New Longevity Study on Captive Parrots

We’ve all heard about how long parrots live and the importance of planning for your bird’s future. After all, it is quite likely that your parrot will outlive you.

However, a new study indicates that parrots may not live as long as we previously thought.

In “Survival on the Ark: Life-history Trends in Captive Parrots,” the researchers analyzed data from the International Species Information System (ISIS) database. Zoos use ISIS to record and track statistics about all of the animals in their care.

After examining over 83,000 records, the study concluded that “Species varied widely in lifespan, with larger species generally living longer than smaller ones. . . but only [12] species had a maximum lifespan over 50 years.”

The oldest parrot was a Moluccan cockatoo at 92 years, but many other cockatoos, such as Rose-breasted cockatoos and Major Mitchell’s were exceptionally long lived.

Lories and lorikeets had short maximum lifespans – in fact the budgie, at 18 years, outlives many species of lory.

The study also states: “Of all the species held in ISIS institutions, 50% never had an individual live beyond 22 years of age, and only 30% of these species had a median adult lifespan ≥10 years, even after limiting data to individuals who survived juvenile mortality (≥4 years). In contrast, when only living animals were considered, 58% of species had a median age ≥10 years.”

The study contains a table listing longevity data on 260 parrot species.

Looking at these numbers, it’s hard not to feel sad at the thought of losing a beloved companion after what seems like a few short years. Stay focused on quality over quantity: provide the healthiest environment for your bird and she is likely to live a long and happy life.

The full study is available here . Thanks to Steve Milpacher of the World Parrot Trust, our wonderful guest last weekend, for passing it on.

6 thoughts on “New Longevity Study on Captive Parrots

  1. Wow. That IS a surprise. I was shocked to see only 8 years for Green Cheeks. I wonder why? Jimmy was 14, and my vet says most of the ones he knows get into their late teens, at least. Maybe they’re one of the species with a wide variation in individuals.


  2. It is a useful study, and in many cases gives a better idea of likely lifespan, considering the best of our care could very well be leaving out some of the most important pieces of the puzzle, such as the extreme exercise they would normally be getting from flying, and regular sunlight, not to mention fewer chemicals around them. However, I know individuals far older than that listed as the maximum for its species, sometimes cl0se to double, so this study is quite useful, but hardly an end-all.


  3. It is an eye opener, isn’t it? I’ve known birds who have outlived some of the maximum ages of this study. Maria, a Phoenix Landing senegal, is at least 31, while the max age in the study for senegals is 24. I also imagine that, as we continue to learn about diet, enrichment and other facets of great bird care that many bird in captivity will live longer.


  4. I read this article and I can’t decide if I am lucky or I should cry. My scarlet macaw is 13 and if I read the article properly, most zoos can’t keep them alive for more than 20 years. I still want to provide for the long term care of my buddy, but now I wonder if he really will outlive me. I am also concerned if I am providing adequate care for my bud. If a zoo can’t do it, I wonder about me and my ability to care for him. Does anyone know if you slice the data to only include more recent births that we have a reduced mortality — I’m assuming that we have more recently improved vet care and nutrition compared to 80 years ago.


  5. I recently met a lady who keeps very precise records who had a cockatiel into his 33rd year. Looked in really good condition too. Just kept in a large cage on it’s own as a pet.


  6. My mother’s parrot, although he can be a very nasty soul to everyone who is not her is at least 29 years old. I don’t know his breed but Chelsea will remain my mother’s pampered baby.


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