There are many reasons why people decide to buy a bird. Most often it is for a family pet or companion for an individual. Sometimes it may even be a gift or is inherited from its previous owner.
These pages will look at some of the issues involved in buying a bird. Most bird sales will be problem free but a little research and preparation will often make the process much easier.
Once the decision has been made to purchase a bird then its usually just a matter of paying for it and taking the bird away to its new home.
Normally an easy process with the buyer being satisfied with the new bird and the seller happy with the sale price. Thankfully the vast majority of sales go real smooth with both parties being happy.

The secret to completing a successful sale/purchase is communications. Both parties need to know exactly what is happening, what is expected of each other and the exact specification of the birds being traded. This may seem too obvious BUT this is where the majority of problems occur. NEVER make any assumptions regarding the birds or the conditions of sale. What you understand as the conditions of the deal may be the exact opposite of what the seller/buyer understands.
Often, the more expensive the bird then the more reassurances the buyer will need concerning the good health, disease free state, purity of breed, sex, and other issues concerning compatibility.

It is a fact of life in the bird buying and selling business that unexpected problems will occur and do occur. Like all purchases a great deal of common sense is required, sadly this is often lacking when one hears some of the disaster stories where birds have been purchased and the deal quickly unravels, usually in public!
Listed below are some ideas that may help avoid some of the more obvious up-front potential problems
Follwing these are sections with more details on various buying/selling issues with checklists that may help avoid after-sales problems.

Discuss why you want the bird

Talk to the seller about why you want the bird and the plans for its new home and who its caretaker will be. This will let the seller know what you are expecting from the bird and you could get some good advise about the suitability of the bird or get advise on what type of bird is more suitable.

  • Many people want a bird as a companion for either themselves, a friend or a relative. This usually means a hand-raised young bird would be best, probbaly a hen as a cock will become more aggressive when it sexually matures.

  • Others may want to bird as a companion for an existing bird. This may not necessarily be for breeding purposes.

  • The new bird may be wanted to eventually breed with an existing bird or the buyer may be trying to buy unrelated birds from different sources.

    Be as specific as possible about what you want to buy

    When buying birds it would be ideal to be very specific about what you want to buy. Many people buying a bird depend on the vendor to offer good advise and to treat the purchaser fairly. Many purchasers cannot be specific because they simply do not know enough about birds and the suitability of particular types in various circumstances - especially first time bird owners.

  • If you specify a 'pair' then explain exactly what you mean by a pair. Too often the assumption is made that 'pair' means an adult pair, bonded and breeding and probably with a track record of producing fertile eggs. Other interpretations of 'pair' could mean two young birds, maybe not even different sex or a related pair of just fledged nestlings from the same parents.
    Clearly if the purchaser wants a pair for breeding and expects fertile eggs after the birds settle into their new home BUT the seller has provided two juvenile birds, unsexed and perhaps from the same parents. THEN all the potential is here for a major argument and dissatisfied seller and purchaser.

  • If you want a bird of a paticular sex or age then state this clearly.
    Think of an age range that will be suitable, if the bird is for breeding then with lories you will need something over 2 years old for the smaller birds - Musks, Scalies, Rainbows, Red-collars and over 3 years old for others. If only younger birds are avilable then bear in mind the wait, which could be years, before they are ready to breed.
    If the bird is for a pet or companion then in general a young bird will be better as it will more easily bond to its caregiver. The sex of a pet bird should not matter too much but for breeding purposes the sex will need to be established. The seller may not always have young birds sexed but if so then expect to pay more to cover the cost of dna sexing.

    Some things not to do:

  • Never buy a bird on impulse because it looks really great and colourful and seems to have a nice personality, or if you think its just a cool idea to own a bird. These may be good reasons for buying some item of new clothing which can easily be discarded later but this logic does not work with a live animal which will need proper care and attention, probably for many years.

  • Never buy a bird as an unexpected present for someone else (or any live pet as a present). This may seem a great idea at the time and the new owner may like the idea but it can be almost guaranteed that once the new owner becomes aware of the level of committment required the great idea will soon wear off.

  • Do not buy a bird as a pet for young children - eventually the bird or the children will get hurt (most likely the bird!). Children are almost always incapable of caring for a bird so in effect you become the caretaker. If you really care for your children or a pet bird then you will keep them away from each other unless both are closely supervised.

  • if you are buying a bird as a companion for someone then get lots of advise on the suitability of different breeds of bird. Nearly all birds will behave differently once they become sexually mature.

