Birds illustration

(Gabriela Mendoza / Daily Titan)

The ability to fly is a trait that humans will never develop. While aircrafts indeed allow people to experience the wonder of traveling through the sky, leave it up to humans to employ a power move and prohibit other creatures from a life of fulfillment as they assert their dominance.

Birds, beautiful, feathered creatures blessed with wings that allow them to fly freely in the sky, are kept in captivity for the sake of companionship. The ethics of owning birds needs to be put in question, as these lovely animals are subject to their awful fate: confinement.

In the United States, pet birds are the fourth most common animal companions. Cats and dogs are the two most common pets, followed by fish. It is logical for cats and dogs to be the most popular after years of being domesticated by humans, but the same argument cannot apply to birds. 

While there are traces of domesticating birds, such as parrots, thousands of years ago, the birds currently kept in captivity cannot properly adapt since they are only a few generations removed from the wild.

According to a peer-reviewed journal by the National Center for Biotechnology Information released in 2021, “Many birds in captivity are only one or two generations removed from the wild, but even in birds bred for more generations like Canaries, Budgerigars, Zebra Finches, Lovebirds and Cockatiels, their behavior and physiology differs little from that of wild individuals.” 

The study also states that captive-bred birds are mostly physically identical to their wild counterparts, meaning they are still more adherent to living in the wild.

It is often a misconception that birds cannot survive once in captivity, particularly once already domesticated, even if a couple of generations were removed. Undoubtedly, birds snatched from environments that differ significantly from households will suffer. 

Yet, their survivability is more affected by the rapid change in surroundings rather than not living independently. Wild birds have adapted to their conditions, requiring ample space to stretch out their wings and navigate through the air while being around other birds in their natural habitats. 

The idea that birds have unique connections with humans only makes sense once realizing that birds kept as pets are often social and enjoy company instinctively. 

The terrifying process that provides such animal companions should startle enough potential bird owners to reflect on their ethics. 

Similar to puppies, bird breeding mills enclose thousands of exotic birds to be traded, as they are subject to appalling living conditions, with many living in small, dimly lit cages unable to stretch out their wings. Aside from mills, thousands of birds are smuggled into the U.S. through outrageous means, with bird traffickers relying on confined spaces, like toilet paper rolls or small pieces of luggage, to trap birds as they are illegally transported.

To make matters worse, a majority of birds die in the process of transit. About 75% to 90% of birds do not make it to sale, meaning many birds are not given a chance to live in conditions they were not meant for, amplifying the cruel process. This has subsequently led to birds such as parrots becoming endangered. Nearly one-third of all parrot species are under threat to extinction due to habitat loss and pet trade.

More heartbreaking to consider is that many birds kept in captivity are at risk of developing illnesses and subject to psychological or behavioral issues. According to the People of Ethical Treatment for Animals, “Life in captivity is often a death sentence for birds, who may suffer from malnutrition, an improper environment, loneliness and the stress of confinement. 

Birds are meant to fly and be with others of their own kind in a natural environment. Confinement causes birds to have temper tantrums and mood swings.”

It is not uncommon for birds to go to extreme lengths and self-mutilate when under extreme stress. As disturbing as it sounds, one cannot help but think how swinging the cage door closed has caused birds to be wired and adapted to function irregularly.

While certain birds, like domestic fowl, have seen success in captivity, there are two harsh realities. For one, the benefit in the abundance of fowl is truthfully more rewarding to humans than the captive birds. Secondly, most people cannot provide birds with the proper environment to live healthily and thrive. 

Without a doubt, there are plenty of owners who do everything within their power to raise their beloved winged companions reasonably. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most pet birds.

Ideally, zoos and bird sanctuaries are the best options to feed, manage and adequately care for harmed birds or species that require a livable environment to survive. Continuing to cage animals that have little to no business being domesticated, to begin with, needs to be checked. The only way to make sure that our feathered friends can live to their fullest potential is by removing the environments they are confined to — a decision that humans can only make.

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