Choosing a Small ParrotFirst-time parrot owners sometimes lean toward getting a smaller parrot because they are easier to care for than a larger species. They are easier to discipline, carry, hold, and are less destructive and noisy. Even smaller parrots pack a punch in personality and are quite affectionate and interactive once they are tamed. But just like the larger birds, they are smart and still need attention and training.What type of small parrots are the most popular/common? Budgies (or parakeets), cockatiels, lovebirds, and parrotlets have been bred in captivity the longest and come in a variety of colors. These species make up the vast majority of individual parrots kept as pets. Budgies – American and English – have been bred as pets for over 150 years.Below is a good, comprehensive list of small-to-medium sized parrots with complete descriptions of each species. It may help you decide which small parrot to buy or adopt when you’re ready for a new winged companion. Also in this article are some helpful tips on parrot cageselection and how to teach your bird to talk.Small-Medium Parrot Species Cockatiels are curious and smart little birds, which is part of the reason they are one of the most common companion birds available. They are a good choice for children and beginning bird owners. The average length of a cockatiel is 12” and they can live to the age of 30 if well cared for. Cockatiels need a cage that is at least two feet on all sides and square or rectangular with horizontal bars. Your bird wants to feel like he’s part of the family, so don’t lock his cage in a room away from people.The cockatiel color palette is endless. Often, male cockatiels are good talkers, but cannot mimic human voices. They enjoy whistling and seem to pick up speech more easily from females or younger children. These popular birds thrive with proper training, taming, diet and care. They are much smaller than cockatoos, although they look similar and are closely related.Like cockatiels, lovebirds come in a variety of colors and make a nice choice for first-time bird owners. True to their name, they are lovable birds with playful personalities. However, if you bring two lovebirds together, they are more likely to bond with each other and less likely to bond with humans. They can live up to 15 years or so. Lovebirds can learn to talk and whistle. These hearty birds aren’t too demanding, but they can get nippy if they aren’t raised with consistency and guidance. Lovebirds enjoy rope toys and little balls to toss around.Small parakeets, commonly known as budgies, are sweet companion birds. They are tiny at about 6” in length.They are gentle, loving creatures as long as they are well cared for and handled regularly. Small parakeets can learn words, phrases and whistles easily, but they do not mimic human intonations and their voices can be squeaky. They are one of the few companion birds that are not usually hand-fed. Males are usually better talkers than females. Budgies enjoy bouncy and springy toys, and because they are little acrobats, also need swings and bars to hang on while upside down in their parrot cage. Parrotlets are tiny little guys, measuring about 6” in length. They are fun, sweet and affectionate. Parrotlets can talk in high voices. Like lovebirds, they make the best pets if you choose a single bird; or if you have two, keep them in separate cages. There are seven types of parrotlets: Pacifics, Spectacles, Sclater’s, Blue Wings, Green Rumps, Mexicans and Yellow Face. The most common pets are the Pacifics and Green Rumps. Pacifics are not too noisy and would be a good choice for people living in an apartment, but they don’t like to be left alone for too long. They also are possessive of their homes, so if you’re cleaning their cage they might try to bite if you reach your hand in there. Instead, offer your hand for a quick step up and then place them onto their play area outside the cage. Parrotlets are hearty eaters, too. Be sure to fill multiple dishes of various foods at all times. They aren’t really known for dunking their food in water dishes but having a tube waterer wouldn’t hurt.Some of the medium-sized parrots include caiques, small conures, lories and lorikeets, large parakeets, pionus parrots and poicephalus.Caiques are known to be playful, stubborn, independent and carefree. These charmers need a human companion with a strong personality, someone who isn’t afraid to establish themselves as the leader in the pecking order. If properly trained and socialized, caiques can be loving not only to their owners but to strangers. They can speak and the tone of their voices are sometimes described as “shrill whistling”. They love to play with ladders, swings and chains and enjoy chewing on toys they can destroy. Caiques are about 9” in length and are a bit on the stocky side with a square-shaped tail. They can live up to 40 years – possibly outliving their human companions.Small conures are approximately 9” in length, while the large conures are about 12”. The conure family is one of the largest groups of parrots and come in a rainbow of colors with equally bright personalities. The common smaller conures are Green Cheek, Orange Front, Peach Front and Maroon Bellied.Conures are considered to be the noisiest of all parrots, and are mischievous and playful. They