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.

23 comments

Ranjani

A week ago my sun conure flew away. I feel guilty that I should have been more careful . She flew from a small hole in our balcony which nothing can go off of. All I can think is she made a decision long ago to fly away and still I feel terrible. I decided not to buy another bcz she is my one and only frvr, I hope she is safe on the other side flying like she always wanted to and carefree. She is a free spirit so it’s better that she is not caged to be with me anymore. Her memories are enough to cherish and she is still my go to person. I will always love her and she will be with me one way or another. I hope I can let go of this guilt someday .

Ranjani
Polly

We lost our lovely budgie Billy on the 4th May 2022. Only had him 7 months although we had lots of budgies before him. After the loss off our last one we said never get another. Until my mother-in-law went into a home and we took Billy on. We was having windows fitted by a guy we new very well so to leave him to do the job while we was at work was OK. The first day of window fitting we put Billy in the back bedroom with the radio on he was content shouting all day till we came in from work on the second day we did the same putting Billy in the back bedroom while the large front window down stairs was being fitted. We got in from work there was a strong smell of chemicals where they had cleaned the window we thought nothing off it. My husband went upstairs to Billy to find him dead at the bottom of his cage he had bled out from around his nose. He hadn’t had a bang or anything my hubby says he’s had a hemorrhage but me I feel it was the chemical used on the window. I Just feel so guilty we put him out of the way so no harm would come to him but we failed and he died. I keep thinking what if we had let my mum have him for a few days while work was going on or why didn’t I just take time from work to check he was OK. I have friends and family comforting me with kind words but it’s no good the guilt is eating away at me knowing my little Billy bled to death. Feel so sad.

Polly
Jack

My beloved budgie George was only 4 months old, i had left him unattended in my room a couple times and he died from crop impaction because i couldn’t afford the vet. I’ve never felt more guilty in my life – but seeing these other stories is a comfort

Jack
Licia Hunter

I still to this day can’t forgive myself for not holding my angel cockatiel Lucy when he was so sick. I called it him being content when in fact I should have cuddled him every second. Now he is gone. I can’t forgive myself. I was asleep when he crossed over and let him down again. I hate myself. I had him for 27 years. He was my everything. He passed 4 months ago and I still am no closer to closure than the day he left. I am a mess.

Licia Hunter
Harry

My sun conure went missing 3 weeks ago, he was only 15months old, I had him since he was 3 months old. Spent everyday with him. I made a mistake when flying him, I had made a perch for him to land on which he would do even being outside, I put the perch to far away and encouraged him to fly. He didn’t feel comfortable landing on it from so far away. As he flew to it he decided he couldn’t land, flew in a circle above my yard and landed in a neighbours tree, it was late evening and I didn’t note the time. It became dark too soon so I was forced to leave him in the tree over night. When I went to get him from the tree I tried calling out “no response” and I attached my phone on a long pole to see where he was in the canapé of the tree but he was not there. I spent too much time looking at that tree but he probably moved to a near by tree when i took my eyes off him. Never take your eyes off your bird that’s very important! He must have flown off somewhere, searched on foot for a week with no luck. It was difficult because I had no idea what direction he went and could not hear him. I saw an unusual amount of hawks in a tree not too far, but I couldn’t make it to that tree. I have no idea if hawks got him, if he is somehow still alive or is dead. I just don’t know. I hope for his return everyday and I cry every morning when I wake up. I feel guilt because of these mistakes I made, worst mistake of my life. I feel scared for life, and I’m struggling to cope with him missing.

Harry
Ashlynne

I lost my baby bird Matilda Grace after almost 2 years of owning her. She flew onto her favorite spot on the door to chase after my boyfriend down the stairs and I shut the door without thinking and her neck was completely extended ready to fly down. I broke her neck. All I could do was scream when it happened. She died 20-30 minutes later. I gave her chest compressions as we rushed to the emergency vet but there was nothing they could do. I killed my baby bird. My best friend. It’s been so hard and everybody keeps telling me accidents happen and she’s in a better place but I do wish I could have done it differently. It’s been a week and it’s still so hard. I have to sell her cage and I loved that bird with everything I had. She made me realize a lot about life. What a powerful little conure. I will forever miss her.

