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Congratulations! You've decided to get yourself a companion bird. You have, of course, thoroughly researched the species you're interested in, located a source of birds such as a reputable breeder or pet store, and narrowed your wish list down to a specific breed. After looking over the stock and seeing what choices are available, you will want to choose the healthiest bird possible. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Look at the overall condition of the bird. Are its feathers shiny, clean and healthy looking? If so, that's great. But if they are brittle, chewed, or broken off, this can be a sign that the bird has problems. Steer clear of birds like these.

Notice the bird's eyes. They should be bright and shiny, wide open and alert. Droopy eyes or crusty eyelids are a danger sign and could be symptoms of illness. If the eyes are bulging or swollen, the bird may have a sinus infection or other sickness. Pass.

Is the bird alert, climbing around the cage, taking an interest in its surroundings? Does it to interact with you? Great...but spend some time making sure that the bird is playful and active because it feels good, and not because it's cranky or nervous.

Are the vent feathers clean and not picked at? If they are stained, matted or missing, this could indicate loose bowels or intestinal parasites. Pass up a bird like this.

How about the bird's face? Are the nostrils clear and open? If they are crusted or clogged, or if the feathers around them are stiff and matted, this could indicate a sinus infection or worse. Is the bird having trouble breathing? Is it wheezing or ‘clicking'? These are sure signs of illness. If the feathers around the beak and head are matted or clumped, it could indicate that the bird has been vomiting. You don't want to take a chance on a bird with any of these symptoms.

The best way to avoid purchasing an ill bird is to have an avian veterinarian do a checkup on the bird you are interested in. The doctor will run tests, weigh the bird, and give it a good all-around checkup. Remember, healthy parrots that are well cared for can live many years! Even if you are in the market for a small bird, such as a parakeet or lovebird, you can never be too careful. The vet's bill is a wise investment.

Good luck. Somewhere there's a lovely, healthy bird waiting for you!