are mirrors bad for birds

To keep pet birds mentally happy and stimulated, they need new and different types of toys given and exchanged out of their cage often enough that the birds dont get bored with them. Bored birds at the least can become an annoyance to their owners and at worst a danger to themselves. They can become physically destructive by plucking out their own feathers, start screaming, biting, and/or doing a behavior over and over again like head swinging, thus slowly going insane. The larger the bird, the more attention it needs from its owner and the more toys it requires that are both chewable and can keep the bird occupied.

Toys can be made from soft wood, hardwood, rawhide, rope, straw, metal, coconut shells, plastic and other materials. They can include beads, bells, nuts, mirrors, or can be filled with food, treats or things to chew on like wood pieces. The number of different toys available is amazing, and bird owners should give their pets toys that are destructible and those that are not. Parrots need to chew to keep their bill in good shape, and chewable toys along with beak conditioners will work the best. Even toys that are not easily destroyed, such as those made of hard plastic, are still great for birds to chew on. Note that many bird toys are very colorful which is great as birds can see all colors and will be more attracted to objects that are brightly colored, especially yellows, oranges, and reds.

Although most bird owners may think that only parrots need toys, this is not the case as finches, including the popular canaries, should be offered toys to play with as well. Finches love to pull on stringy types of material and chew on straw and hay. They also enjoy swings enormously and pecking at beads and small plastic chains.

Mirrors are one of the most misunderstood of the bird toy category. For years many pet owners have been told that birds should not get a mirror or they will become un-tame. This is simply not true. In fact, for smaller birds like parakeets and cockatiels, mirrors should be considered a necessity. It is extremely rare for a cockatiel or parakeet to become too attached to its mirror but if it does so, the mirror can be taken away. The mirror is a friend when the owner is not around, yet the friend disappears when the bird moves away and so the tame bird will then go to its owner for attention. Usually medium to larger sized birds like conures, Amazons and on up to macaws are not given a mirror toy, as they will often get too attached to a mirror and therefore act aggressively toward the owner.

Intelligent and foraging toys are getting very popular for manufacturers to offer and this is great for birds because it is important to give birds items that keep them busy. Some of these toys can have food put inside that the bird cannot get to easily and so it must figure out how to get the treat out. Chewable items like wood and rope can be placed inside a toy in a way that the bird must manipulate the toy carefully to get to the items on the inside. The more intelligent the bird species, such as large parrots, the more of these types of toys need to be given to keep the bird mentally healthy and avoid bad behaviors.

While most bird owners might believe that toys are only necessary for parrots, finches—including the well-known canaries—should also have access to toys. Finches enjoy chewing on hay and straw, as well as pulling on stringy materials. They also have a great deal of fun swinging and pecking at tiny plastic chains and beads.

Among the bird toy category, mirrors are among the most misinterpreted. It has long been believed by many pet owners that giving mirrors to birds will make them less tame. This is simply not true. In fact, mirrors ought to be seen as essential for smaller birds like cockatiels and parakeets. A cockatiel or parakeet rarely grows overly attached to its mirror, but if it does, the mirror may be removed. When the owner is not present, the mirror serves as a friend, but when the bird moves away, the friend vanishes, and the tamed bird will then seek attention from its owner. Larger birds, such as macaws, conures, and Amazons, are typically not given mirror toys because they can become overly attached to them and behave aggressively toward their owners.

Pet birds require a variety of toys that are changed out of their cage frequently enough to prevent boredom in order to keep them mentally happy and stimulated. At best, bored birds can irritate their owners, and at worst, they could endanger themselves. They may begin to exhibit physically destructive behaviors, such as plucking out their own feathers, biting, screaming, or repeatedly swinging their heads, which can cause them to gradually become insane. The larger the bird, the more care and attention it needs from its owner, as well as the more toys it needs to be entertained and chewable.

It’s becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to offer intelligent and foraging toys, which is fantastic for birds because it’s important to provide them with things to keep them occupied. Certain toys may contain food that the bird finds difficult to access, forcing it to devise a strategy to extract the treat. Chewable materials, such as wood and rope, can be inserted into toys so that the bird has to carefully handle the toy to reach the contents inside. Large parrots are among the more intelligent bird species, so more of these toys are required to keep the bird mentally well and prevent undesirable behaviors.

Soft wood, hardwood, rawhide, rope, straw, metal, coconut shells, plastic, and other materials can all be used to make toys. They can be decorated with beads, bells, nuts, and mirrors, or they can be filled with candies, food, or chewables like wood pieces. There is an incredible variety of toys available, and bird owners should provide both non-destructible and destructible toys for their feathered companions. Chewable toys and beak conditioners are the best things for parrots because they need to chew to maintain the health of their bill. Birds can still enjoy chewing on toys even if they are not easily broken, like those made of hard plastic. It’s worth noting that a lot of bird toys are extremely colorful, which is fantastic since birds can perceive all hues and are drawn to objects with vibrant colors, particularly red, yellow, and orange.

When I first brought Fry home, I saw that he was incapable of amusing himself, which is a necessary skill for companion birds. I offered him plenty of toys but he ignored them. My dresser held his cage, and on the back of it was a large mirror. I placed a towel over the mirror, but in his rush to get to the mirror, he tore it to pieces. I covered the mirror again and repositioned the cage so he couldn’t chew on it inside. About a week later he started playing with the toys. He also became more interested in people. Rather than prowling around on top of his cage or attempting to pilfer my sun conure’s food, he would bound over to my desk to observe both Jay-Jay (the sun) and me.

Allow me to give you a case in point. In fall of 1999 I adopted a mitred conure, Fry. A woman had caught him outdoors in Southern California. He had been dive-bombing some local gardeners. He lived with her for a year before she gave him to one of her friends. This lady had him for six years. He didn’t have access to actual birds during that time, and his cage had a mirror on top of it. When I got him, his owner had recently given birth to a baby. She gave him away because of this and the fact that her husband detested the bird.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. Reprints and other uses are prohibited without the author’s consent.

You’re concerned that you’re not giving your bird enough attention. Or maybe it starts out more simple. Maybe your cockatiel has a thing for the bathroom sink faucet or the toaster. What’s wrong with giving your bird a mirror? Everything. Mirrors are psychologically damaging to your bird.

The true issue is that mirrors mislead your bird’s perception of reality. They are conversing with a reflection rather than with another bird. Reflections are only able to imitate; they do not react as a real bird would. Think of it this way: you have a young child. Since this is your only child, you should get him a mirror rather than letting him play with kids on the street. The child converses and plays with his reflection all the time. You enrol him in high school when he turns fifteen. How well do you think he’ll get along with real people, who might not share his opinions, dislike his appearance, or look different from him, etc.?


Is mirror harmful to birds?

It really depends on how your bird reacts to the mirror. Many birds love interacting with the bird in the mirror especially budgies and cockatiels. Some birds will react aggressively to the strange bird, in which case you do not want to leave the mirror in the cage. It will only stress the bird.

Should I take away my birds mirror?

If you notice that your bird is getting into the habit of regurgitating throwing up his seed for the benefit of his “mate” in the mirror, it’s best to get rid of the mirror altogether.

What happens when a bird looks in the mirror?

To ensure success, they defend their territory aggressively, and will attack and try to drive away any bird they view as a possible competitor or a threat to their young. When they see their own reflection in your window, they assume they’re seeing a competitor and attack the image.