by: Phil Samuelson
When it comes to buying the best bird perch for your cherished feathered friend, look at the perch possibilities like you would a good pair of running shoes.
When you sit down to try on a pair of athletic shoes at a shoe store, you know pretty quickly when the shoes are either too tight or too loose. Neither of these improper fits is desirable. No one likes tight shoes. Just like tight clothing, the wearer is immediately uncomfortable. When you cram your feet into a tight shoe, your feet seem to scream for relief. The idea of wearing them for long periods is unthinkable. Loose shoes feel slightly better, but if there is much movement and toe wiggle, you just know you're asking for trouble if using them on a long run. Blisters and raw, sensitive areas are sure to result.
In contrast, when you sit down and try on a pair of properly fitting shoes, you know pretty quickly when the fit is perfect. Your feet feel snug but comfortable. A walk around the room allows for little "play" inside the shoes, with minimal rubbing of your feet against the shoe interior. Just like Goldilocks when she climbed into the three bears' beds for a snooze, one was too hard (tight), one was too soft (loose) and one was just right.
The same goes for bird perches. Fit is everything. In the avian world, not only pet parrots appreciate a proper perch fit. A 2007 study by Mark Browning of red-winged blackbird territoriality and courtship behavior indicates that male birds strongly prefer utilizing the same-sized perch diameters, usually at similar heights.
Shop for your birds' perches with the same scrutiny you would with running shoes. Perches must keep your bird's feet comfortable and exercised. Incorrect perch lengths and diameters are the two most common mistakes bird owners make when buying perches. The most common mistake is buying a perch with a diameter that is too small, with the owner thinking her pet will appreciate a perch that is easy to grasp. However, perches with small diameters are actually uncomfortable for the bird since there isn't enough room to achieve a secure grip. The bird's feet should encircle approximately 3/4 of the perch, with nail tips firmly touching the surface.
Perch length is just as important. An appropriate perch must be at least as long as the full wingspan of the bird. This way, the bird will be able to comfortably flap its wings without striking the cage bars and risking injury. Think of how uncomfortable you would be if you could never stand fully upright. Cramping a bird so it cannot extend its wings is a similar situation.
Wood is probably the best choice for perch material since it is smooth and allows the bird a replaceable surface to chew—and almost every pet parrot loves to chew! Other acceptable perch materials include rope, pumice or cement (which is a great material for keeping sharp bird nails dull). There are even heated perches to keep avian feet warm and bathing perches that attach to shower walls with durable suction cups.
Whatever type of bird perch you choose, be sure that appropriate size and comfort are your primary considerations when making a selection.