Parrots are capable of experiencing a range of complex emotions.
If a bird has recently lost a close companion, you may be concerned that your parrot is grieving. Parrots form strong bonds with humans and other birds and can become visibly distressed when separated.
Parrots go through a period of grief and sadness when they lose a close companion.
A parrot may mourn the loss of its owner, a mate, or another animal. If your parrot is mourning, you’ll notice a change in its behavior. It may seem less interested in playing, exploring, or eating food.
Some parrots continue mourning for days, weeks, or months. To help your parrot recover from its loss, you must adhere to a normal routine. Offer your parrot things to do and give it one-on-one attention.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Another Bird?
Parrots have high social and emotional intelligence. While their emotions and relationships may not be as developed as humans, they’re still remarkable.
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 it is bonded with dies, this can be a source of sadness and grief.
In captive parrots, a similar phenomenon occurs. However, because most parrots are usually housed with just one other bird, their grief is often more pronounced.
This is because there are no other parrots left to socialize with, so they become lonely and depressed. 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 usually mate with anyone else. The mated pair will stay together for life, even outside of the breeding season.
This means that mated parrots have very 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 likely see each other as mates. 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.
Losing a mate or other bonded parrot is extremely distressing. When one parrot dies, the surviving parrot often goes into mourning 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.
Do Parrots Grieve When Their Babies Die?
If you breed your parrots, you may have to deal with the loss of a chick. Parrot chicks can 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 parrot. Unfortunately, not all parrots make good parents. 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 her last (or only) chick dies, a 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’s a male parrot present. However, it’s not uncommon for single parrots to lay unfertilized eggs.
Hormonal surges often cause this during the breeding season. It can also be a response to you touching your parrot on the back or sides, which are 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 if she 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 way that 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 overly distressed.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Their Owner?
Parrots are known to form 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 the parrot has:
- Lived with the same owner for many years
- No other parrot companions
- Always spent one-on-one time with its owner
- Confused its owner with being its mate
If a parrot’s owner dies, it can grieve as much 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 parrot. The new owner may find that the parrot is exhibiting signs of stress, trauma, or mourning.
Because some species can live for upwards of 80 years, many parrots outlive their owners. Fortunately, most parrots can form strong bonds with new owners. However, this is easier when the parrot is young.
Do Parrots Mourn the Loss of Other Pets?
A parrot’s capability for forming relationships isn’t limited to humans and other parrots. Parrots can also bond with animals of different species. For example, some pet parrots may develop a relationship with a dog.
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 parrots don’t have the opportunity to socialize with other parrots.
Wild parrot flocks can comprise dozens of individuals. Captive parrots are housed alone or with one or two other parrots at most. They may bond with another animal in the house.
Parrots can 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 that pet passes away, the parrot will go through a grieving period.
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. 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 has 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 years.
The parrot’s 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.
Signs Your Parrot is Grieving
So, how can you tell when your parrot is grieving? Initially, you may not notice that it’s 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:
- Change in sleeping habits
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to leave the cage
- 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 feathers out or start chewing or picking at its skin.
This is a sign that your parrot is upset about its companion’s death and needs support. 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 recovery process after losing a loved one; your parrot 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, adhere to a predictable routine.
Most parrots won’t require any extra assistance to feel better. Time is the only true healer. However, 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 particularly strong bond.
The emotional healing process for a parrot isn’t always fast or straightforward. Rest assured, your parrot will feel better before long. You can’t take away your parrot’s grief, but there are 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, but you can make things easier. Here’s how:
- Stick to your parrot’s usual daily routine. Encourage your parrot to sleep, wake, eat, and play at normal times.
- Provide your parrot with distractions, such as toys, foraging, training, climbing apparatus, and puzzle feeders.
- Give your parrot lots of one-on-one attention. Let your parrot spend extra time with you. Talk and sing to your parrot regularly, and offer it regular affection and head scratches
- Don’t change your behavior. If you’re distressed, upset, or behaving strangely, this could affect your parrot.
- Adopt a new companion for your parrot. If it’s lonely, getting another parrot can be beneficial. This is especially important if you can’t give your parrot much attention due to work or school commitments
If you follow the above steps, you should eventually notice your parrot’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 can die of a broken heart, such as lovebirds. Owners often report that when one parrot 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 be strong enough to cause its demise. Most of the time, if a parrot dies soon after its mate, it’s because both parrots were sick.
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:
- 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 and not a broken heart.