Ashlynne
Nancy Hallman Partido

We lost our Floyd (parrotlet) almost a month ago. I blame my self because I was about to put him in the cage then took a call. My mom didn’t realize he was hanging on her and she sat on him. Our hearts are so broken and I can’t get passed “if i only” It’s been the hardest month ever. I’m lost without him.

Nancy Hallman Partido
Ines

Today my beige and blue budgie that I had since summer 2019 died, or in other ways, I’m the one who killed her, and I killed her other pair in summer. Ofc I gave them food and water and afford a cage for them. But I neglected them. I didn’t play with them, I didn’t make any effort to buy them a better cage with toys so they won’t get bored. I always find excuses for not being able to care for them more, all I did was freaking them out when trying to get them out of the cage, hoping they would feel better when they fly in the room. I didn’t make any effort to get close to them or play with them. I cared only about myself, telling myself that when I cope with anxiety and stress I’ll take better care of them, after that the green budgie died. The other one stayed alone when she shouldn’t be. I found another excuse which is studying, telling myself when I finish studying I’ll spend more time with her. Now she died. She died because she was isolated. I’ve put her on the balcony where our cat couldn’t reach her. From time to time I check up on her, to see if she’s still alive. I always knew she was sad and lonely but I kept convincing myself that she could resist until summer when I pass my exams. I was wrong. I’ve never seen such a view, her face was calm when I saw it like she finally rested. Finally, she’s free from the torture she was in . The torture I’ve put her through. I will never forget the expression she had on her face. I never hated myself till this point in my entire life. I shouldn’t have accepted to take care of them when I knew I couldn’t handle such responsibility. I am the one to blame.I’m happy for u my budgies you’re finally free, from me, like you should’ve been from the beginning <3

Ines
KC

I’m feeling so much guilt… my budgie’s death was preventable. The weekend was busy with family events that we had forgotten to take the medicated water out of the cage after the 2nd day. My sweet Bertha ended up overdosing and she died in the palm of my hands later in the evening. I’m so disappointed in myself and I don’t know how I’m able to forgive what I’ve done. I’ve been crying everyday since. I miss her so much…How does one move past this guilt? 😭

KC
Krystle

It’s been 4 months since my peppa was killed by my father’s dogs. I am still not able to forgive myself for not saving him in time. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move on from the guilt. I should have protected him better. I still cry every single day. I truly lost my best friend.

Krystle
Licia Hunter

I would like to connect with Louis who left a comment about his 22 year old baby. I am doing the same thing. Videos and pictures and can’t stop crying.

Licia Hunter
Louise S

It’s been almost 4 weeks to the day that I lost my 22 year-old Senegal parrot Caesar. He was a beautiful boy and I loved him dearly. He was diagnosed with a fatty liver 7 months ago and I put him on pellets along with fresh vegetables fruits and eggs. Before his diet was nuts and fresh food. He was doing much better and maintaining his weight and behaving normally and then one morning I got up and he was barely breathing and was unconscious. I held him in my hands and he died. I loved him with all my heart and when I was away from him I always thought about him and worried about him and we were close companions. But I have so much guilt I don’t feel like I did enough for him and that he died because of me. I am retired and most of my days spent thinking about him and missing him and feeling guilt that he could of lived longer if I did this , or if I didn’t do that. He was my responsibility and I should have took him off the seeds long ago. Now I spend my days looking at videos I made of him and voice recordings and pictures that I took of him over the years. Oh God I wish I did things differently for that sweet little innocent creature that I loved so much. All these questions running through my mind and torture me.Why didn’t I do enough.

