How Long Can Birds Live?

It’s very difficult to determine the age and longevity of most birds. But we do know that life expectancy in birds is closely correlated with size -- the larger the species, the longer it is likely to live. But the relationship is far from exact. Some groups of birds tend to have long lives for their sizes, especially the albatrosses, shearwaters, and petrels, as well as the Charadriiformes (shorebirds, gulls and terns, and auks). Other groups, for instance titmice and chickadees, wrens, and game birds, are shorter-lived than their sizes would predict.

Birds can live upwards of 60 years, with some species like parrots, vultures, albatrosses and eagles possibly exceeding the century mark. A longevity listing posted by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois) had a Turkey Buzzard on top, at 118 years – though no corroborating information was included. Long lifespans in birds should not be too surprising, as they are closely related to long-lived reptiles such as turtles and tortoises.

The life of Birds in captivity can be very long-lived. One Sulphur-crested Cockatoo lived most of his 80-plus years in a zoo. Captive Canada Geese have lived for 33 years, House Sparrows 23 years, and Northern Cardinals 22 years. In nature, the life-spans of these species are much shorter. As luck would have it, however, the record for a European Starling in the wild, 20 years, is 3 years longer than for any starling captives.

So lets look at a few birds who have a long life span.

Cookie, a Male Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

Cookie was a male Major Mitchell's cockatoo residing at Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, Illinois, United States. He lived from June 30, 1933 to August 27, 2016, and was believed to be the oldest member of his species alive in captivity, and lived to be 83 years old, having significantly exceeded the average lifespan for his kind. Most Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos live from 40 to 60 years in captivity so Cookie exceeded the odds by leaps and bounds.


Macaw parrot


Large parrots like Macaws are among the longest living parrot species. Healthy Macaw parrots live an average of 50 years. But they have been known to live up to 100 years!


Amazon parrot


Like Macaws, Amazon parrots can live for a very long time. They live an average of 25 to 50 years. Again, these parrots have the potential to live even longer!


African Grey parrot

African Greys

African grey parrots that are famous for their speaking ability and intelligence live about 40 years. However, they have been known to live beyond the age of 60!


Common Ostrich


The common ostrich shares the order Struthioniformes with the kiwis, emus, rheas, and cassowaries. However, studies have shown that it is the sister group to all other members of Palaeognathae and thus the flighted tinamous are the sister group to the extinct moa. Their lifespan is up to 40–45 years.


Southern Cassowary

Southern Cassowaries

The Southern Cassowary is earths second-heaviest bird. Naturalists are not sure of how old a wild cassowary can expect to get. That said, a few southern cassowaries have reached their 40th birthdays in captivity. Under human care, northern cassowaries can top that figure—one bird reached the age of 48 and another specimen may have been as old as 61 when it died. 


Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross

A Laysan Albatross has survived 42 years and 5 months in the wild. The Laysan albatross has a wide range across the North Pacific, with 16 nesting sites. All but 0.3% of the breeding population is found among the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, particularly the islands of Midway and Laysan. 




The Emu is a large, tough flightless bird found in many parts of Australia and New Guinea. It is Australia’s largest bird and the only member of the Genus: Dromaius. The Emu is the second largest bird in the world, the largest being the similar looking, Ostrich. Emus tend to live for between 10 and 20 years in the wild, although it is not uncommon for an emu to be more than 30 years old, particularly when in captivity.

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins

Emperors are the largest of all penguins—an average bird stands some 45 inches tall. These flightless animals live on the Antarctic ice and in the frigid surrounding waters. The emperor penguins have an average life expectancy of 20 years. The same researchers estimated that 1% of emperor penguins hatched could feasibly reach an age of 50 years.




Baby flamingos are gray or white. They will turn pink within the first couple years of life. Flamingos live 20 to 30 years in the wild or up to 50 years or more in a zoo. Actually, the oldest flamingo was the most famous flamingo in Australia’s Adelaide Zoo when it was put to sleep at age 83.


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