Advice about Birds

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where to buy a pet bird

March 2008

Hi, we are looking for a pet bird for my son and because I don't know so much about birds I'm looking for a good store where I can get sound advice and a bird. We are considering a parakeet, a lovebird or a cockatiel based on the research done so far. We are looking for a friendly interesting pet that doesn't mind an active household. Not so excited about going to Petco or such, also I've heard that you should consider going directly to a breeder. I haven't gone to anywhere yet because I'm afraid I'll come home with a bird before I finish my homework. Any advice would be helpful, thanks Doris

Your Basic Bird, of course. Pet shop on College Ave, near Ashby. They know their birds! Laura
Your Basic Bird, in Berkeley on College Avenue near Ashby.
I recommend Your Basic Bird on College Ave in the Elmwood. We got two parakeets there several years ago for our three sons - they were very helpful and knowledgable. Our boys loved their birds - who sadly flew away a couple of years later during a cage cleaning mishap! I would suggest that you really work with your child to finger-train the bird(s) from the get-go. We got a bit lax about it and consequently it was sometimes difficult to get the birds back in the cages after letting them fly about a bit. I would also suggest that before you get the bird you get some books from the library about pet birds. Lastly I have two birdcages and some accessories on which I would be happy to make you a good deal. Lisa 652-8668. Bird mom
Try Your Basic Bird on College near Ashby. They are very nice and knowledgeable. rb
I got my cockatiel at Your Basic Bird on College near Ashby. Very knowledgeable staff, and you can come in and see lots of different birds before picking one out. There may or may not be one available when you come in - I had to wait til the babies were weaned before I could get one. I handled it a lot when it was a baby, and she's now very affectionate and cuddly with me. Birds can be great pets - enjoy! bird mom
Hi, I hope this makes it in time for the newsletter.

I am glad you are slowly working up to buying a pet bird. We have 3 birds and they are a bit of work. We wouldn't have them at all if my husband wasn't a bird guy. He tamed and raised birds for pet stores in his backyard aviary during high school. I love animals, but birds are a world apart from cats, dogs, and fish. I absolutely love our birds, but they need very special handling.

Okay, that said, I can recommend Feathered Follies in Lafayette. Their shop is on Mt. Diablo, just past Boswell's party store. I would recommend stopping in once a week or so, talking to the staff about your lack of bird experience and asking a ton of questions. As you get more comfortable, they will let you handle some of the birds. You are on the right track with a parakeet. they are sweet birds and not too bitey. We have a conure that is a little fiesty and needs a firm hand with the training, which my husband provides the best. Biting birds scare the crap out of me. (Too much Hitchcock at an early age, perhaps?)

My daughter has two lovely finches, which we call aquarium birds, because they don't come out of their cages. If you do let them out, say good bye because they will fly away. They might be good starter birds.

Most birds will live a pretty long time. The bigger the bird, the longer they live, which is the opposite of dog breeds. The biggest danger to birds is carelessness of the owners: poor diet, exposure to other pets, and especially exposure to cleaning products!! (Don't spray anything at all in the same room as a bird. And move them into the garage if you are cleaning your oven.)

I don't want to scare you off, but please take bird ownership seriously. They are highly intelligent and sensitive pets. They are beautiful, fun, and so very entertaining, to be sure, but they require a well educated owner. You are doing the right thing by asking a bunch of questions before you take the plunge. Bird Lady

Parakeets as Pets

Dec 2006

Does anyone have experience with parakeets as pets? My 6yo daughter is allergic to dogs and cats, so we hope a parakeet would be OK. Specifically, I wondered about:
-- Are they OK for a weekend by themselves, or does someone need to visit them?
-- Does one do OK, or do they need another for company?
-- How much of a parakeet's care could a 6yo do herself?
-- Do they get sick often or spead disease?
Any info would be helpful. Thanks Rachel

Hi -- When I moved into a smaller place I got a parakeet, ostensibly for my son. Well, the bird apparently was traumatized by his move from the petstore (where the clerk grabbed him roughly and stuck him in a box) to his new home. The first time my son tried to interact he also made the error (despite warnings) of plunging his hand into the cage. More trauma. The poor bird will not allow anyone to extend a finger too close -- he nips very gently, not to hurt, just to warn. My son has given up on him and has complained that he's ''no fun.'' But I enjoy his company; he will now chirp to me and come out of the cage and ''socialize'' as long as I don't try to touch him. I have heard of birds who are very social and sit on peoples' shoulders, etc., but there's no guarantee that your particular parakeet will be fun. They're not mammals -- not cuddly. I like mine, but kids could potentially be disappointed parakeet mama
When I was little we had a parakeet as a pet. His name was Junior and from my memory we had him for several years. We let him out of the cage daily and he'd fly around, sit on our heads, shoulders, walk around on the table while we were eating, eat off of our plates. We lived in an apartment and couldn't have dogs or cats. Junior was definately part of the family. You can leave parakeets alone for a day or two if they have plenty of food and water (they get lonely though). They open their bird seed and take out the inside and leave the empty seed in their dish so sometimes it looks like they have food when there is be careful about that. They like toys...mirrors, bells, etc, and company. I think because we let Junior out all the time he didn't need a companion...he had us.

He never got sick...unfortunately because he flew around the house he was injured one day(no details) and died, so if you give a parakeet (or any small critter) run of the house you have to be really careful about their safety as well. Good luck and have fun anon

Parakeets can make good pets; with proper attention they can be entertaining and affectionate. If you are planning to leave them alone for extended periods of time, then I would have two..birds do get lonely/bored and need stimulation. The tradeoff is that if you have two, the birds will tend to bond more with each other and be less interested/affectionate with people, but with enough attention to the birds, having it both ways is not impossible.

My best advice is to visit Claudia at the wonderful store ''Your Basic Bird'' on College Ave. They have been there for decades and will be happy to share a wealth of advice on my different birds. They also board birds, which you will want to do if you're away more than overnight. Ben

I haven't had a parakeet for years, so i hope it's okay for me to respond to this question, but we've had a cockatiel for over 10 years now. Cockatiels are a little larger than budgies, but very, very sweet birds, and may be worth considering as well. (We got ours at ''Your Basic Bird'' in Rockridge, who I'm sure could answer many of your questions too.)

Taking care of the bird is very easy, and would be manageable by a 6-year old. There's changing the water, making sure she has enough food, and occasionally cleaning out the cage, which is lined with newspaper. The clipping of wings and nails is an adult task, and clipping the we let ''Your Basic Bird'' handle.

The other thing birds could use - especially if you only get one - is attention. It wouldn't be a good idea to get a single bird if you're just going to ignore him/her for a while. But as they basically need just food and water, we can easily leave ours alone for a whole weekend without worrying about it.

And again, speaking only from personal experience, our bird seldom gets sick, nor has she ever passed along any disease to us. Mike

Wild birds - is it right to feed them?

March 2006

I'd like to set up a bird-feeder for my self and my daughter. Would anyone be interested in sharing their informed opinion about whether it is right or not to feed wild birds?
Looking for nature experiences in our Berkeley backyard

Whether it's right or not, you should know that birdseed will attract not only birds, but also rodents -- and I don't just mean squirrels. I had this problem back when I had a yard and a bird feeder. Why not plant things in your yard that will attract birds instead? California fuschia is one of many choices to attract hummingbirds. You can also plant things that will attract butterflies. I don't know which plants attract what, but I know there's books on the subject. That's what I'd do if I had a yard (these days, alas, I'm living in a yardless apartment). Diane
I didn't read the original post but I was just thinking about this today. With the threat of bird flu and it's likely arrival in this country this spring it seems to me that attracting birds at all might be potentially hazardous. So much for letting my kids feed birds out at the park etc... being cautious
I love to feed the birds and watch birds. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. Lots of bird watchers feed birds. Many nature centers that educate about the local wildlife and especially birds will often put in place a birdfeeding station so that you have an opportunity to see local birds. It is a wonderful way to introduce a child to the world of nature. Birds are fascinating to watch. The only draw back to feeding birds is that you might attract small rodents at night and squirrels by day. But there are ways of making this a minimal problem. I have been feeding birds for over ten years. My 5 year old duaghter loves watching the birds. She is becoming a very observent little bird watcher. She is also learning the names of the different kinds of birds and comes up with her own bird feeder ideas. I can give you lots of suggestions, ideas and advice on how to start, where to shop, what kind of books to get, what local birds you might expect to see, etc. There is not enough spaces here to write it all down. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you may have. Laurey

Parrots & babies?

