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Non-Parrot Pet Birds

Martha Stewart Living Television

When most people think of pet birds, they usually picture parrots, macaws, cockatoos, or perhaps the diminutive finch. Chances are, however, it isn't a crow like Marc Morrone's bird Dante. Dante belongs to a less-commonly kept group of birds known as "softbills." Softbills do not have soft beaks; rather, the name refers to the type of foods they consume. These birds cannot eat seeds and make a diet of fruits and other soft foods.

Some birds that belong to the softbill family and are often kept as pets include corvids -- such as crows and ravens -- mynahs, and toucans. Corvids are exceptionally intelligent birds, but only those bred in captivity in the United States, such as African Pied Crows, can be kept as pets. (It's against the law to keep as a pet any bird that is native to America.) Mynah birds, which are able to mimic almost any sound and were very popular pets in the 50s and 60s, must also be born in the United States since it's illegal to import them. Toucans, such as the famous Fruit Loops cereal mascot, are too big to keep as pets, but they have smaller cousins known as toucanettes that are easy to find Stateside.

Softbill birds are active and require large cages to keep their feathers and beaks from breaking. They have specific dietary needs, so should you choose to adopt one, you'll need to do some homework before bringing it home. For more information about softbilled birds, visit

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