What is The True Lifespan of Parrots in Captivity?

What is The True Lifespan of Parrots in Captivity?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

Hi Mitch,

Have you ever done an article on the true lifespan of parrots in captivity?

When I was first researching parrots (in the early 1990s) I read in Multiple places that Greys and other large parrots lived to their 80s.

But it turns out most don’t get even close to that.

We need more accurate info.


From what I’m reading lately we also are overfeeding them and not getting them enough exercise. 


I thought I knew a LOT  about parrots and now I’m realizing I was crucially misled about some stuff.


(My grey, Bongo, died last week of kidney and liver failure. She was 26.)




We are sorry for your loss Melissa,


The first problem is there is no aggregated data like they keep on humans.


It’s not  “we also are overfeeding them and not getting them enough exercise.” 


We don’t overfeed our birds according to one veterinarian who performed many necropsies (animal autopsies), 60% of birds she examined died of malnutrition.


Oversupplementation can be as dangerous as nutritional deficiency.


When you feed your bird “chop” your bird is getting malnourished.


From Mark Hagen


The cost of feeding a bird is not based on the price per kilogram of food but the price per kilo-calorie of digestible energy.

He writes further

“Some Breeders have a romantic notion that captive diets that are complicated, labor-intensive, using expensive ingredients are the most nutritious.

Yet it is possible to feed easy to prepare, cost-efficient diets that do not compromise proper levels of essential nutrients”.


Mark Hagen on Avian Nutrition Research


Mark Hagen who has a master’s degree in Agriculture, founded H.A.R.I where he has been researching pet bird nutrition for 30 years using 250 pairs of domestic and wild-caught parrots.



Mark also donates to the Ontario Veterinary College 


Letter of support from Ontario Veterinary College to HARI 2018


I’ll occasionally poke around Facebook and ask someone who proudly displays their latest 450-gram chop (1 lb) who they are going to serve to their 165-gram sun conure 


“Because your bird has 3000 – 6000 feathers and feathers require amino acids and amino acids are produced from protein, where is the protein in the chop?”


They always start with “Kale is high in protein!”


They will never respond again after I write the words “There are 6 grams of protein in 30 grams of kale, if your bird needs 12 grams of protein, it would have to eat half its bodyweight in kale – daily.”


We have just added a tool to our (KETO) nutrition arsenal – A  Recipe Nutrition Calculator


I entered the following ingredients from the first article that came up in a search for the term “bird chop recipe” on Google’s SERP 1


1 cup dry quinoa (makes about 2 cups when cooked), 2 carrots, 1 broccoli, 1 medium beetroot, 6 chilies, ¼ cup flaked almonds, ½ cup rolled oats.  Cook quinoa, chop all other ingredients and mix everything together.


Once made, refrigerate enough for 3 days.


Freeze the rest in portions big enough for 1-2 days.


Depending on the size of your bird, you may do this in an ice-cube tray, small Tupperware containers or freezer bags.


A convenient freezer method is to scoop the mix into the cups of an egg carton, pressing firmly down.


The cups can then be fed frozen in foraging toys.


Quantities to feed:

It depends on your bird but as a rough guide.

  • Budgerigar: 1-2 teaspoons
  • Cockatiel/Conure/ringneck: 1 – 2 tablespoons
  • Eclectus/Galah/Cockatoo/Amazon: 2-4 tablespoons



This is Higgins Intune Harmony Parakeet 2 lb

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Crude Protein (Min.) 13.5%
  • Crude Fat (Min.) 7.0%
  • Crude Fiber (Max.) 3.0%
  • Moisture (Max.) 8.0%
  • Calcium (Min.) 1.0%
  • Phosphorus (Min.) 0.8%
  • Vitamin E (Min.) 200 IU/kg
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) (Min.) 25 mg/kg;
  • L-Carnitine (Min.) 20 mg/kg
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Min.) 1.10%
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Min.) 0.40%;
  • Total Lactic Acid Bacteria (Min.) 2 x 105 cfu/g*
  • (Enterococcus Faecium, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Casei).


And so it goes – we are starving our birds and no one cares – it’s called being anthropomorphic


Air and water pollution contribute to a lower quality of life for all.


Humans and (11) birds in our household only drink filtered water.


Flying into closed windows, sharp-cornered glass tables, and open mirrors happens far too often.


Predictions of longevity much like politics and the stock market are a slippery slope.


There is no reason not to exercise your bird when you have Exercise Your Bird – Why & How – Videos

Best – MitchR


Follow up question: From Melissa Schilling

to Mitch

It’s so confusing.

Our vet had told us to feed Bongo only pellets and nutri-berries, but that looks so different from what they eat in the wild.


I also read in multiple sources that birds shouldn’t have a high protein diet as it made them more prone to hypocalcemia.


You are right there are no pellet trees in the rain forest.

You can split his advice in the middle – try Higgins Intune Harmony Parrot 3 lb (1.361 kg) which has a pellet base and much more.
Nutriberries have 8% pellets but Avi-Cakes are 50% pellets
I have also updated your post to address the question about exercise. 
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