March 2004

Anyone have experience with parrots or similar birds and new babies? Most of what I've read has been about preparing the bird emotionally for a new family member, which is indeed important. We are concerned as well about: The bird, who is a loud African Grey, waking the baby at inopportune times (and waking us as well!) The safety of the kid around the birds (we also have a conure), both of which bite. Giving the birds enough attention when the new baby arrives. I would like to hear from those who have been able to raise kids with large birds in the house and also those who may have had to give up pets whan their families expanded. We're not sure what's best to do. Thank you! Liz

I had a Meyer's parrot when my son was born. I had had my parrot for about 5 years already and she was very attached to me but a bit aggressive (hissing at, trying to bite to signal him to stay away) towards my husband who was always very sweet to her. I should mention we also have 2 dogs and due to an incident early on, I would never let the parrot out when the dogs were inside in the house. This already was a tough situation (which you might not have) but once the baby came it got even worse. I was too exhausted to put the dogs outside for parrot play time regularly and I Was worried that the parrot might land on the baby and hurt him. The upshot being that I felt worse and worse about the lack of interaction I was giving my parrot and even posted to this newsletter. In the end one of my close friends who used to babysit her when I was single and travelling for business agreed to take her and she has a great home there where she is out all evening when they are home. It was a better compromise for my situation although I will say that even when she squaked loudly and woke my husband and I up, she never woke the baby (he was just used to it). I don't know if this helps you but although I miss my parrot, I made the right decision because she has a much better life and i had more energy to devote to my son since parrots can be quite time- intensive pets.
Sorry if this is not the optimism you were looking for.

Which kind of pet bird for 5 year old?

Jan 2004

He's a dog person, I'm a cat person, and (after the death of the hermit crabs)we have settled--along with our 5 year old daughter--on getting a parakeet type bird as a pet. I'm interested in recommendations for exact types of birds, where to buy it and its paraphenalia, and any caveats that experienced bird owners may have. Thank you!

Parakeet type birds fall under the category of hook-billed or parrot type birds.Cockatiels are especially wonderful! However, before you buy a bird of this kind, you must consider one important factor. These birds require a lot of care and attention. I use to have a cockatiel. He lived for 8 years. They actually can live for 15 years! He was a wonderful little bird. I got him young so I was able to train him how to whistle tunes. He was very tame and we developed a strong bond. It was like having a very small child or baby. He was a happy bird. Cockatiels are highly social birds, as all hook-billed/parrot type birds are. They do very well with lots of attention. All too often parents will buy a cockatiel for their child thinking that it will be an easy ''care- free'' pet. What typically happens is that the parents and the child don't really have the extra time or enthusiasm to put all their attention and effort into taming and bonding with the bird. As a result the child looses interest and the parent ends up with the full responsibility of caring and feeding a very bored and unhappy bird. Eventually the parent feels sorry for the ignored pet and decides that it is time to give the bird away. Before you go out and buy a bird I highly recommend going to a library and checking out books on cockatiels and parakeets(budgies). You really need to know what kind of care goes into these kinds of birds. Good luck. Laurey
Parakeets are good ''starter'' birds: easy to care for and full of personality. They can be hand-tamed, and some learn to talk a bit.

There's a great book called Birds for Dummies which goes into some detail on the personalities and care needs of different kinds of pet birds. I found it to be a helpful resource in making a decision when I was looking into getting a small bird several years ago. It has excellent up-to-date info on bird care as well.

