A Bird Owner’s Guilt

Blue and gold macaw

I think that one of the hardest jobs here at Birdtricks is consoling owners whose birds have died. I don’t envy the ladies in customer service – sometimes it is heart wrenching.

Often people contact us because they need a shoulder to cry on – we all know how hard it is to find anyone who understands the way we love our birds. Sometimes it helps to communicate with people who you know won’t make little of your grief.

Perhaps the hardest is the contact with people whose own errors in judgment have resulted in the loss of their bird, or have in some way caused it suffering. There is guilt – and you can  feel its weight on them.

The cruelest emotion of all is regret. Knowing that you are responsible for something that has happened, seeing in your mind exactly where you went wrong and being unable to call that action back. It doesn’t matter how many people remind you that it was an accident and tell not to be hard on yourself because you didn’t know what the outcome would be, in your heart you know it was preventable and there is no forgiving yourself.

I have been there and have wrestled (and lost) with the words ”if only”. This post is about the unproductiveness of guilt.

Goffins cockatoo

We all make mistakes. We all forget to do things. We all use bad judgment at times. All of us.

I got word last week that a friend and a fellow bird owner lost her beloved goffins cockatoo because she neglected to padlock the cage before she left for work. She came home to an empty cage and eventually located her bird, dead from poisoning, beneath the kitchen sink.

She said that she had been preoccupied with a problem at work and her mind was not on her bird’s safety as she left the house. She vows to never own a bird again. She no longer considers herself a fit owner. I disagree and told her so.

If all she takes away from her experience with her bird is guilt, she is under-valuing its life. I know for a fact that her life with her bird had been a journey of learning and happiness and I know that her bird had a great life with her.

The manner in which her bird died is a tragedy. But I feel she should be grieving her bird’s loss, not her part in it. There is no gain in that thinking, only further loss.

I’m not sure whether forgiving yourself gives you the freedom to learn from your mistakes or whether personal growth allows for forgiveness. All I know for certain is that without both only negative things remain.

Even though this post has caused me to revisit some painful events with my birds, I choose to be thankful for the learning experiences that they have presented me with. I am eternally grateful for the small creatures that have pushed me to better myself which in turn helps me to be better to them. I have forgiven myself for my mistakes.

If you have lost a bird, or one became injured in your care, please share how you moved past it and how you grew to be a better bird owner because of it.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

68 comments

Vonnie

My beautiful Jo had diarrhoea vet gave me antibiotics I overdosed her by mistake reading the syringe my heart is broken . She had a stroke and died 3 days later I’m heartbroken the most loveliest intelligent little bird I can’t for give myself 😥😥😥

Vonnie
Gloria

My soul bird Frank died. He was an American Budgie and he talked…said real words and he was as in love with me as I was with him. It was an accident. My son was sleeping in the bird room and must have accidentally rolled on him. I’m heart broken. I loved him so much. I feel guilty for opening the cage but my son had slept in there before and nothing bad had happened. If the cage was closed it wouldn’t have happened. I will never have another bird like Frank, he was one of a kind and my heart has a huge hole. Of course my son is upset as well because he feels responsible so I hide my grief around him.

Gloria
Teresa

I see this article is old, but still, my precious 8-year-old cockatiel Lucy died today when I cleaned my oven (self-cleaning). The guilt is overwhelming.. We loved each other so…Thanks for the article..

