Speaking For Parrots

Parrots need your voice

Realistic Lifespans of Parrots in Captivity

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
4. Accidents
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.

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69 comments on “Realistic Lifespans of Parrots in Captivity

  1. Bert
    January 20, 2016

    I wish this page did more to address specifics in terms of links to information regarding diet and exercise and so forth. There are remedies for a lot of this, and interwebs is full of such info. Links, please?

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 20, 2016

      (I wrote out a reply, but WP zapped it)
      This post was meant to be a dialog rather than a “How-To.” It was to point out that, generally speaking, not only are the lifespans of parrots less than we’ve been told, most don’t reach old age, and getting them to old age takes a lot of effort. Each one of the issues would be a post on it’s own, however, there is information within that are “remedies.” First and foremost is the importance of routine veterinary care and care for injuries and illness. I also point out the dangers found in the home that are easily avoided. I mentioned that there are groups for free-flying parrots, and also the risks involved. And regarding diet, there’s a link to a great group on Facebook devoted to feeding healthy foods to parrots. Is there something specific that you want to know?

    • elise n
      August 29, 2016

      Bert, There are so many “opinions” about diet, but the best answer I can live with is everything in moderation and variety is the spice of life. I believe in a natural diet, and birds live longer when fed organic, veggies fruits nuts and some seeds. I use Crazy Corn which I feel is very natural. It is supplemented with lots of green and orange foods plus some nuts. Many people sprout, I have not been successful at that. keep reading on in parrot nation. Valuable info.

  2. nikki0214
    January 20, 2016

    Good article…and why, along with many years of doing parrot rescue, I’ve come to the conclusion that they just shouldn’t be pets. God, the earth, nature…whatever you believe…gave them wings to fly and be free…and they shouldn’t be free in our living rooms. I’m not sure why we feel the need to possess the things we find beautiful…but we do.

    • Judy Davey
      January 21, 2016

      I agree! Having had parrots, from budgies to an African Grey, I feel keeping parrots as pets is a mistake. They should have never been bred in large numbers for the pet trade. They don’t adjust well to captivity.
      Especially the larger parrots.

      • Dina heath
        August 27, 2016

        I don’t think your last statement was 100% right. I have two macaws that are let out all the time. I feel that they are very well-adjusted . We all cohabitate in my house quite nicely . And they like their cages that’s their space . And I am not even kidding when I say they notice when I clean their room every few days because there’s nothing on the floor of the room or the cage . When they know I’m in there cleaning and we walk in together the first thing I see is their little heads swiveling so they look at the ground . It’s a resounding “yeah!!!!” when I asked them if their room looks nice.. If I asked them if they want to shower, or their feet done(nail clipping) I go into my room to set up for either one of these activities, and before I can come back out and get them , they are already barging into my room. I think they’re quite happy with the treatment they get here .

      • Shari Mirojnick
        August 28, 2016

        I have no doubt that your parrots are happy, but there really is no way to know how happy. Perhaps they are as happy as can be given their situation. We do know that most wild animals, even those born in captivity and raised by humans have issues. With parrots, we see it all the time. The number of parrots who suffer from neurotic and destructive behaviors is a real sign into their unhappiness and the kind of adjustment parrots make, as a whole. Of course there are parrots in good homes who seem to have adjusted just fine, but that doesn’t make it right to keep these wild–and critically endangered–beings as pets. They have evolved over millions of years to live and thrive in their natural environments. Every day we take away all their decision-making that they would do many times each day. Yes, people like us offer good diets, enrichment, attention, and large caging, but most (and I say most because there are countless budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and the like who get none of it) get substandard care. But, even if all of our companion parrots got the best captivity could offer, their parents don’t, and if we think our parrots should get all that, shouldn’t their parents? I discuss this in another blog post, “People Are The Same All Over.” As a person who has worked with many parrots, and probably crossed paths with thousands of the last couple decades, I can say that too many don’t get what yours get, and too many aren’t as happy. I understand you using your parrots as an example, but it’s an unfair comparison.

    • Janice Boyd
      January 21, 2016

      I work with parrots in the wild. Life in the wild may look good but in many ways it isn’t as nice as living in a good home. Example: the El Nino impacting Peru (and elsewhere) is causing a great reduction in amount and quality of food. The birds around the Tambopata Research Center look scraggly now and have black coloration and markings on their feathers from nutritional deficiencies. Nesting is late and we’ll see how many nestling starve this year compared to a normal year. It’s a jungle out there!

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 22, 2016

        That must be so great! I would love even just one chance to see parrots in their natural environment. I see a lot of naturalized parrots in Florida where I live, and it is pretty exciting to see a flock of quakers hanging out in a tree in a parking lot (I’ve seen burrowing owls nesting in parking lot berms, too), but it’s not the same.

        I work with parrots in captivity, and I see the same things. I see the same black, bronze, yellow, pink etc feathers indicating nutritional deficiencies. I also see parrots with deformities from nutritional deficiencies, like tweaked bones, nestlings with stress fractures, and death. I have two parrots with crooked necks. Their mothers didn’t have enough calcium and D3 to put into the egg and the chick. And there are countless numbers who never make it to the vet, and never get counted.

