Parrots need your voice
There’s something aviculture doesn’t acknowledge, and that’s the true lifespan of captive, “pet” parrots: most don’t reach old age. I base this assertion on my experience, the experience of others, and a study, “Survival On The Ark: Life-history Trends in Captive Parrots.” Yes, there are elderly captive parrots, but according to the study, parrots in general may not have the lifespans of 80+ years, as most of us have been told; however, even getting them to old age at the shorter lifespan is hard to do. There are a few reasons, I believe that contribute to premature death rates in companion parrots, and addressing these issues can significantly increase the lifespan of parrots and give them a better quality of life. Here are five of my top reasons for a parrot’s life to be cut short:
1.Lack of healthcare
2. A sedentary life
3. Nutritional deficiencies
5. Environmental germs
1. Lack of health care is first on the list because so many parrots, particularly the smaller ones like cockatiels, lovebirds, and budgies not only don’t get regular healthcare, but even when they are noticeably sick or injured are not taken to a vet. Just like other companion animals, parrots should be seen yearly by an avian vet, and as they age, twice a year. Checking for infection, blood, organ function, and physical exam can detect a problem in the making. As they age, parrots develop problems with kidney and liver functions, brittle bones, arthritis, gout and a weakened immune system. Attacking these problems at the onset often will increase the lifespan. “An ounce of prevention….”
2. The sedentary life of captive parrots it pretty much a fact that really can’t be addressed. There are groups for free flying birds, but most people don’t have any in their area. [As an aside note, in my opinion, it is too risky for people to take on the responsibility of teaching themselves and their parrots free flight, because of the possibility of the parrot getting lost (watch this video about Tui). There are videos on YouTube and for sale, but even “professionals” lose birds]. Even regular free flying can’t substitute for the ten-, twenty-, thirty-square miles parrots have been evolved to fly on a daily basis. Weight, energy, coordination, bones, respiratory, all can be negatively impacted by an inactive life.
3. The nutritional needs of captive parrots is not completely understood. Things are much better than they were, and we’re learning more and more every year. Still, many people don’t give their parrots a healthy diet, and this could be for several reasons. Feeding a healthy, balanced diet is work, and people just aren’t willing to put in the time to learn, make, and serve anything more than pouring some pellets or seed mix into a bowl. We live in a “Drive-Thru” world, and this trickles down to our companion dogs, cats, and birds (and human children). Fortunately, there are some very good resources on social media sites. Yes, Social Media can be good. One of my favorite groups on Facebook is The Parrot’s Pantry. Anyone can find something in their files that fits in with their lifestyle. There’s also good advice on how to get parrots to eat the good food you serve.
4. Yes, accidents! I even hate to call them accidents because real accidents are things unforeseen. Many of the common accidents are ones that people knew was a possibility…. but only for others. These are things like letting parrots interact with the other animals–predators–in the household. Of course, every parrot mauled by another animal had owners who thought Fido or Fluffy would never hurt a fly. The fact is, even an animal that has never done anything to anyone, can react when bitten, even if that reaction is to just get the parrot away from him/her. Large-sized parrots weigh around two pounds, medium-sized parrots weigh around one pound, and smaller-sized parrots weigh as little as one ounce. It wouldn’t take much of a paw-swipe to injure or kill a parrot. Smaller birds can also be hurt by bigger birds (losing toes, feet or beaks). Other dangers are unsupervised parrots in the house. Parrots drown in toilet bowls, get stepped on, fly into hot pots and pans on the stove, get slammed in doors, and snagged in unsafe or inappropriate toys and cages, just to name a few things off the top of my head. And don’t get me started about parrots kept outdoors in cages meant for indoor use. Raccoons will put their little hands between the bars and pull a parrot to pieces, like Henry VIII ripping a leg off of cooked turkey. It is the equivalent of a real-life slasher movie. I am scarred for life over each parrot I’ve seen attacked by a raccoon. Of course, if a parrot survives any of these injuries, not getting medical attention will likely lead to death.
5. And finally, our enclosed environments. Parrots evolved to reside in treetops where there is moving air, waste drops to the ground fifty feet below them, and coexist with all the other living things around them, including bacteria. None of that is in our homes. The bacteria in our environment that we breathe in every day are bacteria our bodies are designed to coexist. We evolved with them, parrots did not. Combined with a sedentary life, poor diet, and lack of preventative medical care, bacterial infection, which can last for years in parrots before there are any obvious signs, will shorten the lifespan, particularly if the infection goes untreated.
There are other issues, but if we all just started addressing these issues–basically, just preventative care–we can help our parrots live longer, healthier lives.