are great companions known to entertain their owners with their antics.The noisiest sub group of conures include the Dusky, Suns, Nandays, Jendays, White Eyed and Gold Capped. They are bright, inquisitive, and can learn tricks and potty-training quickly. They are very active and are strong chewers. They are generally calm and quite affectionate, and love to be scratched and stroked. If you give them attention before going to work and when you come home, they shouldn’t “scream” too often. They will play quietly by themselves after you have already given them enough stimulation. They can live up to 30 years.Lories are 8-12 inches whilelorikeets are about 5-9 inches in length. Lories can learn to talk fairly easily and are great mimics. These colorful clown birds hop around instead of waddle, and their movements are exaggerated, which makes them fun to watch. They are busy bodies who like to play with their toys and love on their favorite human.Large parakeets include the Alexandrine, Derbyan, Indian Ringneck, Plum Headed, Quaker, Regent and Rosella. Large parakeets are outgoing, smart, social and playful. In the wild, they live in flocks, so you may need more than one parakeet to keep them happy. But what they really need is a healthy environment full of stimulating activities, toys and climbing areas. They form strong connections with their human flock, as well.Pionus parrots are usually 10-12 inches in length. Similar to an Amazon parrot tail, the pionus has a short, square tail. Hard-core parrot fans may prefer a pionus, perhaps because it’s not as popular as some of his avian companions, such as the Amazon and African grey parrot.They tend to get “out-flashed, out-colored and out-talked” by the more common species. Pionus is known to be a quiet, easy-going and slightly standoffish. Pionus lovers say their birds are affectionate, attentive and sweet. A pionus owner needs to spend a lot of time with their pet. Pionus will hiss short little bursts when frightened, similar to cockatiels. These birds can live up to 40 years, so it is not a decision to take lightly.A poicephalus is a genus considered to be playful and entertaining. Most are intelligent, curious, and make a good family pet. A poicephalus can become a one-person bird if not socialized well. Some are affectionate and cuddly, fairly good talkers and good at imitating sounds, and they are good around children. They are independent and can play on their own, but need to be handled daily and interact with more than one person or they may become nippy.Choosing a Parrot CageProportionately, the smaller the bird, the larger the cage that’s needed. Compared to a macaw, a budgie needs more space. Budgies are active little birds and need space to flit around. That’s why they need more space than larger birds, because they are generally more active.A small cage is ok if your bird spends a lot of time outside of its cage during the day. For example, if you work from home, your parrot can get away with a small cage because he’ll only be using it at night to sleep. But most birds will be spending a lot of time in their cage, so be sure to get a cage that fits your parrot’s individual needs. Your pet’s home needs to be safe, comfy and fun to be in. For a bird that’s in his cage all day you should be able to fit up to 6 toys, at least two perches and a swing, food dishes and the actual bird. Birds fly from side to side not up and down, so consider the width of the cage and bar spacing, not just the height of the cage. Also, some suggest getting a cage with a door that takes up about 60 percent of the front. It’s easier to assist your bird in and out. Lovebirds and parrotlets are really just big parrots trapped inside small parrot bodies. They love to eat and chew things and need space to exercise, so make sure to buy a cage that is an appropriate size. But pay attention to bar spacing because sometimes large cages mean larger bar spacing which isn’t good for little heads, beaks and feet. Improper bar spacing could result in broken wings and necks.If multiple birds are sharing space, you need to be cognizant of potential fighting over food, water or perches. Some quarreling is expected but if it’s happening too often, the cage may be too small.Below is a cage sizing guide for a few species:Budgie: 24 by 24 by 24 inches; 1⁄2 inch or less bar spacingLovebird: 24 by 24 by 24 inches; 1⁄2 inch or less bar spacingParrotlet: 24 by 24 by 24 inches; 1⁄2 inch or less bar spacingCockatiel: 24 by 24 by 24 inches; 3⁄4 inch or less bar spacingAn aviary might be a great option if you have several little birds. An aviary is a large enclosure and living space that lets birds fly around. They often house shrubbery and plants to simulate a more natural environment.You wouldn’t have to keep your eye on them every second as you would if they were flying around in the house to get exercise. Basically, more space to fly around in means a better and happier quality of life for your parrots. Aviaries need to be safe from predators, that includes cats and dogs. They also need protection from the cold.Small Parrot Talking TipsWhile it’s never a given that your parrot will talk, many species are excellent talkers – small and large parrots alike. If your bird already talks or mimics sounds, he is more likely to learn words and phrases. Parrots