how do birds live so long

Parrots are exceptionally long-lived, sometimes becoming septuagenarians or even octogenarians. In animals, longevity is often linked to a larger body size, but parrots often live as long as larger birds and much longer than birds of comparable size.

So, why do parrots live so long? Theyre already known for their mimicking abilities and gorgeous colors. Do any of these play a role in their longevity?

It turns out their long lives may be due to another of their famous traits — their impressive smarts, a March 2022 study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences found.

In general, birds usually live much longer than mammals of the same size. “This is probably because they can fly and escape predators” unlike Earth-bound mammals, said study lead author Simeon Smeele, an evolutionary ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Radolfzell, Germany. “For instance, sulphur-crested cockatoos can live up to 70 to 80 years in extreme cases, but they only weigh 700 to 1,000 grams [1.5 to 2.2 pounds]. Humans weigh 100 times more, but only live a few decades longer.”

Parrots, in turn, live unusually long for birds. For instance, whereas the American robin (Turdus migratorius), one of the most common birds in North America, on average lives only about two years, the parrot known as the rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) “lives on average eight years, but is considerably smaller than the robin,” Smeele said.

The longest-lived parrots live 20 to 30 years, on average. “There are other birds that can do this, but they are much larger,” Smeele said. “For example, a flamingo weighs about four times more than the longest-lived parrots, but has about the same lifespan.”

When Is A Bird A Senior Bird?

One worry that has been voiced is that elderly animals, such as birds living in the wild, often pass away before they have an opportunity to age. That is untrue, though, as research on birds over time has demonstrated. Therefore, we ask ourselves, “At what age are they considered geriatric?” after examining our companion birds.

In one study, Drs. By comparing age vs. changes associated with aging in older birds. Little birds, such as lovebirds and budgies, were regarded as senior at

As companion birds age, clinicians have noticed a number of conditions in them. In older birds, tumors are more prevalent; pituitary tumors in budgerigars are one example. Numerous psittacines have also been reported to exhibit cataracts and retinal abnormalities. Decreased range of motion and osteoarthritis also occurs. On the other hand, radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis is far more elusive. As our parrot friends get older, they develop chronic liver and kidney disease. Gout occurs more often in older birds. Uric acid buildup in joints or on organ surfaces can occur when the kidneys start to fail.

As birds age, endocrine disorders become more prevalent, and gonadal degeneration is frequently observed. Atherosclerosis and increased pulmonary hypertension have also been documented. The most common species affected include blue-fronted Amazon parrots (91. 4%), Congo African greys (91. 9%), and macaws. Atherosclerosis usually manifests at the age of twelve, with the brachiocephalic trunk, pectoral, and carotid arteries being the main sites of plaque development. Interestingly, fatty changes are rare in the coronary arteries. High-fat diets and inactivity are linked to these detrimental alterations.

Scientists hope to find out in the future if social parrots have bigger brains and live longer. “We believe that complex group-living species could pick up a lot of skills, like how to become dominant and forage,” Smeele said. “But this learning would take time and a large brain.”

Previous research suggested that longevity is linked to brain size in a range of animals, perhaps because larger brains helped them find food or escape threats. Although parrots are known for both their longevity and their complex behaviors, with brain-to-body size ratios on par with those seen in primates, it was unclear if the two traits influenced one another. This is because the lack of lifespan data on large numbers of parrots made it difficult for scientists to account for what might drive longevity in the group.

“It would be tempting to say that smarter people also live longer, but this might very well not be the case,” Smeele advises against making this assumption. Since a larger brain uses more energy, that could be detrimental. This has been demonstrated in guppies, where larger members of the same species had shorter lifespans. “.

The longest-lived parrots live 20 to 30 years, on average. Smeele stated, “Other birds are capable of doing this, but they are much larger.” For instance, a flamingo has roughly the same lifespan as the longest-living parrots, but weighs approximately four times as much. “.

Parrots are already recognized for their ability to mimic and their stunning colors, so why do they live such long lives? Do any of these play a role in their longevity?.

Why Birds Live So Long

Birds are remarkably long lived for their body size when compared with mammals. Since birds have a higher metabolic rate, body temperature, and a higher resting glucose than that of mammals, it is assumed the parameters of aging are increased. These metabolic factors should lead to a reduced, not increased, life span. The exceptional longevity in birds suggests they have evolved special mechanisms to protect them from rapid aging in the wake of their increased metabolic processes. How is it that they are able to do it?

Flying allows escape from predation. Research indicates that flying mammals and birds have longer lifespans. According to recent data, animals that regularly engage in strenuous exercise live longer than those that do not. Despite the higher energy needed for flight, birds’ mitochondrial DNA exhibits lower levels of oxidative damage.

What does this mean, then? Normally, these metabolic processes release free radicals, and those bind to various parts of cells, especially membranes. This results in the aging of the membranes and malfunctions or decreased performance of their regular functions.

However, birds—especially psittacines, or parrots—live far longer than is typically expected of them. All birds have less oxidative damage; large macaws, for example, live an average of four times longer than expected! This suggests that birds have either lowered their levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or have evolved defense mechanisms to lessen the harm they cause.

Additionally, birds have a wide range of intricate defenses against oxidative process damage. Male quail, for instance, exhibit hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis plasticity in spite of the decreased fertility brought on by aging. White matter tracts in passerines’ central nervous systems (CNS) regenerate neurons linked to song seasonally, defying current mammalian dogma. If only we could do that when we grew older! Understanding how their spinal cord and brain regenerate tracts may be able to assist stroke sufferers and people with spinal cord injuries.


What is the oldest bird alive today?

Wisdom with one of her chicks, in March 2011
Laysan albatross
c. 1951 (age 72–73)
Known for
World’s oldest known wild bird; world’s oldest banded bird