Captive Parrot Lifespans Are DECLINING!?

Posted by Bird Tricks on

Studies are showing that parrots bred in captivity are not living as long as they used to.  It seems impossible to me.  With all the advancements in avian sciences and medicine, with the increased numbers of avian certified vets, with all the information available out there on the internet, how can this be??

Up until as late as the early 90’s, the parrot owning general public had only the advice of pet store employees on how to care for their new birds.  All seed diets, with the occasional table scraps, were routinely recommended. Parrots were kept in tiny cages and offered little, if any, mental stimulation.  We had no understanding of the dangers of metal toxicity or the benefits of sunlight, and vets treated birds with medications intended for cats and dogs.  We had virtually no information about the wild habitats and behaviors of commonly kept species.

I understand how some  parrots fared badly in human care during those days.  Some of the longer lived parrots that survived their all seed diets, are paying the price for this ignorance with poor health now.  Some of the sharper owners applied common sense and gave their bird a healthier, more active life than was the norm.  Still, there were no guidelines to follow and there was a lot of “winging it”.  But that is not an excuse today.

So, given the glut of great information available to parrot owners, new and old, how can we be taking such a huge step backwards? I spent quite a while on line trying to find answers, but there really aren’t any at this time.   So I gathered the opinions of some very trusted sources on what might be some causes and these are what made sense to me:

The Pelleted Diet:

This portion of a parrot’s diet is very misunderstood.  People who own other animals will go to the supermarket and buy a 50lb bag of Purina whatever Chow, pour it in a bowl and consider their animals fed.  I wonder how many parrot owners are doing the same thing with their birds.  For the lazy owner, pellets are ideal, no muss, no fuss.  I think, though, that we may be leaning on them to heavily in our parrot’s diet.

I want to point out that I am not anti-pellets.  I offer them everyday.  I do fault the manufacturers who claim their pellets to be a complete diet.  They are not, and the uneducated owner might believe this claim.   Parrots are not at all like cats and dogs in their dietary requirements and MUST have fresh foods, which are the only foods that contain the ingredients that help fight disease and sustain good health in old age, and not just keep a bird alive.  To my way of thinking, pellets are a supplement to a fresh food diet.

For the best and 100% organic pellet that can help your parrot live longer, try Feed Your Flock parrot pellets. They come with a homemade recipe from Chet and Dave Womach of birdie bread muffins with the organic pellets incorporated in, that will have your parrot drooling for more!

Poor Breeding Practices:

Disreputable breeders have been around forever.  However, with parrots now being the third most popular pet, they are in a particular hurry to “crank them out”.  Aside from the breeder parents being in poor health, another age old problem is in the practice of in-breeding (mating of parents to sibling or sibling to sibling) and line-breeding (mating of relatives outside the immediate family: uncles, nieces, grandparents etc), which if carried out over a series of generations will lead to health issues and odd characteristics.  Breeders have been doing this for a long time, but with the increase in consumer demand, it may very well be happening in much higher numbers.

Lack of Exercise:

Birds are meant to fly.  Everything in their physiology screams this, from their feathers to the their hollow bones to their uniquely designed respiratory system.  But we discourage this behavior, and often clip their wings.  Sometimes the safety of a bird in the home requires clipping, since so many accidents occur as parrots fail to navigate windows and mirrors.  What are we doing to makeup for the loss of this natural ability in terms of exercise?

Obesity is one of the most common parrot health issues today, and is usually the result of both a poor diet and an unmotivated bird.  If our birds are not flighted, we need to be making every effort to see that they are getting ample exercise both inside and outside of their cage.

Thank you to everyone who offered opinions on this subject, but I still can’t wrap my brain around this.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


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