        I don’t know anyone who says the wild is easy. I think most people are well-aware of the hardships in the wild, which makes it hard not to have a paternalistic attitude with regard to the welfare of all parrots. Yet most humans, Americans in particular, prefer to live a life of self-determination. We go to work every day to provide for ourselves, and consistently argue against being “taken care of” by the government. No one wants to be incarcerated regardless of getting threes squares and a roof over their heads—not even the so-called “country club” penitentiaries.

        I’m sure you know that life is hard, but at the same time it makes a species strong. El Nino has come and gone for eons, and parrots survive. But these sorts of things have a higher impact on the populations now because of all our interference. Instead of the answer being to bring wild, endangered animals into our homes as a means of protection, we should also protect their habitats. I think humans have been all to happy to throw up their hands on the habitat issue in order to make an argument for their continued breeding of parrots for the pet trade. Conservationists working for Al Wabra and The Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, for example, recognize that habitat conservation and restoration is as important as the breeding program.

        There’s something else I see a lot, and that’s feather destructive behavior and self-mutilation. I don’t think any of us can really know what’s in the hearts of wild and captive parrots, but it does seem that captive parrots, on the whole, are telling us something. I have a friend who works for a chimp sanctuary, and they see the same kinds of self-destructive and neurotic behavior (and those chimps live on their own islands!). Life in captivity, even on a “pedestal,” doesn’t seem to agree with wild animals. Anyway, who are we to decide for them where to live?

      • Ellen Kessler
        January 22, 2016

        Habit destruction is the number one cause of the decline in populations (of all flora and fauna), closely followed by trapping for captivity, poaching/smuggling, or killing for food or fashion. It’s easy to blame Mother Nature as you have done, Janice, but it is the homo sapiens who far and away gets first prize for the annihilation of anything that moves or breathes.

        Tell the thousands of birds who are screaming, mutilating, starving from a nutrient-poor CAPTIVE diet, or dying prematurely because of lack of education or “accidents” that life is better in captivity. Somehow I don’t think they’ll agree with you.

        Yes life in the wild isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, but I think most would choose freedom over captivity even if it means a shorter life.

      • Jean Petree
        January 23, 2016

        My parrots seem to love being pets. My conure is at least 21 years old now, and my Uncape is 9.

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 23, 2016

        I don’t doubt that your parrots are as happy as they could be living among humans. They don’t know anything else, and it does “seem” that way, but certainly we can’t know for sure what they think and feel. I think you might understand that since you say they “seem to love being pets.” Many of us who keep parrots feel that keeping chimps, orcas and dolphins, wolves and other wild animals as pets is not in their best interest. They all, as a population, exhibit the same types of behaviors like self-mutilation, Trichotillomania/feather destructive behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorders, neurotic behaviors, and more. Your parrots may not have these issues that are obvious, but as a whole, there are a lot of parrots who have one or more of these psychological problems. Think of all the parrots who have feather issues. It’s a lot. I say it’s too many, and just because some of us who work really hard at caring for our parrots, too many suffer to make this something we should continue encouraging people to pursue, ie, the pet parrot trade.

        I love hearing about people whose parrots are aging nicely, go to the vet, have a good diet and enrichment. It seems like most people, but really we are a small group who tend to hang around others like us. But, one thing hardly anyone thinks about is, all the parent parrots who get none of what we give to our companion parrots. Breeders deny that their breeder birds live dismal lives, but not only is it in their photographs, it’s in their books. So, I ask you… don’t the parents of your parrots deserve all the things you give to yours? Should all those parents live out their lives in cages with little to do but reproduce babies that only get taken from them, just so we can have pet parrots?

  3. Debbie Webber
    January 20, 2016

    taking ur pet parrot to vet is good but u need and avian vet. the vets that treat dogs and cats now nothing about birds and we do not have a bird vet here in chattanooga tn sugar my teil was attacked by a male teil and he bite half her flight feathers off. so i had to take care of her

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 20, 2016

      Hi Debbie.
      There are board-certified avian vets in Knoxville. I know that’s about two hours away, but for a once-per-year exam, it’s very doable.
      http://www.abvp.com/diplomate

  4. Carabella
    January 21, 2016

    Our yellow naped Amazon is 40 this year (we’ve had him since he was 6 months old), so we must be doing something right. 🙂

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 21, 2016

      That’s great! Yes, I’m sure you are, because 40 is really hard to get to. However, I hate to not mention that there are a lot of people out there who are doing everything right, too, but their birds die prematurely. It’s akin to all the people who are also doing everything right, and their parrots still pick their feathers and/or self-mutilate. On top of that, we blame the individuals who are doing everything the “professionals” are telling people, but their birds are still suffering. This causes a lot of guilt for a lot of good people.

      And you must be pretty terrific that you’ve kept him all these years. That in itself says something about you.

    • Carabella
      January 21, 2016

      He’s a curmudgeonly guy at times. He’s very lovable in his cage… a real perch potato. I try to work with him on his manners outside his cage, but we’re entering high hormone season and I’m his girlfriend. :/
      He’s on Roudybush pellets, fruit and veggies, some sunflower seed (unoiled), but for dinner he gets a tiny taste of whatever we’re having.

