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.

33 comments

LC

I recently started going to in-person school, so I didn’t see my bird on the regular only after school. i got picked up by my parents this afternoon only for them to tell me that our bird had died. i thought they were doing some kind of sick prank but when my mom started crying, i screamed and had a panic attack, i couldnt breathe. my bird has been with us for 8 years, my bird(bebe) was basically my brother. he died because no one was watching him outside, he was taken by a hawk and my mom was fighting it with all her might but the hawk took off and dropped my baby on the concrete. i cant believe my brother is gone. to be completely honest he was a depressed bird and he has been through an accident when he was about 3 or 2, which was again completely my parents fault. my parents were arguing and when my bird was going to fly in the room, they accidently slammed the door, right when he was going in, the door slammed against him. he survived and, and the doctors said he might not fly again but he did, it was a miracle. he’s so strong, but now he’s gone, he died but he needed too, he needed to rest. but i wish i could go back in time to erase the pain he went through. i miss him so much.

LC
Lauren

I owned a pair of budgies for about a year and a half. I loved them very much and tried to do the best I could for them. Two days ago I was cleaning their cage, and I left them in my room on a chair where they usually sit. I went back into the kitchen, leaving them unsupervised with the door to my bathroom. I was about 2/3 of the way done cleaning when I heard one of my birds(Monty) squawking, so I went to check and there was only one on the chair. I looked for the other one(Niko) everywhere and called out for him. I also knew that he would sometimes fly into my bathroom. I walked in to see him dead in the toilet. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked and I remember screaming and pulling him out and just holding him. I think I tried to do some bird CPR, but we don’t know how long he was there. I feel like it was all my fault. I shouldn’t have left them unsupervised and I should’ve closed the door. I also didn’t let Monty see Niko’s body and it kills me a little inside to see him wait for Niko to come back. Anyways this is my story and I hope no one has to go through what I went through. Niko, I really miss you bud.

Lauren
Mo

My baby budgie berrie died on the 23rd December and I can not stop crying she was only 2 years old I feel like this could of been prevented it was normall day every morning I open berries cage hour later I went to take my bins down I was not even gone 5 mins come back and my budgie was laid on her back infront of My dog I screamed it qasbthe worse day of my life there was no blood? I waited hour incase she came round I put her on my side for 5 hours as I just thought a miracle could happen but nothing my dog and berrie have been out together for 2 years I am in shock I can’t believe it it doesn’t seem real it has traumatised me so much I can’t stop crying she has been cremated and is at home with me but I just want her back being loud and lairy I’ve never lost a pet before I can’t deal with it

Mo
Micah Calderon

My cockatiel was on my moms shoulder while she was doing Halloween preparations. Her phone ringtone went off which startled her and she flew off her shoulder. Instead of normally flying to the floor she flew over the fence onto the street. I heard her calling her name so I ran outside. We were on the front lawn looking for her when I saw a hawk attacking her down the street. I ran as fast as I could but right when I got to her the hawk flew off with her. I jumped from rooftops looking for her and only found a collection of her feathers were she was struggling against the hawk. I was so close to her if only she could have stayed away from his talons a little longer I could have scared it away from her. I blame myself for not being fast enough to reach her. It tears me up inside knowing that I could have saved her had I just ran straight from my room to her location instead of wasting time walking in the house and front lawn. I miss her so much. I would nap with her on my back and my family loved her. She was taken too soon. Even though a hawk took her and a phone ringtone scared her off most of my anger is towards myself. I should have saved her she was so close.

Micah Calderon
grace

i lost my baby bird of 5 years a few days ago and it’s destroyed me. i was just showing her to my mother because she had a bath and looked so cute, and our dog was sitting at her feet. my bird Stella suddenly flew away and was just right above my dog, when he suddenly grabbed her. he immediately dropped her but my heart stopped and i knew something was wrong. her wings were spreading weirdly and her lower body just went limp. i rushed to my old work (i worked at a pet store) to see if anyone could help – she died 20 minutes later and i wailed and sobbed for hours and hours. im autistic and she was my emotional support animal, she made me so happy and feel so so loved and now she is gone. my heart is broken and i feel so guilty.

