Types of Pet Parrots

Kelly Roper
Congo African grey; © Jill Lang | Dreamstime.com
Congo African grey

The world of parrots is incredibly diverse with birds of all colors, sizes, and temperaments, and many can make wonderful pets for people who understand their needs. There are far too many parrots to mention them all, but you should be able to find a species to interest you among the most popular groups.

African Greys as Pets

African greys are perhaps the most intelligent parrots of all. Congo African greys measure about 12 to 14 inches and are light gray with a scarlet tail. Timneh African greys measure 9 to 11 inches and are a slightly darker gray with dark red tails.

  • Pros: Greys are considered some of the best talkers. They also screech less than many parrot species.
  • Cons: These parrots can be a bit shy, and some have a slightly nervous temperament.
  • Trainability: With patience, persistence, and consistency, these birds can develop a large vocabulary. They have the intelligence to learn nearly anything you want to train them for, but they need a lot of socialization to be comfortable in various situations.
  • Health: Greys can become a bit neurotic, and some become feather pluckers. According to Drs. Foster and Smith, they are especially susceptible to psittacine beak and feather disease and psittacine proventricular dilatation syndrome.
  • Overall recommendation: Greys make wonderful pets for people who have experience with large parrots and live in reasonably calm and quiet homes.

Parakeets as Pets

The common American parakeet is the most easily recognized member of this group, but English budgies and Bourke's parakeets are also popular pets. Birds in this group come in a wide range of colors, and sizing is very diverse according to the species.

Bourke's parakeets; © Lee6713 | Dreamstime.com
Bourke's parakeets
  • Pros: Most parakeet species have relatively quiet calls, although American parakeets and English budgies tend to chatter throughout the day, which adds to the noise level. Most have at least some talking ability, and hand-fed individuals can easily be handled.
  • Cons: These birds can be a bit nippy, and some are subject to night frights that send them thrashing around their cages in the dark.
  • Training: Parakeets respond well to training, especially when rewarded with a little millet for positive behaviors.
  • Health: These birds are fairly hearty if you keep them in a draft-free location. Respiratory disease, mite infestations, and chronic egg laying are common problems.
  • Overall recommendation: Many of the birds in this group make good pets for beginners, and they can be good apartment pets.

Conures as Pets

Conures are full of personality and range in size from about 10 to 20 inches, according to Lafeber Vet. The sun conure is particularly popular due to its lovely coloring of yellow, orange and green, and its playful personality. There are other conures in this group that make equally good pets, including green cheek conures, jendays, and blue crowns, to name a few.

Cinnamon green cheek conures
Cinnamon green cheek conures
  • Pros: Conures enjoy human companionship and love to snuggle if hand raised. They have a lot of energy and love to climb around their enclosures and play with toys, which makes them very entertaining to watch. Many also have the odd-yet-interesting habit of sleeping on their backs, so don't panic if you see one laying on the cage floor. It's probably napping.
  • Cons: Except for green cheeks, most conures are loud and tend to screech often throughout the day. For this reason, they don't make ideal pets for apartment living. They also tend to get nippy if you stop handling them on a daily basis.
  • Trainability: Conures are moderately easy to train to step up and be handled if you begin as soon as they are weaned. Otherwise, they can be strong willed as adults and will try to be the boss in any situation.
  • Health: These birds are generally robust, but according to veterinarians at LaFeber, there are some conditions to watch out for, including psittacosis, psittacine beak and feather disease, and aspergillosis, among others.
  • Overall recommendation: Conures are a good choice for someone who already has some experience with smaller birds.

Poicephalus as Pets

The poicephalus group of parrots contains the popular Senegal and Meyer's parrots, which are commonly kept as pets. Red bellies and Jardine parrots are also becoming a bit more common among pet owners. According to parrot behavior expert Sally Blanchard, sizes range from 8 to 13 inches, depending on the species. Green and gray are the predominate colors among these birds, but most have accents of orange, yellow and/or blue which make them quite an attractive group.

Senegal parrot
Senegal parrot
  • Pros: Poicephalus are generally a lot quieter than many other parrots. They have some talking and mimicking ability, and the red belly appears to be the most talented at these skills. These birds can be cuddly if hand raised and well socialized as chicks.
  • Cons: These birds can be shy, nervous and fearful, especially if they weren't raised with care. This can lead to anti-social behavior and biting.
  • Trainability: A lot of patience is required to gain their trust before training can begin. They can be taught to step up and be gently handled, and many will pick up repeated phrases.
  • Health: Major health concerns for these parrots include avian bornavirus, aspergillosis, heart disease, and feather plucking.
  • Overall recommendation: These parrots are best suited for people with prior bird experience, but they do make good pets, especially for apartment dwellers who need a quiet species.

Amazons as Pets

Amazons are stocky, short-tailed, beautiful birds that, according to the veterinarians at the Lafeber Company, range in size from about 12 to 15 inches, depending on the individual species. Popular species in this group include double yellow heads, blue fronts and yellow-napeds, but there are many more to choose from.

Yellow-naped Amazon
Yellow-naped Amazon
  • Pros: Even the largest Amazons are a convenient size for most adults to handle if they're hand raised. Most species are decent talkers, although this skill varies among individuals.
  • Cons: Amazons are very loud, and even tame pets can become aggressive during the breeding season.
  • Trainability: Amazons are quite intelligent, but can be a little difficult to train. Always use positive rewards to get one to do what you want, be very consistent with training, and you should be successful.
  • Health: According to LaFeber Vet, these birds are prone to obesity and resulting fatty liver disease, as well as aspergillosis and several other diseases.
  • Overall recommendation: Amazons can be a bit intimidating for first time bird owners, so they're best reserved for experienced bird keepers.

