According to statistics compiled by The Humane Society of the United States, 19 million birds lived in U.S. households in the year 2000. These creatures are adopted for a variety of reasons. The owner may wish to have a canary or finch to add song, color and activity to the indoor environment. If a talker is wanted, the choices are parakeets, cockatiels or parrots.

Birds, like dogs and cats, need regular attention, so if you are planning to put your bird in a cage and forget it, think again. Besides water and food, the cage will require regular cleaning. Are you prepared to cope with birdseed on the floor? If you hope to train a bird it will need consistent reward and repetition. This requires patience and kindness. Are you aware that smaller birds have a life span of seven to ten years while larger birds can live fifty years or more? Parrots need regular activity and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy during their half-century life expectancy.

Before adopting any pet bird, it is important to consider the expenses involved and the responsibilities of ownership. Aside from the vital food costs and veterinary expenses, there is the need for a large cage. Then there are the toys and other supplies, including food supplements. If you rent, there may be a pet deposit mandated by your rental agent. And, if you will be away from home, there is the need to hire a pet sitter, or make boarding arrangements.

A bird can be a wonderful companion in your home, but, as with any pet, there are responsibilities that accompany ownership. When you adopt a feathered friend, please make sure that you are prepared to accept all the responsibilities that accompany its ownership. Too many animals find themselves in shelters because their owners are unprepared for their care.

Pat Jauch is secretary of Caledonia Animal Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 4054, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819.

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