Birds (specifically parrots) as pets, is it ethical or not?

I used to have a cockatiel when I was 12, he went out of an open window and sadly couldn’t find him again.

Suitable 3 years later, I got into birding and the world of nature and became an absolute nature fanatic. So what do you guys think of having birds as pets is it ethical or not? Even if the birds are in the category of least concern, were bred in captivity, and the person whom you buy from takes very good care of them.

Will be happy to know your thoughts and comments on this topic.


It depends. Obviously if you take poor care of the birds, it is not ethical. Leaving a bird for long periods in a too-small cage, not providing mental stimulation, or otherwise mistreating the bird is clearly cruel. However, if the birds are well taken care of by a person who understands their needs (both physical and psychological) and are provided what they need to thrive, I see no problem in it at all and would not consider it unethical.

However, from what I understand, pet birds are often mistreated, not out of any intention, but just from people not understanding their needs. This is especially true of parrots, which tend to be on the needier side.

Granted, I know very little about captive care of birds so take my opinion with a grain of salt.


Any pet can get not what it wants, just look at how usually are rodents kept as pets. If you choose an ethical breeder and do you research I don’t see any problems birds are very different and some need much more, if you are ready to all the expenses in money and time and often opportunities of life then sure get a pet.


Maybe more ethical to rescue an abandoned pet from a shelter. With the intention of giving that bird a better quality of life in future.

Our vet used to have a parrot in daycare while mama was still working. Once she retired her bird could stay home with her. Meanwhile he could interact with a stream of customers at the vet during the day.

PS there was a snake charmer obs on iNat yesterday. Marked it as ‘captive’ and moved on.


I think that the concept of owning a bird in the abstract, and under the circumstances described would be ethical. My view of it, as someone who does not keep birds but does keep reptiles, is that it really comes down to the specific species and the resources the keeper is willing and able to put towards their animal.

Some animals, like macaws or giant snakes, can easily live for decades, require a lot of space, and have pretty complex care requirements. Could someone do years of research, build a massive enclosure, and devote a good portion of their life to keep the animal happy? Of course. Plenty of good zoos do this all the time. But the fact is that the vast majority of the public cannot and would not do that. As such, I don’t think their keeping is ethical unless proven otherwise on a case-by-case basis, and would absolutely support restrictions to ensure they only end up in the hands of those that can truly care for them. On that same point, however, I think it’s entirely within the average person’s capability to keep, say, a zebra finch or a corn snake, as long as they have a bit of knowledge and guidance.

I realize this is kind of a gray answer, but I don’t personally think it’s a black and white question, especially with species between the two extremes of easy vs. hard to care for. Though personally, I think I’ll stick to domesticated birds when we eventually have the resources. At the very least, I won’t have to worry about a silkie chicken or a bourbon red turkey having been illegally collected from the wild.


Welcome to the Forum!
Lots of good comments so far. As @rinwolfe says, it is a grey area. I used to have a budgie, a habit I picked up from my mum. We both let them have the run of the house, so they probably had decent lives. I don’t believe they are endangered, and are also bred domestically, so I don’t believe anything would be wrong in instances like that. With larger parrots the issues get a bit more complex. I believe cockatiels are bred, not caught in the wild. Cockatoos have almost become a pest species in Australia. Some other parrot species are endangered so I would avoid them. Keep in mind that some of the larger parrots are very intelligent, curious, and very long lived, something @rinwolfe has already discussed.
I wrestle with the whole concept of pets, though. Keeping a domestic cat, dog, horse etc. uses a lot of resources. Manufacturing the food, transporting it, storing it, and so on. The food may be made out of animal byproducts, but resources are still needed to be expended for humans to have an animal that is essentially ‘useless’. There are times when I think pets are a luxury we should not indulge in. Then there are times when I don’t. I’ve had a lot of pets in my life, so I waffle!


if they come from naturally habitats and hunting - it is absolutely not ethical, but captive-born birds should remain in captivity; possibly the best conditions and spacious aviaries should be created for them, if appropriate conditions are provided they get used to the handler very much and everything is fine, this is the opinion of the vast majority ethology and ornithology specialists


Highly unethical.

Just as it is no longer encouraged or legal in many places, to whip and beat our dogs when they behave, I think it’s long overdue that we leave behind such arcane practices.

