At what age do parrots fully mature?

blue and gold macaw parrot standing on perch wearing large glasses
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Apologies in advance, I’ll be stepping on some toes here. But first I will man up and say I don’t have a good answer, here’s why.

Captive bird keepers regardless of their avian resume cite all sorts of, “facts”. Certain species mature at this age, other species mature at another age.

A question I ask rhetorically all the time, “if we have all these facts at hand – THE right cage size – THE right perch size – that pellets are the ONLY food parrots should eat….

In that we know so much about birds with certainty, why has captive bird ownership in the US done nothing but decrease for the past 10 years while bird rescues have done nothing but fill up with more birds?”

I need to finish the question for you. “At what age do captive bred parrots fully mature?” Versus “At what age do wild caught parrots fully mature?”

See, as captive bird keepers, we do a terrible job. Birds are all about sight, light and flight. But what do we do? We clip their wings and keep them inside in dimly lit (5 pm sunsets in the fall) North American households with ever-changing seasonal lighting.

And how are you defining maturity? Are you talking about sexual maturity? I mean in general when Mother Nature isn’t surprising us, she will generally offer shorter lifespans for birds like budgies with sexual maturity in less than a year vs large parrots who may live 50, 60 years or more thus having sexual maturity as late as six or seven years – in the wild.

We bring these birds into our homes, change their anticipated environmental signals including being sexually attracted to humans in the household regardless of their age.

As an observer of bird behavior, either directly or within conversations of tens of thousands of captive bird keepers over the years I feel improper lighting is as big a problem if not more so than proper nutrition.

I can tell you unequivocally from personal experience and from some of the top rated avian veterinarians in the country that I can shut down a bird’s reproductive system simply by exposing the bird to 72 hours of constant light which disrupts one of a bird’s many circadian rhythms.

Editor’s note: This can bypass multiple $70 Lupron injections veterinarians recommend for any hormonal issues due to the lack of seeking additional solutions. Read more about Lupron here

A birds hormonal system, like a bird’s reproductive system and the factors that signal a bird when it’s time to molt are all based on light (cycles), plain and simple. The light defines a bird’s circadian rhythms.

Light is the stimulus for circadian rhythms and with birds, light can affect the system via three different pathways: the eyes, the pineal gland and extraretinal photoreceptors located in the deep brain.

Circadian pacemakers in the pineal gland and in the eyes of some avian species communicate with the hypothalamic pacemakers via the rhythmic synthesis and release of the hormone melatonin.

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