The first thing to do is to consider that type of bird you’re looking for. Check out the list of commonly kept species in the Different Types of Parrot section of this guide. Do you want something easy to look after, something friendly, something that mixes well with other birds, something a bit bigger and a bit more challenging? If you or your family have kept parrots before, you’ll have a clearer idea of what’s in store.
Spend time watching the bird or birds you intend buying, and give them a visual health-check.
Mealy Amazons - new birds should look in the prime of health
Healthy parrots should be wide awake in daylight, alert and interested in their surroundings, with their feathers neat and close to the body (rather than fluffed up). Their eyes should be bright, and they should have lots to say for themselves (even if this is all whistles and squawks rather than words). That poor parrot alone and asleep in the corner with the messy, ruffled feathers, crusty beak and dirty vent, isn’t one of the healthy ones.
Equally important, the bully making the other birds’ lives a misery isn’t the ideal addition to a mixed aviary, if that’s your intention. Not all parrot species mix well with others – in fact, this is the rule rather than the exception. Larger birds will bully their smaller cousins, and some small birds such as lovebirds can, in spite of their names, make life hell for less aggressive species such as budgies and cockatiels. Always ask the breeder or shop for advice if you want to mix and match your birds.
A good supplier will have healthy birds and lots of invaluable advice
It’s not always obvious what sex a given bird is, and with some species it requires an invasive examination or even a DNA test to find out if a chick is male or female. Absence of disease can be even harder to ascertain. Many breeders offer paperwork asserting a bird’s vet-signed bill of health. In the absence of this, ask for a guarantee, so that you can at least get your money back if the parrot turns out to have been ill, in spite of outward appearances.
Ask the seller how the parrot has been kept so far. Is he acclimatised to the local weather? Is he used to the company of other parrots and/or humans? Has he spent time in an outdoor aviary, or has he ever been kept indoors?
If you are introducing your new purchase to existing parrots at home, a period of quarantine is advisable, to make sure the newcomer isn’t harbouring illness. A period of 35 days is standard.