grace
Aanchal kotnala

I never had any pet my entire life , my love for animal hasn’t been much either. I wont hurt them ever nor would see anyone else hurting them. So bare minimal . I dont feel the emotional connect though. Previous week when the lady who lives on the upper family went to her mothers place for 2 weeks asked me to feed and water the birds which i was okay with . they were left on the balcony in their cage . I would go watch them twice a day change their water feed them grains cover them in the night so that they wont get cold .Today when i went ,I found the cage open . I looked in everywhere . i couldn’t find them . I feel so guilty and irresponsible , in dont have clear memory of closing the cage correctly I do think i did but there is a scope for error . i feel responsible for she loosing her birds. For birds I wish they are happy wandering in the sky and safe which seems highly unlikely because I have heard they are easy prey. I do hope they can come back i would be more than happy . I feel like such a bad person .

Aanchal kotnala
Cheryl George

I lost my Umbrella cockatoo last night. I slept overnight at my grandkids house and left her in an open cage covered with a blanket. Like I done 100 times before over the last 14 years. She loves to chew on blankets. She must have chewed a hole and put her head in and panicked. I found her hanging with her neck broken. She was my little baby. My husband just loved this bird. Cockatoos are challenging but we didn’t mind playing and cuddling with her 3 hours a day. We are absolutely devastated. Such a freak accident. Her companion bird in same room is lost without her. I can’t even think of replacing her. She was one of a kind. My house is so quiet I can’t stand it. I just want my Cotton back. We have not slept all night. I keep thinking it’s a bad dream.

Cheryl George
Elizabeth

Someone’s pet pigeon found its way to my home even though it’s wings were clipped it could still fly short distances. He hung around, not at all afraid of humans and even when shooed away would just sit. He spent the night on my roof and was sitting on my sidewalk the next morning. I needed to move him because I have dogs. I’ve never had a bird and didn’t know this was someone’s pet until I tried to catch him. He walked away and managed to escape every attempt I made. On my last try he flew onto my neighbors roof. I felt awful and went inside to reach someone who could save him. Within minutes a hawk killed him. His downy feathers covered almost an acre of yard. I am devastated and can’t get over his death. I feel horrible guilt that this beautiful, helpless creature came to me seeking help and instead I caused it’s death. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself.

Elizabeth
George

My pet budgie Fluffy who my wife and I love got her head jammed in the door way when i entered the room . She died after letting out a large squeak and hitting the ground with a thud followed by a pool of blood immediately. Its been so hard coping with the loss . She was the most uniquely coloured budgie I’ve seen and she had a character that would lift anyone’s spirits. I can’t forgive myself for closing the door .

George
Toqqa

I had two fishs before getting gifted two parakeets, when the fishs died I swore never to buy a pet ever again, coincidently our neighbor gifted us (especially my youngest brother) two parakeets the next day and I swore to never take care of them because I didn’t want to become attached to them as I did to the fishs (sidenote: I was the only one who took care of the fishs even though they weren’t mine, they were my brother’s. They lived with us for about two years), anyways because of my soft spot towards animals, I eventually found myself getting closer to them and taking care of them, and of course no one took care of them except for me. I used to clean their cage, feed them and so on. Unfortunately I was in my exams period so I neglected them a bit. I put them in my room so I can talk to them and stay with them while studying. I wanted to buy them a bigger cage, toys and food after my exams. But before doing any of that one of them (the female) died suddenly, she was very active and playing around and singing this morning. I searched the reason why she would die so suddenly and found it could be an infection or night fright. By the way before any of that, we went to my grandparents house and brought them with us as I didn’t want to leave them for more than a week alone, but the problem is that my grandmother doesn’t like animals in the house so I put their cage in the balcony and I put a cover on their cage because of the sun but I couldn’t stop dogs from barking or cars from honking so I think the reason was night fright. Now, I don’t know what to do with the male, the female just died and the male is still sleeping, we removed the body and buried her before he wakes up, I don’t know if that is right but I wasn’t in a state to think of what to do and my brother is the one who buried her. Now, I have mixed feelings between regret, grief and what to do to the male when he wakes up. Anyways I will try my best for the male parakeet and will never ever buy another pet, I don’t think my heart will be able to bear any of that again. P.S : my country barely have places to buy birds necessities if any one knows where to buy please tell me, and is it okay not to get my bird out the cage because the last time it hurt his nose? thanks in advance. And I apologize for the long talk but I needed to get it all out.

Toqqa
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

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