Fall 2023

Flights of fancy

Best pet birds for beginners.

The appeal of pet birds is easy to understand. Many species kept as pets are beautiful, affectionate and endlessly entertaining.

They are not, however, the effortless pets many believe them to be. When bird lovers say their parrots are like toddlers, they’re not just talking about intelligence. Like toddlers, many parrots can be messy, loud and prone to tantrums—even biting. Even birds known for their ability to talk may not be interested in conversing, or they may pick up sounds you’d rather not hear constantly repeated, such as doorbells or alarms.

If you’re just starting to think about adding a pet bird to your family but you’ve never kept one before, some types are more beginner-friendly than others. While the following are good “beginner birds,” they are also wonderful pets on their own for any level of bird lover.

Budgerigars (budgies)

Portrait of a blue, male baby budgie, In a cage. Shallow depth of field

If hand-raised from hatching or patiently hand-tamed, budgies can be affectionate and snuggly. Often, but incorrectly, called parakeets in the United States, budgies are the most popular of pet bird species. They come in two common varieties: the slender American and the beefier English. These days, selective breeding has made available colors beyond the traditional green or blue. While most think of larger parrots as the talkative sort, budgies can be very good at picking up words and phrases. In fact, some have been known to speak more than 300 words!

Budgies are playful and inquisitive, so be sure to rotate toys in your pet’s cage to keep their brains healthy. With proper care, you’ll have your budgie for up to 10-15 years. They love the company of their own kind, so keep a pair of them if you can. 

Canaries and other finches

A caged yellow canary eats green grass.

Canaries may be the best-known of the finches because of their joyful singing. They’ve been bred for centuries for their singing abilities as well as their appearance, which can vary widely from the classic “canary yellow” bird most recognize. If your bird’s ability to croon is essential to you, choose a male and listen to them sing before making them part of your family.

Other finches can also be colorful, lively pets. Zebra and society finches are most often recommended as good for beginners and do best with other finches for company.

Canaries and other finches are generally “hands-off” birds: Give them a large cage with room to fly and enjoy their activities and twittering. If you can find a hand-raised canary or finch, you may be able to manage more interactions, but in general, these little birds are happiest left alone with others of their kind. Expect them to live 10 years or more with proper care.

Peach-faced lovebirds, parrotlets and cockatiels

A cute peach-faced lovebird with colorful feathers on a blurred background

Smaller parrots, both well-known and less so, can be good for beginners. Most popular among these is the cockatiel. With proper care, they can live into their late teens, and they are engaging and often affectionate. Whistling is more their thing than talking, but some will learn a few words. Cockatiels come in many colors and patterns.  

Peach-faced lovebirds don’t have to live in couples, but they will have a happier life if you do keep them in company. Snuggly if hand-raised or patiently tamed, these birds are mischievous and like to keep busy. Like cockatiels, they’re whistlers more than talkers, and they like to chatter in their own lovebird language. They can live to be 20, but 12 to 15 is a more common lifespan.  

Parrotlets are an underappreciated pet bird, and they’d like you to know they may be tiny, but they are tough. In fact, they’ve got a reputation for picking fights with birds far larger than they are, so be prepared to protect them from their own worst impulses. They typically come in blue or bright green, and some will learn to talk. Normal lifespan is 11-13 years, but some live into their late teens. 

Pionus and Senegal parrots

Senegal parrot on a perch on a blue background.

Now we’re getting into something more like what many think of when they think of parrots. The Pionus and Senegal parrots (and the Senegal’s relatives, the Meyer’s and Jardine) are easy-going birds that are relatively quiet compared to many other species, such as the conures. As with many other parrots, both species can live a very long time: 30 years for the Senegal, and more than 40 for the Pionus.

The Senegal is a tad larger than a cockatiel and loves whistling more than talking (although some will learn a few words). They are very affectionate and love a good neck-scratch.

The Pionus can be hard to find, but several varieties are available as pets. The problem? They’re not as flashy as other parrots, and their subtle colors can be seen as drab. But don’t judge a bird by their feathers! The Pionus is sweet-natured and loves affection from their people.

Chickens

Red chicken stands on the ground in the back yard at midday in summe

Fans of these fowl call them “pets with benefits,” because, yes, they lay eggs! Or rather, the hens do. Roosters can be noisy and even aggressive (and are often illegal to keep in urban or suburban settings), so most pet chickens are female. While your birds will enjoy a coop and outdoor space, some people keep them as apartment pets—with chicken diapers to keep things neater.

Some breeds are known for their affectionate, laid-back natures. Among these are the Buff Orpingtons (known as the “golden retriever of chickens”) and the Speckled Sussex as well as the very common Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks. Silkies are good pets among the small chickens (known as banties), but since the smaller chicken breeds are typically not sexed at birth you always run the higher risk of ending up with a rooster.

Chickens usually live between 5 and 10 years with proper care, but don’t count on eggs all that time; as hens age, they lay fewer and fewer eggs until they are done laying entirely.

Whatever type of bird you get, establish a relationship with a veterinarian who routinely treats pet birds. Birds tend to hide their illnesses until they’re very advanced, which makes regular preventive care and good husbandry especially important.

Bird insurance

If you’re thinking about adding a bird to your family, consider protecting them with pet insurance. Nationwide offers affordable coverage for many varieties of pet birds. For a no-obligation quote, call 844-397-8937.

Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet

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