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Do Parrots Grieve? (Loss of Babies, Mate, Bird, Owner Dies)

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Parrots are intelligent animals who experience complex emotions. If your parrot has recently lost a human or avian companion, you’ll be concerned that it’s grieving the loss.

Parrots experience grief and sadness when they lose a close companion. They may mourn the loss of their owner, a bonded mate, chicks (hatchlings), or another animal.

If the parrot is mourning, you’ll observe a sudden change in its behavior. It’ll be less interested in vocalizing, flying, playing, exploring, or eating food and more subdued than usual.

Some parrots mourn for days, weeks, or months. You must adhere to a routine to help the parrot recover from its loss, giving it things to do and more one-on-one attention.

Parrots Mourn the Loss of Another Bird

Parrots have high social and emotional intelligence. While their emotions and relationships may not be as advanced as humans, they’re still remarkable animals.

Wild parrots live in large social groups (flocks). A study in the Journal of Field Ornithology describes the interactions of a flock of 85 red-tailed amazons.

Parrots form strong bonds with other birds in the flock, particularly their mates. When a bird it’s bonded with dies, this causes deep sadness and grief.

A similar phenomenon occurs in captive parrots. However, their grief is often more pronounced because most parrots are housed with just one other bird.

If no other parrots are left to socialize with, they can become lonely and depressed. Parrots can also mourn the loss of their offspring and occasionally lose eggs.

Parrots Grieve When Their Mate Dies

Most parrot species are monogamous. When they mate with another bird, they may not mate with anyone else. The mated pair may remain together for life, even outside the breeding season.

This means that mated parrots have close social bonds. Parrots love each other deeply, preferring to spend time with their mate, becoming distraught if separated.

If a male parrot cohabits with a female, they’ll likely see each other as mates. Even parrots of the same sex (two females or two males) can form close bonds.

Losing a mate or bonded parrot is highly distressing. When one parrot dies, the surviving parrot often mourns and grieves for its lost companion. The survivor may exhibit signs of depression, aggression, or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Fortunately, the grieving period doesn’t last forever. The surviving parrot will eventually begin acting normal again, especially if it’s allowed to bond with another parrot.

Parrots Grieve When Their Babies Die

Parrot chicks can die if they’ve hatched with a genetic condition or mutation incompatible with life. Chicks are also more sensitive to toxins, parasites, and infections that may not kill an adult parrot.

Not all parrots make good parents, and it may take several attempts at breeding for the parrot to learn how to care for its young.

Most parrots won’t grieve the loss of a young chick, especially if other chicks are still living, because they’ll be too focused on caring for their surviving offspring.

However, if her last (or only) chick dies, a parrot may show signs of confusion or grief, usually lasting only a few days.

grieving process for a parrot

Parrots Don’t Grieve Lost Eggs

Female parrots are less likely to lay eggs unless there’s a male parrot present. However, it’s not uncommon for single parrots to lay unfertilized eggs.

Hormonal surges often cause egg-laying during the breeding season. Also, the parrot may be responding to you touching it on the back or sides, which a mate stimulates.

Unfertilized eggs won’t grow into chicks, eventually rotting or breaking. Fertilized eggs may also fall out of their nest or fail to develop. If so, you may wonder if the mother will mourn the loss of her egg.

Most parrots will notice if you take an egg away. However, they won’t grieve a lost egg in the same way as another parrot.

When a parrot lays an egg, leave it in the cage until it loses interest. If the egg breaks, remove it and clean up the mess. The parrot shouldn’t become overly distressed.

Parrots Mourn the Loss of Their Owner

Parrots are known to form close bonds with their owners and can grieve their loss. After all, we’re usually a parrot’s main companion.

We feed them, show them affection, and play with them daily. A parrot may form a close bond with its owner if the following apply:

  • Lived with the same owner for years.
  • Always spent one-on-one time with its owner.
  • No other parrot companions.
  • Confused its owner for a mate.

If a parrot’s owner dies, it can grieve as much as it would if it lost an avian companion.

This applies to rehoming, where the original owner can no longer keep the parrot. The new owner may find the parrot exhibiting stress, trauma, or mourning.

Many parrots outlive their owners because some species can live for 80 years. Fortunately, most parrots can form strong bonds with new owners, but this is easier when it’s young.

Parrots Mourn the Loss of Other Pets

A parrot’s ability to form relationships isn’t limited to humans and other parrots. Also, parrots can bond with animals of different species. For example, some pet parrots may develop relationships with dogs.