    • dot schwarz
      January 21, 2016

      nice to hear that what si his routine

  5. carol gelfand
    January 21, 2016

    i have had my severe macaw for 25 years. i have learned through the years how to take care of her. she has always gotten all my attention but when younger was allowed to eat pizza and all the bad foods. luckily i have always tried to eat healthy myself so its not like she lived on junk food but i should never have let her have anything like that. she still screams for anything she sees me eating and then i try to pretend i am eating a piece of celery or carrot and hand it to her but she is very smart and it makes her angry i won’t give her my food she now never gets people food but healthy dandelion greens salad fresh veggies and fruit and Harrisons pellets with the occasional almond to crack and some walnuts. tonight she snacked out on a cashew. i have no life and don’t mind. i can’t go on vacation or anywhere that takes me away from the house for any period of time because i can’t stand the fact of her being locked up in her cage all day. i try to make her fly but she prefers to be carried and screams if i don’t carry her but i will let her scream and make her fly.

  6. Peggy
    January 21, 2016

    My Blue Front Amazon is 50 plus in age. Due to how old she is, she is not as tame as she used to be. I fell alot of Amazon’s get meaner as they get old. Do you think this is true? Katcha a good seed variety as well as alot of vegetables.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 21, 2016

      When many Amazons reach sexual maturity, like most wild animals (other parrot species included) they have an evolutionary imperative to create the next generation. In the wild, animals will have to search out mates, compete for nest spots and/or territory, so this imperative can cause the biting behavior and territoriality of parrots in our homes. However, the chances are that this is not what your Amazon is experiencing, as you’re noticing changes over time as opposed to seasonally. As humans age, we get “meaner,” too, in that we don’t feel as good as we used to. The aging process causes changes in organ function, muscle development, digestion and bone structure. For these reasons, it’s suggested that we take our senior companion animals to the vet at least two times a year. Parrots develop age-related health issues such as gout and arthritis, which are painful, and could be causing the change in behavior you’ve been seeing.

  7. Sharon
    January 21, 2016

    My in-laws have an Amazon Orange wing who has to be about 50 years old now. They have never taken him to the vet, and he eats pretty much anything.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 21, 2016

      I know a few people like that, too! I had a boyfriend who didn’t pay much attention to caring for his teeth, but never had a single cavity. I’ve never had the flu! How many people do you know who’ve never had the flu? My grandmother was never in the hospital between the times of her last birth to when she had a stent put in in her eighties. I’m not saying that no parrots in captivity live to old-age or ever get sick. And more than likely, many of the people who read blogs like this one do things that keep their parrots healthy and extend their lives. I will say that most times, parrots who are that age, do have health issues, and ones that are painful like arthritis. A health/wellness check up with an avian vet would really benefit your in-laws’ parrot.

  8. susan
    January 21, 2016

    I agree , I wish all my (4) could be back in the wild. However on that note, I have an African Grey , I heard the stats recently that 99% of the CAG in the wild in Ghana are gone due to killing and loss of habitat. I think if my poor Sid was one of them he would be dead. We are here to protect the animals of all kinds.

  9. Mauee
    January 22, 2016

    You give no real information….just opinion. Not very helpful. I have 3 birds that are over 30 years old. Probably much longer life span than their wild counterparts.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 22, 2016

      I think if you reread the post, you’ll see that I said I base my assertions on my experience–which includes working with thousands of parrots–the experience of others who also work with parrots (particularly in the medical field), and a peer-reviewed, academic paper. I did not base it on anecdotes.

      • Mauee
        January 22, 2016

        Thousands? and I see no peer reviewed academic paper cited here. Your agenda will not help parrots in the long run.

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 22, 2016

        I’ve been working with parrots for over twenty years.

        There’s a link in the opening paragraph: Survival On The Ark: Life-history Trends in Captive Parrots. Apparently, you just read what you wanted, and rushed to write a comment about breeding.

        Let me ask you some questions: What agenda will help parrots? On what do you base it? Can you answer the questions I posed to you on another one of your comments? How does breeding of mutations in species like macaws, Amazons, and other endangered, Appendix I species support conservation? Breeders claim that captive breeding takes pressure off of wild populations, but there’s no evidence to support it. Things are just getting worse, as the trade in parrots is only getting bigger. So, what are your plans?

  10. Mauee
    January 22, 2016

    I never mentioned breeding. You have no data to support your claims regarding parrot lifespan. I am dissecting this paper but on initial read it is not supporting your claims.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 22, 2016

      “I count 3 of you opposing captive breeding. Same old same old. Don’t all of you have parrots in your keeping? and reproducing is in the best interest of all species.” I took that to mean breeding. If I’m wrong, then please answer the question I posed earlier, asking you what your “agenda” is. If you refuse to answer any of the questions I’ve posed, I kindly ask you to stop commenting until you do. Thank you.

      • Ellen Kessler
        January 23, 2016

        I guess “reproducing” and “breeding” don’t mean the same thing, Shari. At least in “Mauee’s” world. And I don’t see him/her posting any scholarly links to back up the claims s/he is making either.

