Birds Kept as Pets | Healthy Pets, Healthy People (2023)

Birds Kept as Pets | Healthy Pets, Healthy People (1)

Feathered pets like parrots can be fascinating additions to the family. Recent estimates say that over 5 million households in the United States have pet birds. Bird owners should be aware that although their pets might be highly intelligent and fun companions, they can sometimes carry germs that can make people sick.

Although rare, germs from birds can cause a variety of illnesses in people, ranging from minor skin infections to serious illnesses. One of the best ways you can protect yourself from getting sick is to thoroughly wash your handswith running water and soap after you touch birds, their droppings, or items in their cages.

By providing your pet with routine veterinary care and following the Healthy People tips, you are less likely to get sick from touching or owning a pet bird.

Read below about diseases that can be spread by pet birds. These diseases can be carried by any type of pet bird you have. Visit theHealthy People section to learn more about staying healthy around pet birds.

Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans)

(Video) What You Need to Know About Keeping Birds as Pets

Cryptococcosis is an infection caused by fungus found in the environment, particularly in soil, on decaying wood, in tree hollows, or in bird droppings.

How it spreads: People can get cryptococcosis by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the environment.

Who is at risk: Cryptococcosis is extremely rare in healthy people. It most often affects people with weakened immune systems.

Signs in birds: It is rare to see signs in birds.

Symptoms in people: Symptoms can resemble pneumonia, including cough, shortness of breath, and fever. Cryptococcal meningitis can cause headache, fever, and neck pain.

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Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum)

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by fungus found in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird and bat droppings.

How it spreads: People can get histoplasmosis by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the environment.

Who is at risk: Anyone can get histoplasmosis, but those most at risk for serious infection include adults over 65 years old, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Signs in birds: Birds do not get sick from histoplasmosis.

Symptoms in people: Most people don’t get sick from histoplasmosis. People who do get sick from histoplasmosis can have pneumonia-like symptoms that usually appear within 3-17 days of exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, and fatigue.

(Video) 7 Best Birds to Keep as Pet | Most Friendly Birds to Keep as Pet

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Psittacosis (Chlamydiophila psittaci)

Psittacosis is a disease caused by bacteria (Chylamydia psittaci) spread through the droppings and respiratory secretions of infected birds. People most commonly get psittacosis after exposure to pet birds, like parrots and cockatiels, and poultry, like turkeys or ducks. When birds are infected, veterinarians call the disease avian chlamydiosis.

(Video) Pet Birds, IAQ & Your Health

How it spreads: People most commonly get psittacosis by breathing in dust from droppings or respiratory secretions of infected birds. Less commonly, birds infect people through bites and beak-to-mouth contact.

Who is at risk: Anyone who is exposed to the bacteria can get psittacosis, but it is more commonly reported among adults. People who have contact with birds (such as bird owners and those who work with birds) are at increased risk.

Signs in birds: Infected birds may or may not show symptoms. If they do have symptoms, they can include poor appetite, discharge from the eyes or nose, diarrhea or loose droppings, green urates (the white part of their droppings), or breathing difficulty, among others.

Symptoms in people: People who get sick with psittacosis might have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, and a dry cough. Symptoms usually start 5-14 days after exposure. Less commonly, people report symptoms that begin after 14 days.

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How to stay healthy around pet birds

Before buying or adopting a pet bird, make sure a bird is the right type of pet for your family. Know that many pet birds have a very long life span. Some parrots can live for 20 years or longer. Birds require special care and can sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. Because of this, certain types of birds might not be suitable for young children or people with weakened immune systems living in the household.

Birds Kept as Pets | Healthy Pets, Healthy People (2)

Wash your hands

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
    • After handling birds, their toys, food and water dishes, or other equipment
    • After cleaning bird cages, habitats, or perches
    • Before you eat, drink, or smoke
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Be sure to have hand sanitizer readily available near the bird’s enclosure to encourage guests and children to use hand sanitizer after handling birds.

Safely clean your pet bird’s cages and equipment

  • When cleaning cages, do not pick up droppings with your bare hands. Always wash your handsthoroughly right after cleaning up or handling your bird.
  • Don’t clean any equipment or materials in the kitchen sink. This includes cages and food and water containers. Bacteria and other germs can cross-contaminate your food preparation areas.
  • Wash your hands right after handling your bird or any of its supplies.

Prevent bird bites and scratches

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Pet birds do not have teeth, but their beaks can still cause a lot of damage if they bite or attempt to bite you. Birds can also have very sharp nails and talons. Germs can spread from bird bites and scratches, even when the wound does not seem deep or serious. Always closely supervise children around birds. If a bird scratches or bites you, you should:

(Video) Is it allowed to keep birds in a house as pets

  • Wash the wounds with soap and water immediately.
  • Seek medical attention if:
    • The bird appears sick,
    • The wound is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, loss of function, extreme pain, muscle or bone exposure) or you think you need stitches,
    • The wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen, or
    • It has been more than 5 years since you got your last tetanus shot.

If you seek medical attention, make sure to tell your doctor a bird bit or scratched you.

How to keep pet birds healthy

Keeping your pet bird healthy helps to keep you and your family healthy. To learn how to stay healthy around pet birds, visit the Healthy People section.

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Beforechoosing a pet bird

  • Check your state, local, and property laws before adopting or purchasing a pet bird. Many governments have ordinances against certain pets because of noise, size, or public health risk.
  • Identify a local veterinarian who has experience with pet birds (an avian veterinarian) to help you keep your bird healthy.
  • Learn about the different types of birds and their personalities and attention needs before you bring one home. Birds are very intelligent and social animals that require a lot of attention. Also learn about the life span for the type of bird you are interested in as many birds can live for 20 years or more.
  • Research how to properly care for your bird before purchase. Ask your veterinarian about the proper food, care, and enclosure or environment that is best for the bird you are selecting.
  • Select a location for your bird’s cage, perch, or enclosure. Pet birds need to be housed in a warm, draft-free location that has adequate lighting and is close to activity in the household.

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How to choose a pet bird

When choosing a pet bird, you should:

  • Match a bird’s attitude, temperament, size, activity level, and life span with your family, your home, and the amount of time you have to spend with your pet.
  • Pick birds that are bright, alert, and active. Birds should have smooth, sleek, and soft feathers that are free of debris or droppings. Birds who seem depressed, aren’t moving around very much, or look dirty may be ill.
  • Learn the signs of illness in a bird, which can include appearing sluggish or depressed, having ruffled feathers or areas of feather loss, abnormal breathing, and fluid running from its eyes or nose.
  • When bringing new birds to a household that already has pet birds, be sure to keep the new birds separated for at least 30 days before introducing them to your existing birds. This will help prevent the new birds from passing disease to your existing animals. During this period of separation:
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before working with each group of birds.
    • Keep water and food dishes, toys, and other cage/perch equipment separate and clean.
  • Within a few days after you buy or adopt your bird, take it to a veterinarian who has experience with pet birds (avian veterinarians) for a health visit and get advice on caring for your new pet. Return to the veterinarian for checkups and beak, nail, or wing trimmings, as recommended.
Importing pet birds into the United States

USDA regulates the importation of pet birds. Because of the risk of avian influenza (bird flu), USDA restricts the importation of pet birds from certain countries and enfosrces a 30-day quarantine for all imported birds except those that come from Canada. People interested in importing pet birds should visit the USDA non-US Origin Pet Bird Importation website.

Birds Kept as Pets | Healthy Pets, Healthy People (6)

How to house pet birds

  • Provide a safe, sturdy enclosure or cage for your bird. Keep pet birds from interacting with all wild animals and insects such as mosquitoes. These animals and insects can carry diseases that can be spread to your pet birds.
  • Do not allow your birds to fly or roam around the house without supervision. They could get accidentally trapped or hurt.
  • Avoid housing pet birds in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or dining rooms.
  • Closely supervise any interaction of your birds with children or other pets to reduce the chance of injuries.

Clean and disinfect pet bird cages and equipment

  • Keep bird cages, enclosures, and perches clean to prevent the build-up of droppings.
  • Keep birds and their equipment out of kitchens and other areas where food is prepared, served, served, or consumed. Never use food preparation areas to clean habitats and supplies. Clean these items outside of the home when possible.
  • If you clean habitats and supplies indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right afterward.

Learn how to stay healthy while cleaning your bird’s cage.

Monitor your pet bird’s health

  • Visit a veterinarian who has experience with pet birds (avian veterinarian) for routine check-ups to keep your bird healthy and prevent infectious diseases.
  • Sick birds may become thin, depressed or sluggish, have diarrhea, have fluid running from their eyes, or lose feathers. But birds can also carry germs that might make people sick without appearing sick at all.
  • If your bird becomes sick or dies within a month after purchase or adoption:
    • Contact your veterinarian.
    • Inform the store, breeder, or adoption organization about the bird’s illness or death.
    • Consider waiting before you purchase or adopt another pet to give yourself time to clean any germs out of the cage or perch and to clean bird equipment.
    • Do not reuse the cage, enclosure, perch, or equipment until it has been properly cleaned and disinfected.

