The main characteristic of a bird is feathers. No other animal has feathers. Other important features for birds are wings and hollow bones. Birds also lay eggs, like reptiles, however they are warm-blooded, like mammals.

What are Feathers?

Feathers are made of keratin. This is the same stuff that fingernails are made of. At the center of the feather is a hollow shaft called the rachis. Connected to the shaft are lots of thin branches called barbs. Off of the barbs are even smaller branches called barbules. All of these branches make a light structure that can gather air to fly.

How do birds fly?

Birds fly by flapping their wings and using air pressure to create lift under their wings. Just like airplanes do. The peregrine falcon is one of the fastest birds. It can reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour when diving.

Feathers are important to birds because they keep them warm, help them to fly, and provide camouflage. Hollow bones also help in flying because they help make the bird light enough to fly.

Not All Birds Fly

Although an important characteristic of most birds is flying, not all birds fly. Some birds that don’t fly are penguins, kiwis, and ostriches. Penguins actually spend a good portion of time in the water where they are prolific swimmers. Ostriches on the other hand are very fast runners. An ostrich can outrun a horse!

Types of Birds

There are all sizes of birds. Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds, while ostriches are some of the biggest. Different types of birds eat different things. Some birds feed on plants, some birds eat insects, and still others eat other animals like fish, snakes, or rodents.

Birds are also known for their massive migrating patterns. Some Birds will travel long distances each season to stay in a climate that is good for their survival. Birds are sometimes kept as pets. The most popular birds for pets are tropical birds like parrots. Birds also have a history of helping out humans in various tasks. They can carry messages (homing pigeons) and help hunt (falcons).

Birds as Pets

There is a good choice of pet birds and parrots available in New Zealand. Although worldwide, the budgie is still the most favoured pet, as these birds are small, can learn to talk, are hardy, come in a range of colours and, if properly managed, can easily live for well over 10 years. Another popular small bird is the canary! These birds are available many different sizes and colours, and all male canaries sing. When it comes to larger parrots such cockatoos and African Greys they are generally a lot more demanding when it comes to their care! If they get bored they can also be very destructive and they can also be very loud to try seek your attention. This means that they are not ideal pets if you live a busy lifestyle, work long hours or have intolerant neighbours! A good in between option is the cockatiel these birds make excellent pets when hand-fed as babies, as they are extremely gentle and although they rarely talk they whistle and can mimic household sounds.

Birds like all pets need balanced nutrition, a diet that is designed for them with all the necessary components to keep them fit and healthy. A healthy diet for most types of birds consists of a variety of grains, bird seed, pellets, fruits and leafy green vegetables.

Taking time to bond with your bird is essential to building a strong and long-lasting relationship with your new pet. As in the wild birds have a flock mentality, so forming a bond with your pet is crucial to helping him understand that you are his friend. Once you bring your bird home your family acts as the new “flock” for a pet bird, so he naturally wants to join in on your family activities. If your family is together in one room, your pet bird may scream from its enclosure to get your attention.

A general rule of thumb for bird cages and aviaries is the bigger the better! Pet birds need room to exercise their wings and explore around. A variety of toys will provide enrichment and excitement while giving these intelligent animals something to do! Small species, such as Finches and Canaries, enjoy flying throughout a cage, so a flight cage is always preferred especially with multiple birds. A large bird, like a Parrot, requires toys for chewing. Access to natural light is preferred, but it is also good to avoid placing the cage in drafty areas. When selecting a cage the spacing of the bars need to be proportional to the size of the birds inside, for their security and safety.

Your birds cage is their safe place, so it is important that you keep it clean and hygienic. As poor hygiene can also lead to a variety of health problems for your bird. A thorough cage-clean needs to be carried out at least once a week, but it is also good practice to carry out daily checks to keep up the cleanliness. You should also do a thorough cage wash with hot soapy water monthly to make sure the cage is keep in top condition. Also to prevent the fouling of your birds essential supplies, you need to check that the perches are not placed over your bird’s food or water bowls.

Exercise and activities are extremely important to keep your pet bird healthy and happy. As pet birds are inquisitive and highly social creatures that like to play. Exercise is natural for them and easy to provide. It is important that if your bird is fully flighted that you give them daily out of cage time to fly and stretch their wings!

An easy way to provide entertainment is with toys as well as exercise most parrots like to chew. Perches, swings, ladders and toys all become objects of entertainment and chewing. Plastic toys are better for small birds. Small birds like budgies and cockatiels are fine with plastic toys. But when it comes to larger more destructive parrots it is safer to offer them with toys made from natural materials, woods, leathers and acrylic for your parrot to chew on.

As a rule birds make great pets! Whether they are in a cage indoors with your family or outside in an aviary situation. When loved and shown the attention and respect they deserve, they will re-pay you tenfold with loyal companionship and wonderful displays of colour and song. They come in many shapes and sizes so there is a species to fit in with almost every home environment. They are also highly intelligent and so when given adequate training and socialisation, birds can be every bit as loving and affectionate as a cat or dog. Some species of birds can be even trained to talk and do simple tricks and tasks so they make for very rewarding and entertaining companions.

Fun Facts about Birds


Pet Birds well cared for can live long lives. Parrots can live over 50 years. African Grey Parrots can live up to 25 years. Popular pets like Budgies can live for an average of 15 years.


Most birds do not have a strong sense of smell. They rely more on their vision to tell them what they can and can not eat. As scent and taste are very closely related, birds do not have a strong sense of taste either.


Birds have ears located at the sides of their heads around their eye level. They are covered in feathers for protection. If you catch a glimpse of their ears, they look like little holes in the sides of their heads. Birds can hear very well, as they use their calls and songs to communicate with one another.


Some birds can be trained to talk, hunt, come when called, do certain tricks and snuggle.


The birds tail feathers are used for steering.


Parrots are very adept at using their beak, it’s almost like a hand for them. They use it to climb, hold things, manipulate things, and, of course, to eat!


Parrots are individuals with individual personalities. They can be loud or quiet, boisterous or reserved, problem-solvers or laid-back.


Parrots are known to be intelligent, African grey parrots in particular. Never underestimate a parrot’s ability to understand you, escape from an enclosure, or reach something the parrot wants.

Useful Information

Budgie Care Guide

Caring for your Budgie


Cockatiel Care Guide

Caring for your Cockatiel


Canary Care Guide

Caring for your Canary


Bird Behaviours

Understand Common Bird Behaviours