Lovebirds as Pets

Lovebirds are often likened to tiny Amazons because of their stocky bodies and big personalities. They come in many color mutations and average about 6 inches from head to tail.

Peachface lovebird pair; © Farinoza | Dreamstime.com
Peachface lovebird pair
  • Pros: Lovebirds can make fantastic pets if they're hand raised and handled daily. They're energetic and interested in everything going on around them. They love to climb and play with toys, so they're very entertaining.
  • Cons: These birds are very territorial and may injure other birds if they come in contact with them. They can also bite very hard when they feel the need. Most won't remain tame without daily contact with their people. They also have a piercing, machine gun-like twitter that some people find unpleasant.
  • Trainability: These birds can easily be trained to step up and come when called if you reward them with millet. Some can even be trained to speak a little, but they're not really known for their talking ability.
  • Health: Lovebirds are believed to be carriers of psittacine beak and feather disease.
  • Overall recommendation: These tiny parrots can be good for beginners who take the time to learn about their general temperament, but they may be better for people who have previous experience with parakeets and cockatiels.

Eclectus as Pets

Eclectus are some of the most beautiful parrots of all. Similar in size to Amazons at 13 to 14 inches, females are rich red and purple with black beaks. Male are brilliant green with accents of blue and red and beaks shaded like candy corn.

Male and female eclectus
Male and female eclectus
  • Pros: You'll never get tired of looking at an eclectus, and these parrots can be rather friendly even if they aren't as cuddly as some birds like cockatoos. They are good mimics, and some have a mild ability for speech.
  • Cons: Fruits are their main diet, so their stool can be rather runny unless they are also fed an Eclectus-formulated pelleted diet. Their digestive systems are rather delicate compared to other parrot species, so they require a specialized diet. Their calls can also be piercing, although they tend to be fairly quiet a lot of the time.
  • Trainability: Although you can train these birds to step up and accept wearing a harness for outdoor exercise, they don't train for a wide range of behaviors quite as easily as many other parrot species.
  • Health: Eclectus are particularly susceptible to several diseases/conditions, including avian polyoma virus, psittacine beak and feather disease, and constricted toe syndrome.
  • Overall recommendation: Due to their special dietary needs, eclectus aren't the best choice for beginners. The volume of their calls makes them a better choice for home owners rather than apartment dwellers.

Macaws as Pets

Macaws are the majestic beauties of the parrot word. From the smallest species to the largest, they range from about 12 inches to 40 inches. Natural species come in a variety of colors, and some of the most commonly kept ones include blue and golds, scarlets, and green wings. The largest species, the hyacinth has amazing shades of blue and yellow.

Blue and gold and scarlet macaws
Blue and gold and scarlet macaws
  • Pros: Macaws have beauty, brains, and a lot of personality. Tame birds can be very affectionate, but most aren't overly cuddly.
  • Cons: They require a lot cage space, and they are excellent escape artists. They love to chew and can destroy almost anything if they put their minds to it, so their owners' toys and perch bills run high. They also have an ear-splitting call.
  • Trainability: Macaws can be a bit willful, and some will try to intimidate their owners with their large beaks. Consistent behavioral expectations and rewarding for positive behaviors are the keys to training these beauties.
  • Health: According to WebVet, macaws are susceptible to a number of disorder and diseases, including feather plucking, oral and cloacal papillomatosis, and more.
  • Overall recommendation: Macaws can be wonderful companions, but they're not for beginners or apartment dwellers. They are better suited for experienced parrot owners.

Cockatoos as Pets

Cockatoos are some of the most sought after parrots for pets, and they range in size from about 12 to 26 inches, depending on the species. Most are white, but some have various shades of pink or peach, and there are black cockatoos as well. Sulphur cresteds, umbrellas, and moluccans are some of the most commonly kept cockatoos, as well as cockatiels, the smallest member of this genus.

Sulphur crested cockatoo
Sulphur crested cockatoo
  • Pros: Tame cockatoos are extremely affectionate and cuddly with their chosen people. They are very playful, and many love to dance to music. They are only moderately good talkers, although this ability varies among individual birds, but they are very good mimics.
  • Cons: With the exception of cockatiels, cockatoos can be unbearably loud, and some will shriek all day long if they don't have the companionship and mental stimulation they crave and demand. These birds also produce powder on their feathers that gets on clothing and settles on every surface. They can be very destructive, and need a lot of wooden toys, which they will quickly shred.
  • Trainability: Incredibly intelligent, these birds can be trained to perform all sorts of routine behaviors, as well as entertaining tricks. They thrive on the attention they receive during training, as long as that training is conducted in a positive manner.
  • Health: According to Pittwater Animal Hospital, feather plucking and psittacine beak and feather disease are two of the most common disorders to watch for.
  • Overall recommendation: Cockatiels make wonderful pets for first-time bird owners and apartment dwellers. Despite their better attributes, the larger cockatoos are challenging to keep as pets. Their high need for mental stimulation and companionship makes them best-suited for highly-experienced bird keepers.

Parrot Ownership

If any of these parrots appeal to you, the next step is finding breeders that you can visit. This way you can spend time around the adult birds and see what it's like to handle and care for them. If you enjoy the experience, read everything you can find about your chosen species before you consider purchasing a youngster or adopting a rescue parrot.

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Types of Pet Parrots