      • Mauee
        January 24, 2016

        Again the word breeding or reproducing are not found in my previous posts – seriously read again.

        Captivity by itself is not a cause for shorter bird life-span. They face no predation, less disease and other factors for early death faced by wild birds.

        “Birds can be very long-lived in captivity. One Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (a common Australian parrot made famous by the TV show “Baretta”) lived most of his 80-plus years in a zoo. Captive Canada Geese have lived for 33 years, House Sparrows 23 years, and Northern Cardinals 22 years. In nature, the life-spans of these species are much shorter. As luck would have it, however, the record for a European Starling in the wild, 20 years, is 3 years longer than for any starling captives.” https://web.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/How_Long.html

        The study you posted was only a survey of bird lifespan in zoos. The stated purpose of the paper is as follows: “Our results demonstrate the value of the ISIS database to estimate life-history data for an at-risk taxon that is difficult to study in the wild, and provide life-history data that is crucial for predictive modeling of future species endangerment and proactively management of captive populations of parrots.”

        They compiled available data from captive populations to give some base numbers for studies of wild parrots. “Finally, this study demonstrates the general value and
        utility of the ISIS database and provides a baseline for demographic comparisons with wild populations.”

        This paper – the one you cited – in no way has anything to do with your premise that captive parrots have a reduced lifespan – this paper does not support your claims that pet parrot lifespans are reduced by:

        1.Lack of healthcare
        2. A sedentary life
        3. Nutritional deficiencies
        4. Accidents
        5. Environmental germs

        It would certainly seem logical that these things would end a parrots life in captivity. As these same things probably affect wild birds. Without a good comparison to the real life-spans of wild parrots (not much data on that due to difficulty obtaining that data) – your premise is just that……..a premise not a fact.

        And please save the next round of ad hominem attacks. It is unbecoming.

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 24, 2016

        An ad hominem attack would be, “You’re an idiot,” and then nothing else. I never said you “are” anything, and after I gave you logical answers, I gave my opinion as to why you insist on arguing about things I never said, nor even implied.

        Everything in my last reply to you can be applied here. Except for the ONE cockatoo. I never said that no parrot will ever live to its maximum. However, in the study, it’s some of the cockatoos (the sulphur-crested being one) who have the longest lifespans.

        And just to get the point across…. this post isn’t comparing the lifespans of captive and wild parrots, although you keep trying to make it that. It was to discuss a realistic lifespan that is more reflective of the ones you quoted, some reasons why parrots don’t reach old, and what people can do to get their parrots as long-lived as possible (I know, I’m so horrible).

        So, I’ve posted all your comments, I’ve answered all your comments. You still refuse to answer questions posed to you. I can only wonder why.

    • Mauee
      January 24, 2016

      Did you block me? Well I do hope you really read that paper – it never says that captive birds have shorter lives.

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 24, 2016

        I did not block you, I changed the settings. If you mean it doesn’t say captive parrots live shorter lives than wild parrots, you’re right; however, I’m not clear on if that’s your understanding.

        The study says that most parrots don’t have a lifespan of 80, 90 and 100 years. It also says that most species don’t reach their top, maximum lifespan.

        I said that from my experience, and the experience of others who work with parrots in the medical field see the same death rates as in this study. Then, I gave reasons for why this could be, and what people can do to get their parrots as close as possible to that maximum age. You have said so many things that are just plain ridiculous because it’s obvious that you only wanted to substantiate your preconceived notions of who I am as someone who believes that keeping parrots in captivity is wrong. You said, “You give no real information….just opinion. Not very helpful,” but information is all over the post. If one person decides to take their parrot to the vet who hasn’t done so before, or stops letting their dogs and parrots play together, then this post did what I intended.

      • Rebecca
        January 24, 2016

        1.Lack of healthcare
        2. A sedentary life
        3. Nutritional deficiencies
        4. Accidents
        5. Environmental germs

        “It would certainly seem logical that these things would end a parrots life in captivity. As these same things probably affect wild birds.”

        I don’t think you’ll find any wild bird with a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of healthcare in the wild, irrelevant. No nutritional defiencies in the wild either, although food availability and its effects on all species is part of ecology and has been for millions of years. Accidents are human caused and affect relatively small numbers, and environmental germs are certainly a non issue in natural habitats. So none of these things actually affect wild birds at all.

  11. Tara Powers
    January 22, 2016

    Our Yellow-Naped Amazon turns 30 this month–she’s owned us since she was about 3 months old. She was switched to low fat, high protein pellets years ago, and we saw a dramatic change in her weight and appearance. She’s always had a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, but getting her off the seeds was the best thing we ever did. Our Quaker parrot has been with us his entire 15 years. He was a feather picker, but we have worked diligently to resolve that, and he’s done well for years now. He finally was converted to pellets–low fat also–and his health is rapidly improving. Luckily he also loves his vegetables. We recently lost our rescued cockatiel who lived with us for 20 years–we have no idea how old he was!

