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How old can budgies get?
A crucial question before the purchase of a pet is how old it can become in the most favorable case. For budgies, this question is to be answered easily: In general, they can become 10 to 15 years old. Very rarely they get even older – if they are very lucky. However, only a few budgies do actually get old. The majority of these birds die far earlier. Thus not the maximum age is crucial. Rather, the average age at the time of death is important for bird owners. Simplified, the true question, therefore, is: How old are budgies on the average when they die?
If one regards this average death age for budgies being kept in Germany, it’s obvious that bird owners, unfortunately, can’t enjoy their beloved animals for long: According to estimations scarcely half of all budgies kept as pet birds in Germany die before they’re 5 years old. There are several reasons for this. In many cases, the housing conditions are not ideal and the birds are wrongly fed – without the owners being aware of this. Overweight and liver diseases are the results of this malnutrition. If the budgies in addition only have little possibility of exercising, their health worsens ever more and their life expectancy decreases.
Beyond that, budgies regrettably are very prone to tumors. Even those birds who live under perfect conditions or comparatively young individuals can unfortunately be affected. Scientists and avian vets are still wondering why so many budgies die from tumors. Some experts claim that inbreeding for creating more color varieties might be the main reason for the impoverishment of the genetic material. This in turn could explain a general tendency to develop tumors.
My own observations are consistent with this theory. Since I have been keeping budgies myself – I got my first one in the 1970s – the incidence of tumors has increased more and more over time. The number of cases regarding my losses due to Macrorhabdiosis (avian gastric yeast) has also increased temporarily (between 2000 and 2010). But in the meantime, thanks to quite good treatment options, the number of cases has strongly decreased again. In general, it seems that a lot of budgies have a comparatively weak immune system. Many of my own beloved birds died quite young from infections, although I always took every feathered patient to an avian vet as soon as possible.
Here are some results of my statistical surveys: Of 85 birds, 30 % died from tumors, 8 % from Macrorhabdiosis, and about 18 % from other infections. This means that Macrohabdiosis and other infections combined are responsible for 26 % of the deaths. This comes close to 30 % of tumor-related deaths. For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that 8 % of my birds became fairly old and died of old age (as of April 2019).
Some age records in my flock and from my friend’s flocks
Male budgie Peter came to me at a very high age as a foster bird. Because of a temporary change in her living circumstances, his owner could not accommodate him and his flock mates for several months. Unfortunately, only his friends could return home later … Peter lived in my home for several months until he had to be put to sleep at the age of 19 years and two weeks due to a sudden serious illness. At that time, Peter had already been blind and very frail for long. Years ago, he had lost his ability to fly. But fortunately, he was still in good shape and felt well until the onset of his illness. Before that, he took part in the flock life as much as he could. When the other birds were singing, he always joined in. Also, he could hear it when there was something to eat – the other birds made typical eating noises with their beaks. That always attracted Peter immediately. Although he could only move slowly, he arrived surprisingly quick at the food bowl when he was hungry.
Kiki, another male budgie, became 17 years and two months old. Nobody had ever expected that to happen. When Kiki was about eight years old, he had a terrible accident: While he was flying, he crashed into a glass door in his former home, breaking off a large portion of his upper beak. It was severely damaged and could not grow back. But Kiki was lucky since the remaining part of the beak was long enough. The bird was able to eat on his own. Despite his obvious handicap, he became very old and finally died peacefully while sleeping. Kiki has always been very slim since his accident – maybe that’s why he became so extremely old? He couldn’t eat too much and therefore his weight was perfect – and so was his liver status. As I already mentioned, overweight and associated liver damages are often the cause of early death of budgies.
The very sad negative record in terms of age is held by my male budgie Serenio. As a young bird, he was separated from his parents too early and sold by the breeder. At that time, Serenio was not yet able to feed himself and he almost starved to death. A friend of mine found him in a pet store shortly before he would have died. I took Serenio into my care and tried to save him by giving him a lot of attention and a rich diet. But his organs had been severely damaged while he had been nearly starving. As a result of that, all my efforts could not save his life. At the age of only three months, Serenio died of multiple organ failure.