There is no such animal as a "cage bird." All
caged birds were either captured or bred in captivity. In the wild, these
beautiful beings are never alone. If they become separated from their
flockmates for even a moment, they call wildly to them. They preen each other,
fly together, play, and share egg-incubation duties. Many bird species mate for
life and share parenting tasks. The evidence of their close companionship and
concern for one another is plain to see.
Unfortunately for birds, the very qualities that we find admirable and
fascinating about them—their brilliant colors, speech capabilities,
intelligence, playfulness, and loyalty—have made them the third most popular
type of animal companion in the U.S. It's estimated that 40 million birds in
are kept caged and often improperly cared for—bored, lonely, and a long way
from their natural homes.
Many people buy birds on
impulse and don't have a clue how much time, money, and energy is needed to
care for them on a daily basis. Birds are as messy and destructive as
puppies—something irresponsible breeders and retailers often won't explain to
And unlike puppies,
birds continue this behavior for 15 to 75 years. Additionally, birds can be extremely
loud and demanding and sometimes severely bite their caretakers. Because most
customers aren't prepared for an animal companion who is as curious, needy, and
demanding as a 2-year-old child, countless birds spend their entire lives
trapped inside a cage that's too small in the corner of a living room,
basement, or garage, unable to use or stretch their wings and deprived of the
vital companionship of other birds.
Like dogs on chains, caged birds crave freedom and companionship, not the cruel reality of forced
solitary confinement for the rest of their very long lives.
Driven mad from boredom and loneliness, caged birds often become aggressive,
neurotic, and self-destructive. They pull out their own feathers, mutilate
their skin, incessantly bob their heads and regurgitate, pace back and forth,
peck over and over again at cage bars, and shake or even collapse from anxiety.
Even if a previously caged bird comes into a home in which he or she is allowed
a rich, active life, this behavior persists and is extremely difficult to extinguish.
The Truth About Bird
Just as there are puppy mills, there are now
enormous bird factories where breeders warehouse thousands of parrots and other
exotic birds and remove their offspring in order to sell them to pet stores.
These birds are frequently confined to dirty, dimly lit cages, where they are
unable to fully stretch their wings. There is no federal legislation to protect
birds in the pet trade, and successful prosecution of cruel or negligent bird
breeders is unlikely under most state anti-cruelty laws.
A parrot-breeding operation in Washington
state—which a veterinarian described as a "concentration camp" and
where, according to news sources, birds "lived in cold, wet, filthy
conditions for years"—remains open and continues to raise birds for the
pet trade. The same lack of caring has been reported at breeding facilities
across the country.
Disease Is Widespread
Bird-breeding factories often breed communicable diseases,
too, from proventricular dilatation disease (PDD)—the symptoms of which include
depression, weight loss, and constant or intermittent regurgitation—to
papillomavirus infection, salmonellosis, giardiasis, and psittacine beak and
feather disease. Sick birds can give humans or other pet birds chlamydiosis
(psittacosis), salmonellosis, E. coli
infections, tuberculosis, giardiasis, and other illnesses associated with
bacteria and fungi.
Smuggling Is Common
Wild-caught parrots are also prime commodities in the
multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade. Hardly a week goes by without
another story of a bird smuggler who was caught with parrots in the air vents
of his or her car, of small parrots being smuggled in jacket pockets, or of any
of hundreds of other usually deadly schemes to import these valuable birds illegally.
While many smugglers are caught, most are not, so thousands of uninspected—and
frequently sick and terrified—birds enter the companion bird trade each year.
When the Novelty
When the birds who seemed so cute and lovable in pet stores turn out to
be noisy, messy, and demanding of people's attention, many are
later abandoned, and few live out their natural life spans. About 85 percent of
parrots are resold, given away, or abandoned within two years of being
purchased. If they are ignored, they suffer in isolation and may become even
noisier, more aggressive, or more despondent.
Caged companion birds are typically not native to the areas where they
reside. They cannot be released simply by opening a window and letting them fly
away (which would be considered a crime of abandonment in most states). Without
the proper climate, food sources, and habitat, escaped or released captive
birds become prey for free-roaming cats and wildlife or are doomed to suffer
lingering deaths because of exposure, starvation, or injuries.
Responsible rescue groups, animal shelters, and sanctuaries can only place
or care for a small percentage of these unwanted birds. To complicate matters further,
some alleged "sanctuaries" are actually thinly disguised breeding
colonies or hoarding situations in which birds are housed in extremely crowded
conditions, receive minimal care and attention, and may even be sold back into
the pet trade.
If you or a friend have a lot of time and resources and remain determined to
have a bird companion, please adopt a homeless one from a shelter or rescue
group, but only after fully researching their dietary, behavioral, and other
needs. You are in for a great deal of work!
Buying birds from pet shops contributes to a horrible cycle of disease and
abuse, so to appreciate birds without buying and caging them, consider creating
your own backyard
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.