    Our birds see their doctor at least once a year. Thankfully we have an excellent avian vet about a 45-minute drive away. One point I’d like to make–have your birds sexed if you haven’t done that already. It makes a huge difference in their medical care. Years ago it had to be done surgically, but now it’s just a simple blood test. Once we realized the Quaker was a male, he was treated completely differently for his plucking behavior. Spend the money and find out exactly who your feathered friend truly is! Avian medicine has come a long way since I had my first birds. Take advantage of these advances.

    I’ve loved and been owned by birds since I was a little girl, but I’ve come to realize that large parrots are not good companion animals for most people. There are too many tragic stories for many of these beautiful creatures. I can’t turn back the clock, but I can give my birds the best life possible. They didn’t ask to be my pets. I love them, though, and I will strive to keep them healthy and comfortable. And if something happens to me, my daughters will happily care for them.

    Thanks for this article.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 22, 2016

      Thank you for sharing all that! Although I don’t hear too many vets recommending sexing, I completely agree. Another reason is that you can rule out, or consider egg issues. Eggs are one of those problems that can go from a little lethargy to emergency. I’m glad you brought that up, because it’s one of those issues for older hens.

  12. dot schwarz
    January 22, 2016

    This is an interesting debate. A rehomed OWA I had for 11 years just died of old age.She wsa around 50 had been in captivity many years. Had a pinioned wing.
    I feel the problem is that of expecting n birds to be be more like baby mammals mammals or pet puppies and kittens. Snce pet parrots are NOT going to fall ourt of favourliie horses being suplanted by the motor car, those of us who love and admre them should support captive breeding, with parent rearing and a better attiude to cages aviaries wing clippiung and free flight. Education education education.
    IF you do not want a pet that flies get a hamster.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 22, 2016

      I only think that could work in a perfect world. When you make parrots a commodity to be bought and sold, and when there’s a profit to be had, things like caging, veterinary care, food, etc., become a cost of doing business. When businesses look to increase profit, they cut expenses, and that often comes at the expense of the parrots. It’s another reason why breeders, although many try, claim that breeding in captivity for the pet trade is conservation. Breeders breed the species that sell, or are coveted for one reason or another. The less “exciting” species, like the grey-cheeked parakeet get ignored.

      The argument with regard to keeping parrots as pets doesn’t have to do with personal taste, ie, if it bothers you that they fly, get something else. The larger issue is, should parrots be kept as pets? I understand your assertion that people like parrots and aren’t going to be giving up the idea of keeping them easily; however, along with education education education regarding their care, we can educate future generations about not keeping them anymore as pets. Most people don’t know about the issues parrots have in captivity, whether it’s a parrot’s adjustment, or our inability to give them what they need. But let me tell you, when you talk to people about it, people without parrots, they get it. I think with more education about the unsuitability of wild animals as pets, something with which most people agree, aviculture will continue to fall out of favor.

  13. Jean Pattison
    January 22, 2016

    Choose freedom over caging? Hummm………I had a pair of wild caught Senegals, in an outside flight. When feeding one day, I saw their perch had been chewed in half. I went and replaced the perch. I had a 2×1.5 perch thru holes in the wire, never dreaming a Senegal would get thru that. Anyway, the hen was not visible, and I assumed she was nesting (proven pair). Next day I went out and there was shavings all over the outside of the flight, where the perch extends thru the wire. At first I was confused, then looked in the nest box, and found it empty. I removed the perch, leaving the hole in the wire open. That evening I went back out to check the cage and sure enough, my little hen was back inside. In 35+years of breeding, I have a few more examples of wild caught birds, “choosing”, and all chose the cage.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 23, 2016

      It makes me so sad when we humans are so blind to the suffering of others. And when it’s right in front of us, we rationalize our actions as benevolent and beneficial. What you describe is Stockholm Syndrome, and even if we don’t want to debate the psychology of humans and parrots, these questions still remain:

      Where would the bird find food?
      Where would the bird find shelter?
      Why would a flock animal fly away where it would be alone?

      When places like Limbe in Cameroon release greys back into the wild after months and months of rehab (greys who were confiscated from illegal capture), all the birds go back to the forest. They recognize it, they know where to find food and shelter, and most of all, they have each other, the flock. I say, of course your captive Senegals “chose” to stay, because that was their only option.

    • Ellen Kessler
      January 23, 2016

      Uh that’s because her mate was still in captivity and she didn’t want to leave him. Think outside the box, Jean. Put your head inside the bird’s head. Sadly you breeders all sound alike; I think you must share sound bytes.

    • Rebecca
      January 24, 2016

      It is a similar phenomnen as stockholm syndrome as Shari said. Otherwise known as “capture bonding”. But I see it as more bonding to the captive environment rather than to the person. A captive bird knows of nothing else besides captivity (unless they were stolen from the wild post-fledging) and as such, must adapt and survive any way they can. This leads to the parrot’s world view shrinking to the tiny bubble that we can provide them. Compared to the complex world of the wild, even the best captive situations are a mere shadow of what they experience in the big wide world. So its obvious they become attached to routines, small environments and repetitive situations in captivity. None of which they have in the wild.