Wild parrots don’t naturally bond or form relationships with other animals, but this is different from pets because most captive animals don’t have the opportunity to socialize with other birds. 

Wild parrot flocks comprise dozens of individuals. Captive parrots are housed alone or with 1-2 other parrots at most, so they may bond with another animal in the house.

Parrots can mourn the loss of other pets, even those of different species. One parrot may grow to love the family dog or cat like another. If that pet dies, it’ll go through a grieving period.

Grieving Process of a Parrot

When a parrot loses its mate, owner, or companion, it’ll go through a period of mourning.

All parrots grieve for lost loved ones. Like us, how each parrot deals with its emotions can vary from bird to bird, and the strength of grief experienced can also differ.

Some parrots initially seem distraught but will get over their grief quickly. Other parrots may become depressed due to their loss, and their grief may affect them for a long time.

The grieving process depends on the strength of the parrot’s bond with the animal or person who has died. If the parrot regarded them as its mate, its distress is usually more pronounced. 

Likewise, the longer the bond is held, the longer it’ll take the parrot to recover. If a parrot only knew its owner for a few months, it likely wouldn’t grieve for as long as it would if it had known them for years. 

The parrot’s grieving process can also be affected by its personality and past experiences. Parrots who have experienced trauma often have difficulty dealing with negative emotions.

Signs A Parrot is Grieving

Initially, you may not notice that a parrot is acting differently because it may take time to realize that its companion is gone. Unfortunately, there’s no way to explain death to a parrot.

You may spot the parrot searching for its missing loved one. If the parrot can talk, it may say its companion’s name. Within a few days, the parrot will realize they’re gone.

At this point, you’ll start to notice signs of grief, which may include:

  • Lethargy.
  • Change in sleeping habits.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reluctance to leave the cage.
  • Lack of interest in toys, play, and activities.
  • Change in vocalizations.
  • Aggression and irritability.
  • Stereotypic behaviors (pacing, toe-tapping, head-bobbing).

One of the most extreme expressions of grief in parrots is self-mutilation. The parrot may pluck its feathers or chew or pick at its skin.

This signifies that the parrot is upset about its companion’s death. According to Veterinary Clinics of North America, some parrots are genetically predisposed to developing these behaviors.

How Long Parrots Grieve

Parrots go through a lengthy recovery process after losing a loved one.

Most parrots start to feel better within 1-2 weeks of losing their mate, owner, or friend. Over this time, you’ll notice the parrot slowly engaging in normal behaviors again.

It’ll show an interest in toys, activities, food, and socializing with you. To aid this process, provide the parrot with a predictable routine.

Most parrots won’t require extra assistance to feel better, as time is the only true healer. However, some parrots take longer than others to recover from grief.

Many parrots show signs of stress, anxiety, or depression several months after their companion’s death. This is most likely if the parrot lost a bonded owner or same-species partner.

The emotional healing process for a parrot isn’t always fast or straightforward.

do parrots mourn the loss of another bird?

How to Help A Grieving Parrot

There’s no way to make the parrot feel better instantly, but these things can be beneficial:

  1. Adhere to a daily routine. Encourage sleep, waking, eating, and playing at set times.
  2. Provide distractions like toys, foraging, training, climbing apparatus, and puzzle feeders.
  3. Provide one-on-one attention. Let the parrot spend extra time with you. Talk and sing to the parrot regularly and offer it regular affection and head scratches.
  4. Don’t change your behavior. It will affect the parrot if you’re distressed, upset, or behaving strangely.
  5. Adopt a new companion. If it’s lonely, getting another parrot can eventually be beneficial.

By following these steps, you’ll notice the parrot’s behavior normalizing. Take the parrot to a veterinarian if it’s self-mutilating or if its mood doesn’t improve within a few weeks.

A vet may be able to prescribe medication. According to The Telegraph, an African grey was prescribed animal-safe antidepressants after its owner died.

Parrots Don’t Die of A Broken Heart

You may have heard that certain parrot species, such as lovebirds, can die of a broken heart.

Owners often report that when one parrot dies, its mate dies 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 be intense enough to cause its demise. Most of the time, if a parrot dies soon after its mate, it’s because it developed a disease.

Viruses and other contagious illnesses can pass easily from one parrot to another, especially if they live together. Parrots are also sensitive to toxins that can be found in the home, such as:

If both parrots were young when they died, they might have been exposed to the same toxin or illness, which would cause them both to die within days or weeks of each other.

A parrot can die from grief, but it’s rare. This usually occurs because the grieving parrot stops eating due to depression and dies from malnourishment, not a broken heart.