Friends for Life – the Long Lifespans of Parrots & Parakeets Explained
Parrots are the longest living order of birds, so it is no surprise that ‘how long do parrots live’ is a question we regularly get asked. However, it’s not always easy to answer because there is huge variation in the lifespans of the different species, and with more than 400 varieties recognised today, things can quickly get confusing.
But lifespan is an incredibly important consideration when deciding which parrot will make the best companion for you.
We all want our favourite pets to live forever, of course, but with some of the larger varieties having been known to make it into triple figures – yes you did read that correctly! – there are practical considerations about looking after a bird for that length of time, including making provision should your pet outlive you.
Why do Parrots Live so Long?
Before we look at how long individual species of parrot live, it is interesting to consider why as a group they are the longest-lived birds on the planet.
This is generally believed to be due to the lack of predators in their natural environment. Species with a lot of predators don’t usually survive past the first few years of life, therefore they have evolved to reproduce early, to pass on their genes.
However, as their lifespan is short, genetic mutations that might result in disease or disability later in life have little impact on the species, because they don’t live long enough for them to take effect.
Parrots, by contrast, which evolved with very few predation pressures, are able to breed later in life.
This means the genes that might cause problems later in life are bred out of the population as parrots carrying them either don’t live long enough to reproduce, or else are much less successful at breeding than their healthier counterparts, leaving parrots freer to enjoy long, healthy lives.
Larger Parrots Live Longer
There is an old adage that says larger parrots live longer. But how true is this, and are there any exceptions to this rule? Well, when it comes to the longest-lived species, the Hyacinth Macaw, this is certainly the case. These beautifully coloured birds are the largest species of parrot in the world and live between 50 and 60 years in the wild.
However, as with many species of bird, if well cared for they can live for even longer in captivity and there are examples of the Hyacinth Macaw living to more than 100 years of age. Whereas this isn’t common, it’s not unusual to find birds of 70 years and more, meaning you have to think long and hard about buying one.
Other large species of parrot live long too. African Greys, for example, tend to live for between 40 – 60 years, Amazon parrots anywhere between 25 – 75 years old, and Cockatoos can live up to 60 years of age. Even some medium-sized parrots can have incredibly long lifespans such as the Eclectus parrot (30 – 50 years) and the Caique, again up to 50 years.
Small and Medium-Sized Parrots
True to our saying, small and medium-sized parrots don’t live as long as their larger cousins. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have many, hopefully happy, years together.
Cockatiels and Lovebirds tend to live between 10 and 15 years, and Canaries around 10 years.
The only exception to our larger parrots live longer rule is the Budgie, otherwise known as the Parakeet, which is one of the smallest species of parrot yet has been known to live for up to 25 years.
Lifespan is Dependent on Species
So, next time someone asks you ‘how long does a parrot live’ you’ll be able to tell them it depends on the species, but as a rule, the larger varieties live longer.
Hopefully, knowing this, you’ll also be in a better position to decide which species of parrot is right for you and enjoy many happy years with your chosen companion.
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