Louise S
Lucia

I am grieving the loss of my Rosella parrot Rudy. It was my fault that he died and I am having a hard time dealing with it. I went into his walk in cage and startled him. He flew out and landed on top of his cage. I continued to clean the cage and figured he would go back in, which he did once before. I left the room for a while and when I went back is was trying to find the entrance to get back in but couldn’t. I left the room again for a while and he still couldn’t find the entrance and was on the wrong side of the cage. I thought I would prompt him in the right direction, and he got nervous flew around the room and hit the wall and fell and died. He broke his neck. This happened July 2nd of this year, and I am so heartbroken, that I have been unable to eat and sleep, and wake up with so much guilt everyday for not leaving him alone to find his way back into the cage. My impatience caused him to die, when that was the last thing in the world I would ever do was to hurt my beloved pet. Dealing with this is so painful, I walk up each morning hoping it was just a nightmare, but it is not. I have to forgive myself for being so stupid.

Lucia
Pooja

I recently lost a cockatiel who I had just bought a month ago. She was diagnosed with avian gastric yeast on the 14th day. Even though I had no bond with her I felt responsible for treating her. I was consulting 3 vets to do the best for her but finally I was in-charge of whom I listened to. Also I did not trust any vet completely and used the most conservative advice and my own judgement and internet. I got my bird’s stool also tested every 5 days and was giving her medication. Her reports progressively showed decline in infection and finally came negative on 14th day and hence on advice of one of the vets I stopped the medication. Also I never saw any symptoms of agy ever in her as per internet before also except her being very lethargic. So I was very sure of stopping medication as antifungal are very hard on their systems and can have bad side effects. I was meaning to have a follow up poop test again in 5 days after stopping medication and also starting her on Apple cider vinegar for precaution after stopping medication. But somehow the ACV buying and all from Amazon got delayed as I got busy and sidetracked with other things. She died in 4 days of me stopping the medication. Though she was not very lethargic and was preening chirping everything. In those 4 days I did think what if she has relapsed again but thought maybe I was panicking. This guilt me delaying the apple cider vinegar water in time will never leave me . This was not suggested by any vet but was my own research and could have probably saved the little creature who was though ill had a curious zeal for life.

Pooja
Nanette

I am struggling with staying connected to my recently deceased bird flower, a beautiful pineapple conure. She flew out of the house as i was going to take her for a walk. Looking for her later in the dark we had ended up running over her because she landed on the ground in front of us. I feel disconnected because while she was alive, i never did the right thing for her. I never gave her the right food. I never harness trained her. She would ask me for attention and i was to into my own thing. And even now after her death i am doing the same thing, being selfish. I want to keep her near me but i feel my selfishness is keeping her away. If you have lost your bird, please be with me in heart and we can feel them with us always.

Nanette
Sarah

My grey cockatiel Pepper flew from the cage because I did not clasp the cage correctly and his cage was in the backyard. After an hour I found out that Pepper is gone. I was not getting time to get his wings clipped. I am so guilty because after searching for him every where and posting his ad online and at the shelter, I still cannot find him. I keep blaming myself for being so irresponsible. I cannot let his memories go away. He was with me since 6 months. I am distorted and heart broken.

Sarah
Sarah

My grey cockatiel Pepper flew from the cage because I did not clasp the cage correctly and his cage was in the backyard. After an hour I found out that Pepper is gone. I was not getting time to get his wings clipped. I am so guilty because after searching for him every where and posting his ad online and at the shelter, I still cannot find him. I keep blaming myself for being so irresponsible. I cannot let his memories go away. He was with me since 6 months. I am distorted and heart broken.

Sarah
Christine Belanger

Last week my husband was putting on his heavy workboots and when he stood up Jay our wonderful chatty parrotlet was under his boot and died.It was heart wrenching for us, and I had a bird rescue going on in our home, and the next day I rehomed all of them except 2 lovebirds.I just couldn’t cope.I am still in shock, of course I don’t blame my husband it was an accident..he is beating himself up every day and i keep telling him accidents happpen….

Christine Belanger
Shirley A. Martin

I just lost one of my sun conures yesterday. He flew past me as I was closing the door to the aviary. I had been meaning to clip their wings, but other things had priority over this. Now I just wish that I had let something else go and tend to my birds. I have learned a valuable lesson. I haven’t given up hope of him coming home or being found by someone that will return him. My Lord and Savior works great miracles every day. Thank you, Jesus.

