Parrots comprise a group of birds that includes 279 different species. They vary in size from small birds that can fit in the palm of your hand to large birds the size of a cat and their lifespans are just as variable.
Pet birds can live quite a long time. Potential owners need to be aware of the longevity of their bird so that they can be prepared to provide proper care for them for as long as they live (and be prepared in case their bird outlives them).
As a general rule, the larger the bird, the longer the expected life span is. Listed below are some estimated life spans for common parrots and other pet birds (life spans of wild birds can be drastically different than pet birds). These are of course based on a healthy bird kept under ideal conditions. In reality, there is a wide range in the age that pet birds might reach and certainly some will live longer (or shorter amounts of time) than the ages listed below.
- Budgerigars (Parakeets): 5-18 years
- Macaws: 30-50 years or more (depending on the species)
- Doves: 20 years or more (in the wild it is only about 1.5 years)
- Pigeons: 15 years (in the wild it is only about 5 years)
- Cockatoos: 20-60 years depending on the species
- Amazons: 25-75 years
- African Grays: 40-60 years or more
- Eclectus: 30-50 years or more
- Conures: 10-30 years depending on the species
- Lories (Lorikeets): 10-30 years
- Caiques: up to 50 years
- Senegals: up to 50 years (in the wild it is only about 25 years)
- Cockatiels: 10-15 years
- Lovebirds: 10-15 years
- Canaries: 10 years
- Finches: typically 5-9 years but if housed in an aviary can be longer
- Pionus: 25 years
Parrots are special among pet birds because many species have the potential to be with you for your entire life (and often outlive their owners). Parrots usually live longer in captivity than in the wild because they are less likely to encounter predators and disease while living in our homes. But just because they are in our homes doesn't mean they are exempt from illness and shortened life spans.
Parrot Lifespan Factors
Factors that affect a parrot's life as a pet the most include nutrition, veterinary care, and mental health. Your parrot will thrive the most if you provide them with a secure and clean enclosure with plenty of space to climb and spread their wings. They should also get lots of natural sunlight or full spectrum lighting (rather than only artificial light) as it will allow them to better process nutrients and establish an appropriate day/night cycle for their mental well being. Birds should also be housed with other birds since they are a flock species and humans cannot take the place of another bird, no matter how hard we try.
If you are purchasing a pet bird, make sure to choose one from a trustworthy breeder who can provide you with health information on the bird's parents since genetics are also a factor related to longevity.
Giving your parrot an appropriate diet will also help keep them healthy and prevent disease. A well-rounded diet includes pellets, grains, seeds, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables. A balance of vitamins, protein, fats and minerals (such as calcium from sources such as boiled eggshells) is critical in maintaining a bird's health and longevity. Giving a bird a diet that consists mainly of sunflower seeds (which birds love) is on of the worst things you can do as it contains high levels of fat and very few nutrients.
Famous Old Parrots
- Alex is probably the most famous parrot and is known for his work on the avian language experiment (which is what his name stands for). He was purchased from a pet store by Dr. Pepperburg and lived to be 31 years old. He had a book written about him and the research he took part in and was thought to have the emotional level of a 2-year-old when he died.
- Cookie the cockatoo was a Guinness World Record holder as the longest living parrot for a time. He died in 2016 at the age of 83 and lived almost his entire life at the Brookfield Zoo after having been shipped from an Australian zoo at about one year of age.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT