Now you've done your research. You've decided that you can deal with at least most traits common to parrots (the good and bad) and you've found a couple of species that you think might make the perfect pet. What now? Of course, more research! You have several options when acquiring a new parrot:

Pet Stores: In some places there's a pet store in every strip mall. This makes them convenient. Unfortunately, staff members and store owners are not likely to be truly up-to-date on the latest bird information. They probably haven't checked their bird breeders' reputations and living conditions for the bird in-store are often not up to snuff. (This is not to say there aren't certain exceptions...) Also the bird care information dispensed at these places is usually not very accurate. Be very wary. Here you are may well pay more for a bird than other places, and you are not sure to get the most healthy, high quality bird for your buck.

Bird Specialty Stores: These are a newer option for bird buyers. They are pet stores selling only birds and bird products. Since their reputation and livelihood depends on the quality of their birds, you are more likely to get a good bird here. Also, usually the owner has a special love of parrots - which is why he or she went into the business. Therefore, the merchandise and information found here is more likely to be reputable. Often birds are hand-raised or even bred on-site, and even those from breeders come from well-researched sources with good reputations.

Breeders: Bird breeders, like those who breed dogs and cats, come in all "shapes and sizes." Many are wonderfully caring individuals who breed birds out of love. However there are a few who breed just to turn a dollar, so their scruples are usually not in the best shape. Make sure to visit your breeder before you buy. Look at the site, talk to the breeder, see the cages and see the baby area. Also ask for references and call those references before you buy!

Newspaper: This can be a potluck. Here you can find birds of all types and ages. If it is a baby you're buying, make sure to visit the breeding facility first. If it is an older bird, ask for a history (behavioral and medical). Be aware that older birds may have behavioral or health problems that you may not find out about until after purchase.

Rescue Groups: This is another fairly new option when getting a bird. These groups take in unwanted parrots (often with medical or behavioral problems) and adopt them out to people who meet strict adoption criteria. Often this involves taking bird-care classes (which is a great idea for any bird owner!) The problem is that you are not starting a baby out from scratch. The reward is that you are giving a home to a bird that doesn't have one - you are giving it a second chance. Also, once you adopt, you have the support of the rescue organization if you run into problems with bird ownership.

When you go to buy a bird, remember to use your resources. Talk to your friends, your avian vet, or your bird club and see what places or people they can recommend when buying the bird you are looking for. If you have a specific place in mind, ask your sources if they have had bad experiences with this place. You may even want to check with the Better Business Bureau.

Finally, when you look at a bird you are interested in, look for these qualities:

  1. Facility: Make sure the breedery and the nursery (or bird store) look clean and tidy. It is preferred that bird cages not be stacked on top of each other, as this is a good way to spread disease. The more cramped a facility, the more easy it is for disease to spread, and the more difficult it is to quarantine sick animals. Look also at the perches, ground and food bowls. They should be fairly clean (realizing of course, that birds are very messy, so it is impossible for it to be totally clean). The birds should have access to fresh water and a good food variety. If the facility owner seems hesitant to give you a thorough "tour", you should be hesitant about buying.
  2. Adults: The breeders should look healthy. They should appear bright and alert, and in good feather (realize that some birds pick their feathers or those of their mates. Also realize that birds kept in the natural sun may have a more "bleached" color than those house indoors or in the shade.).
  3. Babies: Babies should have bright eyes (if open) and be fairly responsive (although very young babies to sleep a lot). Their bedding should be very clean and they should not be housed in cramped quarters. Their skin should be healthy and free from clinging handfeeding formula.
  4. The Owner/Staff: Talk to the breeder or staff members. Find out what safeguards they have against the spread of disease. Ask what kind of "proof" they have that the bird you pick will be healthy. The person you talk to should be willing to divulge information and eager to prove to you the health of the birds they are selling.
  5. The Guarantee: All birds being sold should come with good guarantee (this does not apply to rescue birds). The seller should guarantee in writing a full refund for a bird that turns up sick right after purchase. This guarantee should last long enough for you to take the bird to an avian vet, have it tested, and have the test results come back (remember: most vets will recommend a culture and sensitivity test. This test can take at least 5 days for a full turn around). Make sure to keep a signed copy of your receipt and guarantee until your birds post-purchase exam comes back "all clear."