    If everything concerning the selection of bird type, sex and age looks good then this just leaves the conditions of the sale, guarantees concerning the bird's health and payments to be sorted out.
    However, if you have any doubts whatsoever then it is time to not proceed and think again. A few more days thought and perhaps doing some research (the internet is good for this!), contacting your local bird (Avicultural) society, talking to other bird owners who already have the type of bird you are thinking of buying, are all excellent things to do. There is not a lot of sense in discovering basic incompatibility problems after you have purchased the bird when a little research would have shown such issues.
    You need to be 100% sure in advance that you can offer the bird just what it needs in the way of housing, food and companionship.

    More issues before you buy

    Assuming now that a firm decision has been made to buy that bird, research has been done and everything looks good to complete the purchase, then there are just a few more issues to consider. These are:

  • Birds can be totally incompatible with their new owners or with their new home or experience other problems that make them unsuitable. This is just one of those unavoidable events and is not anybody's fault.
    Can the bird then be exchanged or returned for a full/partial refund if it just does not work out with its new owners?

  • If the bird is being transported to its new owner then it needs to be established who is reponssible for failure to deliver, the bird dying or escaping while in transit. Check is the transportation company has any insurance to cover this or consider enquiring of you insurance company about travel insurance. Check all of this BEFORE sending the bird.

  • Has the bird been dna sexed? This may be important if you have specified the sex of the bird you wish to purchase. The seller may be prepared to include the cost of DNA sexing in the sale price but for a lower cost bird this cannot always be expected. If the sex is unknown then it may be up to the purchaser to pay for dna sexing. At the very least the bird should be returnable to the seller if dna sexing proves it is not the sex required. Optionally the seller may pay for the dns testing to obtain the dna sex certificate, although agree this with the seller before taking the bird unless you are prepared to bear the cost of the DNA sexing. (usually about NZ$30 to $50)

  • Is the bird guaranteed free of PBFD (Beak and Feather disease)?
    This may not be too obvious if the bird is a carrier but shows no outward symptoms of the disease. The only way to be sure this virus is not present is a blood test and with more rare or expensive birds this should be done in addition to the general health test carried out by a vet.
    If you do not arrange a PBFD test at purchase time and the bird later shows signs of PBFD, most likely at feather moulting time, then be prepared to bear the cost of losing the bird.
    Get a written guarantee from the seller that a refund will be made if the bird shows signs and tests positive for PBFD for at least a year after the purchase.
  • Is it free of fungal or bacterial infections? This may not always be easy to immediately establish but is good reason to consider having a vet check the bird either prior to or immediately after purchase.

  • Is there a guarantee with the bird so that if it dies within a certain time it will either be replaced or a partial/full refund provided?
    This is an important issue and should always be discussed with the seller. It has been known for an outwardly heathly bird to die within a few days of changing hands..
    Often in the case of death a post mortem (necropsy) will be needed to establish the cause of death as this can establish if any disease was present or if the bird was mistreated.
    Who pays for the necropsy?

  • Is the bird healthy?
    Always try to inspect the bird before buying it. A visual inspection will tell you a lot about the birds overall condition. If it is not possible to inspect the bird before purchase then there has to be the option to refuse to take delivery of the bird is it arrives and is clearly ill or not what was agreed to purchase. This needs to be discussed with the seller and agreement reached. Normally the buyer will be responsible for any travel costs in returning the bird(s)
    See the health checklist below...

    Healthy bird checklist

    The checklist below outlines the characteristics of a healthy bird. If you have any doubts about any of these when you inspect your prospective new bird then make sure you are satisfied with the sellers explanations. In all cases you need agreement to return the bird if further health issues develop. If you are not capable of determining the items on the checklist then try to get a more experienced bird owner friend to assist.

  • The bird is not obese or thin. There is a proper ratio of muscle, bone and fat.
  • The beak is smooth and shining. No peeling is evident.
  • Body openings are clean and free of any accumulations of any kind
  • The bird stands erect, not slumping on the perch. Wings do not droop.
  • All appendages are present, no missing toes, feet, toenails, eyes etc..
  • Bleeding is not seen. Nothing looks swollen
  • The respiration is smooth and even. No laboured breathing or wheezing.
  • Droppings are moist, not dry or runny. The urine is clear and the urates are white.
  • The bird does not bite, scream, or behave in a sexually aggressive way.
  • Feather structure and colour are ideal for the species. Sleek feathers form a garment in appearance. There are no bald spots, no feather picking, no tattered, broken, or abnormally coloured feathers.
  • Feet grip strongly and evenly. The bottom of the feet have a bold, even pattern, not a smooth texture. There are no pressure points. The nails are the proper length.
  • Elsewhere, the skin is glistening, smooth and soft, not flaking.
  • The bird should be standing erect on a perch and not on the bottom of the cage.
  • It may be nervous or unsure of its new surroundings but it should be alert and bright and fully aware of everything and everyone around it.
  • Eyes are bright, not dull or sunken - inspect both eyes.

