Parrots are reputed to live to great ages – over 100 years if some reports are to be believed. Less well-known are the incredible longevities racked up by some very small pet and wild birds. I’ve kept a casual tally of the ages attained by many of the species I cared for at the Bronx Zoo, and recently reviewed some published studies on this subject.
A recent review of zoo collections, published in the International Zoo Yearbook (please see below), did not uncover any 100 year-old parrots. The most celebrated parrot in this category, a macaw named Charlie, is reputed to be 104 years old. Said to have been owned by Winston Churchill, Charlie now lives in Surrey, England, where he passes his time by screaming anti-Nazi sentiments. Unfortunately his history, and connection to his renowned former owner, could not be traced.
Among parrots known to live to ripe old ages, such as Amazons and Macaws, 50 years or so was found to be the maximum longevity, although several individuals reached ages of 65-70. Cockatoos of several species lived longer than most of their relatives, and reproduced well into old age. Larger parrots tended to have greater life-spans than smaller species, but there were some notable exceptions.
Parrots and other Pet Birds
Following are a few of the more impressive published longevities for parrots and others kept as pets. Please write in for information concerning these species in the wild.
African Grey parrot- 73 years
Green-Winged Macaw – 64 years
Blue and Gold Macaw – 43 years
Military Macaw – 30 Years
Canary – 24 years
Pekin Robin (please see article below) – 15 years
As one might expect, Rock Doves (Common Pigeons) are hardy souls. One captive reached age 35.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with several remarkable old birds, including a Maribou Stork (please see article below) and a Milky Eagle Owl. Each approached, or perhaps exceeded, 60 years of age. I was also very surprised to find that several Sandpipers and other tiny birds under my care had been in the collection for 25-30 years. Flamingoes, despite their “fragile” appearances, often lived into their 20’s, and occasionally reached 30+ years of age.
Other groups of birds that do well in zoos and regularly live into their 40’s include storks, herons, cranes, eagles and owls; both Brown and White Pelicans have topped 50 years of age. Hummingbirds, which might be expected to “burn out” early, typically live for 4-6 years. However, individuals belonging to at least 2 species have reached 12 years of age.
Tagged wild birds have provided ornithologists with many surprises. Two in particular, both oceanic species that undertake epic migrations, are especially impressive.
Recently a Laysan Albatross (please see photo) was identified as the oldest known free-living bird. First tagged by biologists in 1956, this Albatross and her chick survived a direct hit by a large wave generated by the devastating March, 2011 tsunami in Japan (the bird was nesting on Midway Island). She is over 60 years old and still breeding, and in her travels has logged approximately 3 million miles – or 6 trips to the moon!
Just as impressive is a Manx Shearwater (a small seabird) that was tagged 52 years ago and has travelled an estimated 5 million miles – which would have taken her around the world 200 times!
Unfortunately, we do not have an accurate way to track the ages of most of the birds living in zoos and private collections.
Laysan Pair with chick image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by James Lloyd Original uploader was Jlfutari
Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Arjan Haverkamp