Parrots are extremely intelligent animals, capable of feeling a range of complex emotions. If it has recently lost a companion, you may be concerned that your parrot is grieving. Parrots form strong bonds with others and can become visibly distressed when they are separated.
Parrots can go through a period of grief when they lose a close companion. A parrot may mourn the loss of its owner, its mate, or another animal. If your parrot is mourning, you’ll notice a change in its behavior. Your bird may seem less interested in playing, exploring, or eating. It may become more lethargic than usual, or more aggressive.
Some parrots continue mourning for days, weeks, or months. To help your bird recover from its loss, adhere to a normal routine. Offer your parrot plenty of things to do, and give it lots of one-on-one attention.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Another Bird?
It’s well-known that parrots are intelligent. Certain species, such as African Greys, can learn to solve complex puzzles and logic problems. Parrots are also capable of mimicking human speech, and performing tricks in response to auditory or visual cues.
But what many people don’t realize is that parrots also possess high social and emotional intelligence. While their emotions and relationships may not be as developed as humans’, they are still quite remarkable.
In the wild, parrots live in large social groups. A study in the Journal of Field Ornithology describes a flock of 85 red-tailed amazons. Parrots form strong bonds with other birds in the flock, particularly their mates. When a bird that they are bonded with dies, this can be a source of grief.
In captive (pet) parrots, a similar phenomenon occurs. But because most parrots are only housed with one other bird, their grief is often more pronounced. This is because there are no other birds left to socialize with, and so they become lonely. Parrots can also mourn the loss of their offspring, and occasionally lost eggs.
Do Parrots Grieve When Their Mate Dies?
Most parrot species are monogamous. When they choose to mate with another bird, they won’t mate with anyone else. The mated pair will usually stay together for life, even outside of the breeding season.
This means that mated parrots have extremely close social bonds. As far as parrots can feel ‘love,’ they love one another deeply. Parrots prefer to spend all of their time with their mate, and become distraught if separated.
If a male parrot cohabits with a female, they likely see each other as their mate. This can be the case whether they are the same or different species. Parrots of the same sex (two females, or two males) can also form close bonds.
For a parrot, losing a mate or other bonded bird is extremely distressing. When one parrot dies, the surviving bird often goes into mourning, and will grieve for its lost companion. The survivor may exhibit signs of depression, aggression, or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Fortunately, the grieving period does not last forever. The surviving parrot will eventually begin acting normal again, especially if it bonds with another bird.
Do Parrots Grieve When Their Babies Die?
If you breed your parrot, you may occasionally have to deal with the loss of a chick. Parrot chicks may die for many reasons. They may have hatched with a genetic condition or mutation that is incompatible with life. Chicks are also more sensitive to toxins, parasites, and infections that may not kill an adult bird.
Chicks can also die from malnourishment, cold, and injury (such as falling out of their nest). Unfortunately, not all parrots make good parents right away. It may take several attempts at breeding for your parrot to learn how to care for its young.
Most parrots won’t grieve the loss of a young chick, especially if there are other chicks still living. Their attention will be too focused on taking care of their remaining offspring.
However, if its last (or only) chick dies, your parrot may show signs of confusion or grief. This usually won’t last longer than a few days.
Do Parrots Grieve Lost Eggs?
Female parrots don’t usually lay eggs unless there is a male parrot present. But it’s not uncommon for single parrots to lay unfertilized eggs from time to time.
Hormonal surges often cause this during the breeding season. It can also be a response to you touching your bird on the back or sides (areas normally stimulated by a mate).
Unfertilized eggs won’t grow into chicks, and will eventually rot or break. Fertilized eggs may also fall out of their nest, or fail to develop. If this happens, you may wonder whether she will mourn the loss of her egg.
Most parrots will notice if you take their egg away, and will lay another to replace it. However, they won’t grieve a lost egg as they would grieve another parrot.
When your parrot lays an egg, leave the egg in the cage until it loses interest in it. If the egg breaks, remove it and clean up the mess. Your parrot should not become distressed. If it does, you can replace the egg with a dummy egg.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Their Owner?
Parrots are known for forming close bonds with their owners, and can grieve for them, too. After all, we are the people that our parrots spend the most time with. We feed them, show them affection, and play with them every day. A parrot may form an especially close bond with its owner if:
- It has lived with the same owner for many years
- It is the only parrot, and has no other birds for companionship
- The parrot spends a lot of quality one-on-one time with its owner
- The parrot thinks of its owner as its mate
If a parrot’s owner dies, it can grieve as strongly as it would if it lost an avian companion. This also applies in cases of rehoming, where the original owner can no longer keep the bird. The new owner may find that the parrot is exhibiting signs of stress, trauma, or mourning.
Because some species can live up to 80 years, many parrots outlive their owners. Fortunately, most parrots can form strong bonds with new owners. This is easiest when the parrot is young, but can also be successful when the parrot is more mature.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Other Pets?
A parrot’s capability for forming relationships isn’t limited to humans and birds. Parrots can also bond with animals of different species. For example, some pet parrots may even form a relationship with a dog. This is more likely if they’re often left alone together, such as when you’re at work.
In the wild, parrots would not naturally bond or form relationships with different animals. But pet parrots are a different matter. This is because most captive birds don’t have the opportunity to socialize with other parrots.
Wild parrot flocks can comprise dozens of individuals. Captive parrots, however, are typically housed alone, or with one or two other birds at most. They may consequently bond with another animal in the house, which may be you, your dog, or your cat.
This means that parrots can and do mourn the loss of other pets, even those of different species. A parrot may grow to love the family dog or cat as it would another parrot. If the pet then passes away, the parrot will go through a grieving period.
