Wild Birds as Pets

"If you love something, set it free," so why would I suggest keeping a wild creature as a pet?

“If you love something, set it free,” is a well known saying that I think applies just as well to as to anything else. A creature that’s designed to fly, shouldn’t be caged up in a tiny space where often it will quite literally be unable to stretch its wings; that’s cruel. So is keeping a creature, any creature away from others of its kind, with almost no stimulation or exercise.

Of course, some bird owners do provide good conditions for their pet birds, housing a small flock in a spacious aviary and providing exercise and fresh air as well as food and water. I’m sure they do so with the best of intentions, but if I were a parrot, budgerigar or finch, I think I’d prefer to live in tree tops and soar through the air than exist in a wire cage.

So why then would I recommend keeping a wild bird as a pet? In short, I’m not. I do however think its possible for wild birds to provide the same pleasure and interest as one in a cage without the necessity of imprisoning it. Actually, as it’s likely that feeding the birds will bring a variety of different breeds, who will each behave differently, watching wild ones will provide much more variety and excitement than watching the same poor individual hop about on its perch.

There are a variety of ways of attracting birds to a garden, yard or balcony. The more space you have, the more options there will be available to you. A small woodland, open meadow and a pond would be wonderful if space and finances allow, but these are not necessary. A simple wooden table, hanging feeders and a birdbath will encourage a wide range of different birds.

Feeders range from a simple plastic mesh to elaborate ceramic creations suspended on a complex feeding station. Food offered could be kitchen scraps, mixed corn or speciality seeds fruits and dried insects. Seed filled fat balls can be bought or made cheaply and easily at home from mixed birdseed and melted fat. These can be suspended from trees and posts. There are even some designed to be attached to windows so it’s easy to get a close view of the visitors from an easy chair.

Not all food must be bought. Natural food is often preferred and can be supplied by growing plants that produce fruit, nuts or seeds and by avoiding chemical sprays that kill insects. An area of short grass will provide a number of creatures for birds to eat as will a mature tree or large shrub. Seeds gathered in the summer can be stored for use during the winter.

The birds can be watched from a window, using binoculars if required, or as they get used to your presence even from the garden. Doves, pigeons and blackbirds are often perfectly at ease around people and will feed close by. Some such as robins will often become so tame that they’ll fly onto a persons arm and take mealworms or grated cheese directly from their hand.

As well as eating, birds will preen, sing, bathe or might even court and rear their young within sight of your home. Which would you prefer – to watch bluetits fledglings as they leave their nest, a flock of starlings splashing in a birdbath, or pool, goldfinches pick seeds from flower heads and to have doves and robins eating from your hand, or to import an exotic bird and imprison it in your living room?

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