Budgerigars and Cockatiels
These popular birds make up over half the bird species owned, which makes it imperative that retailers cater to these creatures in their bird departments.
According to APPA’s 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, cockatiels and budgerigars (parakeets) are the most popular pet birds kept by Americans, making up 67 percent of the bird species owned.
What does this mean for a pet shop? It means that the bird department should cater to cockatiel and budgerigar owners.
Both these bird species make great pets for almost anyone, whether they are young or old, are new to birds or have kept them for years. Budgerigars are packed with personality while cockatiels can be very affectionate and sweet.
Budgerigars, usually just called “parakeets” in the United States (even though there are many species of parakeets), are great pets for people looking for a bird that is active, playful and chatty. These are the traits most often associated with budgies, but it does not mean they are all like this. Before selling the birds, watch a cage of ‘keets to see which birds appear to be more outgoing and babble a lot. All birds should appear bright eyed, alert and curious, otherwise they may be ill; but some (especially the females parakeets) are usually more quiet and shy in their actions. Ask the customer what personality type they prefer and then make suggestions based on your observations.
Cockatiels are considered more affectionate than parakeets, although this may be partially due to the fact that most ‘tiels sold in pet stores are hand raised, unlike budgies. The male ‘tiels are almost always more vocal than the females. Females generally will do a one-note call unless a person teaches them a tune, while young males will whistle a short, made-up song over and over again. Both sexes make great pets, since being hand-raised makes them tame from the start.
Selling ‘Keets and ‘Tiels
Because both budgerigars and cockatiels are social parrot species, they can be shown off the best by keeping them in small groups in a pet store. Young parakeets or cockatiels in a cage playing with toys will literally sell themselves. These birds can be very cute and hard to resist when playing, and the customer will see the necessity of giving their birds toys to play with at home. Young ‘keets and ‘tiels kept together in the store will also keep them healthier and less stressed, because they have other birds to interact with.
As they mature, pet birds in the parrot family will want to form a bond with another being. If there are two or more birds being kept together at home, they will want to be with each other and will, more often than not, lose any tameness they may have had as youngsters. If a customer is not looking to have a tame bird but just wants a pet that is active, talkative and fun to watch, a pair or group of budgies is a great way to go. But a person looking for a pet bird that they can take out of the cage and play with should buy only one parakeet or cockatiel.
Keeping parakeets and cockatiels as pets is fine, as long as the owners have some time in the day or evening to socialize with the birds and they keep at least one mirror toy in the cages at all times. Parakeets and cockatiels see their reflection as a “friend” to be with when the owner is not around. It is imperative to sell any new pet bird owner at least one mirrored toy, especially for singly kept parakeets and cockatiels.
Tame birds are the easiest to sell, so pet stores employees should be encouraged to tame any young parakeets when possible and to take out hand-raised cockatiels every day. Doing this will not only help keep the birds tame, it will also show the employee what the birds are like in terms of personality, so they can help a customer choose a bird that will be right for them. Having birds out of the cage will also encourage customers to hold them, and that may ultimately lead to a sale–even to a customer that had never considered owning a bird until a sweet and wonderful parakeet or cockatiel was placed on their finger.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.