    Purchasing from a pet store

    This is probably the most reliable source for a pet bird, although some pet stores that specialise more in mammals or fish may not have the same expertise that a store specialising in birds will have. Just about all pet stores will sell budgies and other small birds (finches etc..). Fewer will invest in other parrots as these are significantly more expensive than many other types of pet.
    The only downside to dealing with a pet store is that the variety (if any!) of available birds, especially parrots, will tend to be restricted to a very few popular easy selling and relatively low cost types - e.g. budgies and cockateils. Parrot prices will also generally be higher, and staff knowledge about parrots will be limited.
    The exception to this will be the pet store that largely specialises in birds. (we have one in Auckland, New Zealand, the Bird Barn)
    These will often have a much wider selection of birds and much more expertise in looking after the different types of bird. All types of cages and even pre-built or kitset aviaries should be available, nestboxes, perches, bird toys as well as just about every type of seed and pre-mixed dry and wet mixes will be available both in small amounts and in bulk.
    For the new bird owner or someone thinking of purchasing their first bird then such a specialist pet store will be an essential visit. Even if you do not not buy a bird from them they can supply just about everything else necessary as well as ongoing food supplies.
    Most of the birds sold from a pet store will be quite young in the 3 month to under a year age range. Occasionally they may have older birds that have been left for sale by people who can no longer care for them.
    Many pet stores my be able to locate a specific bird if they do not have it available. They will often be aware who the bird breeders are and what birds they specialise in breeding. If they cannot locate a bird immediately they may be aware when the breeder expects to have young birds available.
    Do not expect a pet store to put you directly in contact with a breeder. They will often refuse to do this, not only for commercial reasons (ie they want the business!) but also because this could be seen as a recommendation to buy from the breeder and if problems occur with the sale then indirectly the pet store may be held responsible or in some way be blamed resulting in damage to their reputation.

    Purchasing from a breeder

    This is an excellent way to get a bird that may not be commonly available from a pet store. Breeders will often sell directly to the public and the prices can be lower, sometimes significantly. (Many breeders also sell to each other, pet stores and exporters)
    It is worth making the effort to find the various breeders who produce the type of bird you are looking for, then phoning each to see what is available. Most often they will sell only young birds either last seasons at about a year old or birds that are just fledged in the three to six month old age range. Sometimes they may have older pairs of breeding pairs available for sale although these can be more expensive.

    Sadly many breeders (in New Zealand) have behaved rather badly when selling birds to the public. There has for many years been an attitude of 'pay cash and we have no further responsibility'. If there are any problems that occur later then the breeder is not interested and would certinly not accept any responsibility or consider a monetary refund - in full or partial. Any loss incurred is totally with the purchaser. This type of dealing is at the least very suspicious and at worst the actions of dishonest and untrustworthy people. Far too many people are left with the feeling that they have been ripped-off.
    Breeders have also suffered from buyers who fail to pay, all too often the cash payment in advance attitude has developed after buyers disappear with the birds or cheques are dishonoured. This is a risk for any business and it is a pity that some breeders use one or two bad experiences to develop a mistrust of all buyers.
    There is now a more reponsible business attitude from some breeders and some common sense has prevailed. The 'cash payment only' sellers should generally be avoided. All forms of payment should be acceptable AND a receipt should ALWAYS be provided. If the seller will not provide a receipt of payment then this is an immediate danger flag as without proof of payment it is extremely unlikely that any future financial claim would succeed.
    A secondary point is that unreceipted payments will likely not be declared for IRD purposes and the seller is involving the purchaser in deliberate tax evasion, an illegal activity.
    An advantage of dealing with a breeder is that the conditions in which the bird was raised can be inspected. The parent birds can usually be viewed as well. The bird will often have been hand-raised and be quite human friendly. The attitude of the breeders towards their birds will quickly show if this is a purely commercial operation of if the breeder is genuinely interested in bird keeping and breeding.
    The breeder should be able to provide detailed information about the bird, age, parents background, feeding schedule and food mixes, food types and particlar foods the bird likes or needs.

