Some caged parrots struggle mentally with a life of confinement. Consequently, owners mistakenly believe that releasing parrots into the wild is the right thing to do.
If you release a pet parrot into the wild, its chances of surviving are low. Captive parrots are cared for by their owners and have grown up to be dependent on them. They can’t identify which foods are safe and will have trouble surviving the harsh weather. They’ll also be too weak to defend themselves from predators.
When encountering a wild flock, your parrot won’t know how to integrate. The best way to release a parrot into the wild is by entrusting it to avian experts that operate release programs that prepare captured parrots for freedom.
Can Pet Parrots Survive in the Wild?
A parrot is unlikely to survive unless it’s cared for, prepared, and integrated into nature. If you open your parrot’s cage and let it soar, it may not live for more than a few days.
It’s illegal in many regions for pet owners to release their parrots due to:
- Damage that parrots can cause to the environment
- Parrots breeding and becoming an invasive species
- Diseases that parrots can spread
Unfortunately, releasing parrots into the wild has become more common:
Parrots Are Demanding Pets
While parrots are affectionate and intelligent animals, it can be akin to living with a toddler that never grows up. Parrots require 2-3 hours of attention a day and can become destructive.
Rehoming a parrot can be costly, time-consuming, and harmful. This leads many owners to believe that the kindest option is to return the parrot to its natural habitat.
Many studies indicate that parrots are better off in the wild. That’s because humans cannot meet their needs properly, leading to mental problems and behavioral issues.
The journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science stated that hand-reared parrots that have been fed and raised by humans since birth are more aggressive and difficult to handle than those raised in the wild.
Wild parrots don’t struggle with loneliness and social isolation as much as domestic parrots. They have their freedom, a flock of their own kind, and natural resources. However, that doesn’t mean that your domestic parrot can join them.
Studies that show positive results from integration don’t entail letting a parrot go. These cases involve preparing parrots for integration. It’s not possible for certain types of parrots. For example, those that have never interacted with their own species or lived in the wild before will be too dependent on humans.
Why Is Releasing Pet Parrots Into The Wild Bad?
There are several reasons why your parrot’s release could end badly:
Parrots raised in captivity have weaker bodies than those raised in their natural habitat. For example, wild parrots are accustomed to flying long distances. Likewise, they use their beaks for nearly everything, such as:
- Climbing up trees
- Defending themselves from predators
Pet parrots have underdeveloped beaks and wings in comparison to wild parrots. Even if their owners give them toys and perches, most of those toys are made of softer materials than you’d find in a parrot’s natural environment.
Pet parrots are usually kept indoors in cages and are unaccustomed to flying long distances.
Most species are native to countries with warm climates.
Still, this doesn’t mean pet parrots can be released as long as the weather is warm. If humans have raised a parrot from birth, it will have gotten used to human temperatures by the time it’s an adult.
Indoors, there is less wind, fewer chances to get wet, and the temperature stays consistent. This is the environment parrots get used to. Outdoor temperatures and conditions make it difficult for parrots to survive.
Caged parrots are taken care of by their owners. Whenever they need something, they will squawk until they get given what they need. They aren’t accustomed to getting things on their own.
Even when they look for food, domesticated parrots can’t differentiate between something edible and something that might make them sick. Parrots learn which foods are good to eat from their parents. Hand-reared parrots lack the skills needed to fetch food for themselves.
Parrots live in flocks and depend on each other for survival. Unless the escaped parrot finds a flock and is accepted, it won’t survive. According to PLOS ONE, social isolation can shorten a parrot’s life span.
The stress of living alone leads to a disordered state of mind. In this state, the parrot couldn’t care for itself. It will begin developing stereotypes, which are behaviors parrots display when stressed. These include:
- Excessive squawking
This does not bode well for parrots that eventually find a flock in the wild. Those displays of aggression will prevent the lone parrot from being accepted into the group.
Can Caged Birds Survive in The Wild?
There are two ways people free captive parrots:
1/ Urban Release
There are cases of parrot flocks gathering in urban settings. For example, the monk parrots of Chicago’s Hyde Park.
They’re native to South America but have been able to thrive in Hyde Park. This success story has led to many owners releasing their parrots when they’re no longer wanted.
Whole Flock Together
Nobody is sure how parrots made it to Hyde Park. It’s said that they escaped from a shipment, bringing them from South America for the exotic pet trade of North America over 40 years ago. Now, the offspring are living in the park.
This is only possible due to the parrots all being together during their escape. They naturally formed a flock, which raised their chances of survival significantly.
Not Doing Well For Long
The success of this story won’t last forever. It doesn’t matter that the current parrots there were born and raised in Chicago. Over the years, their population in Hyde Park has been declining.
According to Urban Ecosystem, researchers originally thought that predators were the reason for their numbers dwindling. While it’s true that predator birds in the park are an issue, they aren’t the only explanation.
As it turns out, the parrots are leaving, in part, due to conflict with humans. For example, besides trees, parrots build their nests on man-made structures. Workers and park volunteers often clear these out.
Unable to make homes for themselves and their offspring, the parrots flee to other parts of the country, far away from urban landscapes. Other factors that cause parrots to relocate include:
- Limited food and water
- Expanding human territories
Finding a new home isn’t easy, which is why monk parrots have been dwindling in number since 2004.
2/ Natural Habitat
If you release parrots without following the correct procedures, it’s illegal. Unless you live in the parrot’s country of origin, you need to complete the necessary paperwork for travel. The parrot’s medical records must also be in order.
To ensure the parrot can survive in its natural habitat, you’ll need to entrust an avian expert. These professionals run rehabilitation programs and prepare domestic parrots for the wild. This is necessary because parrots aren’t able to survive out in nature unless trained to do so.
These programs often have:
- Anti-predator training
- Climate acclimation training
- Socialization training
According to Conservation Evidence, captive-bred parrots only have a 4% survival rate. Meanwhile, the wild-bred parrots they released had a survival rate of 41%.
The trend of wild-bred parrots having more success when freed has been constant in every study conducted on parrots being released. It has to do with how parrots raise their young versus how humans raise parrots.
Humans take care of young parrots and provide them with everything they need to live a good life. However, we have no way of teaching parrots how to be independent like adult parrots do.
As young parrots grow, they are slowly able to do things for themselves. That’s why parent-reared parrots can be released with moderate success, while those raised by humans die when freed.
Domestic parrots should never be released into the wild by their owners. Only professionals at a rehabilitation center will have the necessary expertise to do so successfully.