Birds are fascinating creatures. With over 9,000 species, it’s no wonder that bird watching is a popular hobby. But what do we know about wild birds? How long do birds live? And how much can we learn from them about our own lives and health? While the life expectancy of an average wild bird has not been extensively studied or documented, there have been some notable exceptions to this rule.
In fact, certain types of parrots have been known to outlive their owners for decades! Of course, as with any other animal in the wild, factors such as geographical location and diet play into how long a bird might live.
For example, African grays living in America have been known to live up to 60 years, while those living in the wild have a maximum lifespan of 35 years.
Birds don’t age as we do
Their average lifespan isn’t calculated in decades or years. Rather, it is measured in “bird years,” meaning that when a bird reaches one year old, it’s counted as one year toward aging. This means that the first two years of a bird’s life will last for two whole bird years.
Now let’s take a look at how wild birds tend to live within different geographical locations around the world:
North America (US & Canada): Because there are over 300 species of native North American birds, all with varying lifestyles and eating habits, it is difficult to establish an average life expectancy. However, some studies have shown that smaller-sized bird species like warblers tend to live longer than larger ones like vultures. It has also been documented that some bird species in North America can live up to 10 years, while others are believed to have a maximum lifespan of 20.
India: There are so many bird species throughout this country that it’s difficult to determine an average life expectancy. However, most birds do tend to live between 5-10 years.
Europe & Asia: The colder climates where large waterfowl like swans and geese dwell have drastically reduced the average lifespan of these birds living in the wild. Swans have been documented to live on average for about 25 years, while geese only live around 12-15 years. Tropical areas, however, provide more healthy habitats for parakeets and other petite bird species, which are known to thrive on diets consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables. In South America, for example, some parrots have been known to live up to 80 years!
Australia: This continent is home to a plethora of bird species that are able to survive in all sorts of climates. Some birds like seagulls or pelicans can be found around the coast, while others such as cockatoos dwell on land. For this reason alone, it’s difficult to determine an average lifespan for Australian birds. However, most avian species tend to live between 5-20 years, with some living even longer than 30 years.
Average lifespans of wild birds by geographical region
- North America: 5-10 years
- India: 5-10 years
- Europe & Asia: 25 years
- Australia: 5-20 years
The lifespan of Wild Birds
- African Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) – 60 years in captivity, 35 in the wild.
- Albatross (Diomedea sp.) – Between 40 to 50 years.
- Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana) – 17 years according to one study, but 30 is more likely due to geographic location.
- Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) – it is believed that the average lifespan of a bald eagle is only about 20 years. This is believed to be due to various factors such as predators, hunting, and survival rates of young birds.
- Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) – 41 years in captivity, 30 in the wild.
- Brazilian Red & White Hornero (Furnarius Rufus & F. erythrogenys) – 30 years according to one study.
- Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) – 20-30 years in captivity if well cared for, 5-10 in the wild or as a “backyard” bird.
- Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) – Between 15 and 20 years in the wild, but some have been known to live up to 30 years.
- Canary (Serinus canaria) – Between 8 and 12 years in the wild, 15-20 in captivity if well cared for.
- Cape (Barnardius Bernardi) – between 33 and 37 years.
- Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) – About 50 years.
- Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) – 10-15 years.
- Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) – 5-7 years, with small numbers living up to 11 or 12 years.
- Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – up to 13-14 years.
- European Magpie (Pica pica) – between 14 and 20 years.
- Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – 12-18 years in the wild, but some have been known to live up to 24 years.
- Great Tit (Parus major) – 8-12 years in the wild, but some have been known to live up to 15 years.
- Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) – 20-30 years in captivity, about 20 in the wild.
- Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – Between 10 and 14 years in the wild, but some have been known to live up to 21.
- Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) – Between 40 and 50 years, although it’s possible for them to live longer In one documented case, a peafowl was recorded to be at least 82 years old!
- Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus) – 14-18 years in the wild. It is believed that due to their feeding habits, Indian vultures have a reduced life expectancy as compared to other birds of prey.
- Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) – 16-20 years.
- Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) – 50-60 years.
- Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) – 7-10 years in the wild, up to 20 in captivity if well cared for.
- Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) – 60 years in captivity, but the average lifespan in the wild is unknown.
- Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) – 35-40 years. These birds are able to live this long due to feeding mainly on fish which has slowed their metabolic rate.
- Oriental Stork (Ciconia boyciana) – 40-50 years.
- Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) – 15-20 years.
- Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) – About 20-30 years in the wild, 40+ in captivity if well cared for.
- Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) – 14 years in captivity, but the lifespan of wild birds is unknown due to the rarity of sightings.
- Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturine) – 25-30 years.
- Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) – 6-10 years in the wild, 20+ in captivity if well cared for.
