Like so many things in life, diving into bird ownership requires that you crawl before you walk, so to speak. If you're after an affectionate feathered companion, you'll find that many small parrots are the way to go. Other types, such as finches or doves, aren't as cuddly.
There's a reason these guys are so common in the pet trade: they're super affectionate! Females are typically a better choice for a beginner who's looking for affection, as they tend to be gentler and quieter than their male counterparts; the males tend to be loud attention hogs who won't hesitate to give you a little nip or start making a ruckus if you stop making them the center of your attention. Cockatiels need a large cage with lots of toys and perches. They also need at least an hour or two of one-on-one out-of-cage time every day. A pet 'tiel can live up to 30 years, so be prepared for a long-term relationship filled with playful antics.
Budgies, commonly called "parakeets" in the States, are commonplace at pet stores due to their bright colors, small size and eagerness for a human's affections. Often touted as the beginner species, a budgie requires a little more time than most people realize. Budgies need one-on-one time with their human companion. They'll eagerly sit on your shoulder while you perform everyday tasks and they're quick to learn different tricks and games. Budgies like to talk and vocalize, and some even learn large vocabularies! Like most other small parrots, these little guys need a lot of toys and will do best with someone willing to spend an hour or two every day playing with them. A budgie's life-span can be 15 years.
Lovebirds are a tad more difficult than budgies or 'tiels, but they can still make excellent beginner birds if you're willing to get to know them. Contrary to popular belief, these birds don't need a partner and will do best being your sole bird companion. As with many other species, a male is probably best, especially for a beginner. These little birds—reaching only between 5 and 6 inches long—will readily crawl into your pocket to go for a ride. They love spending time with their human, especially when it's game time. Tricks and playtime are favorite activities for these small parrots—be prepared to catch your lovebird hanging upside down and swinging, or playing kickball with anything that rolls! Lovebirds can live up to 20 years.
Other Small Parrots
Certain species of parakeets, parrotlets and lorikeets make great choices for someone who can take the time to get to know their individual personalities. Like the other small parrots, these guys are spunky, intelligent and playful. Look for hand-tamed babies or adopt well-socialized adults. Good choices include Pacific parrotlets, Goldie's lorikeet and Bourke's parakeet.
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