All caged birds have either been captured in the wild or bred in captivity. Birds are smuggled into the U.S. more frequently than any other type of animal. Many birds are force-fed and have their wings clipped and their beaks taped shut before being crammed into anything from a spare tire to carry-on luggage. It’s not unusual for 80 percent of the birds in a smuggled shipment to die.
Birds who are bred in captivity don’t fare much better. Because birds older than 8 to 10 weeks don’t sell well at pet shops, they are kept for breeding and condemned to small cages with virtually no human contact for the remainder of their lives.
Life in captivity is frequently a death sentence for birds, who are often lonely and malnourished and suffer from the stress of confinement. Birds are meant to fly and be with others of their own kind in a natural environment. In the wild, these beautiful beings are never alone, and if they are separated from their flock even for a moment, they call wildly to their flockmates. These social animals preen one another, fly together, play, and share egg-incubation duties. Many species of birds mate for life and share parenting tasks. In the wild, most birds will not take a second mate if they lose their first.
Confinement causes birds to have temper tantrums and mood swings. The Los Angeles Times reported that parrots “quickly become frustrated ‘perch potatoes’ in captivity. … Many end up obese and with serious behavioral problems such as screaming, biting and self-mutilation by plucking out their feathers.” James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Parrots are the primates of the bird world. They aren’t content to sit on a perch and sing.”