Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing
There are no ways to predict the lifespan of any bird. The American Veterinarian Association says that 50% of all pet bird deaths are the result of malnutrition.
I was at a seminar where nationally known avian veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker spoke. She related a story of how an 80-year-old woman brought in a budgie for a wellness check.
While doing intake Dr. Becker asked, “how old is the bird”?
The woman replied “25 years old”.
The good doctor being a little dubious asked “how do you know this”?
The woman took a folder out of her purse. From the folder, she removed a receipt from Woolworths the store she purchased the bird from, 25 years earlier.
When asked what the woman attributed to the bird’s longevity?
She replied that “the bird ate a 100% seed diet but was given a small dish of decaffeinated green tea every morning for the 25 years drinking it along with a cup I would have”.
Much like people the lifespan of birds is going to vary based on lifestyle.
A caged bird with clipped wings eating a 100% seed diet its entire life will generally have a much shorter lifespan than a bird in a free-flight aviary eating seed and a mix of pellets, fruits, and vegetables.
Meet Duster, the 89-year-old Umbrella-Crested Cockatoo
Flight allows the bird to burn off the fat easily and keep its heart in shape much like humans.
Cookie, a major Mitchell cockatoo was the oldest cockatoo in captivity and the oldest known living parrot until its death on August 27, 2016, at the age of 83.
Cookie had been residing at Brookfield zoo for most of his life.
In the 15 years that I’ve helped maintain the physical and physiological health of captive birds around the world, I’ve come to find that generally, we don’t do a very good job as bird keepers.
We run a parrot supply business but we sell no livestock. This year was no different than all those in the past starting in November and accelerating through New Year’s was the volume of phone calls from people wanting to buy a “parrot, preferably one that could talk”.
Typically when we receive a request from somebody looking for a bird, we will ask some qualifying questions like what kind of bird?
If they say any parrot, the conversation will usually end quickly.
If they are looking for a cockatiel or an Eclectus parrot we will warmly refer them to a large rescue we know not far from here.
My point is that many bird relationships start with false pretenses like “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a talking parrot in the house”?
People acquiring birds on that basis will usually rehome them in a relatively short period of time to another family or rescue if the bird is lucky, others get sent to the basement or the garage.
The inconsistent care and caregivers a rehomed bird gets is stressful enough by itself and stress is life-shortening.
We rescued an albino cockatiel of no known age because I literally pulled her out of some bushes on a Chicago side street she had gotten tangled in after escaping from wherever she was from.
She was a happy healthy flighted and fed bird well but died of cancer.
Too few caged bird keepers provide the needed artificial full spectrum lighting with timers over their bird’s cages to compensate for the erratic North American light cycles. This is a huge stress point for birds thus shortening their light.
How many reading this weigh their birds on a regular basis raise your hand.
It’s very difficult to determine the health of a bird by physical characteristics.
Look at Cookie in the picture above and the bird looked about the same at 30 years, 50 years, and 80 years old.
By weighing a bird regularly you will find out if there’s a rapid swing in weight in either direction which is the first indicator of potential illness before it becomes non-recoverable.
Circling back to the original answer let’s not worry about how long they live let’s worry about enabling them to have as long and healthy life as possible.
I tell people thinking of getting a bird or new bird keepers that they should expect the bird to last a very long time and if they don’t like to vacuum they shouldn’t have a bird.
Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing
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