do birds get depressed in cages

In the pet world, dogs and cats get all the glory. They get the TV commercials, the Facebook likes, the Sarah McLachlan weepy soundtrack and the compassion of millions of average citizens and advocacy organizations trying to right the wrongs done to them. And yet, despite these big efforts, other folks keep doing a bang-up job of making so many animals lives miserable.

So, imagine for a moment the plight of a pet who sits on the sidelines of all that attention. A pet who is almost entirely overlooked. Who lacks the rallying cry of thousands of GoFundMe petitions at a moments notice. That, by many accounts, shouldnt even be a pet, but is nonetheless one of the most popular animals in the American household?

Welcome to the plight of the pet bird. Perhaps one of the saddest tales to tell.

Bebe was living as a mans pet in Virginia but was being neglected. His niece rescued him and found him a home at Foster Parrots, a sanctuary, adoption and conservation organization in Rhode Island. At the rescue facility, Bebe wears some variation of an Elizabethan collar around the clock as a preventative measure against his own behavior that began before he was rescued: self-mutilation.

Self-mutilation is just one of the many symptoms of keeping a bird in an unnatural environment, Denise Kelly, co-founder and president of the Avian Welfare Coalition, told The Dodo. The behavior can be prompted by stress, physical illness, mental anguish, the environment, inadequate diet or some combination of all of the above. Bottom line, however, is that its not a behavior found in the wild, she says.

In Bebes case, he has mutilated himself so deeply that part of his own keel bone is missing.

“Its one of the most extreme cases weve ever seen,” Karen Windsor, co-director of Foster Parrots, told The Dodo. “Moluccan cockatoos are extremely intelligent, sensitive animals – and profoundly unequipped to deal with lives as pets,” she says.

Unfortunately, Windsor could be speaking about any number of birds who struggle in captivity, including parrots like macaws and African grey parrots, as well as lorikeets, lories, parakeets, cockatoos, cockatiels and New Zealand parrots, says Jennifer Place, program associate and bird expert for Born Free USA.

And there are a lot of them around. More than 14 million pet birds, in fact, live in some 6 million households in the U.S., according to the most recent American Pet Products Associations Pet Owners Survey.

But, for some, that still might not be enough homes for Americas birds. Jamie Whittaker, president of American Federation of Aviculture (AFA), believes more households with pet birds would be beneficial. “The problem appears to be less an issue of too many birds than it is an issue of too few homes with birds,” she told The Dodo. “AFA believes that with education we can improve the lives of birds in captivity, promote the conservation of birds in the wild, and create many more happy homes for birds.”

This is why, Whittaker says, AFA supports breeding birds: “There simply are not enough of them for the world to enjoy.”

Kelly would disagree. Birds simply shouldnt be a household pet, she believes. Why not? “Parrots are not domesticated,” Kelly says. “Domestication takes thousands of years. You think you are going to just take this animal out of the jungle and a couple generations later, you can take the wildness out?” she asks. “[Birds] evolved for flight, and to be among other birds.”

But as pets, she explains, birds are confined. “A bird [in the wild] would be flying miles and miles a day, but as a pet, a bird is alone and in a cage.” (Of course, there are exceptions, and some owners do their very best to care for their pet birds.)

This acute absence of birds basic needs – flight and flock – ultimately transforms itself into a canvas of maladies, says Kelly. Because they arent flying, birds get cardiovascular problems. Due to the stress of confinement, they display abnormal behaviors, like biting on bars or pacing their cages. Because they are sedentary, they get heart disease. Some get cancer. Some simply scream all day.

For now, though, at Foster Parrots, Bebe lives a pretty happy life, says Windsor. Unfortunately, she explains, because self-mutilation is almost impossible to reverse, Bebe will continue to wear his collar for the foreseeable future.


You ought to be aware of your bird’s typical activity and sociability level. Any alteration could indicate that the bird is stressed out or getting melancholy. Symptoms of a depressed bird can include:

  • Fluffed-up feathers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in droppings
  • Irritability
  • Feather-plucking
  • Aggression
  • Change in vocalizations
  • Constant head bobbing
  • Stress bars on the feathers

Take note of any indications that your bird might not just be blue but also physically ill. Along with the aforementioned symptoms, which are also present in a variety of illnesses, keep an eye out for tail bobbing, open-mouth breathing, and red, swollen, or runny eyes.

do birds get depressed in cages

From time to time, Millet called Scudders and was told her birds were well, and, in fact, Millet and the owner struck up a friendship. But in 1997, Millet received a call from someone who exposed the truth: All of her birds – but one – were dead. (This story is recounted in a 2014 newsletter from Foster Parrots.)

But for the time being, Windsor claims that Bebe is content with her life at Foster Parrots. Unfortunately, she says, Bebe will have to wear his collar for the foreseeable future because self-mutilation is nearly impossible to undo.

“Birds get displaced like cats and dogs,” says Kelly. But because birds live much longer, the situation is exacerbated. “The smaller species can live 15 to 20 years. When you get to the larger species, like macaws and Amazons and cockatoos, you are talking three to five times longer than the average cat or dog,” she says. “So there is already a built-in homelessness factor.” (Some birds can, in fact, live to be 80 years old.)

Thus, Johnson estimates that every year, birds continue to perish, sometimes by the millions. Shelters and sanctuaries may be able to save some of these birds, but there are simply not enough of them. Johnson draws attention to the thousands of cat and dog shelters that can be found in American cities and towns. But regrettably, not all facilities are equipped to care for a bird that has been abandoned or abandoned.

Whittaker cites the following as the reason the AFA is in favor of bird breeding: “There are just not enough birds for everyone to enjoy.” “.

Causes of Bird Depression

There are several mental and physical causes of depression in companion birds. Any illness or recovery from a sickness that makes the bird less gregarious The loss of a favorite toy, boredom, partner death, or a change in cage position are some of the mental and psychological stressors that can cause your bird to become blue.


Are birds unhappy in cages?

Life in captivity is often a death sentence for birds, who may suffer from malnutrition, an improper environment, loneliness, and the stress of confinement. Birds are meant to fly and be with others of their own kind in a natural environment. Confinement causes birds to have temper tantrums and mood swings.

Will birds be happy if you keep them in a cage?

Are pet birds sad to be in a cage? With proper space, care, enrichment, diet, and free flight time, no. Pet birds that are well taken care of are very happy. This is my cockatiel, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are birds stressed by cages?

Captive birds often become so chronically distressed that they repeatedly bob their heads, peck at cage bars, shake or even collapse from anxiety, pull out feathers, and self-mutilate—sometimes to death.