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

I mean, depends on the animal I think. I have been keeping all manner of fish and inverts since I was two but I don’t think I’d describe myself as a caregiver (with yknow, the meaning and context behind that word) to anything but my cat lol, regardless of the fact that, yeah I do take care of said fish and inverts

Any animal in captivity is unethical except for those who are already a human responsability and a problem (cats and dogs for example. there’s so many stray ones that as a gesture of animal solidarity we should actually love them and give them a beautiful life)

Same applies for any animal that needs a house and is a rescued animal. But breeders? Any breeder, good or bad is just… like why would you do that? why would you limit anothers life capacity to move and be happy and expand? you but a bird from the breeder and he’ll keep producing them. I think, ethical or unethical, we should start accepting that animals dont belong in captivity and we should only stablish more honest relationships with them, taking care of those who are already a product of how our human society operates and need a house right now but that´s it. I dont think theres better breeders or better places to buy them. Lets just leave them alone :(


what do you think about the MANY species of fish that depend on the aquarium hobby to not go extinct (goodeids, various cichlids, most betta and parosphronemus species that are currently having most of their habitat plowed over for palm oil plantations, etc), out of a genuine lack of “real” conservation for most of these little known fish then? Or zoos that likewise keep things afloat, or the box of isopods in my room that have ample leaf litter and decaying fruit in a nice stable microclimate


All 3 species of black cockatoo found in WA are endangered.


What would your cockatiel say?

I do not believe that keeping animals in captivity is inherently unethical. Obviously if the animal’s physical and mental needs are not satisfied, it is cruel, but if the animal is well taken care of I do not see anything wrong. If anything, I believe some species can have a better quality of life in a captive environment. In captivity animals need not go hungry or thirsty, have no need to fear predators, and can receive treatment for diseases and medical conditions that would be a death sentence in the wild. Captive breeding can be the difference between a species going extinct or continuing to survive - for example the Spix Macaw, Red-Tailed Black Shark, Arabian Oryx and the California Condor.

Obviously, the wild collection of threatened species for purposes other than captive breeding programs is wrong, but I believe that the entire concept of animals in captivity is not inherently unethical and can be a real benefit in certain situations for the animals.


Well, I think fish have needs beyond what it takes to prevent them from dying. Thinking of a large fish I saw in a very small aquarium in a restaurant. The water was not clear, there was not enough room for it to turn around. It was just stuck; it had been there so long outgrowing it’s space that it did not even try to move and hung nearly motionless. It likely lacked sufficiency aeration to breathe beyond the minimum to sustain life.

To me, the restaurant owners were inadequate caregivers for that fish.

If one routinely sees to the full needs of any species being met well, one is an adequate caregiver… and not unethical, imo. Unless, of course, it is a species that pretty clearly belongs in the wild with it’s own kind or way of life.


The white ones know how to open garbage bins to get a snack!

All zoos depress me; I can’t do zoos anymore. When I visit a zoo aviary, I see a much higher density of birds than I would in the wild, and said birds mostly have much smaller home territories than they would in the wild. I think it was at the Jacksonville Zoo (Florida) where the large wading birds like flamingos were in open-to-the-sky enclosures, same as land animals, but all wearing these things on their wings – I would see them stretch their wings, and whatever they were wearing would prevent one wing from fully stretching. My friend didn’t understand; she thought they were wearing slings for injuries, but I could see those were restraints. That really upset me. Imagine having something permanently on your arm that prevented you from ever fully straightening it. Was this a “good” zoo?

I had a budgerigar when I was a kid, but I shouldn’t have. I had no clue about her needs beyond food, water, and cage changes. I would never be deliberately cruel; I was just completely unaware of what a horrible, lonely life I was providing her. A budgerigar (relevant to the thread because it is a species of parrot) has complex social needs and is really not suitable for a child like I was who had so many varied interests that I hadn’t the patience to devote sufficient time to any one of them.

But what were those birds’ lives like? Those societies were indifferent to a lot of human suffering; you’d have a hard time convincing me that they were aware of or much concerned about animal suffering.


This is irrelevant to the argument that keeping birds is not a Victorian invention, which was the context of my post.

1 Like

Long, long before that. Keeping birds as pets (rather than food like chickens, geese, ducks, etc) has an ancient history in most part of the world we have records for.

In the Americas, specifically Central and South America birds were periodically kept as pets in pre-Columbian times. This went back to at least 900 years ago, but some sources indicate that in Brazil this went back as long as 5000 years ago.

In China keeping birds as pets became widely popular in the 1600s, but poetry written in the 3rd century BC describes pet birds kept in cages.

In Japan in the 1600s an on pet birds were trained to do tricks by the equivalent of buskers at the time, but the practice of keeping birds as pets started in the 1100s.

Ancient Romans and greeks famously kept an array of birds as pets, some from tropical Africa, and famously starlings, some of which were trained to speak.

Birds were kept widely as pets in ancient Persia, especially falcons, not not limited to them.

There’s even a specific word for ‘birdcage’ in ancient Sumeria, subura, indicating that Sumerians were keeping captive birds as pets.


Just another aspect to consider here:
if your pet is exotic you run the risk of helping in establishing an invasive population with potentially serious effects.