Please consider adopting a bird in need before going to a pet store (particularly one of the large chain stores) or breeder. Mickaboo Cockatiel Rescue is one local bird rescue organization you might check out (disclosure: I have adopted from them in the past and have fostered a few birds for them as well). You can learn more about them at

Good luck! Deirdre mrsdeirdre

We recommend Your Basic Bird in Elmwood! They are kind and knowledgeable, with happy, healthy birds. They also board birds, a helpful service. We have loved our four budgies (budgerigars), who have had personalities as distinct and fun as any dog or cat. Our advice: Get a young bird (some say males are more likely to bond and talk). Spend lots of time with it--you are its flock! Keep cage in the spot where you all spend your time, not a child's bedroom. Talk, sing, whistle to it. Perhaps avoid mirror toys, which it will respond to as if another bird, since you want it to bond with you. Consider letting the bird out to fly or visit you in your house, if you can do so safely. (Obviously, extreme caution is necessary here, especially if you do not have the bird's wings clipped. We have chosen to keep our birds' wings unclipped so that they can enjoy flying inside, but doing so definitely involves more work.) If you find that your bird isn't getting enough attention or company, consider getting it a bird companion. In case you need a vet, look at ones with specific avian expertise. We had a positive experience with Montclair Veterinary Clinic. Bird lover
I hope to convince you to find another solution as a person who has had many birds as pets over my lifetime. I realized after I had to find a new home for my sexually frustrated love bird that birds really are not designed to be good pets in the same way that dogs and cats are.

I think the biggest problem you are likely to encounter is a major disappointment for your 5-year-old. Birds tend to bond with one member of the family and can become very hostile to other members. On the other hand if they don't bond with anyone then they aren't a very interactive pet, and they get very lonely. It is unlikely that a five-year-old (and I have one myself) is going to be the primary caretaker for the bird, and that would be the person to whom the bird will bond.

Birds need quite a bit of attention from the people with whom they are bonded, or they tend to get hostile toward that person. The problem will get worse as the bird reaches sexual maturity. You can keep the bird happier by getting 2 birds, but then the birds will bond with each other, rather than their caretaker.

As for what kind of bird to get, in some ways the bigger the better. Larger birds have bigger brains, and can be more interesting and more interested in the people. However, they also become more of a problem as they get older. I did, however, have pretty good luck with both parakeets and lovebirds. If you do buy one, get it from a breeder, rather then the pet store and get a young one that has been hand fed. Good luck. bird lover

Aw, what memories...I got a beatiful parakeet when I was in the 4th grade,from Kmart, when they used to sell pets from their San Pablo store. It was a great little companion that lived until I was 21 years old. We were able to let her be out of her cage all day in the house. She really only liked my dad and I and would be content to sit on our shoulders all evening and eat popcorn and potatoe chips (I don't know if that was good for her, but she would pester us if we did't give her any, in fact she learned to land right on the edge of the popcorn/chip bowl and help herself). It took a lot of training and love to get her to trust us and then get her out of her cage and onto our fingers. I think they are really a one-person kind of animal. The one things I researched and did was to put a branch/twig from a fruit tree (we used apple and apricot) into the cage right next to the perch. The bird loved to chew on the twig and it gave it neccesssary vitamins that they need in the wild. We usually replaced the twig every week. They can be a little destructive when they are allowed to roam free around the house. We had her wings clipped only twice, which helped with getting her trained, but decided it was too cruel to let this little animal try to fly only to get hurt by landing on things on the ground. They can be very messy, so be prepared to clean the cage often and it's surroundings.

We just got ourselves a new little puppy around thanksgiving, and you know, it really isn't all that different. Both involve a lot of work in training, cleaning after, and some destruction. But it definately will be worth in a year when the animal has become a well-suited companion. Good luck. Kerri

We always had parakeets throughout my childhood, and the memories are wonderful (alas, no parakeets now because the dogs would eat them). They are wonderful pets IF you are willing to spend time with them and let them spend a better part of each day out of their cage.

