can you keep wild birds as pets

2Department of Veterinary Medicine and St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK; articles by

The trade in birds for pet trade is harming wild bird populations and bird welfare. Inadequate housing of many pet birds results in stereotypies and other indicators of poor welfare in the birds that are currently widespread. Some pet birds were taken from the wild or bred in poor conditions, while others had nutritional, health, and behavioral problems resulting from inadequate living conditions and incorrect husbandry by the bird owners. As a consequence, it is not ethically right to keep the majority of the birds that are at present kept as pets. If birds are to be continued as a companion animal for people, then more effort should be made by pet shop owners and veterinarians to supply literature to prospective owners highlighting not only the proper care for the species of bird but also its needs and requirements, so that bird owners can do their utmost to meet them. Owners do not comply with laws requiring duty of care, unless they obtain and act on such information and also have knowledge of how to provide good nutrition and minimize the risk of disease. New laws are needed to prohibit taking birds from the wild and keeping birds in conditions that do not meet their needs.

We describe a wide range of unethical and unsustainable practices inherent to the trading and keeping of pet birds. At present, biodiversity and wild bird populations are being greatly harmed and many individual birds have poor welfare. Wild-caught birds should not be sold to the public as pets, or to breeding establishments for several reasons, including because 75–90% of wild-caught birds die before the point of sale and taking birds from the wild has negative effects on biodiversity. The housing provided for pet birds should meet the needs of birds of that species and allow good welfare, for example there should be no small cages but aviaries with space for each bird to exercise adequately, and social birds should be kept in social groups. At present, inadequate housing of many pet birds results in stereotypies and other indicators of poor welfare in birds. Owners should have knowledge of how to provide good nutrition and minimize the risk of disease. Unless these changes are made, keeping birds as pets should not be permitted. New laws are needed to prohibit taking birds from the wild and ensure captive pet birds in conditions that do meet their needs.

The sustainability of all human interactions with other animal species and the advisability and morality of taking animals from the wild is now being questioned [1,2,3,4]. A system or procedure is sustainable if it is acceptable now and if its expected future effects are acceptable, in particular in relation to resource availability, consequences of functioning, and morality of action [5]. Some aspects of obtaining and selling birds and keeping them in captivity as pets are not acceptable to a high proportion of the public, in particular because of biodiversity loss, impact on conservation policies, and poor welfare of the birds —starting from capture, to shipping, and restraining birds in captivity. The consequences of the trade in pet birds, discussed here, are important to conservation biologists understanding the impact of pet bird market versus habitat loss, and veterinarians’ response to rescuing smuggling birds, as well as to the global public awareness of consequences of keeping pet birds.

In the United States, pet birds are reported to be the fourth most popular companion animal to keep as a pet, after fish, cats, and dogs [6,7], while in the EU, ‘ornamental’ birds were the third commonest pet when fish were not counted individually [8,9,10], explaining that unlike other pets such as cats and dogs, birds are not usually considered to be domesticated animals, even when they are a captive bred species. Domestication is the process, occurring over generations, through which a population of animals becomes adapted to man and to a captive environment through some combination of genetic changes and an environmentally induced developmental events [11]. Many birds in captivity are only one or two generations removed from the wild but even in birds bred for more generations like Canaries (Serinus canaria), Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata), Lovebirds (Agapornis sp), and Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), their behavior and physiology differs little from that of wild individuals [12]. Furthermore, unlike cats and dogs, captive bred birds are mostly physically identical to their wild counterparts, the only exceptions being the few species bred to express color mutations or hybridization [9,10,13].

EFSA reported that birds from 17 different orders were taken from the wild and exported for pet trade from 43 countries [14]. The taking of birds from the wild has substantial negative impacts on conservation and biodiversity worldwide. Ribeiro et al. estimated that one-third of all endangered wild bird species, totalling more than 400 species, are threatened because of the pet trade [15].

IUCN categories now have to change much faster than usual, to reflect the actual situation—critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable [16], while low public awareness results in many significant differences in conservation status between the IUCN Red List, CITES index, and the species given protection under National law. Hence, there are several ethical and scientific arguments concerning the keeping of birds as pets.

What About the Sport of Falconry?

