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.

69 comments

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
Cari

We lost one of our parakeets today. She accidentally starved to death and I’m not sure how I’ll get over the guilt! We are in the middle of a move, completely overwhelmed and have 6 adopted goats to care for (one of which is a mama and two babies not doing well). I fed the parakeets a couple of days ago and then came down with a bad respiratory virus. I was in bed for two days with my lungs on fire (and somewhat disoriented) and crawled out of it just to care for the sick goats, feed my own human kids (four of them), and get right back in bed. I was finally able to wake up feeling more like myself this morning and as I walked into the hallway, my daughter came to me this morning saying one of the birds had died and I instantly knew no one had fed them! My daughter shared that the one that passed away was frantic the previous day but she didn’t understand why. While I was sick in bed I had thought I needed to go check on them, but fell back asleep. Our whole household is grieving. Before our move my girls were always on top of their food so I didn’t think much of it. Their food bowls were always full, I just always double checked they’d been fed! I couldn’t believe how much our change in location/routine changed how they cared for the birds. We’ve all been distracted. When I fed her two days ago, I didn’t give her enough. I should have put more in her bowl and she would have probably made it the two days I was sick. The guilt is just eating me up what she went through. And so preventable. We all felt just sick to our stomachs. It was a huge lesson that our family needs to work more as a team and that mom can’t do everything in the household. I obviously can’t do it all. I slipped up and it cost our pet her life. And I feel bad that we adopted goats on top of everything else when obviously I can’t even keep up with our house pets. My 6 year old daughter is heartbroken (it was her parakeet) but I’m nervous to get another one in case we kill that one too.

Cari
Jesse

I had 2 conures, male and female. Male is Green Cheek, female was Turqoise Cinnamon head. I used to always kick back with my birds before bed and then when I felt tired I would put them away. They were a bonded pair, always together. Caged together. Never fought. I laid back with them one night like I have for 6 years and must have been way to tired after my day, I woke up around 3 am and went to get a drink, my boy flew out and i thought thats odd so I put him in the cage thinking I was an idiot and forgot to lock it. I get back to my room and there she is on my bed, dead. I panicked and tried to give her cpr just hoping I could some how revive her. I cried and pleaded for her not to be dead. She was the bird that was always with me, always wanted to be on my shoulder, arm or cuddled in my hand I was never without her. This was about 2 or 3 months ago. I’m still not over it, I still hate myself so much. She was my best friend. There with me at the hardest and best of times. I’ve still been so lost. But I keep myself together for my male. He was so lost for awhile too and he has since adapted. Now if I will never lay down with him, I’m always sitting in my chair or love seat if i kick back with him. If i feel tired at all I put him away and go to bed. I triple check to make sure the cage is always closed up. I’m so paranoid of something happening, I don’t know what I’d do if I lose him too. We got a pineapple recently and the first 2 days were great, she attacked him on day 3 and since then they have hated each other. It makes me hate myself more. I just wish I could bring her back, I miss her so much and my heart aches everyday that she’s not here. I never thought I’d be responsible for the death of one of my animals and now that I am I feel like I am the worst. How can I get through this grief and stop destroying myself?

Jesse
Lucy's Nom

My heart is broken.. someone please help me

Lucy's Nom
Joyce Thomas.

My little Foreign Finch died today. His name was Boy. I had him for about 8yrs. I kept him in my spare room with Coco a female Finch. Coco could fly a little bit but in recent years both stayed on the floor, so I put a rug down, food and water and a box th sleep in. They would sit by the fire which had a wire guard I made for safety. One of boys wings drooped a bit which meant he could only flutter about. I thought it was old age. He didn’t like me touching him, and I was frightened of harming him more so I left it. This week he started to lose his balance fall on his back and I would set him on his feet again. I thought I would dip his feet in some water with oil. I laid him dow on a towel and he seemed to go unconscious. He just lay there still, I covered him a little bit with the towel and left the room. Thinking a must of killed him, I looked in the room and saw his head moving looking round. It took a good 2 to 3hrs before he came to and jumped out of the towel to join Coco. Today he was lying by his feeding bowl, there was a lot of seed on the lining paper so he had plenty to eat. I put him gently back on the towel. I took a small lid from a jar, cleaned it, filled it with water and seed mixture and placed it next to Boy. He didn’t seem interested so about an hour later I held him over the bowl and I thought I saw him take a sip. His beak opened so I tried again. BIG MISTAKE. I laid him back on the towel but he had died. I covered him with the towel thinking maybe he will recover again, like he did before but that was this afternoon and now it’s evening. So my Boy has gone. I always remember his funny little mannerisms. His chirp. I loved you Boy all these years. And now Coco is alone and sits quiet. A dark cloud has come over me. I wish I had left him alone to recover in his own time instead of worrying and fussing making him worse. I killed him with my kindness.

