Ask Lafeber


August 10, 2020

Captive bred Grey

do you notice that domestic bred birds average smaller than the older wild caught/imported birds?


Hi Adrianne,

Thank you for attending our webinar by Lisa Bono. Below is Lisa’s response:

Yes!  I noticed that back in the early 90’s when Cockatiels started to be smaller. I think from generations of the species being bred; they do get smaller. Perhaps also from breeding domestic stock vs. wild. Most of the people I know have greys in the lower- mid 400’s vs the larger ones that I knew of in the past. We will see as more generations are born.

Lisa Bono

Hi Adrianne,

The size difference is probably based more on the limited genetics than being captive bred. In some ways, captive bred birds meet milestones much earlier than wild parrots – especially when it comes to becoming sexually mature. The best example of size difference is the Budgerigar Parakeet. The Americans tended to breed for color while the English tended to breed for size and conformation in order to show them. Thus, the American bred budgies became smaller and less robust than the wild Australian Budgie and the English budgies became much larger, and while hardier than the American budgies, still have some health issues related to breeding beyond size and for exaggerated features – something that can plague any bird or mammal bred for show. As all captive parrots at some point originated from wild caught birds, the genetics are more limited because of the way wild caught birds were captured. Entire flocks were caught at once which resulted in many related birds being captured together and the genetics being limited to that particular flock. Breeders also were not always aware of sub-species or regional differences and so birds were bred indiscriminately. And in addition to the limited genetics, captive bred birds are largely bred for the pet trade so genetics are not taken into consideration – a reliable breeding pair is more important to someone who is breeding for profit for the pet trade. Accredited Zoos have a more scientific basis for pairing birds, with genetics studied and put in a database and pairs determined that way – breeding stock is commonly traded or loaned between zoos. With the Species Survival Plan, more rare species are very selectively bred to maintain strong genes for a true representation of the species with each offspring. Thus you may see larger parrots in Zoos.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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