Birds in Cages – should they be?

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation.

birdsAfter seeing so many wonderful birds in the wilds around the world I wonder about those kept in cages, Birds have been raised in captivity for many years for pleasure or profit. (For today’s discussion, I’m excluding birds like chickens raised for food.)

I have met folks from Bird Clubs and have spoken at their meetings. They keep caged birds – parakeets, parrots, finches, canaries, and so on. The majority of these bird species have been bred in captivity for many years. The same with pet shops; most birds for sale are cage bred. I am not a big fan of keeping animals of any kind in cages simply for our pleasure, but if they are cage bred and held in spacious, sanitary, and healthful conditions, then I have little opposition. There are some excellent zoos that do a terrific job of keeping and caring for their avian charges, such as the San Diego Zoo. I’ve been to many aviaries, zoos, and other places that display birds, but more often than not I have been disappointed by the conditions the birds are kept in.

The biggest threat to a number of non-native bird species is the pet trade. Legally and not, many wild birds are caught and imported to the U.S. Over 60% of the 500,000 legally imported wild birds die before they get to their destination. Illegally caught birds are smuggled in suitcases, coats, jars, plastic tubes, etc., not fed or given water for a day or two, resulting in a death rate that may exceed 90%! Over 30% of parrot species are endangered, largely due to the pet trade.

I have seen a dozen or more large parrots in captivity in homes – few were kept in satisfactory conditions. They were restricted to small cages, fed human food, surrounded by dogs, cats, screaming kids, blaring televisions, or some such environment. At best, they were allowed to fly around the living room. The owners pay little attention to them but seem proud of the fact that they paid some outrageous price for these living jewels that might say a few words to entertain guests. Importation of a particular caged parrot likely cost the lives of many others in the process. I believe it is time to give up our wild-caught pets and try to appreciate their roles in the natural environment; parrots and cockatoos belong in the habitats of Costa Rica, Australia, or wherever, not in a residence. Dogs, cats, hamsters, parakeets, and cockatiels should be more than enough to satisfy the urge to have a pet. Birds should be enjoyed in the wild.

According to PETA, “There is no such animal as a “cage bird.” All caged birds were either captured or bred in captivity. In the wild, these beautiful beings are never alone. If they become separated from their flockmates for even a moment, they call wildly to them. They preen each other, fly together, play, and share egg-incubation duties. Many bird species mate for life and share parenting tasks. The evidence of their close companionship and concern for one another is plain to see.

Unfortunately for birds, the very qualities that we find admirable and fascinating about them—their brilliant colors, speech capabilities, intelligence, playfulness, and loyalty—have made them the third most popular type of animal companion in the U.S. It’s estimated that 40 million birds in the U.S. are kept caged and often improperly cared for—bored, lonely, and a long way from their natural homes.”

By the way, it is illegal to keep a native bird as a pet, injured or not. Federal law prohibits the possession of any birds or bird parts (feathers, eggs, nests, dead birds, etc). without the proper permits. See the Migratory Bird Treaty Act .  Find an injured bird? Call your local wildlife rehab center or wildlife official.


15 thoughts on “Birds in Cages – should they be?”

  1. Born with God-gifted Wings, Birds should never be captivated and kept inside cages. Beauty of birds lie in their in-born freedom to fly. In this context, I created a video for myself which I thought I could share here for you to watch and approve. Here it is….
    Please watch. Thank you.

  2. Birds belongs to the Sky. Feel disgusted whenever see a bird in Cage.Who are we to make them Captive.Nature has given them powerful wings to fly Let them be free.Keep a men in a Cage for a a day or two see what happens. And now I don’t like animals been kept in Zoo also for human Pleasure.Would request all the organisation in the world to start a movement to Free animals from Captivity and let them be there where they belong.

  3. I know it’s selfish to keep birds in cages but doesn’t it also keep them safe. I mean there are no predators in the cage right?

    1. It may keep them safe from predators but it also keeps them away from others of their species, potential mates, their natura food, the freedom to fly, to migrate, and do whatever they normally do. In a cage they are taken out of the gene pool, effectively killing them as they will never have offspring,

  4. Hi, my neighbors have two green birds in a cage. It is in their patio, bit they covered the view with a tapestry so the birds don’t see sunlight or anything. I live in Austin texas. Is it illegal? Of so, who do I

    1. If they are native birds (to the U.S.), then it is illegal. If they are exotic birds, then it depends on how they were acquired,legally or not. If they are not legal birds, call Fish and Game or Fish and WIldlife. If they are legal but you think they are mistreated, then call the local humane society.

