I live in an apartment and would like a companion. I have thought about adopting a bird. What should I know about birds and their care?

The American Humane Association provides a pamphlet on proper care of birds that is available free of charge at Salt Lake County Animal Services, 511 W. 3900 South. Here are some important tips it contains:All birds require room to stretch and exercise. The bigger the cage you provide for your feathered friend, the better. Of course, the bigger the bird is, the more room it will need.

Your bird's cage is its home and it should be comfortable for it as well as attractive to you. The bars should be spaced close enough so that it cannot get its head through. If you repaint an old cage, be sure to use a nontoxic paint. The bottom of the cage should be removable for thorough and convenient cleaning.

The "furniture" in the cage should include several perches, food cups and a water dispenser. Perches should be placed adjacent to the food and water for the bird's convenience. At least one or more perches should be placed higher in the cage (allowing plenty of head room). A bird's natural instinct causes it to prefer to rest on the highest perch, where it feels safest from enemies (even if it's safe in its own cage).

The cage itself should be placed where it is out of reach of other pets and free from drafts. Birds eat during daylight only, so locate the cage in a bright room, but not in direct sunlight.

A clean cup of fresh water should be provided for your bird each day. Feed a high quality, prepared mixture. Different species of birds have different diet requirements, so buy a bird seed marked specifically for your type of bird. Supplement its diet with vitamins and minerals, and tidbits of vegetables, fruit and greens.

Seed-eating birds should be supplied with a cuttlebone, available at any store that carries birdseed. Gravel (packaged for birds of various sizes) sprinkled over papers covering the bottom of the cage will help to keep the cage clean by absorbing the moisture from droppings. Gravel is also essential to the digestive process of seed-eaters.

Change the paper in the bottom of the cage daily. Once a week scrape the perches and wash and disinfect the cage. Remove all uneaten fruits and greens from the cage daily.

Birds are clean animals and enjoy bathing. Most birds will take advantage of a shallow bath dish provided for them once a day. This may be placed in the bottom of the cage before you clean it. If the bird is very tame, it may prefer the bath dish to be placed atop the kitchen counter (not in the sink). Bath time should be a quiet time, for a bird will not indulge itself with a bath if it is frightened or annoyed.

- If you have a question about health, behavior problems, laws, etc., regarding wild or domestic animals, please write Leslie Kelson-Probert, Salt Lake County Animal Services, 511 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84123 or call her at 264-2247.