Selecting and caring for a pet bird

Importing pet birds

Illnesses associated with pet birds

  • Psittacosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Cryptococcosis

Staying healthy around pet birds

Visit the Healthy People section for information about staying healthy around pet birds.

Guidance and recommendations

(Video) Is it haram to Keep Birds in cages and Fish as Pets? Any reward for Buying birds and Freeing them?


Is it healthy to have a pet bird? ›

Bird owners should be aware that although their pets might be highly intelligent and fun companions, they can sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. Although rare, germs from birds can cause a variety of illnesses in people, ranging from minor skin infections to serious illnesses.

Why keep birds as pets? ›

Birds make great pets and owning a bird can be a seriously rewarding experience. They are sociable, intelligent, and with the right socialization, can form wonderful bonds with their families. They even do well in homes with children, and are relatively easy (and inexpensive) to care for and train!

How do pet birds help humans? ›

It makes us feel wanted and loved, while releasing endorphins. For the elderly, when children have flown the nest, pets can fulfil that need to be nurturing. Pet birds are particularly good for this, because they require a lot of personal attention and interaction with you in order to be healthy.

What are the benefits of having a bird? ›

Benefits Of Owning a Pet Bird
  • Companionship. Studies have shown that the companionship you get from pet birds can mirror some of the elements of human relationships that are known to contribute to your health, plus they don't answer you back! ...
  • Social Interaction. ...
  • Reduce Stress. ...
  • Good for the Mind.

What are the pros and cons of having a pet bird? ›

Pro: They tend to be very social and bond closely with their owners. Con: They are known to easily get sick, and require medical attention.

Is a bird a good pet for a kid? ›

Many families find that the best pet bird species for children is the parakeet. This type of bird can be gentle and playful, making it a great choice to help your kids learn about responsibility while building their social skills and having fun with an adorable companion.

Why do birds make us happy? ›

There's no other way to say it: Birds really do make us happy. They force us to stop and pay close attention, to notice details more acutely. When we're out birding, we're experiencing the joy of being fully immersed in the present moment—very much in line with what mindfulness practices advocate.

What happens when you pet a bird? ›

Physical hugging or scratching around the head is acceptable, but scratching, stroking or petting your bird around the back, rump, and hind end may cause sexual stimulation. Redirect your bird's attention towards other toys and healthy interactive play with you, the owner.

Are birds easy to take care of? ›

Pet birds are different than cats and dogs, but they are not any more difficult to keep healthy. The right pet bird diet, a clean cage, fresh bird food and water, safe bird toys, exercise, and lots of attention are the basics.

Do birds protect their owners? ›

Another potential issue that may arise from the bond between bird and owner is that they may become protective of and bite individuals who get too close to their imprinted human. They may also become protective of their cage or become defensive if they feel threatened, also leading to biting.

What impact do humans have on birds? ›

In addition, millions of birds are directly killed by human-caused sources such as collisions with man-made structures such as windows and communication towers. Human-caused mortality impacts are exacerbated by the landscape alterations resulting from a changing climate.

Do birds get used to humans? ›

Often, as soon as the bird realizes your presence, it will take off. Being able to observe birds up close is a rarity, and a coveted interaction for many birders. But there are some bird species that can grow comfortable with human interaction—even to the point where they will eat out of people's hands.

What are three reasons that birds are important? ›

10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Birds
  • They provide pest control. Modern history is filled with stories of birds saving potato fields, fruit orchards, and cranberry bogs from insect devastation. ...
  • They're money makers. ...
  • They clean up. ...
  • They spread seeds. ...
  • They announce danger. ...
  • They pollinate. ...
  • They help farmers. ...
  • They poop.
Nov 18, 2013

What is the most important thing about birds? ›

When birds travel, they take the seeds they have eaten with them and disperse them through their droppings. They bring plants back to ecosystems that have been destroyed, and even carry plants across the sea to new land masses. Birds have helped to shape the plant life we see around us – and around the world.

What is so special about birds? ›

Birds were able to become flying machines largely through the evolutionary gifts of feathers, powerful wings, hollow bones, warm blood, a remarkable respiratory system, and a large, strong heart. These adaptations all boil down to the two prime requirements for any flying machine: high power and low weight.

