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How Old Is That Bird?

Adult Male Red-winged Blackbird

Adult Male Red-winged Blackbird


Red-winged Blackbirds, the most common bird in North America, has only been known to reach 15 years of age.

People often ask me how old do birds live. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer.
The shocking truth is that only a tiny percent of creatures born in the wild survive beyond their first year.
The percentage figure is different depending on the study, the species, the situation or a number of other factors.
Regardless, it’s consistently small – frequently 20% or less.
Nature is harsh and challenging. A young animal must adapt quickly if it wants to live.
It needs to find food & shelter, deal with pressures from competition, and avoid predators.
Once it builds a little strength, and acquires some experience, it’s better equipped to face the challenges of the wilderness.
So, once it passes the one-year mark, it may be on its way to a ripe old age.
But, what is a ripe-old-age for a bird? This is another question without a simple answer.
Bird-banding records provide some data.
Unfortunately, very few bands are ever recovered. And, in the case of long-lived birds like albatross, the bird can easily outlive their metal leg bands.
Regardless, bird-banding is one of the only reliable methods for recording bird longevity.
Some seabirds are known to live beyond 60 years.
Small songbirds are lucky to reach their teens.
Yet, some birds in captivity can live into their 80s.
Some authorities figure that a few larger species can live as long as humans.
But, until data-recording methods improve, a lot of this is simply guesswork.

Adult Wandering Albatross

Adult Wandering Albatross


The Wandering Albatross, the bird with the world’s longest wingspan, is believed to have a life expectancy similar to humans. But, verifying this is extremely difficult since the birds can out-live the bands that indicate their age.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee


A back-yard favourite, the record life-span of the Black-capped Chickadee is only 12 years.

first cycle Herring Gull

first cycle Herring Gull


Most birds, like this Herring Gull, don’t reach the end of their first year. But, if they survive beyond the one-year threshold, they’re likely experienced and healthy enough to live a long life.