Published on February 9, 2017

Getting to know domestic birds

The Mutual Aid Cooperative for the Survival of Parrots (CO-ESP) is proud to announce it is joining Mondou on its mission to give bird lovers the information they need. We are particularly speaking to those who currently share, or hope to share, their living space with a flighted friend.

What is the CO-ESP?

The CO-ESP was founded in 2013 with the goal of gathering together all those involved in causes related to the protection of animals. Its purpose was to form a wildlife sanctuary specifically for parrots in the form of a legal co-op, so as to ensure the financial sustainability needed to meet the growing needs of parrots in Québec, on a long-term basis.

Due to their need to fly, parrots have specific housing requirements. Moreover, the longevity of multiple species of parrots is considerable: they often live three times as long as other domestic animals.

The CO-ESP would like to position itself within the international movement to protect animals in order to establish principles and specific markers for the long-term quality of life of these magnificent creatures: our beloved parrots. We believe that the well-being of parrots, like that of all other animals, is everyone’s business.

In order to help us bring this large project to life and respond to pressing and primordial needs, we invite you to become a member.

Domestic birds

Following is a generic breakdown of the species of birds commonly found in our homes, and those characteristics that distinguish them the most.

 Unlike dogs and cats, which all belong to the same respective species, birds are classified by a nomenclature that includes more than 10,000 species. Regardless of breed, a cat or dog will recognize another cat or dog immediately as their congener. Not so for birds. For the latter, genetics may vary from one species to another. Birds recognize one another as members of different species.

There are of course people who keep pigeons or turtledoves as pets, and even birds of prey (particularly falcons), but they are in the minority. For certain species, you will need a permit from the Québec ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks. This is why, in this article, we’ll be focussing on the birds most commonly kept as pets: the straight-billed Passeriformes or Passerines, and the hooked-billed Psittaciformes or Psittacines.

Both are prey and not predators like dogs or cats. When threatened, prey are more likely to flee; attacking is a last resort. This is an important factor to remember when interacting with these birds. Prey have eyes on the sides of the head while predators have eyes in the front of the head. Unlike the more common domestic mammals, birds cannot be sterilized. The fact that they keep their genitals is something that should also be considered when interacting with birds.

Passerines

The passerine category includes “cage” birds or “aviary” birds such as finches and canaries, small, straight-billed birds with three toes in front and one in the back. With more than 6000 different species, passerines may exhibit a number of different shapes, colors and vocal sounds, from a subtle chirp to the powerful trill of a song canary. These tend to be highly sociable birds, yet they don’t take easily to humans — they more often prefer the company of their congeners. Nonetheless, they demonstrate a natural “joie de vivre” that inspires any human who comes in contact with them.

Psittacines

The psittacine category includes parrots and parakeets, any hooked-billed bird with two toes in the front and two in the back. This category includes some 400 bird species that vary in size and weight, from 30 to 1500 grams. As is the case with passerines, a wide variety of species are available in a number of color combinations. Hooked-billed birds can often emit an ear-splitting shriek — especially those living in a very humid environment. This ability arose from a need to communicate over the heavy humidity, and resulted in the creation of a powerful voice. Most of the time, parakeets can be distinguished from parrots by their long, pointy tail, while that of the parrot is relatively short and squared off. Parrots also demonstrate a level of dexterity in the feet that parakeets do not possess.

Here are some examples of passerines and psittacines commonly found in households. Notably, you’ll see the variations of beaks, toes, feet and tails.

Photo Illustrations: Passerines

Yellow-fronted canary

Green-singing finch

Gouldian finch
Gouldian finch

Canary
Canary

Photo Illustrations: Psittacines

Budgerigar
Budgerigar

Cockatiel
Cockatiel

Blue fronted amazon
Blue fronted amazon

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Reference

Explore Diversity and The Wild Classroom. The Life of Birds: Families of Birds Organized via Orders.

Videos

Straight-billed songbirds: Female green-singing finch songs / Male canary songs.

Hooked-billed parakeet: Talking male budgie.

Keep soaring!

Danyèle Vachon and Claire Versailles

CO-ESP