are very social creatures and they want to let you know that you are part of their flock, which is the reason they talk to you.It’s said that no bird is more chatty than a male budgie/parakeet. They can easily learn hundreds of words. The World Record belongs to a budgie with a vocabulary of more than 1,700 words. Male budgies are the best talkers out there. Females aren’t known to talk. Even if females (or males) don’t talk, they may understand what you are saying. Be sure to reward them if they respond. Be sure to turn on the radio and TV to encourage your bird to learn to listen to voices. But they will learn best directly from you. If you say a word enthusiastically, the bird will pick up on your excitement, which is why they learn swear words rather easily. A lot of birds know phrases or words like “shut up” or “ouch.”Budgies have high-pitched voices and talk really fast, so it may be hard to understand what they are saying a lot of the time. You can help them speak more clearly if you have an idea of the word they are trying to say. Repeat the word or phrase clearly when you hear him talking and eventually he will understand the word. How you say the word – slowly and with enthusiasm – is important.Male cockatiels can also learn to talk and whistle. If they whistle already and are pretty loud, they are more likely to learn how to say a few words and phrases as well. Females don’t talk, so teach her tricks instead.When you enter the room, greet your parrot with a “hello.” When you leave the house, tell your parrot “goodbye.” When you cover his cage at night, be sure to say “good-night.” They will pick up these phrases because they associate your words with your actions. Even if your parrot doesn’t answer, they can still understand and communicate in their own way.Teaching parrots food words is effective because they love food. You can teach him the difference between an apple, orange and grape. If your pet attempts to mimic one of these words, give him a reward even if you can’t understand the word.With repetition from their owner, parrots will remember the words taught to them for their entire lives. With less repetition from you, pronunciation may drift and become less accurate, or the word may be completely forgotten.Toys for Small BirdsEven small bird like toys. Because of their smaller and less powerful beaks, little birds won’t chew through toys the same way a cockatoo or macaw would, for example. They need new toys rotated in as well whether they are chewed or not. It will keep them interested, and birds really do love to chew.Some small parrot owners will give their birds appropriately sized foot toys, such as sturdy balls and bar bells. Birds like swings, rope toys and little balls to toss around, too. As for chewable toys, birds like wood, leather, plastic, paper and rope. Don’t give them something dangerous that they could choke on, however. Bells and chains might not be the best choices for your little birds.Small birds also like to hunt for food at the bottom of their cages. In the wild, lovebirds, budgies and parrotlets forage for food on the ground so it makes sense that they would mimic the same behavior inside their cages.Keep experimenting with different toys – sizes, textures and shapes – so your bird doesn’t get bored. As I’ve mentioned, mental and health problems usually stem from bird boredom.A playstand or playgym is a good place to put toys, too. Your bird gets out his cage that way. Toys to pull on, chew, stand on and climb – plus bowls, cups and mirrors -are all great fun. The advantage for you is carrying a light-weight playstand from room to room.Little Parrot HealthWith proper care and diet, little birds can live a long time. In the wild, budgies and cockatiels eat seeds mostly. As pets though, they need more than just seeds. They enjoy fresh veggies and fruits, whole grain breads and pasta, among many other tasty snacks. Some of the foods they shouldn’t eat: milk, chocolate, garlic, onions and avocado.If you do give your bird only seeds, be sure to supplement their diet with vitamins (that include iodine) sprinkled on moist food, and a cuttlebone or mineral block. Talking to your vet before you change a cockatiel or budgie’s diet is recommended. Some birds don’t like when their diet is changed and sometimes the bird is not healthy enough for a complete diet change.Obese budgies may develop fatty tumors that need to be removed. Liver problems are usually associated with obese birds, too. Hepatic lipidosis is a potentially fatal disease. This disease affects birds on a seeds-only diet that don’t get exercise. Another cause of obesity could be thyroid dysfunction but that’s not usually reported in small birds. If budgies or cockatiels have liver disease, they may have overgrown beaks and toenails.Acrobatic and athletic birds like budgies and cockatiels need exercise and a larger cage than you might think. Try to buy the biggest cage you can afford and stock it with toys, swings, and ladders. And don’t forget the playgym outside the cage. All of these things will help reduce the risk of obesity.Small and large birds are susceptible to giardia and roundworms. Even if you don’t live in an area where intestinal parasites are a problem, many cockatiels and budgies are bred and shipped from an area that’s prone to those problems.