are parrots monogamous?

Do All Parrots Mate for Life?

Parrots bond closely with other parrots. Two parrots may refuse to be separated from each other and crave the other’s company. Sometimes this behavior is even seen as monogamous or mating for life. 

While it is true that parrots lean towards being monogamous, they very rarely mate for life. That’s because their reason for mating is reproduction, not companionship. Parrots will choose someone to mate with and remain loyal for the entire mating season. If they are not able to reproduce, the parrots move on. Once the young have grown, the parrots will either stay together to raise more chicks, or they go off to find other partners.

Sometimes, parrots will “cheat” on their spouse with another paired parrot. However, they will remain in the original relationship and allow the other couple to raise their offspring.

Are Parrots Monogamous?

In a technical sense, parrots can be monogamous. Most parrots will closely bond with humans or other parrots and prefer their companionship over all others. These intelligent birds are capable of picking favorites, and this bond may be maintained throughout their lives.

Large parrot species can live up to 70 or more years. As such, this long-lasting favoritism can seem even more profound to humans. Parrots may always spend more time with their bonded favorite, even if they mate with other parrots. In some cases, parrots will even refuse to mate with other parrots if their bonded favorite dies.

However, monogamy is usually viewed by humans as a romantic connection. The closest comparison that parrots have is mating. In this sense, parrots are not strictly loyal to only one mate for life. They can and will choose different mates for different mating seasons. They may also:

  • Leave one mate in exchange for another if said mate can’t reproduce.
  • Mate with other parrots, despite any bond they have with their previous or currently chosen ‘mate.’
  • Form bonds with creatures they cannot reproduce with, including humans.
  • Some parrots even form multiple bonds with different people and birds, with varying emotional intensities.
do parrots pair for life?

Do Parrots Mate For Life?

Parrots do not always mate for life, but parrots are more loyal to their mates than other animals. In fact, males and females will often stay together after the mating season. During this time, they raise any offspring they managed to produce. This can be seen as a long-term commitment and even be viewed as monogamy. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Parrots are highly social and very intelligent. Evolution-wise, parrots use their cognitive abilities and social nature as tools to make sure the species thrives and functions as efficiently as possible. Unlike many other animals, parrots mate and stay together to focus on raising their young. By doing so, parrot couples can increase the offspring’s chances of survival considerably.

Both parents look after the chick until it’s independent. This means it can go through its most vulnerable stage in life without much risk of dying. Other animals spend very little time raising their young. Alternatively, only one parent looks after the offspring. In both cases, the children die more often and at a much earlier age.

Evolution makes up for this by having the female give birth to many offspring at once. In doing so, some of the brood can survive and the species can go on. Female parrots produce 2 to 4 eggs per clutch, which is far less than other animals. However, these 2 to 4 eggs are more likely to hatch and reach adulthood. That’s because they’re cared for by their parents.

This is the reason why parrots mate and have monogamous tendencies. It’s designed to make sure the chicks grow into adulthood with as few problems as possible. Now, the way parrots handle monogamy and relationships differ between wild parrots and parrots in captivity. This has to do with how wild parrots are taught to be socially independent by their parents. In contrast, pet parrots are dependent on the humans that care for them.

Wild Parrots

Once they have reached sexual maturity, wild parrots will search for a mate. Male parrots will try to impress female parrots by regurgitating food, dancing, and mimicking them. If the female accepts, the parrots will become a pair. If the parrots cannot reproduce, they will call the relationship off and look for another partner. After all, their primary goal is to have offspring.

Parrots do have feelings and form deep friendships with each other. However, many parrots (especially the young ones) will leave their chosen mate if nothing comes of their union when it comes to mating.

A pair that manages to reproduce will stay together until all the chicks become independent. This usually takes a few months. During this time, both the males and the females take turns feeding, protecting, and teaching their young, according to the International Journal of Avian Science.

Their focus is entirely on their chicks and their well-being as both parrots make a collaborative effort to ensure their young survive. Once the offspring are independent, the mated pair have to make a choice:

  • They stay together and try to reproduce again
  • Or they find new mates

Do Parrots Adopt Baby Parrots?

Usually, the parrots will move on to find other mates. However, sometimes, parrots will stay together even when they can’t reproduce anymore. They may end up adopting and raising the chicks from other parrot couples. After all, the main goal is to further the species.

Do Parrots Cheat On Each Other?

Despite how diligent and loyal parrots are as parents, they can sometimes falter as significant others. Paired parrots openly cheat with other paired parrots during mating season.

It’s not uncommon for a male from one pairing to raise the chicks fathered by a male from a second pairing. However, these flings are only for reproduction. The cheating parrot always returns to the mate it originally bonded with.

Of course, just because most parrots only mate for a season and openly cheat, it doesn’t mean that parrots are incapable of bonding for life. There have been many cases in which wild parrots refused to bond with another parrot if their mate had died.

Domestic Parrots

Domestic parrots are more likely to bond for life than wild parrots. This is usually because pet parrots don’t have many options to choose from. Unlike wild ones, they don’t have a whole flock full of potential mates.

Likewise, pet parrots are dependent on their owners. A parrot’s life revolves around its flock, regardless of whether it’s wild or captured. However, while a wild parrot has to focus on surviving, a captured parrot has all of its needs taken care of by its owner. It becomes reliant on those around it because it has nothing else to focus on.

Pet parrots tend to form a mate bond with their owner. That’s because of imprinting. When a baby chick opens its eyes (at around the 2-week mark, depending on the species), it will imprint on its parents. Here, it will form an instant, loving bond with them.

Do All Parrots Mate for Life?

However, a baby chick that humans raise may imprint on them from the moment it’s born. Here, complications arise with the parrot’s attraction towards other birds. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, the way parrots are fed and raised in the early stages of their life greatly impacts their behavior. Parrot-raised chicks ended up being less aggressive than those that humans raised.

Behavioral issues in parrots usually stem from the emotional dependency they have on their owner. This dependency can mean that the parrot has mal-imprinted on the human and now considers the human its mate. Some parrots can even become sexually attracted to humans exclusively. They will refuse to mate with a bird because of this extreme attraction towards the species that raised it.

How to Get Parrots To Mate for Life

Trying to make two parrots mate for life is like sitting two human strangers together and hoping they fall in love. Domestic parrots can be very picky and territorial. Getting a parrot with the sole hope of mating it with your pet parrot is a strategy that could backfire.

This is especially true if your parrot believes you are its mate. It will see the new bird as a threat. In that scenario, the parrot will become hostile. It might attack the new parrot out of jealousy.

There’s not much you can do if your parrots don’t want to mate. Hostility between parrots is a problem that is rarely fixed. That’s because of how stubborn they can be as a species. If they aren’t hostile towards each other (and can be kept in the same space without problems), let them warm up to each other independently.

With that said, even if your plan is successful and you managed to get the parrots to mate, that can also backfire on you. As mentioned previously, parrots are very possessive. Captured ones are even more so than wild ones. If your parrot takes a liking to the new bird, it might actually become hostile towards you, especially if you go near its mate.

Not all parrots mate for life, but domestic parrots are more likely to form life-long bonds. If your parrot has gotten confused about its mating bonds and friendship bonds, you can take action. After all, a parrot’s emotional intelligence is something to be respected. Just make sure you train it properly if its wires get crossed.