Do birds show signs of aging?
How do you know when your bird is getting old? How can you make it easier on your old bird, and on yourself, when your bird starts showing signs of aging? Are there ways to help prevent aging in your bird? This guide will help answer all of these questions and more!
Birds, like humans, will age over time. It’s true that aging can be difficult to recognize in birds since they aren’t quite as prone to degenerative changes in their bodies as we are. But it is possible to see signs of aging in birds. Whether you’re working with an older bird or one who is just slowing down due to other factors, here are some clues that indicate your pet is aging. How do I know if my bird is getting old?
Here is a captive bird age chart to help you know if your bird is getting old. As a rule of thumb, larger birds live longer than small birds. Many captive species live longer than their wild cousins. Also keep in mind that your birds genetics and care history cause these ages to vary.
African Grey Parrots
|40 to 60 years
25 to 75 years
|5 to 18 years
|Up to 50 years
|10 to 15 years
|20 to 60 years, depending on the species
|10 to 30 years, depending on the species
|20 years or more
|30 to 50 years
5 to 9 years
|10 to 30 years
|10 to 15 years
|30 to 50 years, or more, depending on the species
|25 to 50 years
First and foremost, consider your birds health history. Ask yourself these questions:
Has your bird always enjoyed an optimum diet?
Has it consistently had opportunities to exercise?
Has it been offered adequate sleep over its lifespan, 10-12 hours per night?
Does your bird show signs of being in pain?
Has he been sleeping more than usual? Has his eating habits changed?
An older bird may struggle with climbing and perching. He may have trouble getting to his food dish. In addition, look for what seems to be a general decrease in energy level—birds tend to slow down as they get older—and any obvious behavioral changes such as increased crankiness or decreased friendliness toward family members.
If you are seeing signs that your bird is aging, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Getting regular wellness checkups with your avian vet can help you catch things before they become serious problems.
What happens to birds when they get old?
"Senescence" is a term used to describe normal aging. Some birds, like canaries, begin to slow down around 2-3 years old and start showing signs of age after 5 years old. Others, like Amazon parrots, don’t show signs of aging until they are 20 - 30 years old. (We'll discuss why senescence occurs in birds later.)
A bird that has been well taken care of may age more slowly and more gracefully than one that has had an insufficient diet or poor exercise.
Often, aging birds have less stamina. Is your bird less active than before? Do you find it perching and sleeping a lot more than usual?
Older birds start to experience mobility issues. Has your bird stopped hanging upside down on his or her play stand anymore? If so, your bird may be experiencing chronic pain. According to the UC Davis Parrot Wellness Program for Vet's, bird pain is a very real issue that must be managed across your pet's lifespan.
Some avian vets don't check for pain, because until recently, there weren't many FDA-approved pain medications to support fragile birds. Ask your vet about their assessment during your annual wellness checkup.
But, just like people, birds can experience chronic, debilitating pain as they get older. But, birds are wired to mask pain.
As you probably know, pain can be one of the most debilitating experiences ever.
To illustrate, imagine if your joints ached. What would you do? You’d likely stay away from activities that caused you additional pain. If your bird has increased levels of chronic pain, he or she will likely decrease his or her activity level to reduce discomfort.
If you notice that your bird isn't doing all that he or she used to, it might be time to schedule a checkup with your avian vet.
How do you take care of an old bird?
With an estimated median life span of 15 - 40 years (although some species can live for up to 80+ years), your senior bird is living longer than most humans, and you’ll want to ensure he stays healthy and happy throughout his golden years. Here are some general guidelines for how to care for an old bird.
Here are some general guidelines for how to care for an old bird.
First, make it a habit to monitor your bird's weight on a gram scale. It doesn't have to be an expensive, fancy scale. After all, a gram is a gram, whether you're weighing a cookie or a bird. Just weigh your bird each week at the same time of day, say 8:00 AM Saturday mornings.
Next, ensure your pet is getting all of his necessary nutrients by feeding him formulated pellets, supplemented fruits, safe herbs, sprouts, and vegetables. A vitamin supplement (like UnRuffledRx FeatheredUp!) may also be recommended by your vet.
Bird Calcium provides both calcium and minerals that are essential to your bird’s bone strength. Calcium is also responsible for maintaining proper brain and heart health.
Next, provide ample exercise for your bird. A safe appropriately sized play stand will encourage climbing and movement. Harness train your bird and take it out on walks, too. A little sunshine does a world of good. Plus, it’ll be fun for both of you.
Learn about spotting and managing bird pain.
Infographic by Diane Burroughs, LCSW
Take your bird to a vet immediately if he shows any sign of chronic pain. Some signs may include not eating, problems grooming himself, a general change in behavior, and difficulty flying.
Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons birds go down hill quickly, so it’s important that you know how to recognize it and get help from an avian veterinarian as soon as possible!
How to make an old bird comfortable
If your aging pet bird is showing signs of weight loss or decreased activity, it’s time to seek veterinary care. If your vet determines that your senior bird isn’t getting enough food due to age-related frailty, he may suggest switching to hand feeding for the comfort and convenience of both you and your feathered friend.
Otherwise, if it appears that your aging bird is just slowing down as she ages, you can continue with her normal routine, with a few comforting accommodations.
Giving her time out of her cage once a day will give your bird an opportunity to exercise and stretch. Plus, offering you some quality bonding time with your senior pet bird will be good to maintain its spirits.
Birds are covered with down, which provides them with insulation to keep their bodies warm. As your aging pet bird’s feathers age, they begin to lose their ability to keep him warm. Invest in a Snuggle Up Bird Warmer or heated perch. Your vet may be able to prescribe other medications as well, so discuss your options with her.
When your vet gives you advice about how to take care of an old bird, remember that every bird is different and may have individual needs you can address from home for increased comfort and quality of life during his golden years.
When to seek veterinary care for your aging bird
It’s important to seek out veterinary care for your bird when signs of aging are apparent. It may add some time with your feathered friend
Signs of aging can include weight loss, less energy, and difficulty preening. If your bird stops singing or chirping, it may be time to take it to an avian vet for a checkup.
An avian vet will perform a physical exam and discuss your bird’s history. Based on these factors, he or she can provide recommendations for you to consider. For example, if your bird was previously very active and has lost weight, you may need to adjust its diet or obtain nutritional supplements.
An avian vet can help your bird stay comfortable, healthy, and happy for as long as possible by offering suggestions based on their examination. Check out the AAV Find An Avian Veterinarian in your area.
In Conclusion, birds are generally long-lived creatures, but even they age.
When a bird is in its golden years, there are some key ways to tell they are showing signs of aging. It’s important to know what these signs are, how they affect your bird and when to seek veterinary help. This post will cover all you need to know about keeping an aging bird happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.
Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.
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