Is it moral to keep birds as pets? ›

It is not ethically right to keep the majority of the birds that are at present kept as pets, due to the origins of some species, and for others, the large number of nutritional, health, and behavioral problems that occur due to inadequate keeping conditions and incorrect husbandry by the bird owners.

Do you love birds make good pets? ›

Is lovebirds a good pet? Yes, lovebirds make a good pet bird even for beginners due to their affectionate, social, intelligent, and gentle nature. However, they're slightly more aggressive than parakeets and cockatiels.

Should pet birds be free? ›

Birds that have been raised in captivity for the pet trade, should never be released to the wild. They don't know how to be wild birds, and don't have the skills necessary to survive the weather, finding food, recognizing predators, or all the other dangers birds can face.

What is the best age to get a pet bird? ›

A parrot might respond to this by biting or trying to fly away, so a child that has lots of energy and not much self control over his or her movements or desires would not make a great pet bird owner. This is why we often recommend that generally, the child be 12 years old before getting their own pet bird.

What is the best bird to own as a pet? ›

The Best Bird to Have as a Pet
  • Cockatiel. Cockatiels are known for their easy-going personality and being friendly and affectionate. ...
  • Conure Bird. These little birds are louder than most. ...
  • Finch. ...
  • Canary Bird. ...
  • Parakeet. ...
  • Lovebird.

Why are birds good for mental health? ›

Listening to birdsongs alleviates feelings of anxiety and paranoia. The birdsongs you are hearing may already be helping your mood. A second study found that listening to short — just six-minute — audio clips of birdsong could reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia in healthy participants.

Why do people love birds so much? ›

Birds are incredibly complex and simply beautiful all in one. They are such a diverse group of fascinating and often flat-out adorable creatures, that the answer to “why?” feels pretty much like a given.

How does a bird make you feel? ›

Can you hear one chirping? If so, you might be getting a mental health boost. A study recently published in the journal Science found that being in the presence of birds made people feel more positive.

Can a bird bond with you? ›

Birds are phenomenal pets, and they can bond to their owners and live many, many years, especially some of the larger parrots. But it's not automatic. Birds don't just come into your house, love you, feel comfortable with you, and bond with you immediately. This bond is something that you have to work toward.

What birds bond to one person? ›

If you're looking for a one-person bird, there are a few different types to consider. Macaws, Eclectus parrots, African gray parrots, Amazon parrots, and cockatiels all make great pets for single bird enthusiasts.

Should you cuddle your bird? ›

While many young birds do learn to enjoy cuddling, this can actually be detrimental to their health as they mature, especially for a female bird. When parrots are young, they may live in flocks and have companions within the flock.

What is the most caring bird? ›

Parakeets (AKA Budgies or Budgerigars)

Parakeets are perhaps the most popular type of pet bird the world over. They are exceptionally affectionate and friendly companion birds when properly trained and cared for.

Is taking care of birds a hobby? ›

Sure, birdwatching, photographing and feeding birds is a fun hobby, but there's much more to it than that. This simple activity can provide major health benefits and add to the quality of life for just about anyone.

What do birds like to do the most? ›

Toys: Like all animals, birds love to play with toys. A multitude of toys should be available at any pet store. Just make sure the toys are safe and have no small parts that could cause choking.

Which bird is most loyal to their owners? ›

Lovebirds are friendly and easily form bonds with their owners and other companions – regardless of whether those companions are feathered or not. Lovebirds have beautiful feathers and also are easy to care for.

Are birds loyal to their owners? ›

While not all birds will form a close emotional bond with humans, some do, and they can be very loyal and affectionate pets. While it hasn't been scientifically proven if birds can love or not, bird observes can see a bird's affections through their personality and behavior.

Do birds like being covered? ›

It depends on the situation. Some birds prefer to remain uncovered during bedtime, and other birds simply cannot sleep without a "security blanket." On average, birds need about 12 hours of good, quality sleep each night to remain in peak condition.

What do birds know about humans? ›

Recent studies have shown that birds can recognize humans and may know their voices too. Their research shows that birds recognize humans, their faces, and in some cases our voices. For example, pigeons will get out of the way for specific humans that have previously shooed them away.

How do birds connect with humans? ›

How do birds communicate with humans? Wild birds do not usually communicate with humans, but pet birds certainly do. Pet birds often communicate vocally and visually in ways that their attentive owners can learn to understand.

