Q: My 12-year-old daughter wants a pet bird. Can you recommend what kind? Something that's not too hard to care for, please.
A: Zebra and society finches are the "easy keepers" of the finch group — hardy little guys who'll bring energy and sound into your home.
They're not very expensive to acquire, set up or maintain. Unlike hookbills — budgies, cockatiels and parrots — who need and desire physical interaction, finches will be happiest if you leave them alone. That's really the only downside of having them as a children's pet, by the way: They're not the best choice for a child who wants a hands-on pet experience.
Since finches, unlike other pet birds, are generally always left in their cages, they're a good option for a multiple-pet household. (In most cases, the cage will offer protection from cats.) Still, since predatory pets can be resourceful, you should probably keep finches in a room that you can close off when you're not around to supervise.
Because finches stay in their cages, get the biggest cage you can afford, with bar spacing close enough to prevent escape. Since cage-bound birds need to fly for exercise, choose a cage that's more horizontal than vertical, to give them room to flit from side to side. A reputable bird shop will be able to set you up with everything you need, including healthy finches.
— Gina Spadafori