What Factors Affect a Parrot's Lifespan?

Alex Tree

Some factors that affect a parrot’s lifespan are breed, environment, and socialization. Breed affects a parrot’s lifespan because the larger the bird, the longer it tends to live. Parrots also tend to live shorter lives when in captivity versus the wild, much like most other animals. In addition, a parrot who is not handled, talked to, and otherwise mentally stimulated on a daily basis can begin to develop mental health problems; neglected parrots are usually destructive to both their surroundings and their bodies. Another factor that greatly determines a parrot’s lifespan is its diet.

A parrot's lifespan is shortened in captivity, as they don't always get the exercise they need.
A parrot's lifespan is shortened in captivity, as they don't always get the exercise they need.

In general, large parrots have a greater lifespan than small parrots. Most parrots are a lifetime commitment for their owners, but some can last for multiple generations of a human family, passed down from generation to generation. Some parrots, large macaws for example, can live for more than 100 years. In this way, parrots are similar to turtles because their longevity frequently exceeds that of their owners. Bird lovers who want less of a commitment should consider adopting a smaller breeds of parrot, like finches or parakeets.

Parakeets who are fed a seed-only diet may have a shorter life expectancy.
Parakeets who are fed a seed-only diet may have a shorter life expectancy.

Like a good many animals, a parrot’s lifespan is shortened when it is in captivity. Animals tend to do best in their natural habitats, flying free and eating plants they were meant to eat. In the wild, a parrot might fly for miles in search of food or stimulation and eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They do not always get as much exercise and healthy food in captivity.

Parrots can be very demanding of their owners, especially when growing older. Older parrots are generally more intelligent and more capable of drawing attention to themselves through both good and bad habits. Without steady interaction from humans or other birds, a parrot is not a healthy bird. Poor socialization can lead to self-mutilation or other mental health issues. Intelligent parrots are on par with a three-year-old child and therefore can waste away without healthy interaction.

A poor diet can shorten a parrot’s lifespan, much like it can shorten a human’s lifespan. Parrots too are at risk of heart attacks and other fatal health problems when their diet is poor. The situation is worsened by the fact that many parrot owners are not aware of the proper foods to feed their parrot or occasionally feed them scraps of human food. A veterinarian can usually help determine the best diet for a parrot.

Large parrots tend to live longer than smaller ones.
Large parrots tend to live longer than smaller ones.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - They are expensive because breeding the larger parrots is very difficult in captivity, particularly if you're hoping to sell the little ones as pets. Keeping a pair is tough in the first place, finding a pair that is compatible takes time, and then if you really want social birds that are going to be good pets you basically have to either hand-rear the chicks (which is not recommended because that, too, can shorten their lifespans and cause health problems), or at least handle them regularly without disturbing the parents.

It takes a huge amount of time. In contrast, I could hardly keep our budgies from making more little budgies when I had some in an aviary.


@irontoenail - When I was young I desperately wanted to get a parrot like a cockatoo or a macaw and I remember thinking it was ridiculous how expensive they were compared with other animals.

Now I realize that it's a good thing they are that expensive. I feel like you almost have to do a full training course before you're ready to take care of one of these birds.

The smaller parrots, like parakeets and love birds aren't nearly as difficult to care for and can be a real pleasure to have in the home though.


Parrot's lifespans can be shortened in captivity but they don't have to be if you are taking care of them properly. The most essential point I can make here is that no one should ever buy a parrot (particularly a large one) lightly. They are expensive, fragile and demanding creatures that need more exercise than a dog and more social interaction than a human child.

They need to have very specific diets and they need to have attention almost 24 hours a day, if possible. They need to have a way to exercise their wings as well as their feet (often people make the mistake of providing for one but not the other). They need stimulation. Grey parrots are capable of learning hundreds of words and even putting them together in sentences. They are borderline sentient and locking them in a cage without enough stimulation is cruel.

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