Parrots often have much longer lifespans than other pets. Depending on species, some parrots may live for 40 years or more. This means that parrots usually outlive the other pets in the household.
What Is the Grieving Process for a Parrot?
When a parrot loses its mate, owner, or companion, it will go through a period of mourning. All parrots grieve for lost loved ones. But like us, the way each parrot deals with its emotions can vary from bird to bird. The strength of grief each parrot experiences can also differ.
Some parrots will initially seem distraught, but will get over their grief quickly. Other parrots may fall into depression as a result of their loss. Grief may continue to affect them for a long time; in some cases, the rest of their lives.
The grieving process depends on the strength of the parrot’s bond with the animal or person who passed away. If the parrot regarded the animal/person as its mate, its distress is usually more pronounced.
Likewise, the longer the bond is held, the longer it will take the parrot to recover. If a parrot only knew its owner for a few months, it would likely not grieve for as long as it would if it had known them for several years.
The parrot grieving process can also be affected by its personality, and past experiences. Parrots that have experienced trauma in their lives often have a harder time dealing with negative emotions. They may be more prone to developing harmful behaviors.
Signs Your Parrot is Grieving
So, how can you tell when your parrot is grieving? Initially, you may not notice it acting differently. This is because it may take your parrot some time to realize that its companion is gone. Unfortunately, there’s no way to explain death to a parrot.
You may spot your parrot searching for its missing loved one. If your parrot can talk, it may say its companion’s name as a way of asking where they are.
Within a few days, your parrot will realize that its companion is gone. At this point, you’ll start to notice signs of grief. This may include:
- Lethargy (staying in one spot for a long time)
- Change in sleeping habits (sleeping at odd times, or for longer than usual)
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to leave the cage, explore, or fly
- Lack of interest in toys, play, and activities
- Change in vocalizations (e.g. talking less than usual, or screaming)
- Aggression and irritability (e.g. biting)
- Stereotypic behaviors (pacing, toe-tapping, head-bobbing)
One of the most extreme expressions of grief in parrots is self-mutilation. Your parrot may pluck its own feathers out, or start chewing or picking at its skin.
This is a sign that your parrot is extremely upset about its companion’s death, and needs help. According to Veterinary Clinics of North America, some parrots are genetically predisposed to developing these behaviors.
How Long Do Parrots Grieve?
Parrots go through a lengthy healing process after losing a loved one; your bird won’t feel better overnight. It can take weeks or months for a parrot to get over its companion’s death.
Most parrots will start to feel better within 1-2 weeks of losing their mate, owner, or friend. Over this time, you’ll notice your parrot slowly engaging in normal behaviors again. It will begin to show an interest in toys, activities, food, and socializing with you. To aid this process, try to stick to as predictable a routine as possible.
Most parrots won’t require any extra help to feel better (such as a vet visit). Time is the best healer. But some parrots take a lot longer than others to recover from grief.
Many parrots still show signs of stress, anxiety, or depression several months after their companion’s death. This is particularly likely if the parrot lost an owner or mate with whom it had a strong bond.
The emotional healing process for a parrot isn’t always fast or straightforward. But rest assured that your parrot will feel better before long. You can’t take away your parrot’s grief, but there are some ways to speed up the recovery process.
How to Help A Grieving Parrot
There’s no magic cure to make your parrot feel better instantly. This can be difficult to deal with, especially if your bird’s grief is causing you personal anguish.
Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can help your parrot to feel itself again.
- Stick to your parrot’s usual daily routine. Encourage your parrot to sleep, wake, eat, and play outside the cage at normal times
- Offer your parrot plenty of distractions. This could include toys, foraging, training, climbing apparatus, and puzzle feeders
- Give your parrot lots of one-on-one attention. Let your bird spend plenty of time with you. Talk and sing to your parrot regularly, and offer it regular affection and head scratches
- Try not to change your behavior. If you are distressed, upset, or behaving strangely, this could rub off on your bird
- Adopt a new companion for your parrot. If your parrot is lonely, getting another bird can help. This is especially important if you can’t give your bird much attention due to work or school commitments
If you follow the above steps, you should eventually notice your bird’s behavior returning to normal. Take your parrot to a veterinarian if it is self-mutilating, or if its mood doesn’t improve within a few weeks.
Your vet may be able to prescribe medication that can help. According to The Telegraph, an African Grey was prescribed animal-safe antidepressants after its owner passed away.
Can Parrots Die of a Broken Heart?
You may have heard that certain parrot species, such as lovebirds, can die of a broken heart. Parrot owners often report that when one bird dies, its mate sadly passes away soon afterward. The second death may occur days, weeks, or months after the first, following a period of apparent depression.
Though it may sound far-fetched, a parrot’s grief can indeed be strong enough to cause its demise. But most of the time, if a parrot dies soon after its mate, it’s because both birds were sick.
Viruses and other contagious illnesses can pass easily from one bird to another, especially if they live together. Parrots are also sensitive to toxins that can be found in the home, such as:
- Fumes released by overheating non-stick cookware
- Air fresheners, incense, and scented candles
- Aerosols and household cleaners
If both parrots were young when they died, they might have been exposed to the same toxin or illness. This would cause them both to die within days or weeks of each other.
A parrot can die from grief. This is rare, but it has been known to happen. This usually occurs because the grieving parrot stops eating due to depression. Ultimately, it dies from malnourishment.
If you’re worried about your parrot’s health after losing its companion, seek advice from a veterinarian. Your veterinarian may also be able to perform a necropsy (post-mortem) to determine why the parrot died.