Teresa
ecem

Revisiting these memories stirs up every emotion within me, transporting me back to that moment, leaving me unable to catch my breath. Three years ago, I was devastated by the sudden loss of my father to a heart attack. The shock of receiving that early morning call from the hospital, informing me of his three consecutive heart attacks, was overwhelming. Although he passed away alone, I found comfort in the presence of Yağmur, my loyal companion. Since childhood, rain has been my imaginary friend, my confidant, offering solace in times of sorrow. That’s why I named her Yağmur, which means rain in Turkish. She symbolized the enduring bond between my father and me. Every night, before we retired for the night, I would share my deepest longings for my father with her. But fate intervened, and I made a grave mistake that I deeply regret. As the weather warmed, I decided to take Yağmur outside for some fresh air. In a moment of affection, I reached out to give her a a kiss, but she slipped from my grasp. She fluttered away, landing on a distant tree, her frightened chirps echoing in the evening silence. For hours, I watched anxiously from below as she hopped from branch to branch in search of safety. But fear held her captive, and as darkness fell, I lost her forever. The night sky seemed to mourn with me, echoing the ache in my heart. Days turned into weeks of tireless searching for Yağmur, each moment a weight on my soul, a constant reminder of my inadvertent actions. Guilt consumed me, knowing that my recklessness robbed me of the last tangible connection to my father. Though Yağmur weighed only 100 grams, her pain felt like tons, crushing my soul beneath its weight. Every day is a struggle, every breath a painful reminder of my profound loss. I am haunted by memories of our time together, and the void left by Yağmur’s absence speaks volumes about the depth of my grief. In this darkness, I humbly ask for your prayers, as even the simplest act of breathing feels like an unbearable burden.

ecem
bella

It was on march 18 I knew he needed more food and water. the night before at 12 I went up to my room after being away and was gonna go to sleep planning to change his food and water the next day I grabbed a water bottle to drink it and he knows he’s getting more water when he hears a water bottle and he made a noise and started dancing, I wish I had just done it that night instead of being lazy. He was out of food and water for a little while so i was gonna do the next day but when I was about to leave to a appointment for the dentist I saw him laying in the corner on the bottom of his cage and I immediately grabbed him and ran to my mom she couldn’t hear a heartbeat or breathing he probably died in the middle of the night it was time to go to the dentist so we couldn’t do much so we put him in a shoe box with a blanket and his toy. If we didn’t have to go I feel like we could’ve done something and I regret it so much for not changing his food and water enough and not spending time with him and not trying harder to help him become alive again. I can’t stop crying

bella
Robin

My curious conure climbed into her plastic seed storage container through the flip top lid. I didn’t know she was in there when I closed the lid. I left for an overnight stay and discovered her body more than 12 hours after realizing she was missing. I’ll never forgive myself. Canela was a cinnamon green cheek. My friend for almost 15 years. Her young companion of just 1 year is grieving. He took such good care of her in life. In death he is watching o er her, sometimes preening her. He’s nesting and barely eating. It’s day one. Her body is laid out and we are in mourning together. I have 2 other birds grieving her loss as well, a pigeon and a cockatiel. Thank you for a place to write the unspeakable. I pray you each heal and find forgiveness. T

Robin
Sue

Hi I can’t believe that I used to come to this page to check what I should order or what kinds of training you guys have now I lost my baby Luna (green cheek conure) not sure how and why but I’m in pain. My chest feel heavy my house is quite she doesn’t call us anymore. No more of her chasing me around I just can’t imagine that she’s gone. She was only 2 . I feel horrible I light a candle for her every morning left a flower in her cage. I sent her for aqua-cremation. I feel I lost my own baby. I’m absolutely sad I want her back so bad. She left us a day after Valentine’s Day. I wished I spent more time with her. I wished she was here. I’m not gonna get another bird in my whole life because I loved her . I can’t have another bird I fails as a mom to take care of her. I’m shocked every day. Why did she left us. I never could imagine that she would leave. I was hoping she will see my baby but she’s gone so fast.

Sue
Jennifer

My father had picked up a young bird on the side of the road and brought it home. I was so exited to take care of it bought it worms and gave it water. The First day was challenging it didn’t really want to do much or take food from me. By day 3 after I took it into my care giving it attention, sleeping om my bed. I decided it was time to get a cage so it can have its own little space. It was taking food from me very happy…starting getting cheeky. I let it sleep in its cage (Which I om my bedroom floor for the night) This morning when I woke it had past. The ants had got to him. I know I should have let it sleep on my bed. If I could just turn back the clock and had not left it where the ants could get to it. None of this would have happend.