Joyce Thomas.
Daniel Taylor Washburn

Should I feel bad if a very sweet nice parakeet flew in my dad’s backyard and then I didn’t know what to do with it so then I asked a friend of mine to what could he do he says he knew somebody so then I gave it to him he sold it for 60 bucks and the next day my dad tells me that these two ladies came by and said that have I seen a bird and then I felt bad because I gave it to guy guy sold the bird should I feel bad or should I just be like well it’s I don’t know cuz I feel bad what do you think.1it was my first time hanging a bird 2 I could not keep the bird my dad would say no we’re u going to do with a bird 3 I have found a little dog vary small so it would not be that bad she dus not take that much space he did say. So I left my my thoughts and I think I did WORNG if I could have just held on to it just more time I could have saved the day for sum one else. I would have been happy knowing that I my self did the right thing. But now out of nowhere the people that are looking for the bird an I HAD it an now I don’t. Should I feel like down an said

Daniel Taylor Washburn
Anjali

One day i found a pigeon in my garden .She couldn’t fly so i took her home to protect her and release her when she can fly again. She failed to do so. We were happy together . She was a huge part of my life. One day i went to a family function. When i came back i saw only some feathers left of her. I got scared i searched for her everywhere. And then i saw blood spots on wall. On dust there were paw print of cat too. I realised what happened. I never thought cat could hve entered through such a small space i had. I never thought . If only i closed that ventilation space. I can never forgive myself for this. I m devasted from loss of my beloved pigeon. I miss her so much. I can’t sleep i keep crying all day. Thinking if only i did not go to that party. If only i closed that space. If only i placed her in different room for safety. i am full of regrets. I miss my jesse so much.

Anjali
Eleanore

I have the terrible dilemma of not remembering if I checked my conure’s water dispenser or checking his food for a couple days. This was 39 years ago. When I noticed the food was almost gone in his bowl, I ran to the pet store but they had closed down. I ran to the grocery store and got sunflower seed..But what if it was salted? I should have gone into Manhattan at that moment but thought since he’s a conure he’d enjoy the sunflower seed until Monday 3 days later when i’d be working in Manhattan and could get his parrot food then. But he wasn’t eating. Sunday night I raced him to the vet after he fell off his perch and lay dying. I hadn’t even noticed how thin he was. This was not like me to not pay attention. I was preoccupied by seeing this guy. I had parrots later in life that are still living in their 20s. I have cats I built a catio for out of cedar. I give them nebulizer treatments if there is the slightest symptom of asthma. I am conscietous. I must have let the guy take my emotions over that week and my conure died. The only other possibility is he had wasting disease, liver disease or some other condition and he just stopped eating. Either way I failed him. I have decided I will allow myself to feel pain…all of it…and I will not forgive myself because it simply is not possible.

Eleanore
John Li

Hello everybody! Reading these stories has touched my heart and made me realise I’m not alone and the dreadful sudden loss my pet budgie George yesterday. Everything was fine, a normal day, his nails were getting quite long and I was worried he was going to hurt himself. I’ve had budgies before as a teenager/ young adult so I know how quick you have to be with these things and how fragile they are. I had to hold in my grasp while my wife very carefully trimmed his nails. He was extremely fidgety and nipping, then he calmed down, I saw his eyes slowly closing, and his body became lifeless. Within seconds he was gone! We had him for 10 months, we never shut his cage door besides night time, he would go in and out as he pleased. He knew our living room like his own personal space and wouldn’t even fly out if we left the living room door open. He talked, he played, he had his own quirky personality. And just like that, gone! We didn’t even trim all his nails just the longest one. I don’t understand what happened, I’ve trimmed his nails before and had him in my grasp for longer and he was fine. Seeing my wife this upset is all the more heartbreaking and the guilt is more than I can bare. I got him for her as we’ve had a rough year and he brought so much joy to us. I can’t believe how quick he’s already gone. If it was old age or sickness I could somewhat understand even through the heartbreak but this- this is unthinkable. I keep thinking 2 days ago he was here, this time last week, this time last month, so oblivious to what was about to happen! I’m just as angry as o devastated.

John Li
Ailyee

My bird died today (a bird for 2-3 years), and it was totally my fault. I had thought my dad was feeding and giving him water and i was gone the whole day yesterday so i wasn’t home to check. I f*cking loved that bird and i couldn’t cry because we had already lost 2 other birds, (1 to sickness and the other had been crushed :( ) the worst thing is i hadn’t taken him out of the cage for a few days before either because of how busy i had been, i was out of town a lot and didn’t have time to remember anything about him, since he is in another room that i don’t pass through everyday. it’s definitely my fault and i should’ve checked his food and water the day before.

Ailyee
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
Vincent Sok

I had just recently lost my Indian Ringneck baby named Twilight after 15 years with him. I was just sitting on the doorsteps of my house with him asleep on my shoulder while I petted his sister cockatiel named Sunni. All I heard was him scream in pain and I assumed maybe he hurt his tail while preening it as he would scream like that over the littlest of things. But then I saw him fly past me being taken by a falcon. I ran and ran for an hour screaming and calling for his name as I wandered endlessly and never found him. He was found hours later only his feathers, beak, and brain and his lost has been killing me to this day. I don’t think this pain will ever go away, for true loss only diminishes the pain of it slightly over the years through coping. But that pain will still be there. I miss him dearly. I’d wake up to him calling for me as he had a freak accident as a baby before we had him that caused him to have a broken wing so he was highly dependent on me. I would kiss him and tell him that I love him every night before I slept. I still had so much dreams to make come true with him. I planned on traveling the world with him. I planned on showing him to my future kids and have them love him as endlessly as I have. And I planned to be there for him to his last dying breath so that he may pass in peace. But now I can only hope and pray that the falcon had led him to a merciful end. It hurts me and looking towards the sky turns my stomach as it reminds me of that painful day. I miss my baby boy Twilight so dearly but I must stay strong for his sake. As I pray to all the other souls that feel lost as they write to this, stay strong everyone. These birds were granted a blessed life and although the pain will forever be there, we must still cherish the memories we’ve made for those were what truly mattered and will only make us stronger for the future.

Vincent Sok
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

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