The 5 things you need to know about purchasing a bird

Birds are among the most intelligent and affectionate animals you can have as a pet. There are many species to choose from and some have personalities as colourful as their plumage. Before getting into the details of what you need to know about buying a bird, take a moment to think about whether a bird is definitely suitable for your home and lifestyle.

How and where to buy a bird | Things you should know about buying a bird | CITES regulation | Choosing a vet | Tips on caring for your bird | CITES - endangered species checks

They can be very demanding so if you work in a full-time job they may not be the best pet. And if you live in a small flat some species jof birds could cause problems because they’re noisy.

As you’ll see in the care requirements section you may need to make changes to your home to accommodate a bird and have enough money to pay for things like vet fees or insurance.

If you can provide a loving and safe environment, here’s what you need to know when choosing and purchasing a bird.

How and where to buy a bird

Make sure you buy from a reputable shop or breeder.

It’s important to find out how the birds are cared for and to feel comfortable with the person you’re buying from.

The key things to ask are:

  • How are the birds handled and do they have a lot of contact with humans? If they aren’t socialised properly it could take a long time to settle them in, meaning more time and commitment from you.
  • How many birds do you own and what species are they? If they don’t specialise in the bird you’re interested in, it may not have been cared for correctly.
  • Where do you get your birds from? If you’re purchasing from a shop, ask the retailer, where they’ve purchased the birds from. It’s illegal for birds to be wild caught and imported, so if you suspect this is the case, do not buy!
  • How long have you been breeding birds for? Experience and a good reputation is always a reassuring sign.

If you feel like you need to do more research into where to buy from there are plenty of online blogs and experts. For more in depth questions, just ask.

We offer up to £5,000 of vet fee cover, death and theft cover. Why not get a quote via our website? Or call us on 0345 982 5505.

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For pet advice, you may like our range of articles focusing on parrot care written by Dot Schwarz. These include:

  1. Caring for a parrot - an owners guide
  2. Parrot food - what your parrot can eat, food and diet ideas
  3. How to train a parrot to step up
  4. How and why do parrots talk, the best talking parrot and teaching your parrot to talk.

You can also read a range of helpful articles that are published on the Northern Parrots blog.

Things you should know about buying a bird

You may have your heart set on a particular bird species, for example a large parrot, however, it’s worth making sure you have the right environment for it, for you and your neighbours’ sake, as well as the bird’s.

Birds are very intelligent and can form close bonds with humans. That is perfect for owners but certain species can become too attached to their keeper, and be possessive and potentially aggressive towards their owner’s partner or children.

It’s important to take into consideration the mess and noise they will make. If you live in a shared flat or with close neighbours some species will not be suitable. Reputable shops and breeders should be able to tell you about a bird’s temperament.

Here are some characteristics of popular birds:

  • African Grey Parrots – personable and not very loud but can become possessive of their owner and show aggression towards others
  • Budgies – not too loud but can learn to talk; well-cared for birds will be very affectionate; good first-time birds; can be a good option for those living in flats
  • Canaries – good first bird but don’t always form close bonds with humans
  • Cockatoos – very personable, very loud and intelligent; they need a lot of attention; sometimes like to chew on things
  • Macaws – big, strong and need a lot of care; not suitable for homes with children; life expectancy is about 60 years

CITES Regulation

African Grey and Timneh Grey parrots have recently been placed on Annex A, Appendix 1 of CITES.  This is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species list.

Breeders of African Grey parrots and Timneh Grey parrots are now required by law to hold an Article 10 certificate for the birds they are selling, and their parents.  

When selling to you, you should be either given an Article 10 certificate, or should see one.  If you're not planning on selling (or breeding from) your bird, then you won't need to worry about applying for an Article 10 certificate yourself.  You can find more information on this in our article Timneh and African Grey parrots upgraded to Appendix 1 of CITES

Choosing a vet

Many vets that focus on cats and dogs won’t treat exotic pets, so register your bird with an avian specialist.

Because there are fewer avian vets your nearest may be some distance from your home. Be sure to register your bird as soon as you get it because making a long trip to find a vet for the first time when your pet is ill will be stressful.

