Whether you are buying a bird for your aviary or buying a bird as a pet, here are some things to look at before making that final purchase.
Buying A Bird
Where Do I Get A Bird?
The choice of where to buy a bird will depend entirely on what type of bird you are seeking and where you live. It is always preferable to find a local source of supply, but in some cases, you may have to travel.
Bird-keeping publications are a useful source of information, especially if you are interested in establishing an exhibition stud. Visit shows regularly to familiarize yourself with the type of birds that are catching the judges’ eye and take note of which breeders are winning consistently, as these might be options to buy from.
If you are looking for a parrot, you may be able to find a breeder via one of the many parrot-keeping organizations which exist. Try an internet search, as many specialist bird keepers, now have their own websites.
Reputable pet stores are of course another option, but normally they only keep stock of a limited range of birds, and if you are looking for something different or special, the breeders are normally your best option.
What Type Of Bird Are You Looking For?
Never rush into a decision. If you feel unhappy for any reason, it is better not to buy the bird. Take your time to look at the bird properly to ensure that they are healthy.
If you are looking for hand-reared birds, you may need to be patient and work according to the breeding seasons.
Amazon parrots for instance are more likely to be on offer in early autumn in the northern hemisphere.
If you are looking for aviary stock, bear in mind that if you purchase birds in the late summer going towards winter, there will be no possibility of them becoming acclimatized before the onset of winter if they have not been outside or have been recently imported, so you may need to keep them indoors until the spring, depending on your climate.
The price of birds can also vary dramatically. You can expect to pay more for established stock and true pairs. Unsexed individuals will normally be cheaper. With parrots, you are taking a risk buying a pair, as compatibility between pairs is not always possible. Simply having two birds of the opposite gender is no guarantee that they will bond as a pair and mate successfully, no matter how long you wait.
With species where compatibility is not a problem, like budgerigars, pricing may be influenced by the bird’s coloration.
Blue series individuals such as cobalts, lutinos and violets sell for more than a green or grey bird.
When you are buying exhibition stock, the price will depend more on the bird’s pedigree than the color, and also on the success rate of the breeder concerned.
Birds from a breeder who winds consistently at high levels will cost more than buying birds from a novice.
When buying a bird from a breeder take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have regarding both the life history of the bird and the type of food that they have been eating.
What To Look For When Buying A Bird
When looking at an aviary full of birds for sale, it is advisable to have a clear idea of what you are looking for.
The bird of your choosing should be lively and flying readily. Its plumage must be in good condition, although in the case of young hand-reared chicks, its feathers may not be as sleek as those of an older bird.
Do not be tempted to buy a chick before it is capable of feeding on its own, as the weaning phase can be traumatic, and the risk of problems arising is increased if the chick has to be rehomed.
Check the bird’s eyes. They should be bright with no signs of swelling.
Diamond doves are the notable exception here, as swelling of the peri-orbital skin around the eyes is associated with cock birds when in breeding condition. Swelling eyes are also applicable to a bare-eyed cockatoe.
Check the feet for signs of swelling or difficulty when they stand on the perch.
If you plan to exhibit the bird, it is vital that it possesses a full complement of claws. Look at the balls of the feet for any obvious inflammation.
A closer examination will be needed once the bird has been caught. Make sure the nostrils are of even size and not blocked. Any enlargement of the nostrils may be indicative of a long-standing infection that could flare up again. This is especially common in grey parrots.
The beak should be free from any damage and not overgrown.
Budgerigars sometimes suffer from undershot bills where the upper part of the bill does not curve down over the lower part, but rather curls back within it. This problem is often traced back to pooer nest hygiene, resulting in the dirt in the nest hardening and distorting the growth of the bill. It can also be an inherited condition. If this is the case there is nothing that can be done to correct the deformity other than trimming back the lower bill. Without the constraint of an overlapping upper bill, this will grow more readily than is usual and will have to be trimmed back regularly for the rest of the bird’s life.
Another bill problem for budgerigars is scaly face. This is caused by a mite and will spread readily if left untreated, causing permanent distortion of the bill.
In the initial stages, a scaly face shows up as tiny snail-like tracks running across the upper bill. The more characteristic coral-like encrustations develop later.
The overall condition of the bird is most reliably assessed by examining the breastbone, which lies in the midline of the body, just below the neck. This should be well covered with muscle, distinct hollows on either side are a cause for concern, indicating that the bird is underweight. This could mean that it has not been eating properly or it could be suffering from intestinal roundworms, or a more serious chronic illness, cush as an internal tumor.
Check if the feather around the vent is stained. This may indicate a digestive disturbance.
Once the birds have molted into adult plumage, it will be impossible to age the birds reliably. In the case of finches and softbills, the legs may provide a clue, as heavy scaling tends to indicate an older individual, although it would be more helpful to compare a group of the same species.
If you have any other tips you know of to look for when buying a bird, please do not hesitate to comment below.