‘Birds’ is pretty broad. There are plenty of bird species that are domesticated that make excellent pets if you want to keep birds.

Imo, it is not currently ethical for an individual to have a pet parrot. Yes, this includes small parrots like parakeets and cockatiels. For me, it’s the high incidences of dietary-related illnesses and stress-related illnesses that make parrots very difficult to keep in captivity. Fatty liver disease and heavy metal poisoning are extremely common, and feather picking & self injurious is even more so. Not to mention various other deficiencies and diseases to watch out for. Environmental concerns are a constant issue since parrots’ respiratory and digestive systems are so delicate someone keeping one inside would have to carefully consider every object that enters their home. There are also many behavioral issues that come with every parrot, since they are wild animals, not being able to completely express their natural behavior. Sexual/hormonal issues are expected, as are issues related to how much more sedentary captive parrots are than they should be in the wild (this ties back into fatty liver disease, they don’t move enough to burn off the fat and sugars they consume). Plus being generally loud and destructive in a residential home isn’t ideal. A very dedicated person, with space for multiple large parrots and a large outdoor aviary (vitamin D deficiency is also an issue!) and the money and time to provide an extremely varied and species-specific diet could work, I guess, but most parrot-keepers do not have that. Most parrots fare far worse in captivity than they would in the wild, and that’s intolerable for me in owning wild animals.

I have a pet pigeon who I love and would recommend pigeons to anyone wanting a pet bird! They’ve been domesticated for some 5,000-10,000 years and are incredibly easy keepers compared to parrots. Mine is super cuddly and very quiet, and their dietary and medical needs are so easy to provide for. Canaries are also semi-domesticated. People keep pet house chickens, ducks and geese are cute, and if you want something a little more wild, many people keep pet starlings with great success (although care needs aren’t very well researched compared to domesticated birds)!


Probably tags on the individual birds that help keepers monitor each individual bird better, make sure everyone is doing okay in a large flock. The “unstretched wing” is likely pinioned, exceptionally common practice with captive birds, done with no harm to the bird whatsoever when they’re chicks, chicks who are, notably, born in captivity and will spend their lives in captivity with no intention to release. The birds are fine, healthy, their needs are met, they are not people who have grand ambitions about exploring the world, they’re flamingoes that enjoy the company of other flamingoes and eating shrimp, which they have in the relative comfort of a zoo exhibit. The Jacksonville Zoo is accredited by the AZA which upholds strict guidelines for animal husbandry that prioritize the health and wellness of animals and the people who take care of them (not to say that accreditation is the sole marker of proper husbandry, especially for smaller facilities, since applying and being accredited = $$$)


i dont know about budgies and cockatiels, but larger parrot species are extremely hard to actually provide really excellent care for and they live for many decades, so i dont think they are an ethical choice for a pet even if they can be guaranteed not poached.

i hear pigeons can make great pets, though!


Have just read on FB about a new to me invasive here. Unwanted pets ‘kindly’ discarded in nature to wreak havoc. Red eared slider.

1 Like

Since I’ve seen the loud screeching groups of monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) which are flying around lots of Spanish cities, I doubt whether it is possible to supply that kind of life to a pet bird. Especially being very social, I wonder if the contact to a well meaning human is comparable to being in a group of your own species.
On the other hand: do you really want a group of maybe ten very noisy birds, even if you had a large aviary?
My mother used to have a budgerigar; they were both lonely, so they formed a really strong bond and the bird learned to talk a lot. It came from a reputable breeder, so I no harm done in this way, but if it was the adequate life for the bird?


I don’t believe in “reputable” breeders or “licensed” shops. Most pet shops don’t know how to take care of birds. I don’t trust anybody who gains money off animal trade to be responsible, or to continue being responsible if this means having less money.

Many people state here that birds in captivity cannot have better conditions than outside, but in truth, birds have it pretty rough in the wild. They are in constant danger from predation, lack of food and resources, etc. Birds die a lot from diseases as well. It’s a similar argument cat owners use, that “their animal cannot be happy while kept inside” which is just an assumption requiring further evidence.

I agree that keeping a large parrot is super hard. I’d discourage anybody who would like to have one. I currently temporarily take care of an african grey additionally to my companions, and it’s often really demanding. However, with a proper diet and enough stimulation, most conditions birds suffer in captivity may be prevented, that includes fatty liver.

1 Like

I happen to live in one of the places where those are natives.

It was kind of funny to me to see my observation of these turtles just hanging out in the range they are supposed to be, was added to a project for tracking invasive red eared sliders.


I’m thinking about a pet reptile and you summed up my feelings quite well.

I don’t believe keeping a pet is inherently unethical, and that there is convincing evidence that at least some species can live long, healthy and “happy” lives in captivity, even more so than in the wild. That requires a knowledgeable and committed keeper, which is far less common than we’d like to think.

I believe that in a vacuum, commercial breeding can be ethical. In practice, though, more often than not it won’t be and there’s close to 0% chance for even a moderately-informed customer to tell a
genuinely ethical breeder from one that simply tries to look ethical.

I also don’t have a cat after seeing the carnage my parents’ cats wrought on local wildlife, so, you know, I might just be too scrupulous.