    Below is a checklist of business practices that should make the purchaser immediately suspicious:

  • Deals with cash only (includes a cheque paid to CASH).
  • Does not issue receipts or any paperwork (may try to invoke your sympathy that its to stop the tax people taking an unfair share)
  • Does not offer any guarantee of any type (you should not have to ask for this - the breeder/dealer should offer it). This no guarantee means the seller is basically not interested in the birds but rather is only interested in money.
  • The seller insists you are safe because you can see the birds are healthy (note that a visual inspection, although good, will not safeguard against any virus infections, especially PBFD - Beak and Feather disease, nor is it always obvious that a bird has fungal/bacterial infections or worm infestation - birds are excellent at disguising when there is something wrong with them)
  • The dealer/breeder is actually picking up the birds or selling on behalf or another dealer/breeder. This is very suspicious as the seller will then insist it is not their problem when something goes wrong. It is strongly recommended you deal with the owner of the birds. If this method of buying is unavoidable you need to make sure that the breeder you actually deal with is acting with your best interests in mind. Insist that they do not take delivery of the birds if there is any hint of health problems. If necessary give them the list of health issues mentioned above AND also get a receipt from them for your money. NEVER hand over cash to an agent without some proof of payment even though they insist the money is being paid to someone else.
  • The seller only wants to deal privately with you - nobody else can come with you and see the breeders aviaries or the deal being completed, the money being paid. Often a breeder will say this is because of security concerns that they limit the number of people visiting their property or seeing their birds and aviaries. Always insist on bringing a reliable friend who can witness every part of the transaction. This could be very important if problems occur.
  • There is a wonderful and innocent story as to why the bird is looking depressed, is not alert or has those bald or feather plucked patches, wing drooping, no tail etc... Make sure you get guarantees covering these visible issues in case they develop in something serious or fatal.
    The most common excuse for a bird that is clearly not happy is that it has a cold or is a bit stressed from leaving its home or the journey has been stressful. Do not believe the 'cold' excuse as this can be used to excuse fatal infections. Those bald or thinning pathes of plumage may not be due to moulting but could be indicative of Beak and Feather disease (PBFD). If this bird is costing you a lot of money then get it checked by a vet immediately.
  • You are pressurised by the seller to take the bird now as it is - insert urgent reason here - such as: so rare you will never find another opportunity like this, other buyers will snap it up when they find out its available, its a bargain price for a quick sale, the owner is emigrating today!!, the money is urgently needed for some 'heart-string plucking' reason (which you don't need to know anyway)

    Private sale

    These are potentially the highest risk type of purchase.
    A private sale offers the least protection to the buyer as it usually involves purchasing from someone who is neither a bird dealer or breeder and therefore cannot offer any warranty or guarantee. Even if they do then it is most unlikely that they will offer a refund if problems occur.
    In general you pay for what you see
    The buyer has to be careful of bird dealers and breeders who try to pass off the sale of a bird as a private sale with the same 'no responsibility' and risks for the buyer that a private sale involves.
    With a private sale a full inspection of the bird is most important. Look for obvious health problems as listed above and especially with plumage and overall condition. The bird must be bright and happy (bright eyes!) and have a look at its poo (in bottom of cage or aviary) and see that it is normal (look in lorylink health section).
    If possible try to obtain the bird's current cage or aviary. At the very least the feeding dishes and any toys that it plays with.
    Private sales are most often advertised in local newspapers and magazines that specialise in trading/exchanging and private sales. Bird publications are another source as well as web sites that specialise in birds.

    How to pay and a suggested contract

    Buying from a pet store should always be easy, they povide a receipt and you have legal rights concerning the purchase - to check what legal rights you have you should contact your local Citizen's Advice Bureau or its equivalent in your country.

    Buying from a breeder/dealer needs a little more thought and care. If you get a receipt or guarantee then there should be no problems paying by any method the breeder/dealer will accept. Just use a little common sense to ensure the dealer is likley to be in business for more than a few days, weeks or months. Find out from your nearest bird club or society who has been in business for some time and who they recommend as reliable. Guarantees from someone who is 'here today and gone tomorrow' are useless.
    If there are any doubts about the health of the birds then a vet check should be high on the list of priorities. If the seller insists on being paid prior to the vet check and you are still keen to acquire the bird (Please be very careful and suspicious in this situation!) then arrange some sort of part payment or deposit so that YOU can take the bird to the vet. Such a deposit should only be a fraction of the price asked for the bird, 20% is a suggested amount for birds up to NZ or A$1000 (USD600) value. You should discuss with the seller the cost of the vet check and they should be prepared to meet at least 50% of this cost. If you have paid ANY money for the bird, either in full or part settlement then it is important that YOU arrange the vet check AND take the bird to the vet AND get the results. DO NOT let the seller try to talk you out of the necessity for the health checkup.

    Buying a bird from a private sale offers almost no protection, you get to see what you are buying and thats it. No guarantees, you pay your money and take the goods. Still try to get a receipt as proof of purchase.