Many people have the idea that it's okay for parakeets to spend their life in a cage, but I think the family misses out on a wonderful experience if they do that (not to mention the bird, of course). We used to open the door to the cage in the morning and watch her fly like a freak all over the house until she was spent...then she hung around with us like a dog, riding on our shoulder or head and interacting with us. We would lock her in the cage sometimes (and all night) but she really was part of the family during the day, out and about with us, and as a child I learned a lot from that experience. They are very smart and very social. Ours used to stick her head in my mouth (sometimes almost climb into my mouth!) to pick food out of my molars. Of course I thought it was hilarious as a kid...would probably gross me out now. Anyway, I really think they're great but only if you make them part of the family, not just ornaments in a cage. Birds are very, very smart and can be trained to fit into your lifestyle. Violet

Birds waking us up and pooping everywhere

June 2003

We have a problem with birds waking the whole family at dawn each morning. (They chirp very loudly outside our window.) At first we thought it was mating season, but it has been happening for almost 3 months now. The same birds also fly into our window and seem to attack any shiney object, as if to attack a rival. The other problem is that there is bird poop everywhere. Does anyone have suggestions as to how to dicourage them? Thanks! Andrea

Because birds/nests are so protected (and rightly so) we also found it difficult to keep the birds away when we wanted to paint our house. We eventually strung up a bunch of CD's (the AOL/MSN free ones) and the shiny reflective parts seemed to scare them away. I don't know if that counts as abuse to the birds, but it worked. trying to preserve both birds and sanity
Try recording the birds and playing it back to them. Cover the shiny objects until they move on. You could also try bird flash tape (thin ribbons of mylar) available at (plant) nurseries. Tape it (in the style of a beaded curtain) to the windows and other places they frequent. Breezes will make the tape ''flash'' and scare the birds away (hopefully). Try making their roosting areas inaccessible by covering with netting. If using netting please keep it taut; we once caught an unwary oppossum by accident in some loose netting. Please don't use Tanglefoot; it harms the birds and is messy. You could also try earplugs or sleeping on the other side of the house. J12
- We had a very similar problem, but with a single bird. We pruned the tree he used as his base from which to attack my daughter's window, and in particular we cut down the limb he was seen on most often. Now he's gone! Liz O.
- I found a website with loads of advice about keeping birds away from windows


Most of them talked about cutting out a silhouette of a hawk (I guess it has to be light in color to stand out against the dark interior), but you have to put it on the outside of the window so they can see it better. Or apparently if you hang colored ribbons on the outside, that keeps birds from flying into the window -- but you're also concerned with keeping them away from the window entirely.

You can also buy a plastic owl from gardening stores, I think, and put it outside the window. My dad said he has to move his periodically or they figure it out. Hannah

Finding a new home for a parrot

June 2002

Hi, I have had a wonderful Meyer's parrot for 4 1/2 years. Now with a new baby and 2 dogs I find myself unable to give her the attention she deserves. I want to find her a new good home but I don't want to put an ad in a paper and get some ''weirdo.'' Does anyone know how to find interested bird lovers who might be interested in a giving a beautiful bird a good home? Has anyone had to go through this same experience? I am very very sad about it about feel so guilty that she doesn't get the interaction a companion parrot should get. Any advice or tips welcome! Jo

When I was trying to find a home for our cat I emailed PETA for their pet adoption kit. I found the email on their website. It took them forever to send it to me, and by that time I had already found a home for the cat, so when it came I just threw it away. But I think the kit includes advice about finding a home, and adoption forms and guidelines. You might want to check it out. Sonya
To find a new home for your parrot I'd suggest you take it to Your Basic Bird on College Avenue near Ashby in Berkeley. They have other parrots, cockateels, etc. for sale, so your bird will have company. Also people talk to the birds sometimes. People who want to buy parrots go to Your Basic Bird, so that might be the quickest way to find a new home for her. Camille
There is a wonderful local bird rescue organization called Mickaboo Cockatiel Rescue that takes in and places parrot-type birds. They interview potential adoptive parents and provide foster care and medical help if necessary for birds handed over to them. You can get more info at Deirdre