If adding a dog or cat to the family is out of the question, pet birds are extremely intelligent and form strong bonds with their owners. However, because companion birds are so smart, they need plenty of mental stimulation and attention to be happy in their environment.

Before you choose to adopt or purchase a pet bird, Dr. Sharman Hoppes, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, recommends doing your research on the responsibilities of pet bird ownership.

“A pet parrot of any size is not a low-maintenance or inexpensive pet,” Hoppes said. “Depending on the species and age, the bird itself will vary in cost. Pet bird owners also need a large cage, play gyms, multiple toys, and perches in different textures and diameters to prevent foot problems.”

The species and number of birds present will determine the amount of time pet owners should spend caring for their birds. However, Hoppes said this does not mean you have to hold your bird for hours a day. Being at home and having the bird out of its cage on a play gym or perch will keep the bird happy.

Additionally, parrots require fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a formulated diet that can be purchased at pet stores. If pet birds are not properly fed, health problems may occur. However, taking your bird for regular veterinarian check-ups can generally help pick up potential health issues early.

“Birds can get sick because owners are not feeding them properly or they are inappropriately housed,” Hoppes said. “Trauma from falling or bites from other pets also are common. In addition, older birds can develop heart and liver disease, as well as cancer.”

Some birds, such as parrots, also can develop behavioral issues if owners do not interact with them frequently or do not provide toys or time out of their cages. Parrots that are not interacted with regularly may scream excessively, bite, and even harm themselves by plucking their own feathers.

To prevent diseases and behavioral issues, bird owners should be prepared for yearly veterinarian exams. Even if your pet bird looks and acts healthy, Hoppes said regular veterinarian visits still are crucial to your bird’s health.

“Birds are prey animals and will hide signs of illness, which makes it difficult to catch early signs of disease,” Hoppes explained. “Yearly exams and blood work can help catch disease and behavioral issues early.”

If you’re thinking about getting a new pet, a companion bird may be for you. However, be sure to consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to a pet bird. Birds are flock animals and need to feel like they are part of the family, so giving them plenty of attention and mental stimulation is critical in maintaining their health.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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