How Long Do Birds Live?

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bird-40083_640According to the New York Times, the oldest known wild bird in the United States, is an albatross. “Wisdom, a Laysan albatross who lives in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific northwest of the main Hawaiian island, is 60 years old. Among birds in the wild, albatrosses are believed to be the species that live longest. So far the oldest known wild bird was a Northern Royal albatross, which is native only to the Southern Hemisphere. Grandma, as she was known, lived 61½ years before researchers lost sight of her a few years back; she is presumed dead.”

Albatrosses, terns, penguins and some other seabirds seem to live 30-50 years, eagles 20-25 years, hawks 8-20 years. Most songbirds might live 8-12 years, hummingbirds 6-8 years, and warblers 3-6 years. Some individual records of known longevity of wild birds are: American Crow 15 years, American Robin 12 years, Barn Swallow 16 years, American Coot 19 years, Golden Eagle 25 years, House Sparrow 13 years, Osprey 32 years, European Starling 20 years, Cedar Waxwing 13 years, and Wild Turkey 15 years.

The maximum known ages of some captive birds are: Andean Condor 77 years, Herring Gull 44 years, House Sparrow 23 years, European Starling 17 years, and the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo 80 years.

Birds lead a difficult life. For most migratory songbirds, the chances of making it from egg to adult in their first year is 25% or less. For adult songbirds, the annual mortality rate is pretty high. Some examples: American Robin 50%, California Quail, 50%, European Staring 53%, American Coot 63% and Song Sparrow 73%. This means that a Song Sparrow hatched in the summer of 2010 has a 25% chance of reaching adulthood in 2011 and a 27% chance of living to the summer of 2012. Put another way, the bird has a mere 6% chance of surviving to the age of two!

The mortality rate of birds in general, according to The Bird Almanac, where I got some of the above figures is pretty high. There are accidents, diseases, loss of food sources due to habitat destruction, and so on. Human related causes of bird mortality exceeds 800 million birds each year in the United States. Major causes are hunting (120 million birds killed), window collisions (80 million), road kills (57 million), and domestic cats (500 million!).

According to the National Audubon Society, “Since 1967 the average population of the common birds in steepest decline has fallen by 68 percent; some individual species nose-dived as much as 80 percent. All 20 birds on the national Common Birds in Decline list lost at least half their populations in just four decades.” The decline of each of these species has a different cause or set of causes – global warming and habitat destruction being the most significant reasons.

I applaud the Nature Conservancy, Audubon, and organizations like Land Trusts for their efforts in protecting habitats not only for the birds but for all species we share the planet with.

19 thoughts on “How Long Do Birds Live?”

  1. Michelle Brown

    Thanks for this info! I’m a member of the Audubon Society as well as the Nature Conservancy. Our world would be heartbreskingly quiet without bird song in the background!

    1. Juan Fernandez

      Thanks for the info…. Juan. In Cuba where I am from si believe is a little longer due to the temperate climat

  2. Hi, thanks for the information on the age & timeline of birds. I really admire birds as they lives are so hard , to building their nests and living day to day , finding food to keep healthy and beautiful. Birds are amazing , a lesson to be obtained by them we should learn ” life is servility “.

    1. Scott Dillingham

      I am in total agreement with this statement. I observe and feed the birds in my environment everyday. These birds consist primarily of Finches, and I see their day to day struggle to survive. I witnessed babies in a nest be devoured by a Bluejay, as both parents were out getting food for their babies. Only the father had been getting food priorly, however the babies were big and about to leave the nest. Therefore, this was the most dangerous time in the baby bird’s life- as it required both birds to hunt and neither bird able to protect the babies. I was devastated, as both Finches parents were pecking on my window- as if to ask me “what happened to our babies?”

  3. Christopher Suggo

    Pathetic governments around the world who are doing very little to reduce the human impact on bird life. SOLUTIONS:- Place Mouth cages on the face of cats when they are outside. Total elimination of feral cats, More reflective glass to reduce bird collision into glass windows. Completely Completely Stop bird hunting. Fix sound devices to cars that worn birds of vehicles similar to kangaroo sound warning devices. No clearing of trees for development of any type. It can be done and must be done to sustain any quality of human life for generations to come. Within 50 years the only place to see birds will be in zoos and this will be so with most animals. Governments are 100% will be responsible for human demise.

    1. @Christopher Suggo: Your comment is so absolutely stupid and childish, I think we’re all a bit dumber for having read it. Why are bird lives more important than cat lives? You’re calling for a feral cat genocide!
      “No clearing of trees for development of any kind”… are you kidding? it’s idiots like you that cause California to burn down every year. Please, just go sit down on the sidelines and listen to NPR and let the adults run the world, k?

