Good things come in small packages and small pet birds can be excellent companions. They're generally easier to care for than many large bird species, and they're somewhat quieter due to their size. But small birds are still packed with personality. Some prefer to live with other birds while others can be housed alone as long as they get plenty of human socialization. Here are eight of the most popular small birds to keep as pets.
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Finches are ideal for people who want to enjoy watching birds but prefer not to handle them. They are somewhat skittish, appreciating the companionship of other finches over humans. Pet finches typically do well in flocks of three to five and require a spacious cage in which they can fly, as that usually is their sole space for exercise. There are many types of finches, including the zebra finch, Gouldian finch, and society finch.
Length: 4 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounce
Physical Characteristics: Black and white throat bars, orange cheek patches, and red-orange beak (male zebra finch); gray coloration throughout the body and less vivid beak (female zebra finch)
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Native to the Macronesian islands, canaries are known for their bright plumage and beautiful songs. Like other members of the finch family, these small birds don't tolerate handling well. But with ample training, a canary might learn to perch on a person. House a canary in a roomy flight cage, especially if you don't have another safe space for it to fly. Additionally, it's often necessary to house canaries individually, as they can be territorial.
Length: 5 to 8 inches
Weight: 0.5 to 1 ounce
Physical Characteristics: Feathers of bright yellow (most common), red, orange, or white; some varieties have head crests or frilly feathers
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Budgerigars, also known as budgies or parakeets, are small birds with big personalities. As one of the smallest parrots, budgies come in an array of colors, and they can learn to talk. These smart birds require lots of toys and socialization to keep them happy. If you can't spend enough time with your budgie, consider getting at least two to prevent loneliness.
Length: 6 to 8 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Physical Characteristics: Green abdomen; black and yellow back; yellow head; dark blue tail; mutations include blue, yellow, white, and gray
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Parrotlets, also called "pocket parrots," don't seem to realize how small they are. Like their cousin, the huge-by-comparison Amazon parrot, parrotlets tend to have bold, comical personalities and crave attention. They need sufficient handling, as they have a reputation for becoming nippy when not properly trained. They're also active birds and should spend several hours outside the cage each day.
Length: 4 to 5 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Physical Characteristics: Green head and body; blue on back and behind eyes; mutations include blue, yellow, and whiteContinue to 5 of 8 below.
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Bourke’s parakeets are generally mellow birds. These Australia natives often bond closely with their humans and do well with other peaceful birds, such as finches. But their gentle nature can make them a target of more aggressive birds. They're only moderately active but still require at least a few hours of exercise outside the cage each day.
Length: 7 to 9 inches
Weight: 2 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Brown-tinted plumage; pink abdomen; blue rump; yellowish-brown beak; males have blue crowns while females have white
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True to their name, lovebirds thrive in bonded pairs. But a single bird also can do well with an involved caretaker. Lovebirds don't like to be alone and can develop behavioral issues, such as biting, with neglect. They're also fairly vocal, making loud, high-pitched chirps you might not expect from such a small bird. The most common species kept as pets are the Fischer's, black-masked, and peach-faced lovebirds.
Length: 5 to 7 inches
Weight: 2 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Short tail; somewhat stocky build; many color varieties, including green, blue, peach, yellow, and white; the face and body usually bear different colors
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Green-cheeked conures have become popular for their playful, affectionate disposition, but they do require adequate handling to avoid behavioral issues. These South America natives tend to be fast learners with tricks and games (though most usually don't talk). However, they are prone to feather picking if they’re bored or neglected.
Length: 10 to 11 inches
Weight: 2 to 3 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Predominantly green; olive cheek patches; gray breast and head; maroon tail; blue flight feathers; mutations include turquoise, yellow, and cinnamon
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Native to Australia, cockatiels are valued for their friendly personalities. When properly socialized, they tend to be docile birds that love people. They’re generally not noisy, though they can learn to be excellent whistlers. A single cockatiel is fine, as long as you give it lots of attention. Otherwise, a pair of birds can keep each other company.
Length: 12 to 13 inches
Weight: 3 ounces
Physical Characteristics: Gray body; yellow face and crest; orange cheeks; long tail; mutations include albino, lutino, pied, and cinnamon