      You can’t remove millions of years of evolution in just one or two generations. To think that parrots would want to live in a captive situation rather than be free is simplistic anthropomorphism. Jean I’m guessing you probably don’t live within the natural habitat of your Senegals. The environment outside your aviaries/cages is alien to them. It’s scary for a flock animal to just fly off into the unknown, and the longer they’ve been captive the more daunting it would be. If on the other hand you lived where there were flocks of wild Senegals visiting your birds, and they were able to escape and fly, you might find the outcome is quite different. I have seen many a caged bird visited by its own kind, whether in a small cage or aviary, and every part of them just wants out.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 24, 2016

      Thank you for posting that link. It’s very hopeful.

      You, I don’t have much hope for. I said, and always say, “captive breeding for the pet trade” should be ended. Captive breeding by conservationists, with a working plan, regard for genetics, restoration of habitat, and the eventual release is how you save a species. Just like another person commenting on this post, you only wanted to hear your preconceived notion of what you think I am as a person who believes that keeping parrots as pets is wrong.

  14. Andrea Wood
    January 26, 2016

    Your article is very interesting to me because I have enormous regrets about getting a parrot. And I thought I did everything right.

    I researched what it meant to have a parrot long before I got one. I read many books not only about pet parrot keeping but also about the species of parrot I eventually acquired (a red-shouldered macaw) and about ornithology in general. I read all the debates on wing clipping vs. no wing clipping. I listened to all the warnings about how hard it is to be a good parront, but because I am a serious and dedicated pet owner, I felt prepared to take on the enormous responsibility. I went into it with eyes wide open. For the past 1.5 years I have had my first parrot. I’ve attended several training or behavioral workshops in my area and continued to read books and educate myself on all things parrot.

    It’s true, he and I have good moments and he is sometimes delightful, but he is incredibly demanding. I make him fresh vegetables and fruit each morning and give him hours of outside cage time. I make toys and also buy them for his enrichment. He looks much healthier than when I got him, he gained 10 oz (holding steady) and after a molt he lost the wing bars.

    But I don’t think he’s happy per se; he just doesn’t know any better. And now I am his caretaker. I’ve had numerous close calls with him. At just 160 grams it’s like taking care of a tiny precocious toddler with wings, he’s into everything. Occasionally he spooks — flying into the air and fluttering — coming terrifyingly close to heat registers and hot tea kettles. Two weeks ago he was in his outside cage (under an overhang) and a hawk attacked him through the bars. A hawk! How can we possibly fend off the world for a tiny little bird?

    It has become quite clear to me that it is virtually impossible to provide what these intelligent, complex creatures actually need. In fact, I think it’s delusional. I think parrots are so smart and highly adaptable, we can muddle along together in our relationship.

    What to do with my parrot? I know if I re-home him it’ll just be the next in a long line of homes. This feels like a huge failure, for me personally. I take my responsibilities as pet guardian very seriously and I rescue dogs and cats that live to old age. I don’t make decisions lightly about taking on the role of protector and caregiver for an animal. I feel a bit stuck and also humbled by this experience.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 26, 2016

      Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t know why so many overlook all the things you mention, and rationalize the keeping of parrots as pets. I can only assume it’s willful ignorance, and they’re just not paying attention.

    • carol gelfand
      January 27, 2016

      YOU WILL NEVER GET THE RESPONSE FROM BIRDS YOU KEEP AS PETS THAT YOU WOULD GET FROM A DOG THAT HAS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND WILL PRETTY MUCH PUT UP WITH ANY ABUSE INFLICTED ON IT OR A CAT THAT EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE INDEPENDENT ALSO REQUIRE KIND TREATMENT TO RESPOND IN KIND. A BIRD IS WILD NO MATTER HOW LONG IT HAS BEEN IN CAPTIVITY AND EVN THOUGH THEY CAN BE EXTREMELY AFFECTIONATE THEY CAN ALSO INFLICT NASTY BITES FOR THE SLIGHTEST INFRACTION THEY FEEL YOU HAVE INFLICTED ON THEM AND HAVE NO REGRETS FOR DOING SO. THEY ALSO BITE TO WARN YOU OF IMPENDING DANGER THEY FEEL IS HAPPENING, THEY BITE IF THEY FEEL THREATENED THAT YOU MIGHT BE PAYING ATTENTION TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN THEM. PEOPLE THAT OWN AND LOVE BIRDS ARE A BREED ALL THEIR OWN AND MOST WILL TOLERATE THESE BEHAVIORS BECAUSE THEY LOVE THEIR BIRDS. Many people buy birds on a whim without regard to the lifespan and care of their birds and grow tired of them. this is also true of the other pets they own. just go to an animal rescue and see all the animals brought because the people no longer want to be bothered caring for a pet. many of these animals have been life long companions and are older in age and don’t stand much chance of being adopted again. people have the misconception that if they have a baby bird hey can form its personality and keep it sweet without regard to the teenage hormonal years which can be a nightmare to parrot owners but many people manage to cope and get through it.good bird owners are unique in dealing with bird emotional problems and are willing to still love their birds regardless of hormones, age and vet costs. yes in a perfect world birds would be better off living much shorter lifespans in the wild but humans are destroying the earth at such a rapid pace that this option is becoming very rare due to habitat destruction, insecticide poisoning, severe chemical pollution and i could go on and on and there is no right or wrong answer.

