Choosing the Right Bird for You If you think birds are like keeping fish or hamsters, think again. Just because they seem like easy-going docile creatures kept in cages and forgotten, birds actually require a lot of time and energy to care for properly, like most pets. You want to make sure to do plenty of research before making the commitment to own a bird to understand completely what you're up against. Here are a few things to consider before buying the first thing with feathers: The Bigger the Bird, the Bigger the Responsibility Let's generalize for a moment: the bigger the bird, the more responsibility the bird will require. It is not hard-and-fast, but it's close to it. Parakeets are wonderful pets and will require much less time and money than, say, a macaw. However, the greater responsibility might also result in greater enjoyment, especially for experienced bird owners. Size DOES matter, so if you are beginner, we would advise against springing for an ostrich-you can't ride them anyway. Also keep this in mind: the bigger the bird you get, the bigger the cage you'll need. Put more simply: $$$. You also need to buy more food, get the bird more exercise, etc. Just be sure to consider it. Size counts for more than just personal preference. Birds of a Feather... The "bird" family of animals is quite expansive and not all birds "flock together". If you think about, it's kind of weird that a penguin and a humming bird are related. And it's not just the look that's different, each bird species will display different temperaments, behaviors, dietary habits, and (if you were paying attention above), sizes. With different species comes different training and care procedures-so research is your friend here. We obviously can't go into detail on every species of bird, but you can check out our recommendations below for different "types" of recommended bird species. Different Dining! If you go to the beach often enough, you might be under the impression that birds will eat almost anything. However, this is not necessarily true. Every bird has its own preferred diet. Some birds will have very broad diets, but many will be very selective eaters. Lories, for example, are beautiful birds but are very persnickety eaters, requiring only nectar, pollen, and fruit. It's also a good idea to keep the dirty side of diet in mind. What a bird eats will affect what a bird...um...poops. This, in turn, will affect how difficult it will be to clean the bird's cage. The best bird for you is one with a diet you can easily provide. Life Span Considerations Birds can live a long time. They aren't goldfish (do goldfish have short life-spans?). Many birds, especially large parrots, can live a very long time; in many cases they might out live you, the owner. For this reason we cannot stress enough the importance of NOT impulse buying birds. Give it some thought - in 40 years will you still want a parrot? Also, a bird's longevity does not only mean more time but also more money. There are more than just initial costs to consider. Bird Yoga is a Must! Birds, even the larger docile breeds (maybe especially larger docile birds), still need time to stretch their wings and get the blood flowing. And they need exercise toys for inside the cage, but also time outside the cage on a daily basis. Imagine if you were cooped up all day in a small space (read: cubicle), wouldn't you want some time out to keep your body and mind healthy? Birds are no different. If you cannot take this time EVERY DAY to spend time with your bird, you may want to think about getting some of the more independent species (finch, canary, etc), or maybe a fish. Even the independent birds should get at least some time with you, a few times a week or so. If you can't give the bird the time it needs, now is not that time to buy a bird! Finally, if you live in a condo or apartment, be sure that the bird is allowed. And also, check your state and national laws before buying any exotic pet, including birds! Here are some suggestions, sorted by common "ideal" criteria: Chatter Boxes -The African Grey (best talkers!), most cockatoos (bare- eyed cockatoo), many macaws, and most amazons Less Noise -Black Headed or yellow-thighed Caique, orange bellied Senegal (also a good talker), blue-headed, bronze-winged, maximillian, or white- crowned pionus, ruppell's parrot, African grey, green-cheeked conure Kids' Birds -Noble Macaw, orange bellied Senegal, Pionus, Senegal parrot, sun conure, hahn's macaw, meyer's parrot Simple Diets- (simple psittacine diet or homemade "mash" diet) - caiques, noble macaw, pionus, ruppell's parrot, eclectus, sun conure Great First Birds -finches, canaries, parakeets (require less handling, smaller cages, simpler care); cockatiels, lovebirds and parrotlets require more room and handling, but are beautiful and affectionate. Peter writes pet blogs for nationwide classified ad website http://www.recycler.com -- where good ads put good pets into good homes. You can find his most recent blogs and posts at http://www.recycler.com/blog.