A healthy adult parrot may survive for 24-72 hours without water, but it’ll show signs of dehydration and declining health long before it dies. Smaller parrots will succumb sooner, usually within 24 hours.
Despite the criticality of hydration to the survival of parrots, many owners report rarely seeing their pet birds drink. This is partly because parrots glean water from their food, especially fruits and vegetables.
Parrots must supplement the moisture from food with a direct water source.
Tap water is usually parrot-safe, but some birds refuse to drink chlorine-treated water because they deem it contaminated. Consider getting a water filter or using bottled water for enhanced purity.
Why Do Birds Need Water to Survive?
When a parrot hatches, its body comprises around 80% water. As the bird ages, this falls to 65-70% as water is replaced by fat and muscle. The hydration levels of the body must be maintained.
Parrots lose water throughout the day, which must be replenished. Although birds don’t sweat, they shed water via respiration, especially when panting after exercise and during waste removal.
Birds eliminate many times per hour, losing water from their bodies each time.
Regularly drinking water is essential for birds due to their fast metabolism. A parrot’s digestive system slows markedly if it fails to drink sufficiently, sometimes leading to constipation.
The reproductive cycle of parrots also depends on water. While calcium and protein are the building blocks of healthy eggs, the female body requires water to produce healthy eggs.
How Much Water Do Parrots Drink in a Day?
Many owners rarely or never see their pet parrots drink during the day. As discussed, birds gain most of their fluids through water-rich foods, like watermelon.
Parrots must drink 5% of their body weight in water to replace lost fluids daily.
If you never see a parrot drinking, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not hydrating. Some parrots feel exposed when drinking, preferring to hydrate when nobody is around or watching them.
Do Birds Drink Water at Night?
Most captive birds will sleep throughout the night, not stirring to eat or drink. However, if you have a water bowl in the cage, the parrot may sip on water if it awakens.
Consider removing a free-standing bowl or dish of water overnight until the morning. However, if you’re forgetful, let things be because it’s essential that a bird drinks once it awakens at sunrise.
A parrot is less likely to consume water this way due to the lower ambient temperatures of the night, while darkness may cause the bird to collide with a vessel, leading to spillages.
How Long Can Parrots Go Without Water?
A parrot should never be left without water for long. Parrots are likelier to succumb to dehydration than starvation when left without food and water, as they can utilize fat reserves temporarily.
Most parrots can survive for 1-3 days without water, depending on their age, health, species, and ambient temperature. Larger parrots will survive longer without water than smaller parrots.
This table provides the “upper limit” of how long a pet parrot can survive without water:
|African greys||72 hours|
|Amazon parrots||72 hours|
|Indian ringnecks||48 hours|
|Senegal parrots||48 hours|
Leaving a parrot without water for 24 hours (or less) puts a bird’s life in danger.
How Do Parrots Drink Water?
In addition to drinking from a water source, such as a water bottle, dish, or bowl, parrots also gain most of the water they need from food. If a parrot eats mostly dry pellets, this won’t happen.
Parrot-friendly foods that are high in water include the following:
While the hydrating qualities of these foods are beneficial, parrots can drink too much water. If a parrot drinks to excess, it may develop polyuria.
This condition leads to excessive urine release and frequency, so it’s confused with diarrhea. If a parrot exhibits signs of polyuria, reduce wet food consumption until the waste consistency normalizes.
Can Birds Drink Out of a Water Bottle?
A water bottle is preferable to a dish or bowl of water as a hydration station for parrots. You can use a bowl or dish to encourage a parrot to play or splash in the water for fun.
Some parrots dip solid food into a water source, making it softer and easier to digest. This may contaminate the water in the eyes of the bird, so it’s less likely to hydrate.
A water bottle can be fastened to the side of the cage, allowing constant access to water.
Water bottles are inexpensive (less than $10) but can be flimsy. Examine the bottle regularly to ensure it’s not cracked or leaking. This will also allow you to accurately gauge the parrot’s daily fluid intake.
The parrot will approach the water bottle’s spout, licking a small ball that releases water to drink. Not all parrots are familiar with a water bottle, so you may need to perform some basic training.
How Often Should You Change a Bird’s Water?
Parrots can be fussy about drinking water, so any supply must be changed at least once daily. If you use a bowl or dish for drinking water, change it several times (as required).
A water dish should also be washed thoroughly with a bird-safe antibacterial formula. A water bottle won’t need to be cleaned as often but must be washed whenever it’s soiled or dirty.
Why is My Parrot Not Drinking Water?
Parrots can be headstrong and stubborn, which can cause trouble. If a parrot declines to drink water, you must determine the reason for this sudden behavior change. Explanations include:
Stale or Contaminated Water
While parrots frequently splash about and clean their feathers in water, a bird is unlikely to drink from a water source it distrusts or considers contaminated,
If a parrot splashes in water for recreation or grooming purposes, it’s unlikely to hydrate from the same source due to feather dust, food debris, and dirt.
