Parrots are birds that dwell in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. They are prized for their ability to mimic human speech, intelligence, and physical beauty as large, colorful birds. Interestingly, compared with other species of birds, parrots are very long-lived.
The oldest parrot, Cookie, lived a very long time and is unusual in that his exact hatch date was recorded, providing an actual record to support his record claim. We’ll take a closer look at parrots as a whole as well as Cookies’s extraordinary life.
What Types of Parrots Exist and Where Do They Live?
Parrots can vary in many ways, including looks, size, intelligence, and longevity. In fact, what most people consider parrots stem from 398 species in the Psittaciformes order.
Three phylogenic “superfamilies” comprise the order, including:
- Psittacoidea, also considered “true parrots”
- Cacatuoidea, which includes cockatoos
- Strigopoidea, a family that includes New Zealand parrots
The Psittacoidea superfamily includes birds that look like what most people imagine parrots to be, like the blue and gold macaw. It’s important to remember that not all parrots have the same level of intelligence or abilities; some parrots cannot mimic human speech.
Parrots have a wide range that includes sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The birds typically live in rainforests and tropical jungles where they feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, and insects.
Due to their beauty, intelligence, and durability, many people have bought parrots as pets, expanding their range. Furthermore, zoos have frequently bought and bred parrots for conservation and education. Thus, it’s possible to see various types of parrots all over the world.
The Average Lifespan of Parrots
Defining the lifespan of a parrot is not a cut-and-dry process. Many birds are considered parrots, so the variety in terms of size, intelligence, and habitat greatly impacts their lifespans.
On the whole, the average lifespan of parrots ranges from 40-80 years. However, one must be mindful that this includes the average from all the species, with some having considerably shorter lifespans than others. The larger birds such as the macaw and cockatoo live the longest, and smaller birds like the sun conure can survive for 30 years or better.
Several factors contribute to the lifespan of parrots. As with many animals that are not being bred for food, parrots in captivity tend to live longer than wild birds. In some cases, like the African grey parrot, animals in captivity can live up to three times longer than in the wild.
Parrots kept as pets receive high-quality food, protection against predators, and live within controlled environments that do not suffer from sudden irregularities and food scarcity, factors that can diminish the birds’ quality of life.
How Old Is the World’s Oldest Parrot?
The oldest parrot on record is Cookie, a cockatoo that survived to the age of 83 and survived his entire life at the Brookfield Zoo. However, the topic of the world’s oldest parrot is full of debate, so we’ll detail some other parrots whose lifespans may be longer but are hard to verify their exact age.
Cookie gets our vote for oldest parrot because his claim is verified by zoo officials.
However, other parrots have claimed longer lifespans, including Fred, a sulphur-crested cockatoo who has lived to be 107 years old. The asterisk on this record comes from the fact that he has lived in many locations throughout his long life, so nobody is quite sure how long Fred has lived.
History has another story about the longest-living parrot of all time, though. Apparently, Cocky Bennett lived for an incredible 120 years from 1796 until 1916. Over his long lifespan, he changed hands with sailors and hotel owners, eventually shedding all his feathers twenty years before he died.
It’s difficult to confirm Cocky Bennett’s age, though. So, if you’re looking for a definitive answer on which parrot is the oldest, then you will have to settle for one of these answers. Cookie was 83 and had detailed records supporting his case, but the other two could be just as valid but much older.
Other parrots’ owners argue that they have the oldest bird, like Charlie, a macaw that was supposedly owned by Winston Churchill, a claim disputed by Churchill’s daughter. Without supporting evidence, it’s impossible to say if this bird is even in the running or was actually owned by Churchill.
Parrot Species That Live Longest
Some parrot species stand a better chance of living a long life compared with others. Based on our list of the oldest parrots, confirmed or not, macaws and cockatoos seem to possess greater longevity than other parrots.
- Macaws average a 50-year lifespan, but they can live to be upwards of 100. With more macaws having detailed records, a macaw could likely one day take the record of oldest parrot in thew world.
- Cockatoos stick around for 40 years or more, regularly living beyond that in captivity.
- Amazon parrots are another breed that lives for a long time, possessing high intelligence and the ability to speak. They’ll live for about 40 years, but some cases show birds living for up to 60.
Comparing Parrots’ Lifespans to Other Birds
Compared with parrots, other birds lack longevity. Here are some common birds’ lifespans to consider.
- Pigeons last about 5 years in the wild but can live for 15 in captivity
- Doves live about 2 years in the wild but up to 20 in captivity
- Canadian geese live for between 10-24 years in the wild, but they can reach 30 years of age in captivity
- Finches live about 5 to 8 years in the wild and up to 11 as a pet
As you can see, many species of parrots live longer than most other birds.
Conservation Status of Parrots
Unfortunately, parrots are currently considered endangered throughout the world today. They have been hunted as pests and captured for pets, devastating the population in some areas.
Furthermore, parrots suffer from habitat loss. Tropical rainforests, a common home for parrots, are being cut down for raw materials and to expand farming territory.
Parrots are very interesting birds that can live for a long time. Although we may never get to the bottom of which bird has lived the longest, we have some great cases to examine that provide insight into their lifespans.
For our purposes, Cookie is the oldest confirmed parrot to have lived, but forthcoming evidence, as well as better facilities to care for parrots, could lead to a record-breaking attempt in the future.