      • Shari Mirojnick
        January 27, 2016

        There are answers that are right and wrong, just not black and white. There is a saying in Italian on which Voltaire expanded, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” There is no perfect solution, but giving into an idea that it’s too late is a wrong answer. We need to work harder to protect the environment, and conservationists are including plans to go along with saving endangered parrot species. Let’s try not to give up because the perfect is unattainable. Let’s work for the good.

  15. dot schwarz
    January 27, 2016

    Andrea I appreciate and support most of what you say.
    My experience is that parrots are happier – a loose word – with another of their species..
    and aslo space and training to keep their minds occupied.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 27, 2016

      Yes, another parrot can be a help, however, it can just as easily add to your problems. Many parrots won’t take to another, even of the same species. They don’t recognize the other parrot as being like them, as we actively strive to have baby parrots imprint on humans. In this case, the best you could hope for is that the two birds tolerated each other. At worse, it can disrupt the entire household. You have to go into this option with a backup plan. What if it doesn’t work, and makes your parrot unhappy? Would you give the new parrot away? How would these decisions affect you, and would you even want to be in that position? Then, there’s this issue…. getting more parrots is not like double your work. It’s more like the Richter Scale, where a magnitude 2 earthquake isn’t twice as powerful as a magnitude 1, but 10 times stronger.

      • dot schwarz
        January 27, 2016

        I only have experience with my own birds. And yes a rescue umbrella never accepted other parrots. I found her a home with a lady at home where she is sole bird. She gets on with the other pets there? Apart from her I have never found another bird has not calmed a nervous bird. But I do have a large aviary over 35 metres and birds are not forced into close proximity until they want it.

  16. Binky
    January 31, 2016

    Is there data that proves that 80-100 years is indeed the life span? Certainly not for a wild bird.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      January 31, 2016

      I haven’t seen any data showing those ages as normal lifespans for either captive or wild parrots. I’ve certainly heard many anecdotal stories, and I’ve encountered one cockatoo who was supposed to be in her eighties. I’m always skeptical of those kinds of ages, because, as someone who does rescue, stories get told and retold, and forgotten along the way. I’m often skeptical when someone says a parrot was in someone’s family for decades, and they had the parrot when it was a baby. Most parrots, decades ago, were imports, and not chicks. The data in the study I talk about, took data from many different places. It wasn’t just zoos, as I know a conservation biologist who gave some of his data over for the study. I think it’s the only real study ever done. I’m sure there can be errors, but it’s a start, and it’s more reflective of what people who deal with a lot of parrots over a lot of time. One thing that’s for sure, all the websites out there that give those 80-100 year lifespan never have a citation.

  17. Lisa B Acton
    April 11, 2016

    Great article. I have been doing rescue for about 25 years and vet care is important. I have a mollucan rescue who is 66 years old and blind from inoperable cataracts but he is very healthy. our other birds are 26 and 16 years old, diet is so important and the household chemicals and cleaning products and even toys need to be carefully handled. These three are not really adoptable for several reasons but we love them and they will be with us as long as we and they live.

  18. Michele Cooke
    April 12, 2016

    Shari, your comments on January 27th, 2016, ending with “Lets work for the good” are thought provoking and excellent. As a person who has parrots and cares greatly for them, I do everything I can to enrich their lives nutritionally, physically, and emotionally to the best that they can be in a stress free home environment. I believe that ideally, the focus would be on preserving and increasing the natural habitats and not breeding them for pets. Having taken in unwanted and neglected or abused parrots, it is not the parrots issue or fault, it is the people who had no idea how to care for these complicated and essentially wild creatures, and the demands that go with providing for them. It is disheartening that there are still people selling and breeding cockatoos and macaws for retail sale, when so many of these intelligent species suffer and languish in the wrong homes, or have been left abandoned and if lucky, may have been taken in by a quality rescue. Most of the parrot people I know, do not recommend them as pets, but do everything they can to provide education to others as to why, even though they love their parrots with a most unique bond, we are not doing right by them as a whole. If you are considering a parrot, volunteer at a Rescue, join a Bird Club, babysit or foster, do your research, and make sure it is the right lifetime commitment for your family. If it is, there are many deserving parrots waiting at rescues for you to meet and get to know. A quality rescue will also provide you with valuable support and information in ensuring the adoption is a success. Don’t shop, adopt.

    • Dot Schwarz
      April 12, 2016

      coming int parrots later in life I endorse what Michael says 120%

    • Shari Mirojnick
      April 15, 2016

      I don’t think we can stress enough the need for people to adopt. Thank you.