Generally speaking, it is extremely illegal and a bad idea to try to keep any kind of bird of prey because they are notoriously difficult to care for. However, many people participate in and find enjoyment in the sport of falconry. The sport’s falcons are raised in captivity and put through a rigorous training program. You need to be incredibly passionate about the sport and dedicated to providing the best care possible for your birds in order to get involved in falconry.

While anyone can become a Falconer, it isnt an easy process. You must first find a seasoned and established Falconer that will sponsor you and help you get your first taste of the sport. From there, you must secure several permits to be able to keep a bird, and these are on both the Federal and State level in the United States. It is a big investment, a long process, and one that not many people can see through to the end. However, if you are interested in learning more about Falconry, you should start by contacting the North American Falconers Association. The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our

  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Maryland. gov, accessed May 31, 2022.

2. Ethical Issues Associated with Keeping Pet Birds

Three ethical principles can be taken into account when analyzing the moral implications of owning pet birds [17]: (i) the welfare of the parties concerned, (ii) each person’s autonomy and freedom of choice, and (iii) justice for each action involving respect for the principle of fairness to all parties. Mepham suggested that these guidelines be used for the following: the topic of animals, in this case the birds, the individuals engaged in the trade, the customers, i e. the environment, including the one in which the subjects were raised, the pet keepers, and [18] As evidenced by the Eurobarometer surveys on farm animal welfare and the killing of seals for sealskins, the public’s ethical decisions about trade, for instance in the EU, are heavily influenced by the welfare of domestic and wild animals as well as environmental conservation [19, 20]. Although the welfare of the birds is the main focus of this paper, a brief discussion of other ethical issues is included as well.

2.3. Effects on Environment Where Birds Are Kept

The presence of birds in captivity has little effect on the environment other than the potential for disease transmission—which is covered in the paragraph that follows—and a small amount of pollution from bird waste and excrement. Normally, this can be adequately managed. Further environmental risks occur if captive birds escape. Apart from the potential for disease transmission to other animals, escaped birds have been known to establish breeding populations that negatively impact certain native species [23]. In Europe, Rose-Ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameria) and Monk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) are two examples of this, as they are thought to be a primary factor in the decline of biodiversity [24]. Living with captive birds has a different kind of environmental impact because people who have pets as children tend to be more understanding of captive and wild animals as adults and are more likely to support conservation efforts [25].

Captive birds have an impact on the environment because they are frequently a source of disease that could harm humans or farmed birds. Diseases like influenza, psittacosis, and ornithosis can spread when people or other pets come into close contact with the birds, their housing, or their waste. The following are some instances of captive birds that pose a health risk to their owners: Reference [26] describes a 28-year-old woman’s asthma attack that was brought on by having two Orange-Ccheeked Waxbills (Estrilda melpoda). Vereda reported on a case of asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis brought on by a pet lovebird [27]. Furthermore, Holst and Kohlmeier discovered that owning a pet bird was associated with a higher risk of lung cancer [28, 29]. When wild-caught birds are kept in captivity without suitable quarantine and other precautions, diseases like Newcastle disease that affect farmed birds could also affect them. [14] describes the dangers of disease transmission from wild birds to domestic animals or people. One finding stated that there is a significant risk of zoonotic chlamydia originating from domestic ducks, geese, turkeys, and psittacines. Additional findings included the potential for captive birds to transmit Newcastle disease to poultry and the influenza virus to humans.


Can you domesticate a wild bird?

Always try to remember that there is no such thing as a naturally tame wild bird. You are its greatest enemy until you have gained its confidence. If you should have a stray one come to your hand before trying to hand-tame it, you can be sure that some other bird lover has tamed it.

Can you take care of a wild bird?

Keep the bird WARM, DARK AND QUIET! Bring it to us or another licensed rehabilitator for help as soon as possible. Disturb as little as possible-DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GIVE IT WATER OR FOOD unless instructed to do so by a licensed rehabilitator. Please do not attempt to care for the bird yourself.

Can I catch a bird and keep it as a pet?

Attempting to keep a wild bird as a pet is a questionable idea in the vast majority of cases, and depending on where you live, it could also be illegal. In the United States, it is against the law to keep any sort of wild native bird captive, and anyone who is caught doing so could be charged with a felony.

Is it OK to hold a wild bird?

If you can’t avoid handling a wild bird, wear protective gloves. Avoid contact with blood, body fluids, and feces from the bird. After you handle the bird, be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water. You can follow the steps in Handling a Dead Bird.