The presence of chlorine and other chemicals in tap water may deter a parrot from drinking. If a parrot is fussy about the water it drinks, experiment with different forms of hydration.
As tropical and sub-tropical birds, parrots rarely thrive in cool climates.
If the ambient temperature in a parrot’s terrain drops below 65 – 70OF, it may show minor discomfort. A reluctance to drink may be among the warning signs.
Keep the room above 65OF but below 80OF to encourage healthy drinking habits in parrots.
Parrots are neophobic. It takes a new parrot some time to adjust to life in a new home, so be patient and give them time and space to come to terms with its living arrangement.
Consider if something in the cage or surrounding area could be unsettling the parrot. For example, if several birds share a water source, a dominant bird could be ‘gatekeeping’ the bottle.
Many parrots, especially smaller species, are natural prey animals. This can make it hard for them to feel safe hydrating when a perceived threat is nearby, which could include another pet.
Reduce external stressors, like noise, whenever possible. If a parrot is subjected to a barrage of strange sounds it doesn’t understand, it’ll grow increasingly agitated and anxious.
This can leave a parrot too stressed to eat or drink, putting its life in danger.
Parrots are skilled at hiding illnesses, but a health issue could explain their reluctance to drink.
Check that the beak isn’t overgrown or misaligned, which may make drinking and eating painful. Also, run your fingers over the skeleton, checking for wincing due to injuries and fractured bones.
Only a veterinarian can make a formal diagnosis, which will likely involve X-rays and blood tests.
How Do I Know if My Parrot is Dehydrated?
If a parrot isn’t drinking, it risks becoming dehydrated. Understanding the warning signs of dehydration may save the bird’s life. Common symptoms include:
- Panting and labored breathing.
- Reduced urine in waste.
- Fatigue and lethargy.
- Dry mucus around the beak.
- Refusal to eat.
- Sunken eyes.
A method used for testing birds for dehydration is applying pressure to the basilic vein found on the elbow of the wing. Use the right wing, as this vein usually contains more blood than the left.
Gently press this vein and wait for a response. If the parrot is hydrated, blood will return to the vein immediately. If it takes more than 2 seconds, it’s likely to be dehydrated.
How Do I Get My Parrot to Drink Water?
Some steps can be taken to encourage a pet bird to drink more water:
- Change the water with greater regularity,
- Switch from tap water to bottled water.
- Wash or replace the drinking vessel.
- Add flavor to the water, such as aloe vera or natural fruit juice.
- Provide separate hydration stations for each bird.
Consider increasing the amount of water-rich fruits and vegetables you feed the parrot.
What Types of Water Can Birds Drink?
There are 5 options when preparing water for a parrot:
Tap Water (Filtered vs. Unfiltered)
Tap water is the easiest option, but not all parrots will drink tap water. If you live in an area with very hard or soft water, a parrot may refuse to hydrate this way due to the taste and smell of chemicals.
Run tap water through a water filter into a jug. This simple process will remove most chemicals and trace particles, which may be enough to convince the parrot to drink.
To take things a step further, get a water purifier. Aside from filtering out unwanted chemicals, it’ll also remove microbes from the tap water. This process is indiscriminate, removing good and bad bacteria.
As with purifying water, distillation removes all traces of bacteria, leaving water exclusively for hydration with no health benefits. If you decide to distill water for parrots, follow these steps:
- Pour tap water into a large pot, ideally at least 8 cups.
- Place a smaller pot inside this vessel, allowing it to float on the water,
- Heat this water on a medium-to-high and leave it to simmer without boiling. A temperature between 180 – 200OF should suffice.
- Cover the pot to trap the steam within.
This is to heat the water in a large pot until the point of evaporation, at which point it’ll turn to steam. This steam will return to a liquid state (distilled water) and is captured in the smaller pot.
Bottled Spring Water
Bottled spring water is a viable alternative to distillation. As long as you stock up on BPA-free plastic bottles, there will be no health hazards. However, it’ll be cheaper to purchase a water filter.
Carbonated water, often called sparkling water, captures the imagination of parrots due to the bubbles. Many birds enjoy cleaning their beaks in fizzy water.
Parrots don’t release gas in the same way as mammals. While a parrot can burp, it may not understand how to. So, the fizziness of sparking water may cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
As per Poultry Science, carbonated water can be beneficial if a bird is overheating. However, the risks of exclusively offering carbonated water to birds outweigh the rewards.
If a parrot has a sweet tooth, you may want to give it flavored water. This isn’t recommended because many flavored waters are high in sugar and artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which is harmful.
If you want to tempt a parrot to drink, squeeze some juice from some fruit into its water.