Jennifer
Lisa

I lost my Olive today. She got out and while I was trying to get her out of the tree a hawk came and grabbed her right in front of me. I am so devastated. Trying to find a way to forgive myself. My heart is shattered

Lisa
sand

lost our little conured my sister bought, and I blame myself for the death of him. I wish I could turn back time if only I would’ve been more responsible for him, and we only had him for 8 months now. He’s gone for a mistake I made, and he was such a kind bird. He’d always land on our heads and give kisses, and just the thought of it breaks my heart looking at his cage and not hearing him anymore.

sand
Freda

These stories are so helpful, and I thank everyone for their courage in sharing their grief. I too suffer from guilt because my sweet Linnie bird passed away last week and I can’t stop crying. He was so tame and trusted us fully. My family and I adored him! he would snuggle with us, eat with us, watch tv with us and was very much a part of our family. He spoke and would say “kisses”. One afternoon while I was having my afternoon coffee, my sweet bird joined me on the couch and wanted to snuggle. I let him go behind me on the couch and I arched my back so he could have room while he stayed cozy behind my back . I don’t know what happened, but after about half hour or so, I got up to see him just just lying there lifeless. I don’t know if I accidentally suffocated him or what but I screamed. I feel so terrible and feel so guilty, I don’t think I can ever forgive myself. He loved me and trusted me and I let him down. I also feel responsible for my family’s grief and I can’t stop replaying it all in my head. This is the worst feeling 😭. I loved him so much, and he’s gone. That pit in the stomach I feel is so painful and I don’t know how to move on from the guilt. I hope my story can help someone else, just like your stories are helping me. His name was Peanut, and he was a very special friend.

Freda
Freda

These stories are so helpful, and I thank everyone for their courage in sharing their grief. I too suffer from guilt because my sweet Linnie bird passed away last week and I can’t stop crying. He was so tame and trusted us fully. My family and I adored him! he would snuggle with us, eat with us, watch tv with us and was very much a part of our family. He spoke and would say “kisses”. One afternoon while I was having my afternoon coffee, my sweet bird joined me on the couch and wanted to snuggle. I let him go behind me on the couch and I arched my back so he could have room while he stayed cozy behind my back . I don’t know what happened, but after about half hour or so, I got up to see him just just lying there lifeless. I don’t know if I accidentally suffocated him or what but I screamed. I feel so terrible and feel so guilty, I don’t think I can ever forgive myself. He loved me and trusted me and I let him down. I also feel responsible for my family’s grief and I can’t stop replaying it all in my head. This is the worst feeling 😭. I loved him so much, and he’s gone. That pit in the stomach I feel is so painful and I don’t know how to move on from the guilt. I hope my story can help someone else, just like your stories are helping me. His name was Peanut, and he was a very special friend.

Freda
Amy

I’m completely heartbroken as my budgie Petal died last night what seemed to us “suddenly” but in fact she had been ill for a long time without me realising. I can’t describe how devastated I am to know she was suffering and could easily have been treated if only I’d taken her to the vet sooner. Yesterday morning I found her huddled on the bottom of the cage with her feathers all fluffed up and I knew that was a very serious sign so called the emergency vet and they cared for her for about 10 hours before she passed away. She wasn’t even 2 years old and I feel so guilty that I didn’t know more about signs of illness. We have another budgie who is now nearly 7 and has been to the vet a couple of times, but overall has been very easy to care for, and the vet gave me better advice about their diet etc, so I thought I was giving them everything they needed to be healthy. Petal most likely had a crop infection (although there could have been a different cause) and it turns out she had actually been suffering with vomiting for a long time and had lost a lot of weight. It really pains me to think of how long she was ill and I never realised. I thought she was just throwing food around and making a mess. I cleaned their cage and food and water bowls every day but the bowls were on the floor and although I was careful to position them away from perches I suspect this is why she became ill. In 7 years It never caused a problem for the other bird and the vet never mentioned it when we visited :‘( It is hard to imagine I’ll ever be able to think of this without feeling completely heartbroken as well as terribly guilty. I am trying to forgive myself for not knowing everything but it’s so hard when my poor innocent bird died because of my ignorance. Reading these stories has helped me as I can feel everyone’s pain at losing a bird they loved, and feeling that they should have been able to prevent it. It is an awful feeling and so sad. Sometimes terrible things happen, but the love for these companions really shines out from all of these stories. Grief is so hard – sending love to anyone reading this who feels like they failed their friend.

