Islands, of course! Male canaries are major singers, and will break into a chorus of cheerful melodies. Females like to chill out a little more, and may only peep or warble.
Your canary will prefer a cage that's wider, rather than taller—this'll give her room to fly and hop back and forth. Most canaries don't like to share the same cage, so it's best to keep just one. Some females can get along, but males will fight.
Scientific name: Nymphicus hollandicus
Size: 11 to 14 inches long
Color: Yellow, white or gray with orange splotches
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
These smart, active birds come from the land down under—Australia. Cockatiels love to climb on their cages and play with hanging toys. These movers and shakers prefer tall cages, so they can climb up to the highest perch.
Female cockatiels are real sweeties, while their male counterparts are loud chirpers who can be taught to speak. (Be patient with your bird, though, because not all cockatiels are big talkers.) Both males and females love attention, so you should spend lots of time with them.
Parakeet (also known as budgie or budgerigar)
Scientific name: Melopsitt undulatus
Size: 7 inches long
Color: Green, blue, yellow, turquoise or white
Lifespan: Five to eight years
Parakeets are the most popular pet birds and are super-social with other parakeets. Most of these friendly flappers like to share cages and play with their parakeet pals. They like people, too, and can really make their owners laugh with their parakeet antics. Because they like to climb all over their cages and perches, parakeets prefer tall cages.
Beak speak: If the area above your parakeet's beak (called a cere) is blue, he's probably a boy!
Scientific name: Poephilla guttata
Size: 4 inches long
Color: Grey, black, buff; males have orange cheek patches
Lifespan: Seven to ten years
Finches are the most colorful bird pets, and make lots of different sounds. The males tend to be more colorful—and way sillier! Finches love to hang with each other, and females especially like to live together. If you have two males, make sure they have a large cage—they'll need their space.
It's showtime! Finches are not as loud as some birds, but they really make up for it 'cause they know so many tunes. These guys are major entertainers—and sometimes the males will do dances to impress the females...watch out, Justin Timberlake!
Tweet treat: Feed your new pet bird a pellet mixture that's appropriate for her species. (Ask at the pet-supply store if you're not sure what kind of pellets to buy.)
You should also supplement the bird pellets with fresh fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to cut them up nice and small. Small amounts of hard boiled egg make a tasty snack.
When feeding your bird, put the pellets and fresh foods in separate containers, and remember to remove all leftovers from the cage before they spoil. Pour food and water into special food cups that attach to the sides of the cage.
See ya, seeds: You think your little brother is bad, but birds who eat seeds can be major messy eaters. They may spit seed shells (called hulls) all around their cage. You can give smaller birds pelleted food, which is a lot less messy. The pellets are high in nutrition, but not all birds may like them right away. To see if your bird likes them, try mixing the pellets in with his seed mixture. Little by little, decrease the amount of seed and increase the amount of pellets. You'll be able to tell if your bird is eating the pellets when there aren't any left in the seed cup.
Calci-yum! Head on down to the pet supply store and stock up on cuttlebones, which will supply your bird with calcium.
Home, Sweet Home
Bird house: No matter the species, your bird will need a cage that's large enough for her to stretch her wings and fly short distances. You wouldn't want to be cooped up, would you? It's also important that your bird has several perches so that she can jump up and climb. Make sure they're all different sizes—this way she can exercise her feet—but avoid perches covered with sandpaper. Parakeets and cockatiels like tall cages, because they like to climb, and big hoppers like finches and canaries prefer longer cages that are not as tall.
A typical cage for a parakeet or other small bird should be 25 inches tall and 25 inches from front to back. The bars on the cage should only be .4 inches apart. That's just a little larger than the tips of your fingers. If the bars are any larger, your bird could escape or get stuck between the bars.
The bottom line: Cover the bottom of the cage with paper, and be sure to change it every day. Newspaper is okay to use if it's printed with non-toxic, soy-based ink. (Ask an adult to help you figure out if your newspaper is okay to use.)
The location situation: Where should you keep your bird? Place her cage in a warm part of the house, away from drafts. Do not place the cage in direct sunlight, because this could cause your bird to overheat. Also, remember that the kitchen is not a good place for pet birds, who are super-sensitive to fumes. Self-cleaning ovens and some non-stick pots and pans give off fumes that can make birds sick.
Fun and Games
Bird, bath & beyond: Most birds absolutely love to take baths, so make sure you give your pet separate cups of water for drinking and bathing. There are special covered bird baths that fit right into the cage door. They'll prevent your bird from splashing water all over her cage, and allow you to watch the fun. You can also give your bird a shower with a spray bottle filled with warm water. Don't use soap—that could hurt your pet.
Toy story: Dogs and cats aren’t the only pets who just wanna have fun! Small birds like cockatiels, budgies, finches and canaries like to play with ladders, swings and mirrors with bells. Wooden chew toys are great for keeping your bird’s beak trimmed, too.
You can find toys for your bird at the pet supply store. Just make sure the toys you buy are safe for your bird’s species and are the right size for her.
The magic touch: Some birds like to be handled. If yours does, take great care when getting her used to it. Make sure a responsible adult is present and follow these surefire training tips:
- Never hit your bird. These animals are delicate and can be easily frightened.
- When you are first getting to know your bird, try not to make any sudden movements. Loud noises and los of jumping around could scare her.
- Do not handle your bird for a lengthy period of time. Baby birds especially can tire quickly. Your bird can get easily bumped coming in and out of the cage door, so take extra-special care on the ins and outs.
- Number one rule of bird handling—be GENTLE!