Cage birds have been valued for thousands of years and, especially in the last three or four centuries, they have been bred extensively in captivity. Most pet birds legally offered for sale today are many generations removed from the wild. Regrettably, many of these species are threatened in the wild due to a thriving bird smuggling trade.
There are a number of reasons why people love to keep birds. The amazing ability of some birds to use human speech is probably the most compelling. Some of the finches, particularly canaries, are known for their beautiful song; these birds, along with the parrots, also tend to have colourful plumage. Parrots, mynahs, and crows all interact with people and can become quite affectionate, while doves are often bred for show, or are trained as homing pigeons or racers.
The most common types of cage birds can be divided into six groups: finches, parrots, mynahs, doves, toucans, and crows. Of these, the finches and parrots far outnumber the rest as pets.
Finches: Finches, Waxbills, and Weavers
Small colorful birds that do well as cage birds or in aviaries belong to the finches, waxbills, and weavers, but are often collectively referred to as finches. In general, these birds:
- do well in pairs or small groups and breed well in captivity.
- have bright plumage. (Some colours have been developed through selective breeding.)
- are quiet and not destructive. Some, particularly the canary, sing beautifully.
- don’t talk.
- remain in their cages and interact very little with people.
- live about seven years.
- eat seeds, greens, and invertebrates.
Parrots: Parrots, Budgerigars, Cockatiels, Parakeets, Lovebirds, Parrotlets, and Conures
Many different varieties of cage birds fall into the parrot category. Some, like budgies and lovebirds are small while others are quite large birds. Generally, parrots:
- do well as single birds as long as they have human interaction.
- have bright showy plumage.
- are noisy and tend to be destructive of their surroundings.
- can learn to talk. Budgerigars and African Grey Parrots are accomplished speakers.
- need time out of the cage to exercise and interact with their owners. These birds like to sit in pockets, on shoulders, on arms etc.
- live from four to 80+ years , depending on the species.
- eat seeds, greens, and fresh fruit.
Choosing a Pet Bird
The popular pet bird species vary significantly—be careful to choose one with the characteristics you’re looking for in a pet. Before choosing a pet bird, research the various kinds available to be sure you can provide the required level of care and interaction, and that you can afford the often considerable expense of keeping a cage bird over the long term. It’s also wise to investigate whether there is an avian veterinarian in your community: dealing with avian health problems is difficult if there is no professional expertise available.