Many owners believe that releasing parrots into the wild is the right course of action, especially when studies have shown that caged parrots struggle mentally compared to wild parrots. Likewise, studies show that previously captive parrots do well when out in the wild. However, there are less encouraging variables that come with those findings.
If you release a pet parrot into the wild, its chances of surviving are low. Captive parrots are cared for by their owners and grow up to be dependent on humans. 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.
Even when encountering a wild flock, your parrot won’t know how to integrate. It won’t understand the complex social hierarchy that wild parrots abide by and will be shunned away. The best way to release a parrot into the wild is by entrusting it to avian experts. They operate release programs that prepare captured parrots for freedom.
Can Pet Parrots Survive in the Wild?
Unless a parrot is cared for, prepared, and integrated into nature, it’s unlikely to survive. If you open your bird’s cage and let it soar, it may not live for more than a few days. Beyond that, it’s illegal in many regions for pet owners to release their parrots for the following reasons:
- The damage that parrots can cause to the environment
- Parrots breeding and becoming an invasive species
- The diseases that parrots can spread if not properly cared for
Releasing parrots into the wild has become more common for two reasons.
Parrots Are Demanding Pets
While parrots are very loving, intelligent animals, it can be akin to living with a toddler that never grows up. Parrots require hours of attention a day and can be destructive, much more so than people expect.
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 the wild.
Aside from that, many studies indicate that parrots are better off in the wild. That’s because humans cannot meet their needs properly, leading to mental struggles and behavioral issues.
For example, 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 for 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 are old may never rejoin nature successfully. Those that have never interacted with their own kind before may 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
- Breaking the bones of animals they’re eating
- Defending themselves from predators
Pet parrots have underdeveloped beaks and wings in comparison to wild parrots. There’s no need for them to use their beaks as often. Even if their owners give them toys and perches, most of those toys are made of softer materials than what you’d find in a parrot’s natural environment.
Pet parrots are usually kept indoors in cages. They aren’t used to flying long distances and wouldn’t be able to do so.
Most species are native to countries with warm climates. They can only thrive in hotter temperatures and will flee from the cold.
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 the parrot to survive.
Caged parrots are taken care of by their owners. Whenever they need something, they will squawk and repeat words until they get given what they need. They aren’t accustomed to getting things on their own. That’s why most will have difficulty finding sustenance in the wild.
Even when they go looking 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 don’t have the skills to fetch food for themselves.
Even when living off the kindness of strangers, parrots will develop health issues if they don’t get all the proper nutrients. Many parrots that have escaped from their homes find themselves in parks where humans feed them seeds and bread. This isn’t enough to sustain them, so they eventually die of health-related diseases.
Parrots are social creatures that require constant company. They live in flocks and depend on each other for survival. Unless the escaped parrot finds a flock of the same species (and is accepted into the flock), 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 could not possibly 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. This will only serve to isolate the parrot further.
Parrots need flocks to live. Even wild parrots shunned from groups and forced to be on their own don’t live for long. They have to find companionship quickly, or they start to deteriorate in health.
A parrot might not integrate well into a flock for various reasons. However, the most common one has to do with defying the social hierarchy of the flock.
Both captive and wild parrots abide by a strict pecking order. Domestic parrots have people that they like and choose to stay close to. Anyone they dislike will exist at the bottom of their pecking order. They won’t be treated as warmly as the parrot’s favorite person.
If trained well, the owner should be at the top of the pecking order. However, usually, parrots place themselves on top, which is why they can be so demanding. They feel entitled to your constant attention and expect no less than servitude from someone they see as lower than them.
This makes it difficult for captive parrots to integrate into a wild flock. They haven’t been trained to respect other birds. When it’s time for them to encounter a flock in the wild, they are rarely accepted due to their inability to integrate.
Can Caged Birds Survive in The Wild?
There are two ways people free captive parrots:
There are several cases of parrot flocks gathering in urban settings. For example, we can look at the monk parrots of Chicago’s Hyde Park.
These parrots are native to South America but have been able to thrive in the park. This success story has led to many owners releasing their parrots when they’re no longer wanted. However, parrots came to establish themselves at the park not because of their ability to live outdoors independently.
A Whole Flock Together
Nobody is really sure how parrots got 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 do terrorize the parrots, 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 making the parrots relocate include:
- Limited food and water
- Expanding human territories
Finding a new home isn’t easy, which is why the monk parrots have been dwindling in number since 2004. Parrots aren’t meant to live among humans.
Releasing a parrot into its natural habitat requires time and money. If you do it without the right procedures, it’s illegal. Unless you live in the parrot’s country of origin, you need to do all the necessary paperwork for travel. The parrot’s medical records must also be in perfect order, which will take many visits to a vet.
To ensure the parrot can survive in its natural habitat, it’s best to entrust it to 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 in the way that 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.