      P.S. you misspelled the word WARN.

      1. I agree. Such hate for everything! Governments are run by people WE elect! Make sure you are voting properly for the party who is not taking away our freedoms and the party who is concerned with environmental issues.
        What have you done to help the world? Solar power? Garbage duty? Do you belong with nonprofits that save wild animals? Do you recycle? I could go on. Please look to your own self first. I’m fed up with people that have such hate like you have in their hearts; and they are usually the loudest complainers, the people that vote corrupt leaders. Ugh!

    2. Scott Dillingham

      Feral cats have a right to live as much as any other form of life. What a prejudice and ridiculous statement.

  4. I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their work. From the Amazon to the taiga to the plains of America and Europe/Asia they are doing and making the only major effort ( national governments aside) that might make a difference to our future generations in preserving and conserving wild life both animal and plant. Whether it will be sufficient is yet to be seen and in light of major climate change may be a moot point. I was raised on a farm so I am not a tree hugger but I see the great need for protecting our trees and tree species. I can no longer find wild pawpaw, wild edible crab apples, and such in t he local woods. clear cut logging of whole vallieys hills of appalachia and current farming practices of poisoning the land en masse by using herbicides and pesticides indiscrimately has and is damaging the land and the streams and creeks. I used to be able to walk a creek and find many flatworms which are sensitive to pollution) and other pollution sensitive species but no any longer. Within my lifetime this has happened again because farming practices and tree cutting practices have upset the once prolific forests and streams .

    I am not a tree hugger but turning men with not even a high school education loose with chain saws in gangs with timberjacks and semi log haulers is raping the land not prudent harvesting as practiced in Germany and other nations that have learned the hard way not to ruin their woods.

    poisoning our soils (monsanto and other herbicides) and streams is not wise in the long run and we and our descendants will pay the price.
    I do not live in the city and have family that do. They enjoy squirrels , rabbits and birds in their yards as much as I do I just get more and a larger variety. What I am missing is the evening lit by lightening bus, the sounds of the owls and whippoorwills ( both almost non existent now) and the myriad of other creatures that used to visit my yard but do to over development by folks moving to the country are now a rare treat.

    So in my 70+ years the land and the people on it have changed dramatically. How they treat the land has changed dramatically too.
    I have lived in the house I built in what was then true country side with acres of land around me (not mine or it would still be unsettled) now in a hollow that once had maybe 8 people in hundreds of acres of forest and fields now there are close to 300 in houses that are in many cases in various states of disrepair or cheek by jowl with family and friends or high end homes showing how they ,make a good living off in the big city or other “ways”.

    So yes things have changed and not all for the better. Yes I am concerned about the harm and damage being done to wildlife , forests, ecosystems, and biomes. I remember a commercial where and old Indian stood looking out over the landscape with a single tear running down his stoic face.. I cannot get that image out of my mind standing in my own back yard looking at the forest but timbered hillsides

    So I guess in a way I am now become the voice crying out in the wilderness (or what used to be).

    Now I can truly appreciate what my great grandpa ( then in his mid 80’s in 1970s) about how we (the people then) could not appreciate what we had lost be cause we had never seen or experienced it. I try to explain that to my grandsons and grand daugher.. I know from the look on their faces that they cannot appreciate the loss either because they did not have the depth of experience I had. Many generations of birds have passed from my child hood to my old age and not all of them have came down to us and we are made poorer by their absence. yes there have been some magnificent comebacks of migratory birds like geese but I seen the last moose to have swum the Ohio river on migration. Tied up by an idiot to a motor boat and shot at close range with a shot gun in the head. Real sportsman of the time. I remember the flocks of geese and ducks of my youth and they no longer fly this flyway although they do others. It is unsafe for them to eat the standing corn or stray grains on the fields after harvest because they are laced with chemicals and pesticides that sterilize them or weaken them. The micro biomes and small invertebrates like crayfish and Helgramites are no longer common in the streams because of the run off.

    So much change in a few bird life times and old man’s lifetime . so sad…

    1. Said so lovely! I’m 60 and I’ve lived through these changes also. I know that commercial, and tear up.
      Thankfully our younger generation is wiser, stronger, and more knowledgeable than mine was.

    2. Thank you for your very astute observations.
      I love “outdoors” – it’s so sad that our ‘natural’ sanctuary is being ruined.
      Outside! under the big blue sky! clean winds blowing healthy trees!
      Fresh ‘outside’ smells! Nothing I hate worse than the chemical smells (springtime fresh scent!) of dryer sheets….outside. it’s just more chemical stink.
      “Springtime fresh” ?
      Does anyone know what “real” springtime smells like anymore?
      I don’t think so.

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