Cat and dog vets may be able to provide basic care for birds but if they refer you to a specialist you could be charged referral fees. Specialists charge referral fees – which can be higher than their usual fees – because they have to report their findings back to the original vet.

You can find a vet by looking at the RCVS website Find a vet.

Pet insurance can cover expensive vet fees. We specialise in exotic pets and cover a wide range of birds. For parrot insurance click here and search for your type of bird. Alternatively you can call 0345 982 5505.

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Tips on caring for your bird

The husbandry requirements for your bird will depend on the species, so you’ll need to do some research into how to care for it.

But there are some general tips you should know.

A shocking amount of birds are lost when they fly out of an owner’s window or door. It seems obvious that windows and doors should be closed when a bird is out of its cage, but people do forget, especially in summer.

You could install screens so that windows can be left open, or just remember to close windows when your bird is out of its cage. Pet insurance will not pay out if your bird escapes out of an open window or door.

Ideally your parrot should be wearing a closed ring when you purchase it. This is fitted when the bird is a chick, and cannot be easily removed. The ring displays a unique number which can help identify your bird if it’s lost or stolen. If the bird is not wearing a closed ring, you should consider getting it fitted with a split ring.

Details about rings can be found on The Parrot Society website. You should also consider getting your bird microchipped. Microchipping is an irrefutable method of identification. Ensuring your bird is wearing a ring, and is microchipped can be invaluable in identifying your bird, and proving you are the owner, should it be lost or stolen.

ExoticDirect offers a free lost and found notification service, advising John Hayward who runs the National Theft Register should your bird be lost or stolen. This central database can help reunite a lost bird with its owner.

Our policies can include vet fee cover, death and theft cover. Call us on 0345 982 5505, or...

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Birds are also very susceptible to airborne toxins, the tragic use of canaries in coalmines is one example of their sensitivity. In the home toxic fumes can be produced by scented candles and other household items. Burnt cookware that’s coated in Teflon is particularly dangerous. The toxins released by burnt Teflon can cause zinc toxicosis, which can cost over a thousand pounds to treat. In 2016 we paid a claim for £1,212 for Zinc Toxicosis in an African Grey parrot, luckily it survived. Sadly Zinc Toxicity can often be fatal in birds.

Respiratory diseases can be common in pet birds. Keeping your home as clean as possible can help to reduce the risk of fungal infections such as Aspergillosis. In 2015 we paid a claim for £1,532 for Aspergillosis in a Moluccan Cockatoo. You can find out more about this infection and how to avoid it on PetMD

You’ll need to look into the kind of cage and diet your species of bird requires. There is information on the Parrot Society site or you can check with a specialist vet, breeder or shop.

Dot Schwarz has written a range of bird care articles - the links to these articles are above. 

For more information about Exotic Direct’s bird insurance click here.

CITES – endangered species checks

Endangered species are subject to trade regulations, which does not not mean you cannot buy an endangered bird but you’ll need to do some research and have your paperwork in order.

Some animals on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list are subject to restrictions. You can search the list using Species+, so check the species you are interested in before you buy.

CITES uses Appendices I, II and III as classification for how endangered a species is, although in the EU these have been replaced with Annexes A, B, C and D. It’s the Annex A (Appendix 1) animals that are most at risk and are more regulated.

You may be surprised that popular pet birds such as Grey Parrots and Macaws are listed on CITES. Grey Parrots are listed under Annex B, which means the bird does not need a special certificate. Although you must hold evidence the bird was acquired legally.

Scarlet Macaws are listed under Annex A. Any Annex A bird will need an Article 10 Certificate. which is issued to authorise the sale, offer for sale and display of animals for commercial purposes. Your seller should hold this.

There are two types of certificates that a seller can hold – a Specimen Specific certificate that accompanies the pet for the rest of its life, your seller should pass this to you upon sale of the bird and you should store it in a safe place. The second is a Transaction Specific Certificate. This certificate is proof of lawful acquisition of the pet and does not need to be passed to you. The seller retains it – however, you should ensure you see it and that you take a note of the reference number.

There is detailed information about CITES and how to apply for certificates on the Government's website.

Once you’ve done your research and made all the checks we hope your bird loves its new home and has a happy life with you.

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