Amy
Kuttush's Owner

I had my “kuttush”, a really sweetheart bird. She would mimic cat sounds in a really clear voice and we all laugh. She learned to say many things. A cheerful, social butterfly, and warm hearted bird. Specially she just loved it when childrens play with her. There’s not a day when we forgot about her or forget to give her loving kisses and light massages, She loved it and would sleep soundly. She was a little weak from the start and got sick at a time. Some say that might be because of mosquito bite or she had fever. We tried everything to bring our Kuttush back. At a point she even stop saying everything. We got worried but didn’t stop trying. After some day eventually she started to talk a little but very limited and slowly recovering. As it was winter time she again got sick a little so I didn’t wanted her to suffer same. So I tried to feed medicine with a dropper as I usually do. Maybe I was way too harsh this time she chocked and died. All because of me. Every second I was thinking “what if I just ignored giving medicine to her that day” “what if I didn’t went to that room where she was that day” this things literally eating me alive. Every single person loved her….her sound was so soothing. She loved to sit on warm clothes. So every night we had to put a warm clothe for her. She would just stare when you eat just like puppy eyes. I’m guilty not only for being careless but snaching everyone’s happiness. Everyone was sad and still they do. I feel so bad and guilt. Blaming myself just became a habit. I should have been careful that day. Or maybe I should have just let someone else giving her medicine. It hurts me still . And i will never be able to adore or love a per like her. My whole family loved her and I just killed it. I know it happened accidentally accidentally. But can’t forgive myself for this.

Kuttush's Owner
Inga

Our little Corella Coco was pure happiness and joy for us. 4 years old, he had been with us for over 3 years, a full family member indeed. Mischievous, sociable, playful, and very tender, he would play with us all the time. The veterinarian who observed Coco said she had never met such a sociable and smart corella. He would sit on our shoulders and give a kiss, mimicking the kiss sound, would hide and then jump out and boo us, do all types of funny things, watch movies with us, and hang around while I worked on my note. He had so much character and smarts, that I used to say that was a reincarnation of a human, who somehow managed to retain his human intellect. Coco was pure joy. How everyone loved him, how my son calling from abroad would talk to him every time, how we all warned each other when Coco was on the floor, how we shared allowed food with him, all was a beautiful chain of traditions that loving beings share in a family. When it was time for the cage, he would usually fly from place to place and we would chase him, laughing and clapping. It was like a ritual, a play we all enjoyed. We changed our apartment a month ago, and he was less used to the new apartment. About a week ago, as I chased him to get back to his cage, he made some unusual sharp sounds, like he did not enjoy it. My husband then simply stretched his hand and he quietly sat on it as he put him back in the cage. I kissed him good night, as usual, and noticed that he looked somewhat different. “Pretending offended”, I guessed. Ok, I kissed him good night. Let him calm down, I will make up with him tomorrow. In the morning, changing his food and water, he was quietly sitting at the corner and even ate a bit. I went to my study to work. A couple of hours later, I approached the cage and found him on the cage floor lifelessly stretched on his belly. I held him, kissed him, tried to do artificial breathing, and massaged his heart while hysterically running to the veterinarian. She said he was dead and found a tiny blood stain near his beak. She said probably he hurt his beak while flying in the house he was not well accustomed to, and it resulted in a stroke. Or maybe, he got poisoned with avocado that I unknowingly allowed him to eat with me the previous day. I feel so guilty. And I had no time to properly make up with him. But most of all, I cannot forgive myself, that I was not with him the moment he felt bad, the moment he needed some tenderness, care, and a warm grip. My little Coco, we miss him so badly. No other bird can ever replace him. No other pet can ever be him.