  19. nathalie duchesne
    April 14, 2016

    my Goffin mambo is 25 years old and the happiest craziest bird ever! he is free and pretty much runs the house…dances sings,hes an eternal 2 year old! goes outside to expore is own trees…was in dominican 2 years with me…he as the life he desirves! and seeing them in the wild many times he as more chance to get very old than he would ever have in the wild…

    • Shari Mirojnick
      April 15, 2016

      I love hearing stories like you and Mambo, especially that he’s a Goffin’s. Many Goffin’s have a lot of problems, mostly feather destructive behavior and self-mutilation. I think we need to acknowledge this truth, because the families who are dealing with these problems are made to feel like it’s something they are doing to make their beloved companion so unhappy that it mutilates itself. Most people, particularly these days, who have parrots with these kinds of issues are doing everything “right.” They are doing all the things their breeders, bird store staff, veterinarians, and all the “experts” on the Internet are telling them to do. Because Mambo has so much room to work off all that Goffin’s energy, it helps him cope with the confines of captivity. I hesitate to ascribe this as “the life he deserves,” because we really don’t know what that would be. If you base that on opinion, mine is that the life they deserve is the life they evolved over millions of years to have in the wild. We also don’t know what the average lifespans of most parrot species are in the wild. Yes, there are captive parrots like Mambo who live long lives, but the point here is that the average is much shorter. And perhaps you can feel lucky that all this time Mambo has had to explore all his own trees, that he never succumbed to the dangers that are outside, mainly predators, which would fall under the category of “accident.”

      One question I have, which I’ve asked others who take such great care of their parrots, who give them all the best from diet, to enrichment, to healthcare, is, don’t Mambo’s parents deserve these things, too? We think our companions should have large cages, time outside of the cage, toys and enrichment, medical care, and all the other things we do for our parrots, yet we aren’t outraged by the fact that their parents don’t get what we consider essential to the health and well-being of our own companions. And then we have to ask ourselves, is it moral for us to keep parent birds caged their entire lives, with little enrichment, no change in atmosphere, and to with the stress and fear of their babies (or eggs) taken away from them by what they perceive as a predator, year after year after, just so we can have companion parrots?

  20. my self
    August 2, 2016

    Ummm number 1 when talking about them not living as long in captivity as they would in the wild is redundant … there are not any birds who are doctors nor any treetop bird hospitals ran by birds either out there in the wild .. so they do not get ” health care” in the wild .. the week injured and sick are either abandoned or usually killed

    • Shari Mirojnick
      August 2, 2016

      I’m not sure why you think I’m comparing captive to wild parrots. This is about the lifespan of parrots in captivity as the title states. There have been, and still are all kinds of unsubstantiated claims that parrots live for 70, 80, 90 even 100 years, but the numbers never backed it up–only stories of a parrot here, or a parrot there. The linked study compiled data from decades past to come up with a better understanding of captive parrots’ potential lifespans and average lifespans. These numbers are far shorter than what has been circulated. Also, I point to some of the issues for why parrots in captivity die so young, and suggest what people can do to get their parrots to old age. Is there something specific that makes you think this is a comparison of wild and captive?

  21. Rick Swan
    August 2, 2016

    I guess as a person of science, I must always question everything I hear & read if I don’t see scientific facts to back up the opinions. For instance, it is common thought that parrots in the wild often live to 80-100 years of age. Often repeated but no data to confirm this. How would you gather this data? Live with the parrots? Take information from folks living in the bush with the parrots? Neither takes out the human impact factor. Now living in homes makes data collection easier, so I can see how life spans can be confirmed ( if the people collecting the data are not biased)

    After reading the author’s defense of their conclusions, I am more convinced this is not an unbiased report. One can always make a study give you the results you want.
    I am skeptical of this report and as usual when that is the case, I take the information with a grain of salt.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      August 3, 2016

      Because I work with parrots, and have for a long time, this report reflects what I see: most parrots do not make it to old age. If most is too strong, then we could say, “many.” Regardless, it’s a tragedy, for each individual parrot and their species’ as well. I would hesitate to state that this study’s conclusion is definitive regarding actual lifespan, however, I will state that the ages they give for deaths for each parrot included is factual. It’s not too hard to compile that data, and it reflects my experience and that of other people who work with many different parrots on a regular basis. It’s hard for most people to judge this because they are around a limited number of individuals, even the breeders who have many pairs; therefore, their experience is only based on the parrots in their care, and those of others.

      I’m not sure why so many people have made comments regarding “educating” people, and wonder if they read the post with an agenda. It’s a blog post on the Internet, by a person offering her experience and advice, but I also think I offered more information with a defensible argument than most.

  22. Dot Schwarz
    August 2, 2016

    a good debate but since parrots will continue to o be bred and kept as pets it is surely more useful eproductive to educate the carers and breeders and provide better enrichment for breeders/
    I free fly Benni macaw every day and in
    600 flights he comes home every time.

    • Shari Mirojnick
      August 3, 2016

      I gave five issues that shorten the lives of captive parrots. I numbered each one in a separate paragraph, and suggested things people can do. I also brought up the issue of captive parrot lifespans so that people would have the information about it. What else would you have liked to see in a blog post?

      • Harley Harpo Elmo Maccarrone
        October 23, 2016

        Captive Avian Parrot Husbandry

      • Shari Mirojnick
        October 23, 2016

        Great point! One example might be the health hazards associated with the use of “litters” like corn cob as substrate for the cage tray. Many of those are great environments for harmful bacteria and fungi. Thanks for bringing that up.

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2016 by .