Can Pet Birds Survive in the Wild? (What You Need To Know)

Whether you need to surrender your pet bird or have one that escaped, you’ll need to know whether or not the bird is able to survive in the wild.

Pet birds cannot survive in the wild because they don’t have the skills necessary to find food and stay safe from predators. They also need to learn what to do in extreme temperatures, and for some birds, how to migrate. These skills are taught by both parent and neighbor birds at a young age.

Why Pet Birds Can’t Survive in the Wild

Pet birds are not accustomed to life in the wild, and don’t know how to adapt to bad weather or how to stay out of harm’s way when it comes to predators.

Birds that have been raised in homes with other pets may be especially at risk, because they assume that all other dogs or cats are safe to be around. 

Pet birds are also unable to find food sources in the wild, because they’ve never learned how to forage. And, pet birds form bonds with their human families, and deal with a great amount of stress and separation anxiety when released.

Do Pet Birds Come From the Wild?

Most pet birds are bred in captivity, not captured from the wild. This includes exotic species that are bred by the thousands and then sold to pet stores.

Unfortunately, there is no federal legislation in place to protect these birds in the pet trade in the United States, but if you do your research, you can find a responsible breeder to adopt your pet from. 

The birds that are captured from the wild for life in a home or zoo suffer a great loss being removed from their natural environments.

Wild birds form social bonds with each other and become accustomed to their way of life, and they should never be displaced. 

In the end it’s much better to adopt a bird that’s been bred in captivity and needs a home than to capture a wild bird.

Even though there are flaws in the way that the pet trade operates, these birds ultimately need homes in order to survive and thrive. 

One possible exception to the rule is wild birds that have been injured to the point that they cannot survive in the wild.

If you find a wild bird that is injured or sick, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or a nature center to ask for advice. They will often ask you a series of questions to determine whether the bird truly needs human help, and if they can be eventually released.

What Happens to Pet Birds That Escape?

A pet bird might escape given the chance, under the mistaken belief that the world outside the home is as safe to explore as the world it’s been living in.

This can be incredibly dangerous for any bird, as they don’t learn the survival skills that they need living in captivity. However, there are people who keep a lookout for escaped birds and perform rescue operations.

Are Pet Birds Really Okay Living in Cages?

Pet birds can be perfectly happy living a caged life provided that their needs are met.

This means getting a cage that is large enough for them to stretch their wings, fly, jump and climb, and providing toys, like RYPET Bird Intelligence Training Toy and Bvanki Parrot Toy.

Pet birds should get a significant amount of time outside of the cage every day. Some birds need more of this out-of-cage time than others.

You should also make sure that your pet bird’s cage is cleaned every day, and that you’re interacting with your bird regularly, even if that means just hanging out in the same room and watching TV.

Cuddle time is great, too, but a bird will be comforted just by your presence. 

If you are concerned that your caged bird is restless, take note of any signs of stress or anxiety, like plucking or screaming.

This can be caused by even slight changes in environment or by a medical issue, and shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the bird needs to be let outside. Instead, contact an avian veterinarian if you have concerns.

What To Do if You Need To Surrender Your Pet Bird

About 85% of pet parrots are either resold, abandoned, or given away within the first two years of being adopted.

Some are resold to responsible owners or given away to a reputable organization like the Exotic Pet Amnesty Program, but others are released into the wild under the mistaken belief that the bird will thrive.

If you need to surrender your pet bird, make sure it’s going someplace where it will be well taken-care of, as domesticated birds are dependent on humans for survival and will not do well being released into the wild.

If at all possible, the best thing to do would be to find a home for your pet bird, rather than putting it back into the pet trade. 

How Wild Birds Learn Survival Skills

Within just a few months of life, most birds need to be independent from their parents and ready to find food and blend with others of their species.

They need to know the right songs to sing, how to keep away from predators, and what to do in extreme weather.

Foraging and Hunting

Parent birds usually feed their young insects, and when the birds get older, they need to learn to broaden their food intake in order to survive.

While many birds continue eating insects into adulthood, they also need to learn which berries and seeds are safe to eat. 

Many birds learn what’s safe to eat and what’s not by trial and error. Some insects, like monarch caterpillars, will cause the bird intense gastrointestinal distress, leading it towards eating other insects and foods. 

Learning To Sing

Survival for birds also means learning the song of their species. They learn this from their parents and neighbors by listening and repeating, and then eventually are able to sing to claim territory or attract a mate.

Without this time spent learning the right song to sing, a bird would be isolated and unable to be a part of its bird community.

Evading Predators

Another important skill for birds is learning to recognize and flee from a predator. Often birds will listen to each other for signs that a predator is near, while keeping a sharp lookout themselves.

Without being raised in the wild, a bird would not know to recognize its species’ danger call, or know to be on the lookout for predators like hawks and cats. 

Adapting to Extreme Weather

Birds need to be prepared for rain, heat, and snow in most temperate climates. When it rains, for example, a bird needs to know that it’s time to conserve energy, because it may be a while before it can freely forage again.

In the heat, a bird needs to know where to find shade or water to bathe in, and how to find cooler temperatures by soaring higher in the air.

For winter birds, surviving the extreme cold takes a lot of learning and working together.

Birds will often cooperate with other members of their species to cuddle or share food sources in the winter, and need to be able to communicate with each other.

Birds also need to know to store extra food or extra fat to prepare for food scarcity in the winter.


Although migration paths are instinctual for many birds, others, like the whooping crane, learn their migration routes from older birds.

This typically happens early in life, and birds raised in captivity would have missed these valuable lessons.

Without learning or knowing how to migrate properly, a bird can become separated from sources of food, shelter, and warmth.


Pet birds are domesticated animals that are dependent on humans for survival. They need to be fed and kept safe from predators, even if that means living indoors and spending some of their time in a cage.

In the wild, birds learn a wide range of survival skills from each other that captive birds do not have.