Inga
Artem

I lost my beloved cockatiel a week ago. He was about 2.5 years old, and would drink from cups with no problem, so he has one in his cage filled with water. One morning, me and my wife were laying in the bedroom, and I remember seeing him alive for the last time when I first came out to the bathroom and then when we were listening to music back in the bedroom I heard a brief scream, but paid no attention to it, since he used to scream periodically all the time with no particular reason (like could’ve seen a bird in the window or heard someone whistling). Maybe a 5-15 minutes have passed, so I when I came out I’ve seen him laying in the cup with the head down. I immediately tried to CPR him but no luck. Still can’t believe that have happened. If it wasn’t for cup or at least I wasn’t laying in the bed at that exact time, I could’ve saved him. And it tears me apart, that the before I came to sleep a day before that, he was outside the cage so I picked him up in the darkness to put him in, but he got scared and bite me. Last few moments with him were when I got bitten and a brief look in the morning and when I heard him screaming for help but did nothing. I can’t get over this… Wish I could do CPR better, maybe I could’ve saved him, or never allowed him to drink from cups. I miss you

Artem
Tristana

It’s been over a year and I still miss my budgie so much. I got him for my daughter during the pandemic and working from home, it quickly became clear that he was a special guy. I spent a lot of time with him, and he would fly around the house, and hang out on my shoulder, and computer monitor all day. He learned to talk a few phrases, and was just a delightful companion. One day, my kids and I gave him some avocado from the dinner table, not knowing it is toxic to birds (and most animals, by the way). This was after we returned to work, so I left for the day without paying too much attention to him. He died shortly after I returned home from work that day. I still miss him dearly. I have two other parakeets and they are great, but they’re not him. I regret that mistake and while I learned a lesson, I can’t get my guy back.

Tristana
Michelle

I just feel guilty because I am not good enough for my birds I barely get to see them and I just am not ready feeling like giving up but I can’t its to hard I am crying right now

Michelle
Dee

I cannot forgive myself for my carelessness that caused my beloved Quaker parrot escaping. Picked him up from his carer while id been away. Usually he would sit on my husband’s shoulder in the car and would be put inside husbands jacket for safe transport to his cage in the house. On my own I attempted to do the same but he sat at the back of the car this time, I had to open the back car door to reach him ,to step up, didn’t get a chance to grab him before he flew through the gap at the top of the car door. Was just on dusk so very little light left for searching and listening. Calling and searching, but there’s lots of trees and bush and long distances between people and any chances if sightings. Devastated and so guilty I didn’t think ahead to cover all gaps and escape options he had. Miss him terribly and will never forgive myself for what I have put him through.

Dee
My_dear_joy

I had to travel with my family ,so I left my indian ring neck with a bird stay I left my bird with not so long ago . She was alive and in good health when I sent her to the stay. I was contacted yesterday that it is very sick and they are trying to save her . I asked for details and got nothing , I asked for video to send it to a vet to try and save her, took them so long to reply to me and when they did she had already passed I love this bird dearly , she was a joy to have a round and spent my covid days with her . I wish I had chosen a better place to keep her in , I wish I had taken more videos and photos of her . I miss her so much and I can’t even see her

My_dear_joy
Kels

My cockatiel was dancing on his cage showing signs he wanted to come down, so he hopped into my shoulder and started hanging out. I noticed his lower beak is getting long and that’s never happened in the 10 years I’ve had him. I quickly googled , and it showed I can file or clip the bottom beaks tip. I held my cockatiel in my hand and clipped the tip. As I was looking to see if I did a decent job, his body just went limp and his head hung… I think I stressed him and he just died in my hands . I feel aweful I was only trying to help him and now he’s gone .