  5. Pingback: A Brief History of Parrots – Ornithology

  6. Laurella Desborough

    quote: The biggest threat to a number of non-native bird species is the pet trade. Legally and not, many wild birds are caught and imported to the U.S…….. Over 30% of parrot species are endangered, largely due to the pet trade. end quote.
    Well, I believe the actual SCIENTIFIC REPORTS are that the biggest threat to most wild birds, animals, herps and plants is habitat destruction, not the pet trade. Furthermore, as far as the US is concerned, there is no “pet trade” in imported wild caught birds since 1992.
    Additionally, your statement about how many birds die after being collected from the wild, exactly WHERE did that information come from? I haven’t seen any actual research references to that number!
    Also, quoting PETA…For God’s sake, if there is ANY lying organization, it is PETA. They produce FAKED videos of all sorts about many different animals. PETA is well known for killing over 90 % of all animals in their care. They have stated they believe the animals are better off dead than in human contact. I also remember the faked videos by HSUS prior to the WBCA being passed…faked videos of an African parrot having its wings cut with a machete. Fact is, wild African parrots were not wing clipped by their captors. They were caught, held in dirt pits, and shipped with fully intact wings.
    As a professional, Dr. Lederer, I would hope that you would actually seek more credible sources. not report comments by known liars with an animal rights agenda.
    As for the statement that birds are being smuggled into the US, the few that have been smuggled in since the WBCA in 1992 were often family pets being brought along with families from Mexico, or a half dozen baby parrots being brought into California by someone who planned to sell them, but had no understanding of the processes at the entry points, or singing birds from Asia strapped onto the legs of travelers and showing up on the x-rays upon entry into the USA via air.. So, only a few individuals are smuggling birds into the US. Not only that, people want to purchase domestic raised birds, not wild birds!
    Perhaps you might mention the capture and illegal export of native US birds, like the indigo buntings and cardinals and gold finches! Being caught and exported out of both California and Florida.
    While I would prefer to keep all my parrots in a wonderful huge aviary, I realize that without personal contact, humans are NOT going to care much about other creatures in the wild and will not be donating to conservation projects. But, with actual interaction with these marvelous creatures, they care about their wild relatives. That is why the exotic bird breeding and pet owning community has donated many thousands of dollars to conservation of birds in the wild..
    That is why we sell a few young weaned birds as pets and hold back many in order to maintain a viable gene pool. That is necessary due to the restrictions in place under the WBCA.
    Perhaps it would be of interest to you that the ornithologists put forward a recommendation to USFWS that small numbers of exotic birds be allowed to enter the US in order to maintain viable gene pools. This recommendation was ignored by Dr. Susan Leiberman, (previously VP at HSUS), head of Scientific Authority for USFWS during the development of the WBCA and regulations under that law. She personally told me to my face in her office that she did not want to see ANY birds imported into the US.
    So, between the lies of PETA and the manipulations of a HSUS true believer at USFWS, we ended up with little ability to import small numbers of wild birds to assist with gene pools. As a result, many of the original imported species no longer exist in the US at all, or only in small numbers.
    As far as this comment, quote: “. …. Illegally caught birds are smuggled in suitcases, coats, jars, plastic tubes, end quote. These methods of smuggling and transporting birds are common in Africa, the Mideast and Indonesia. Many smuggled birds are going to Mideastern countries and to Asian countries where there is little information on their appropriate care.
    I am commenting in the hopes that you will look further into these matters and seek different resources re exotic birds, This website might be of interest:
    As a person with a life long serious interest in birds, I appreciate your interest in and concern for birds, and I wish you good day.

    1. Thank you for the information. I will sure to double check my resources. You may be correct about PETA and HSUS but I have the same reservations about Seems there is just too much emotion involved. Thousands of parrots are still imported from Mexico into the U.S. in spite of the WBCA. I agree that habitat destruction is important for all birds – for all animals – but the parrot pet trade just piles on top of that. I won’t go as far as saying no birds should be imported, but I think it ought to be very strictly limited to efforts in the preservation of species, not for pets.

      1. but it’s not just parrots there’s always people trying to smuggle lots of other things to shark fins, lizards snakes etc. and I agree with the person above let’s be honest most scientists, biologists vets etc get jnto those fields from learning about and or most likely seeing if there were no zoos to see animals then most probably wouldn’t get into those fields and yiu wouldn’t have money from people donating also its one thing to see something on tv but a whole different level to see jn person but I also agree that they should have appropriate living conditions also I want tk rake my fiance and son down to SeaWorld to see orcas before they are gone and hate to say this but orcas are already low in numbers watch all the efforts and donations will be less after people no longer get a chance to see these incredible creatures

  7. Laurella Desborough

    Dear Dr. Lederer. I would be most interested in knowing of any references or resources that you have regarding thousands of parrots still being imported into the US from Mexico. Here is why. When those imports, legal or otherwise, were occurring, the bird breeding community saw those birds being offered for sale out of the backs of vehicles parked near bird show venues during the once or twice a year bird shows where birds were for sale. To my knowledge this kind of event has not happened for years and years. Amazon parrots are not at this point in time the type of parrot that is sought by most potential parrot owners. Most are seeking domestic raised birds of other species, from the special conures to the cockatoos and macaws. So, please share the source of information on these smuggled parrots from Mexico. Thank you.

  8. Pingback: The Pros And Cons Of Having A Pet Canary – PatchPets

  9. Pingback: The Joy Of Owning A Green-Naped Lorikeet: Understanding Their Care And Maintenance Requirements - Know More Stuff

  10. Pingback: What Does Dreaming About Birds Mean - Spiritual Dreaming

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.