What do birds do in the morning? ›

Birds Perform Loudest in the Morning

They warm up, to help ensure that when it's their time to shine, they perform at their best. Duke University researchers have discovered that birds do the same thing in the early morning, just as the sun is shining.

Do birds remember who you are? ›

Birds Remember Your Face

Although many wild birds have been documented, both scientifically and anecdotally, to recognize humans, certain birds are more known for it. Crows, magpies, pigeons, robins, mockingbirds, and jackdaws have some of the most well-documented cases of facial recognition.

Can a bird recognize you? ›

And it isn't the first time such research has suggested that birds can recognize individual humans. For instance, a 2012 study showed that trained pigeons could distinguish one human from another, according to Science Daily.

What are the cons of having a bird? ›

Birds are self-serving creatures and their loyalties and trust may shift on a whim, if you don't give them the time and attention they want. They easily throw tantrums, are extremely loud and their hormones can make them more and more unpredictable as they grow older.

What are the disadvantages of birds as pets? ›

  • Birds are not suitable for cuddling.
  • Birds are noisy and messy.
  • Birds nibble furniture.
  • Birds need time for daily exercise outside the cage.
  • Costs for food etc.
  • Birds can cause allergies.

Do birds carry diseases in their feathers? ›

Bird feathers

Although not as common as bird feces, feathers can also be responsible for the spread of diseases. A bird feather, particularly from those living in urban environments, can often play host to a range of parasites, bacteria and viruses.

What diseases do birds carry to humans? ›

Zoonotic diseases associated with birds include avian tuberculosis, erysipelas, ornithosis, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, campylobacterosis, and escherichiosis.

What happens if you pet a bird? ›

Physical hugging or scratching around the head is acceptable, but scratching, stroking or petting your bird around the back, rump, and hind end may cause sexual stimulation. Redirect your bird's attention towards other toys and healthy interactive play with you, the owner.

What is the biggest problem for birds? ›

For instance, habitat loss is thought to pose by far the greatest threat to birds, both directly and indirectly, however, its overall impact on bird populations is very difficult to directly assess.

Is it hard taking care of a bird? ›

Pet birds are different than cats and dogs, but they are not any more difficult to keep healthy. The right pet bird diet, a clean cage, fresh bird food and water, safe bird toys, exercise, and lots of attention are the basics.

What should you not do with a pet bird? ›

9 Things Never To Do Around Your Pet Bird
  • Smoke.
  • Cook.
  • Use Cleaners/Disinfectants Or Set Your Oven To Self-Clean Mode.
  • Host A Big Party.
  • Place A Phone Call.
  • Organize Important Paperwork.
  • Swear.
  • Spray Anything But Water.
Mar 15, 2013

Are birds loyal pets? ›

Pet birds make great companions. They are full of personality and offer loyal friendship if raised and cared for properly. Some birds are easy to connect with right off the bat, while others may take some time to warm up.

Can pet birds cause lung problems? ›

Disease Overview

Psittacosis is an uncommon infectious disease that is most often transmitted to humans through exposure to infected birds, especially parrots, cockatiels, parakeets and similar pet birds. Psittacosis can affect the lungs and may cause inflammatory illness of the lungs (pneumonia).

Can you get parasites from birds? ›

Chlamydia psittaci is a type of bacteria that often infects birds. Less commonly, these bacteria can infect people and cause a disease called psittacosis. Psittacosis in people is most commonly associated with pet birds, like parrots and cockatiels, and poultry, like turkeys and ducks.

Can bird droppings make you sick? ›

Psittacosis (also known as ornithosis) is a disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, carried by birds. Humans most commonly catch the disease by inhaling dust containing feathers, secretions and droppings from infected birds. Older people generally experience more severe illness.

Do birds carry fleas? ›

Birds: Birds can also carry fleas into your yard. If you have bird feeders, make sure to clean them regularly to prevent fleas from taking up residence.

Can humans get viruses from birds? ›

Direct infection can occur from exposure to saliva, mucous, or feces from infected birds. Bird flu infections among people are rare; however, human infections can happen when enough virus gets into a person's eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled.

Do birds carry lice? ›

Domestic birds, like chickens and parrots, may carry these lice on their feathers and bodies. When the parasites infest pets or wild birds in the house, they may cause problems for homeowners, as well. Nesting sites close to vents and windows or pet cages indoors give bird lice easy access to living spaces.


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