    Stolen and illegally imported birds

    In some countries it is not possible to import birds (any avians). At present in Australia and New Zealand no avian imports are allowed. The only exceptions appear to be imports by zoos or specific government departments. If someone offers to sell you newly imported birds or eggs then politely refuse. Do not get involved in supporting illegal activities.

    Illegally imported birds or eggs may not be so obvious to identify. These will probably only be for rare or high value birds as there is a significant planning and effort needed, with high associated risks (being caught can lead to prison sentences).
    Since most smugglers will be importing to fulfill existing orders it is unlikely that such items will come onto the bird selling market very often. However, be aware that occasionally they do and this is where the honest buyer needs to be aware of illegal imports and the implications of buying them.
    Although many bird breeders and owners are not happy with the current import restrictions on avians in Australia and New Zealand this is not an excuse for supporting illegal smuggling activity. Knowingly purchasing smuggled birds or eggs is a serious offence.
    There should be no valid reason for buying eggs unless it is from an established bird breeder who advertises their availability.

    Although it is almost impossible to identify an illegally imported bird, below are some pointers that should raise suspicion:
  • A previously unavailble species is offered for sale.
  • The birds are not listed by the appropriate authorities as being available in your country (MAF in New Zealand - see their web site
  • These will be quite rare or high value birds.
  • Information is not available or documentation not available on a local (national) breeder who produced these birds.
  • No good explanation is available as to why these birds are now for sale.

    Also look at the ideas listed below for stolen birds - although bear in mind that smugglers are likely to be much more sophisticated than the average thief. Many professional smuggling operations will often have a perfectly normal trading company business and image therefore allying any suspicions concerning their business pratices.

    Stolen birds are not so easily identified and again a great deal of common sense needs to be applied. If you make it well known that you are looking for a particular type of bird and these command a good price then it is not unknown for thieves to try and satisfy the need. Stolen birds for sale will often be at a much lower cost than their real value, the deal will be cash only and no questions or responsibility on the part of the seller. It is unlikely the seller will provide real name, address or ID.
    The seller will most likely know nothing about birds and will want to onsell them as quickly as possible to avoid having to feed or care for them in any way. Such urgent sales will try to be completed often before the real owner of the birds will become aware they have been stolen or before it becomes well known that particular birds have been stolen and may be illegally offered for sale.

    The immediate signs of such a sale will be:
  • Cash only and no proper receipt
  • The seller probably knows absolutely nothing about the birds being sold
  • The price may be too good to be true (for a quick sale)
  • No ID for the seller, contact phone number or address
  • there will be a weird and wonderful reason why the birds are for sale
  • the sale will take place somewhere public, car park, street etc.. but not too public for there to be any witnesses to the transaction.

    If you come across a deal like this then be very suspicious and again keep away from encouraging business in stolen property.
    If you decide to buy property that you know is stolen then be vary aware that this is a criminal offence.
    Sadly the solen birds are most likely to suffer through mishandling until sold or being destroyed/set free because they cannot be sold. It is the welfare of the birds that often lead to perfectly honest buyers being convinced to buy stolen birds, sometimes knowing or suspecting they are stolen. Unless the buyer is prepared to inform the police after purchasing them, and probably taking a financial loss over the purchase, then this is definitely a case of knowingly buying stolen property.

    Always establish where the birds you are buying have come from and always get a proper receipt for any monies paid. See some ID from the seller to confirm the validity of the receipt, especially if the transaction does not take place at the seller's property or business premises.
    Many high value birds will be identified with an embedded electronic device. These should always be scanned for such an ID before or as part of the purchase process. Talk to you vet about this process as part of the bird's health inspection.

    Had Problems buying a bird?

    Unfortunately problems and bad experiences do happen when buying and selling birds. We would be interested in hearing of any such issues no matter how trivial or serious they were. At worst case we have heard of a new bird owner having birds die within a few days and then the seller being not interested in the reasons for death or interested in a refund or sharing any responsibility. The financial loss in this case was many thousands of dollars. Legal action my be the only recourse in situations like this.

    There is an internet mailing list for discussion of Bird deals both good and bad. This is a reasonably high volume message list with a good on-topic message ratio. To join this list email the list owner at:


    Contact us


    If you would like to contact The Lory-Link please send email to

    Kellie Stewart (

    If you are in New Zealand and would like to find out more about meetings and subscribing to the Lory-Link newsletter then you can phone Kellie on AUCKLAND (9) 827-3604 or Fax AUCKLAND (9) 358-0059 .


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    Page written by David Dix.

    Last modified: 7 March 2003.