Kels
Maria Hollum

Our blue cheek conure Echo died tonight. My sun who was on way to the bathroom didn’t see Echo sitting on top. He closdd the door and from then it was just hell. Echo started spinning with his head in 90 degrees angle. Screeming in pain. We jumped in my car and drove to veterinarian who, like me, saw that there was no hope Echo would survive this. She gave him the shot and now he is finally painfree. We had him for 5 days. He was so social, loved everybody who came in our livingroom. I had already learned him recall, used clicker and worked on training to spin around. BirdTrics learned me so much too. I immediatly contacded the breeder ant they were so understanding, even willing to sell us another bird. My son is in bad shape now, I worry for him. He does not want to talk now. It was all terrible tragedy and I hope that our experience will learn another new bird owner, just how important it is to be aware of where the bird is, at all times 😢

Maria Hollum
Valerie

I’m here because our lovebird died a couple days ago. I’m lying here crying because I believe she died of starvation. Its something that could have been prevented and its all my fault. Me and my teenage son usually feed her and change her water but I guess at some point we both assumed that the other person had fed her. I should have been checking on her. I work nights so I sleep during the day and im always tired. I feel terrible. We both had her out a couple days before she died and she was extra affectionate with my son. Hes her person and I know he loved her a lot and hes feeling guilty as well. If only I could turn back time. :( I dont know if I’ll ever forgive myself for being so careless.

Valerie
TaShina

I fell asleep this morning after I got home from work, I was especially tired and fell into a deep sleep. My pet cockatiel Cheerio was sitting on his cage door when I fell asleep and he must’ve flown down to the bed at some point and I rolled over on him. I woke up and as I was getting up off the bed I realized he was lying there where my leg would’ve been—he was gone. It feels like a nightmare I’m replaying in my head, as I realized he was gone and what must’ve happened. I’m heartbroken. It’s hard to not feel guilty although I know it’s a freak thing. I’ve had him 2 years and his cage door is always open because he can’t really fly and I just wanted him to be able to move around freely on the large ledge where his cage sits. The only thing giving me any solace right now is the fact that my last memory of him alive is holding him briefly, scratching his neck, kissing his head and telling him I loved him and good night. I miss his sweet little presence already! I live in a small basement apartment with little sunlight that gets in and am moving in a few months… I was excited for him to be in a different place with more sunlight. And now he’s gone. 💔😭

TaShina
Amy

My green cheek buddy flew away almost 3 days ago and my heart is broken. I saw him looking lonely and sad at a pet store over 3 years ago and am still glad I impulsively took him home, even though I knew nothing about conures. He wasn’t a sure affectionate or cuddly friend but he has been with me through a bad break up and a move and I miss him so much. On moving day I left him in my kitchen with his toys and cage, food and water and I knew my family would be in and out of the house as well so he would have plenty of attention. He also never flew out of my old house before and I had the door open near him many times, not even a flinch. We were only moving things into the new house for 30-60 mins and out he flew when one of the doors opened. I have so much regret for not being more careful and locking him in a room until the move was over. We searched and yelled for hours and I still have his cage outside and bring fresh food, fruit and vegetables, and water out everyday. I don’t want to give up hope but in my heart I know he was way to pampered to survive this long… humid weather, fireworks, and tons of hawks around. Reading the bird owner’s guilt made me stop crying for the 1st time in days, so thank you. I decided I will build him a little memorial and donate his toys, cages, carriers, ect. To a shelter next week if he doesn’t come back. And if I do get to see his beautiful face again, he gets all brand new stuff!

Amy

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