Bird ownership goes back to the Victorian era, I can think of a few other problematic “hobbies” from this era we have thankfully grown away from as a people…

Nature does not exist simply, for our species to rule, confine and claim domain over.

These animals are stolen from their native forests (often poached, especially here in SA) they are then shipped across the world in highly confined quarters, often with little food or water, standing in their own waste for days or weeks until they received at their port of origin.

Even with the best intentions of end users (pet owners), the realities faced by commercialized wildlife are nearly as cruel and unjust as chattel slavery.


Even the captive bred, or captive born, began with a generation captured from the wild.

I believe we used to have wild parrots feeding on our yellowwood trees.


Pet birds were common for many centuries before Victorian era and are not connected to it, it was always common to have finches of songbirds at houses, it’s not really hard to not buy poached birds, so why do you jump to conclusion each owned bird was shipped from somewhere?


There’s some established groups of Monk Parakeets in Texas (Houston & Austin, I think), though I don’t believe they are considered pests…yet. :grin:

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I think it just depends on the parrot really, along with the fact that most people don’t know what they’re getting into with birds, with the nitty gritty of behavior, diet, enrichment, etc

Something like a cockatiel, budgie, or quaker is a lot more realistically easy to provide for than something like a large macaw or cockatoo


To play Devils Advocate (my favorite role), does this also apply to plants? We have domesticated plants, and plant trees and gardens for aesthetic and practical purposes. Philosophically, if we are to use your definition of ‘pets’, why draw the line between vertebrates and the rest of life? If we don’t ‘own’ a life form, what will we eat?
To reinforce my previous statement, I do have a hard time with anything domesticated. For philosophical and practical reasons. My dog has a good life, but I worry about the resources that are needed to feed him.
As for poachers, I won’t comment on what I feel should happen to them.


It would be cool to see Cape Parrots in the wild, as I believe they still exist in some pockets. Their rarity is more due to mankind’s impacts on their habitats than any capture for the pet trade though (from what I recall).

Diana, do you know what the Cape Parrot’s original distribution was? I don’t know if they ever existed in what we now call the Western Cape, but it would be interesting.


If by getting a parrot you give money to exotic pet industry, be it breeders or poachers, that is unethical. Breeders could be morally grey at best in my opinion. Exotic pet trade should be banned in general, but that is another can of worms.
I do have 5 parrots retrieved either from bad owners for a fee, or from ex-breeders for free. That is, I believe, an ethical solution. If you can adopt a bird and give it decent conditions, that is a good thing. You are taking care of an organism which would have bad time otherwise. That being said, parrots are quite demanding pets and not everybody will be able to create a proper environment for them.

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In my opinion, I think it is ethical if from a credible source. I have a Cockatiel and believe it is ethical because it’s from a good place, and I take good care of it. He comes out of his cage daily to exercise by flying around the house and he also likes to climb a bird ladder I bought him. When he is in his cage, he has many enriching toys, and he has a lot of space, in fact he actually seems to prefer to be in his cage than outside most of the time in the winter, but in the Summer, he is out of his cage all day, as he enjoys chilling in the open-air screen room for a majority of the day when the weather is nice. We have some large plants that are not dangerous to Cockatiels, so he also likes to perch on the branches of those. He likes to chirp to other birds by sitting at the window too. Diet wise, he eats healthy most of the time too. Overall, I like to think that it is ethical to have a bird if you take care of it and get it from a credible source.


No and no. Greeks and Romans kept pet birds, as have the Chinese for thousands of years. Probably many other societies.

The vast majority of pet birds in the world are canaries and budgerigars, both of which are domesticated.


General note: I like to refer to people who care for animals in their homes as caregivers, not pet owners. I have volunteered for pet rescues for many years. I feel using the term caregivers rather than owners gives people an understanding that a companion animal is not your property to do with as you wish. A companion animal is more like your ward. It comes with a responsibility nurture its needs both for food, exercise, clean and comforting bedding, mental stimulation, and emotional support.

I love @dianastuder ’s advice to rescue a bird whose needs are not being met. :parrot::green_heart:


I believe that keeping birds as pets is ethical or unethical depending on the situation. Keeping birds as pets with the intent of keeping them well nourished, healthy, and strong is completely ethical in my opinion. If these birds were bred in captivity, brought to licensed pet stores or animal shelters, and bought by a person who had good intentions; I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s only when the owner neglects their animals and/or buys them from poachers/unauthorized dealers that it becomes a serious problem.