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Birds won't fetch slippers or purr as they rub against their owner's legs. But these feathered friends are quickly becoming one of the most popular pets in the United States.

Mynah birds are good mimics. The best singing birds are male canaries and some of the exotic finches.

There are many reasons why birds are popular. They keep their mess confined to one area - the cage. They are smarter than a dog or a cat. They are capable of speaking. They're just as gentle as a dog or a cat. They are content to stay in a cage.

Most people take them out while there's activity and let them stand on a T-stand - a perch with cups on it for food and water.

They're content to stay in a cage if you're not at home or asleep. But when you're home they want to be out with you. This is the reason why you shouldn't buy birds in pairs unless you want them for breeding purposes. A pair of birds will be attached to each other. A single bird will be attached to its owner.

Before the 1950s, birds used for pets were brought in from foreign countries, including Australia, Africa, South America and the Philippines. Domestic breeding of the smaller birds began in earnest in the United States after Australia prohibited the export of any wildlife in the 1950s.

Pet birds are therapeutic, too. The companion animal bond and the mental, emotional and physical benefits of it are widely studied.