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What’s wrong with keeping birds in cages?

All caged birds are either captured or captive-bred. In the wild, these beautiful beings are never alone, and if separated even for just a moment, they call wildly to their flockmates. Flock-oriented, they preen each other, fly together, play, and share egg-incubation duties. Many species of birds mate for life and share parenting tasks. Most birds will not take a second mate in the wild if their first is lost.

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. The New York Times has reported that many birds “go off the deep end when they are … placed in captivity. … The resulting frustration, [Cambridge University zoologist Dr. James Serpell] said, leads to abnormalities like repetitive behavior, in which the bird’s head weaves back and forth, or in which it shifts constantly from one foot to the other; abnormal grooming in which the bird picks out all of its feathers, and aggressive behavior.”

Birds are smuggled into the United States more than any other animal. Before being shipped, birds are often force-fed, their wings are clipped, their beaks are taped shut, and they are crammed into everything from spare tires to luggage. It’s not unusual for most of the birds in one shipment to die.

Taking animals from their natural habitats endangers individual animals and jeopardizes entire populations and ecosystems. The population of the South American hyacinth macaw has dropped significantly over the last 10 years as a result of smugglers’ capturing the birds for U.S. and European collectors.

Birds bred in captivity don’t fare much better. Birds older than 8 to 10 weeks of age don’t sell well at pet shops so many are kept for breeding and condemned to small cages for the rest of their lives.

If you love birds, contact a bird rescue group in your area to learn how you can foster or adopt an abused or neglected bird.