Shirley A. Martin
Faye Westholm

I would be interested to learn what foods are bad and/or poisonous to tropical birds. My yellow-crested Amazon, Dolly, 25 years old, has experienced and been treated for liver problems in the past - and yes, I’ve stopped giving her alcoholic beverages - just kidding!!! My avian vet suggested I give her more “native” foods like mango and papaya which she loves. I know that some foods are dangerous and even deadly to tropicals, such as avocado, but are there other foods that should definitely be avoided at all cost? I would be grateful for any information on that subject.

Faye Westholm
Gaye

Good article, Patty. I lost my precious, Peppy, a budgie, several yrs. ago and today I STILL say “IF” only ….. if only I knew of a better diet for him then perhaps he would have lived much longer. Peppy died of a tumor as many budgies do, however, to this day I blame myself :’(. Amy Young: Even if your cockatiel had clipped wings, he still could have escaped as they are extremely fast fliers, even with wings clipped.

Gaye
Gayla Kilbride

My beautiful Blue & Gold Macaw companion of 29 years, Feather LaFeet, passed away of cancer in 2009. I’m not sure but I think it started in 2005 when she laid a sponge-like misshaped egg. I took her to the vet and he said if it happens again we might want to remove the female organs. She never laid another egg. I didn’t think anything of it until she got an open sore at the base of her tail. I took her to the vet immediately but the x-ray showed a huge mass in her abdomen. The Dr. said it was cancer and I might get another 3 months with her. I didn’t want her to suffer any longer. I had to make that heartbreaking difficult decision to let her go. He said he probably would have been able to do something about it if “I Only” I brought her in for yearly check-ups. In hind sight I wish I had had her female organs removed in 2005. She would probably be with me today. I still don’t have the heart to get another parrot.

Gayla Kilbride
Candice C

Seven years ago this month (June 1st, 12 noon on the dot), I lost my beloved blue-headed Pionus, Ares. He was newly and fully flighted, a very strong flier, and I hadn’t clipped his wings. I like my birds to be fully flighted before I trim three or four of their primaries, to hinder their ability to gain altitude but still allow them to get air so they don’t just drop and break a bone. Ares had also just turned one year old earlier that year, so I suppose you could say he was fully fledged. Well, seven years ago at 12 noon on June 1st, I took him outside with me to get the mail. He was perched on my left hand and I had my thumb firmly over his feet on my finger. A large bird, probably a crow, flew directly overhead and its shadow passed over us. Ares spooked and yanked free of my grip and flew toward the backyard. I thought he would land in the grass and call for me so I didn’t immediately chase after him. But he made a right turn and kept going. Then I chased after him, calling him to come back. I chased him through my neighbor’s backyard, he made another right turn and I chased him through the neighbor’s side yard, then across the street, and he vanished over another neighbor’s house. I searched for an entire year for him, putting flyers in grocery stores and vet offices and dentist offices and doctor’s offices and even in home improvement/garden stores. In July the year after Ares vanished, I got a phone call from a woman living nearby asking if I’d found my bird yet. I said “no, have you?” and she said “no, but I’ve got a proposition for you.” That weekend, I met her Jenday conure Tipsy, and two weeks later I brought him home with me. She could no longer care for him properly and her daughter’s boyfriend/fiancee was an abusive f—k toward him, so she was happy to give him to me. A few weeks later, during Tipsy’s quarantine period, she came over to visit him and see his new home. She met my cockatiel Matisse, whom Tipsy was already fond of because he lived with a disabled little female Lutino cockatiel before he came home with me. She was teary-eyed but happy, and Tipsy and Matisse are happy and healthy. Matisse is happy to have another bird to socialize with, and Tipsy is too. Still, for seven years I have never forgiven myself for taking Ares outside, even though doing so brought Tipsy into my life. I was adamant that I would never get another bird and would just spoil Matisse, but when I met Tipsy , that all changed. I still hold out hope that one day Ares will come back to me, but he probably died within the first week of his escape flight. Tipsy has mostly healed the vacuum that Ares left in my heart, but it will always be there. And I don’t think I’ll ever come to forgive myself for being such a f—king idiot.

Candice C

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