There is No Such Thing as a Starter Bird

Starter Bird? Nope!

They Are All Special. Ivan Petermann / Getty Images

Many people think that bringing a smaller bird into their family is a good way to learn about birds. They think that a Budgerigar, commonly known as a Parakeet is a “Starter Bird”  where the family can learn how to take care of birds. Their logic is that the bird is smaller, easier to handle, quieter, won’t be as much of a mess and if it bites, it won’t hurt as badly. 

And if the bird passes away for some unknown reason, it’s not like they’ve invested a lot of money into one of the bigger exotic birds that can cost thousands of dollars. Sounds logical, right?

If this logic holds true, perhaps this is why human babies are small. Maybe babies are like ”starter humans.” They have no teeth so they really can’t bite you. But many realize human babies are anything but easy. They certainly aren't the neatest and tidiest creatures and they tend to make a lot of noise. And as they get older, they can be even more difficult and they get more expensive to take care of. 

Of course, this isn’t the way life is. There is no “easy method” of learning about birds and how to care for them other than to simply get in there, do your homework do the research and learn about them first. 

Having a bird in the family isn’t easy and it takes a lot of reading on your part to do it right. 

Perhaps you have seen a bird show and saw an absolutely beautiful Moluccan Cockatoo. White, with a salmon tone, these parrots are amazing. 

You have your heart set on having one of these gorgeous creatures in your home. But you think that getting a Budgerigar or a Quaker Parakeet will be the perfect bird to “learn” how to take care of a bird. Then, like a car, you can “trade up” to a bigger species of bird. 

Well, that’s not how it works. Because having a Quaker or a Budgie will not teach you a thing about the care and the needs of a Cockatoo. 

People are often charmed by the looks and behavior of Cockatoos. They believe would be the right bird for them They then began to do their homework and discover the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her work with African Greys. Greys are relatively plain looking and would be probably overlooked if it wasn’t for that gorgeous red tail and the fact that they are really smart parrots.  

It is after people do their research that they know that if they get a parrot, it would be an African Grey. This is just one example. They may start thinking that the Cockatoo is right for them and then discover the Quaker parrot or the green cheek conure.  

If you have just merely “seen” a cockatoo and really know nothing about them, do the homework. Find a bird club in your community and get to know people who have them. Read about them. Watch videos about them on the internet. Immerse yourself in everything cockatoo by taking some classes, learning about their nutritional needs, their behavior in the wild and their attention requirements. Get to understand the bad things as well as the good about having a cockatoo in the house. 

Read up on behavior training because you’re going to need to know this. Take some classes. Do the work and then set about deciding if this species will fit into your lifestyle. Do you have the room? Do you  have the time for the attention these birds need? Do you have neighbors living close by? Because cockatoos are notoriously loud and your neighbors might mind a lot of loud screeching in the morning. 

By doing your homework, you just might find that a cockatoo really isn't for you. But through your research, perhaps you learned about the Sun Conure and became smitten with the beautiful plumageand fun aspects of these striking little birds. Perhaps you found that an Amazon parrot is more your speed. As you learn more, you just might find that the cockatoo wasn’t the right species for you after all. 

By doing this research, you will be learning what you need to know and you’ll most likely save yourself a lot of heartache. 

A Quaker parrot or an English budgie isn’t going teach you how to care for another species of bird. And looking at these little guys like they were a set of training wheels on a bicycle is disrespectful to their species and to the larger bird you are longing for. They simply don’t have the same needs and the same nutritional requirements. And you are most likely going to fail with the small bird you have because you aren’t giving her the respect she deserves for who she is. 

Do the research and learn about what the bird you want requires. And then work toward getting that particular species.

People love little birds. They are charming and have so much to offer. They deserve our love, attention and respect for precisely who they are.  Families can learn so much from them as they make delightful companions. But what they have to teach us is not how to care for a larger bird.