- Whooping Crane (Grus americana) – Between 30 and 40 years, although there are reports that these birds have lived up to 60 years in the wild.
How long do birds live in captivity?
The captive lifespan of various birds has been recorded by zoos worldwide.
Bald Eagle 24-30 years
The above figure denotes the lifespan in captivity, but up to 50 years have been found in the wild.
Barn Owl – 16+ years.
The oldest known barn owl lived to be 21.5 years old. This is quite remarkable considering the fact that these birds typically live for 10-12 years in the wild.
Blue & Yellow Macaw – 40+ years.
These are large macaws and need a lot of room. Thus their long lifespan is not surprising! Their owners should provide them with lots of activities, or they could become bored, which may cause behavioral problems.
Brazilian Red & White Horntail – 10 years.
These wasps are not kept as pets, but it’s interesting to note their long lifespan.
Canary – 15-20 years
Only 4-8 years in the wild because of predation and other pressures. The oldest known canary lived to be 28 years old!
Common Chaffinch – 8-12 years.
This bird is a popular caged pet throughout Europe.
Common Kestrel – 14+ years.
Merlins typically live for 7 or 8 years, whereas kestrels have a slightly longer life expectancy. The oldest known common Kestrel lived for 17 consecutive years!
Cooper’s Hawk – 16+ years.
Most accipiters have an average lifespan of about 7 or 8 years, but it’s not uncommon for them to live up to 14 in captivity. Cooper’s hawks and goshawks seem to live a bit longer than other accipiters.
Crested Caracara – 15-20 years.
These large birds of prey are known for their intelligence and affectionate personalities, which makes captive breeding easier. Before the availability of quality pet food, many people raised these birds on raw meat diets along with various fruits and vegetables.
European Eagle Owl – 30+ years.
The oldest known European eagle owl lived to be 37! These majestic creatures need a lot of space, good habitats, and lots of activities in order to stave off boredom which could lead to behavioral problems.
Great Horned Owl – 20+ years.
These birds are some of the most popular owls in captivity. The oldest known captive great horned owl, lived for 34 years!
Harris Hawk – 15-20 years.
Harriss hawks and other Buteos typically live for about 10 to 15 years. If these birds are provided with a lot of activities, they will be more content and less likely to suffer from behavioral problems such as screaming and biting.
Jamaican Tody – 16-20 years.
These small, colorful songbirds have been known to live up to 25 in captivity if well cared for, but average lifespans tend to be much shorter due to predation.
Laysan Albatross – 50-60 years.
These large seabirds make great pets and can easily live up to 50 or 60 years if well cared for. Some individuals have lived to be 100!
Lilac Breasted Roller – 30+ years.
These birds are highly intelligent and affectionate. They’re captivating birds that provide endless entertainment for their owners, but they do need a lot of attention and toys to keep them occupied, so boredom doesn’t set in.
Mute Swan – 25-30 years.
This majestic bird is one of the largest waterfowl kept as a pet. Many swans live between 20 and 25 years, especially those bred in captivity. Wild swans tend to live much shorter lives due to predation and other threats unfamiliar to captive birds.
Northern Bald Ibis – 30+ years.
This large, white bird of prey is not kept as a pet, but it’s interesting to note their long lifespan.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) – 20-25 years.
These birds are some of the most popular raptors in captivity. They tend to live between 15 and 25 years if well cared for. If these birds lack activities, they may become bored or depressed, which can lead to undesirable behaviors such as screaming, biting, and feather plucking (pulling out their feathers). Fortunately, this behavior was virtually unheard of before the 1990s, even though these birds were more commonly kept in cramped aviaries back then than they are now, with larger pens more accessible to the public.
Red-Tailed Hawk – 15-20 years.
These large hawks are known for their intelligence and affectionate personalities, which makes captive breeding easier. Before the availability of quality pet food, many people raised these birds on raw meat diets along with various fruits and vegetables.
Ring-Necked Pheasant – 8-15 years.
Another popular game bird that makes a great pet if well cared for. They’re beautiful creatures that need lots of activities in order to stave off boredom which could lead to behavioral problems.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon – 12-25 years (wild) 20-30 (captive).
Despite living shorter lives than other birds listed here, pigeons make pets because they do not require a lot of care or upkeep.
Australian Raven – 40+ years.
These intelligent birds are some of the largest corvids kept as pets. They need a lot of activities in order to stave off boredom which could lead to behavioral problems such as screaming, biting, and feather plucking (pulling out their feathers). Fortunately, this behavior was virtually unheard of before the 1990s, even though these birds were more commonly kept in cramped aviaries back then than they are now, with larger pens more accessible to the public.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post about wild birds. And if you’re interested in learning more, please visit our blog for future posts and other content related to the natural world! What’s your favorite type of bird? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting @goatreboot with #goatreboot.