Bird Ownership

  • Many bird species are at risk of extinction due to illegal collection for the pet trade, habitat loss and other threats. When purchasing a pet bird, it is important to work with a legitimate seller.
  • PetWatch recommends purchasing captive bred birds which can be identified by leg bands. Breeders usually apply closed (solid) rings or bands at an early age when the small feet will fit through the hole. As the bird grows it cannot be removed unless cut off. This helps the breeder monitor the birds that are to be sold as well as managing the genetics of those birds to be bred together. Quarantine bands are placed on birds imported to the U.S. for regulatory reasons. These bands are often open (incomplete rings) or pinned together.
  • Birds can carry a variety of diseases, including avian polymavirus, proventricular dilation disease, psittacine beak and feather disease, Pacheco’s disease and aspergillosis. Psittacosis, or ‘parrot fever,’ may be transmittable to humans. Sick birds should never be purchased as pets and should always be examined by a veterinarian.
  • PetWatch recommends the purchase of juvenile or adult birds, as extremely young birds may require hand feeding which can lead to digestive injury if not done properly.
  • Many bird species can live as long as their human owners. The commitment to care for a pet bird for many decades should be considered when choosing a species.


Sources: Born Free USA; Engebretson, M. The welfare and suitability of parrots as companion animals: a review. Animal Welfare 2006, 15: 264-276. New York State Department of Health: Psittacosis (ornithosis, parrot fever, chlamydiosis); Southeast Texas Avian Rescue: The ABC’s of Leg Bands; Psittacosis


EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
More about EcoHealth Alliance