Yellow tailed black cockatoo in tall grass

Do Pet Birds Have Shorter Life Spans With Humans or in the Wild?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo ~ Above

Original question on Quora:

Do pet birds like parrots and cockatoos have shorter life spans when they live with humans rather than in the wild? If so, why would this be so?

I love this question.

I hate this question. 

It’s a really big question.

What Factors Affect the Lifespan of Parrots?

“Parrots and cockatoos” indicate the question that comes from outside the world of pet birdkeeping.

Trust me when I say, “They had it much better off until we humans got involved.

I don’t know how much research if any has been done on the subject but sometimes it’s more fun to explore than fact check.

This way you can draw your own conclusions.

Parrots, parakeets, waxbills, and softbills are prey animals.

They spend 60% of their day trying to eat and the other 40% trying not to be eaten.

Hawks, falcons, and kites are predatory animals with only one thought, “Where’s my next meal going to come from”?

According to veterinary medicine, when taken as a group of necropsied parrots, it was found that 90% died of malnutrition.

Shocker ~ all that really healthy chop fed to birds, has no protein, at least not enough to maintain a fish let alone a creature with a standing heart rate of 200 BPM.

Birds in our home know “food is in this dish” and “water is in that dish” with distances best described in inches and perhaps feet in an aviary-size birdcage.

How do budgies find food in the middle of the Australian outback ~ teamwork?

Scouting parties following marsupials to feeding grounds and watering holes.

Then they ate/eat what nature provided for tens of millions of years ~ seed.

At least wild animals can make their own healthy choices and are not stuck with anthropomorphic (an·thro·po·mor·phic/) decisions like all sunflower seed diets (“I inherited the bird and that’s all it will eat “ is a real thing we have heard more than once) are created by human caregivers, not birds.

Let’s circle back to that amazing video we just saw of a million budgies avoiding a single hawk.

Those little hoodlums are quick, I know, I live and work with 8 of them (and 3 small parrots), but parrots, big ones like greenwing macaws, and umbrella cockatoos (per the reader’s question) aren’t as fast.

I’ve witnessed a peregrine falcon strike a mourning dove. 

Came straight at it. I didn’t hear anything more than a few rustling leaves then like a micro superhero, this feathered missile struck and had the prey bird on the ground before I could focus on any single part of the event.

As a falconry hunter, I have seen a fast-flying prey bird die after crashing into a power line.

These are what constitute the circle of life.

As we drill down into this question let’s apply climate change as a factor. 

Way back in the last century there were dozens of Smilin’ Jacks ~ my father Norman was one of them

Flying birds from South America to North America to a hungry crowd of anxious potential pet bird keepers.

That was made illegal by the Endangered Species Act and most of the smuggling into the US has slowed. 

The deforestation of South America had barely begun, life was good and beautiful birds were plentiful.

Mapped: 30 Years of Deforestation and Forest Growth, by Country

Once again, the same species of homo sapiens do a terrible job of keeping pet birds while shortening and even ending the lifespans of those exotic birds in the wild.

What are the takeaways thus far?

Humans shorten the lifespans of birds in their homes through poor care and nutrition.

Those of you reading this can castigate me for saying these things but I’ve been rescuing pet birds for 20 years and teach bird care at avian rescues. 

The Hundred Safest Bird Toys Made Today

Humans don’t do a good job with animals and continue to shorten their lifespans in the home and the wild.

Link to the original question on quora

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you Mitch for this interesting info and stunning videos and photos. I agree, humans usually do mess things up, especially when it involves proper parrot care. I’ve had rescued parrots, whom I love dearly, for 35 years and always try to do my best, but these precious, extremely intelligent and magnificent creatures belong in the wild, the way nature intended. No matter how hard we try, we cannot duplicate a wild habitat. AND quality of life is often better than quantity, particularly when it comes to how some poor parrots are kept.

  2. two years ago, Arlo was pretty sick. She had ‘athlesclerosis’ (yeah, spelled it wrong, whatever, I’m drinking some wine) She apparently had a stroke, and at age 29 had lost alot of weight in a gradual kind of way. I have a vet who ‘sees birds’….I don’t live near a ‘bird vet’ and I cannot drive 7 hours to Boston for ARlo. I do wish I could, it just isn’t possible at this time.

    I spent some $$$$$ (it was alot for me, anyway) on rehabbing my wonderful Arlo, inclluding hiring the parrot behaviorist/vet tech, Pam Clark, to show me how to change Arlo’s eating habits. She’d eaten plenty of good stuff over all of those years; but, because we considered her part of our family, we also gave her stuff that she shouldn’t have eaten. After my visit with the vet, and then some consultations with Pam Clark, (I really respect her knowledge) I learned how to transition Arlo from seeds to pellets;something I’d attempted a few times over the years. At the very beginning of the transition, Arlo would eat perhaps 4 or 5 pellets of Harrison’s formula (right now, can’t remember which one; it wasn’t maintenance, but the other kind) ARlo would eat less than 13 pellets per day; she would eat the small amount of ‘chop’ I gave her, and throw those pellets around. Now, a couple of years later, she is doing great. She now eats 35+ pellets, and doesn’t rely so much on chop, but still enjoys it and a little bit of fruits and veg, too. So, Mitch, my vet, recommended Harrisons, which I did and do buy religiously. Sometimes, I use TOPs which is ok too. I used to use some Tropican products for other birds I was fostering. Since I read your stuff about them, I will order some, but will continue with Harrisons. Yes, I am sure parrots don’t get the right diet in captivity. Arlo was hatched in an incubator in Queen Anne county Md. she wasn’t a wild caught; a few years ago, I met a lady at the vet’s who’d bought her grey from a pilot who’d just come back from Africa. She’d had him since she was 21; when I met them, she was 72. She did not feed him pellets or do anything special; I know they benefit from a good diet, but we only know what we learn from ‘experts’ and that changes every few years, as knowledge is acquired.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu