Should I Give My Pet Bird A Mirror Or Not

The original question came from Quora

Is it okay if a bird sees the reflection of her cage in a mirror from a little distance? Does this make the same effect of a mirror inside of the cage?

 

One of the answers read: “Larger birds such as parrots have no trouble telling that their reflection is not another bird. For smaller birds, the mirror would probably need to be in the cage so that the bird could actually play with its reflection.”

 

but the answer makes no sense.

What is a “larger” parrot?

 

Is a Congo African gray at 450 g half the size of a macaw a “larger” parrot?

 

Is a Timneh African gray at 380 g a “smaller” parrot?

 

And do birds need the mirror to be in the cage?

 

Generally mirrors throughout your home should not be viewed by birds at all because pet birds don’t understand the concept of a “mirror.”

 

“My bird just started flying and flew into a mirror.”

 

This surprises you why?

Homes must be bird proofed much like childproofed but a lot harder because children usually don’t access the upper 90% of any room

 

[videopress Vp0kUzSy]

Editor’s note:

“I keep my bird clipped”

So do a lot of humans but please read this about how wing clipping can lead to feather picking

End note.

Then there is the flip side to the mirror argument.

Birds that truly understand mirrors

These birds assume mirrors are friendly because their friend is in the mirror and respect their distance as in this video.

 

[videopress udj6k8bS]

 

We had a rescue Senegal that was cage bound 23 hours a day for almost 7 years in a rescue.

 

She instantly bonded with me but hated every other animal and human in the household including the bird in the mirror.

 

Mirror aggression is not restricted to pet Birds

 

We did some searching on the topic of birds and mirrors with the best results.

 

All the authors have an “exact” conclusion – “this is why mirrors are bad.”

 

Is Keto our rescue African ringneck poorly affected by mirrors?

 

Not at all.

 

You’ve seen him enjoy a large mirror but he likes his cage mirrors too.

 

[videopress OrGPlkoI hd=”true”]

 

He has 4 regular cages all with the same $1 mirror.

 

Why did we put a mirror in his cage, to begin with?

 

We didn’t.

 

Through forensic Facebooking we learned Keto is about 15 years old and has been in three or more homes during his lifetime.

 

We’ve also seen pictures of him stepping up to men.

I cannot touch this bird – he will bite me.

If I am one inch away or farther we have a wonderful relationship.

 

He’s a really a brilliant flyer but does have a physical issue with his right-wing.

 

My theory is that he bites so hard, clamping to your skin  painfully that it’s difficult maintaining a presence of mind in order to shake him off gently.

 

Inevitably he will let go but will land on the floor, not in a good way.

 

I am uber vigilant not get near enough, allowing a “bite opportunity” so I can avoid flinging him reflexively inadvertently causing harm.

 

The cage I picked him up in during the rescue had a mirror on the bottom of it.

 

[videopress nHKtIOFQ]

 

He talked to it a lot and it seemed calming for him – unlike the ball and bell toy:-).

 

In that he was separated from his mom (who passed away in the hospital) then torn apart from the other six birds in his home he was stressed during the multi bird rescue.

 

Keeping him calm was a priority.

 

We hung a new $1 mirror vertically.

 

The mirror that came with the rescue was on the floor so it was not easy to keep clean.

 

So should you give your bird a mirror – conclusion?

 

That depends, there are so many factors in any home like other species be they birds, nonhuman mammals as well as humans.

 

The process of rehoming a bird can be traumatic for the bird or go well.

 

Losing one bird from a pair could have profound effects emotionally on the remaining bird.

 

 

We know that if you put a mirror in a male’s canary cage he will stand in front of the mirror for a very long time not singing ensuring his competitor will not win at anything.

 

So what’s the take away from all this?

 

Catherine advocates that if you have a young bird you wish to bond with, there’s no need for a mirror, it can become a distraction.

 

Later in life circumstances can change and a mirror may make a positive difference in your bird’s life.

 

If you still have questions feel free to reach out

Pet Bird Mirror FAQs

Should I replace a second budgie that just passed with a new bird?

 

Hello! I’m at a loss and really can’t find any info on this problem.

 

I have a rescued male parakeet around 6 years old I’ve had him for 2.5.

 

His female cage mate died recently (that was his 2nd wife, the first died prior to moving in with us).

 

He was extremely high energy and overbearing to her, constantly feeding her, she got fat and he just never gave her a break I was always worried about eggs.

 

So when she died, I thought let’s get him a male friend.

 

Enter 2 males from a friend of a friend of a friend who can’t take care of them.

 

These bonded males 8y and 4y are pretty low key and now mine is constantly inserting himself in the middle of them.

 

He loves the older one and has started demanding attention from him, feeding him and is now getting aggressive with the younger one especially when he sees him get attention from his friend he’s been bonded to his whole life!

 

I’m getting worried that the bonded pair are getting split up because mine is just a jealous jerk. I don’t want to give the two back to the owner who doesn’t care for them. So, do I get a 4th to even out the flock?

 

Do I separate mine from the two?

 

Could I get a lady friend for him and all 4 living together or will they fight over a girl?

 

Right now the three are in an 18×18 ish cage but I’m in process of getting a big flight cage, would that help or hurt this situation?

 

I wouldn’t mind getting another boy and the big cage if it would help this but I’m worried that my guy won’t bond with a new one and continue to harass the bonded ones

 

Thanks for any input!

Kat

 

Dear Kat

Don’t get another girl.

 

Sounds like the elder boy might be a bit hard on a new female.

 

I think getting a new larger cage will help dramatically.

 

What would have helped when you brought the two new boys in was to remove the elder keet from the cage and put him aside while you rearranged the cage so the toys and perches decorations were in all different places.

 

Then put the new boys in, repeat with elder male.

 

This creates a neutral ground for all the birds.

 

When you set up the new cage, make sure you have numerous perches on either side, even add dangling plastic plants and toys so there are places for the younger boys to sit out of sight of the elder male.

 

Also, make sure to have two water dishes and two food dishes.

 

We have a large cage with 6 females and 4 males, loads of branches and toys, no one fights or chases the others.

We have 3 Tweeky Clean feeders in the aviary so there’s no blocking of another bird due to jelaousies.

[videopress juKml1bY]

 

I hope this helps

 

Hi Catherine

Thanks for the response.

 

I’m getting the flight cage next week and hopefully, that helps the issue.

 

I had the new boys (Pip and Petrie) separated for a few days in their own cage away from mine (Guapo) and then when they did meet it was all outside the cage.

 

I had done the rearrange, but not while Guapo was out of it, so maybe he didn’t get tricked into thinking it was a new space.

 

It started out fine – three amigos, they have been together a month.

 

Guapo respected that Pip and Petrie were bonded but Guapo has been escalating over the course of last week.

 

I initially thought they (the budgies) were fighting over stuff in the cage so as soon as it started I got three sand perches all at the same height even though there were a lot of perches.

 

We have always had 2 feeding dishes but only 1 water. I clip greens on both sides of the cage. It didn’t help. Guapo is showing aggression with Petrie when Petrie tries to get attention from Pip.

 

Guapo is very high energy and is always in Pips face and then there will be a scuffle with either Pip getting mad Guapo for not leaving him alone or between Petrie and Guapo.

 

I think the concern is Guapo trying to separate the bonded Pip and Petrie as his obsession with Pip is the same he had for the female who died.

 

In a strange twist, when they are all out flying the aggression gets escalated further with Guapo pushing Petrie out of the way and off the top of the cage to be near Pip but as the night wears on, Guapo will go sit with Petrie inside the cage and Pip will be on the top getting alone time and everyone will be quiet and harmonious.

 

As soon as Pip comes in the cage, all hell breaks loose.

 

Anyway, thank you for getting back to me.

 

There really hasn’t been any good resources out there.

 

I’ve had birds my whole life and I have never had issues like this.

 

I look forward to seeing the boutique one of these days.

Thanks again!

 

Hey Kat

You can try one thing. A small mirror placed near a perch.

 

The elder boy might take to it.

 

Darth Vapor asks

I’m asking because I’d like to get him (or her) budgie a friend and don’t know how to properly introduce each other.

 

I have a parakeet that flew into my garage one day and I’ve had it as a pet ever since. I live in Griffith (Indiana).

 

The nostrils have no color it’s like white/ skin color does that mean it’s a girl?

 

I’m asking because I’d like to get him or her a friend and don’t know how to properly introduce each other.

 

Catherine Tobsing answered

 

It does not matter, male or female, the bird will be happy to have company.

 

How large is its cage?

 

It should be at least 18″ wide for two parakeets.

 

When you get a new bird.

 

Plan for an early move-in, not late in the day.

 

You would do best to remove the original bird to another small cage or box.

 

Rearrange the cage so everything is different.

 

Then put in the new bird, then your bird. Shut the door.

 

They should be fine by the next day.

 

Darth Vapor replied

The cage I have is made for a cockatiel so it’s over 18in.

 

Thank you for the help I figured it was time to get a friend for her because she talks to herself in the mirror and has recently started bobbing her head up and down sometimes during the day.

 

Steve Amaral asks

I bought a budgie from Petco in July.

 

He eats, plays, chirps and takes baths but he never flies.

 

He falls to the bottom of his cage from his swing and perches all the time.

 

He does flap his wings several times a day.

 

Do you think his wings were cut too short?

 

I really enjoy your site.

Thank you.

 

Catherine Tobsing answers

Steve

It indeed sounds like his wings were clipped too short.

 

Please move his swing closer to the side of the cage so he does not have to fall as much.

 

They will grow back in.

 

In the meantime, use this time to bond with your bird.

 

It sounds like it is a baby, tamed bird.

 

If so, you will be his friend.

 

Budgies need a friend.

 

You can’t just leave it in the cage and expect he will be happy.

 

He will be miserable alone.

 

So while it can’t fly off, it is a good time to take him into a small room (bathroom) and sit on the floor and let him crawl on you and get to know you.

 

If you do not want to do this then get him a cage mate or at the very least a mirror for company.

 

Parakeets are flock creatures and like to be with other birds and will not have a happy life alone.

 

See the blog post on our budgies.

 

Kathy Mainzer asks

Hello!

I have a question about my Indian ringnecks, Agni and Boingo.

 

Do they need cuttlebones?

 

They do have toys with minerals but don’t use them much. Will they use cuttlebones?

 

They have good diets with lots of fruits and veggies.

Thanks, Kathy

 

Catherine Tobsing answers

Dear Kathy

Are your Ringnecks a breeding pair?

 

Or is one laying eggs?

 

If not, no they don’t need the cuttlebone.

 

Do birds really need that mysterious but pervasive cuttlebone in their birdcage?

 

It is good that they have toys with mineral pieces on them so they can chew on them if they desire a little calcium.

 

What are you feeding them?

 

Most pellets have a good amount of calcium in them.

 

 

K Mainzer replied

 

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for writing!

 

Agni and Boingo aren’t breeding birds (both males).

 

In this season Agni wishes he was!

 

Boingo isn’t much interested in that sort of thing.

 

The boys are almost the same age, about 10. 

 

They like and eat Harrison’s pellets regularly.

 

Along with that, they eat a lot of different vegetables and fruits.

 

While they get some edamame, they love succotash, which is lima beans and corn.

 

They like treats of walnuts and pine nuts.

 

They love to crack open unshelled peanuts, mostly just for the fun of it, and pistachio nuts in shells, both unsalted.

Nut time treat is 5:00 pm. They keep track of the time.

 

Editors note: Circadium rythms enable birds to keep time a good as a Rollex, they don’t know what day it is but calulate mating, molting and migrating using light as a major signal.

 

Agni was crazy the last mating season, but he’s better this time around.

 

He has become a Velcro bird who loves to be petted and have calming quiet time on my arm.

 

I see that they have a regular schedule, and they make sure I keep to it.

 

They want to go to bed at 7:00 p.m sharp.

 

Boingo, however, gets to sometimes stay up late, so that my daughter and son-in-law, who I live with, can have extra bonding time, chirping, talking and dancing to his favorite music (mostly steel drums and Beastie Boys).

 

 

Boingo was attacked by a cat, so can’t fly.

 

He is frustrated by that.

 

He likes to chew so we have a chewing game.

 

He tries to catch my fingers that move under a blanket, like a cat game.

 

He prefers “people toys” but isn’t allowed to chew on those and he knows it.

 

He thinks bird toys are for babies, and only touches them to tease Agni.

 

For example, he will pick up a small mirror and look at Agni. As Agni looks shocked, Boingo lets the mirror go so it hits the floor.

 

I make a point of putting them in their back west-facing playroom in the afternoons when there is lots of natural sunlight.

 

I think this has helped.

 

They play and nap.

 

Agni loves having Boingo for the company because they don’t really fight over things.

 

It’s mostly Boingo teasing Agni.

 

For the first 2 years of his life, Agni was kept in a box in a basement with no light and only a mirror to keep him company.

 

With his foster family, he became a social butterfly.

 

We didn’t have the heart to take away his mirror, so he has a few mirrors, shiny trash cans, bookcase glass, and anything reflective that are his friends.

 

He goes around visiting them every day, just like at his foster family.

 

He’s very smart, talks up a storm, and has become much more sociable with people.

 

I’m with them most days and nights so they feel happy and safe.

 

Yet they are very good guard birds.

 

I haven’t done any pointless “training” because they understand all the important things we need to communicate about.

They speak English and I speak parrot.

 

All in all, they have become happier birds since I’ve been here (about 3 years).

 

I recommend them for people who have the time to give them lots of interaction. I always appreciate your suggestions too!

Thanks again,
Kathy

 

Catherine Tobsing replied

I had a Lutino Indian Ringneck named Sunshine for 20 years until he passed.

 

He was my hand fed baby.

Sunshine Lutino Indian Ringneck on Catherine Tobsings shoulder around 2003Catherine (as a blonde) and Sunshine 2003

Ringnecks are wonderful.

 

Mine was a great talker too.

 

He was a wonderful eater as well. I never needed alternative calcium for him.

 

I recommend that you get them set up with a full spectrum bulb on a timer for 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

double full spectrum light over budgie aviary bird cage

Or 2 lights for a wider aviary cage

 

This will help with hormonal and behavioral problems.

Basically it keeps them sane.

It will make a difference in their behavior.

I have ours set for 8:30 to 8:30, when daylight savings time comes, just leave it alone.

It will then be our time 7:30 to 7:30 but it is the same to them.

 

You cannot rely on the light through a window to give them what they need for their state of minds.

Thank you

 

Cathy Dore asks

Is it typical for a macaw to like a mirror?

 

Do you sell mirrors for macaws?

 

Or will they break them with their large beaks?

 

Catherine Tobsing replied

Is your macaw a pet?

 

If yes, NO MIRRORS!

 

A mirror is for company.

 

If your bird was part of a pair then one passed and you did not wish to get another assuming the bird was not tame, then a mirror might help.

 

If you want your macaw to stay your friendly pet and not gravitate to the bird in the mirror then get no mirrors.

 

Birds of a feather flock together and you have no feathers.

 

Don’t make it easy for your macaw to leave you.

 

And yes, it is difficult to locate a macaw proof mirror.

 

Cathy Dore replied

Thank you so much for your response.

 

I just saw it.

 

I have learned over the weekend he did not like the mirror.

 

I put up an old makeup compact to test it….he broke it! Ha

 

phenbenmond asks

Hi, one of my budgies was sick for a few weeks and eventually died this morning.

 

My other budgie is still alive and doesn’t seem to understand where his friend went.

 

I was wondering if there was anything I could do for him?

 

I also would like to eventually get another budgie but I couldn’t find any information about whether or not I should wait for the germs that made her sick to die off?

Thanks! – Phen

 

Catherine Tobsing replied

Dear Phen

Very sorry for your loss.

 

Do you know what your budgie died from?

 

If it was a virus or something contagious then I do not recommend bringing another bird into the home as it could do the same for the new bird.

 

How is the remaining bird?

 

If seemingly well it could be a carrier of the virus and should not be near other birds.

 

If it was not a virus then you don’t have to wait to get another parakeet.


Getting your bird tested by your Avian Vet is the only way to tell for sure.

 

Yes, your remaining bird will be upset being alone and wondering where it’s cage mate is.

 

 

You can help it out by putting a small mirror in the cage. The bird will be comforted by its reflection.

 

Good luck to you and yours.
Catherine

 

Tina G asks

Hi

Just sent email but forgot to include a note he used to have a mirror he played with and we took it away as we were told and now he looks for anything he can see his face in.

 

Not sure if that is what was causing it and we are hoping he will eventually come back to us as normal.

 

At times he is really lovable then he turns on us.

Thank you again
Tina Grenier

 

Mitch replied
Let’s remove the mirror for now – he may be responding to additional “threats from the other bird in the cage”.

 

Hi

We took the mirrors away and now he looks for anything that he can see his face in like plastic gold coins he can flip, his stainless steel water dish etc it seems as if he thinks about something then attacks if you try to go near or move anything of his.

 

Thank you for your help
Tina

 

Mitch replied

I would advocate removing all the reflective surfaces – the “other bird” may be contributing to stress

 

Tina replied

We have removed all that we can see the only thing left is we have a good size cage for him and his water dish is the stainless steel one which we see him trying to see himself.

 

I wish they made plastic ones ☹️

Thank you again
Tina

 

Hi Mitch!

Love your Sunday articles – have found them to be really helpful but I need some advice about my cockatiel.

 

My other tiel escaped from his cage last August and Monroe was showing signs of being so lonely that I put a mirror in for company.

8 months later I have a bird that is obsessed with mirrors-everything is a mirror.

The coffee table, computer screen, metal on lamps and on and on. If he can find a solid spot he’ll look in the mirror and masturbate continuously!!

If I take it away he screams incessantly!!

 

When I had my other bird Monroe would play with toys and generally entertain himself and now does nothing but search for mirrors.

 

He is not a confident bird and has been afraid of everything since day 1 (he was hand raised but they stopped handling him) but has gotten better.

 

He always copied and followed my other bird-he never did any exploring on his own.

 

I am trying to find a hand raised baby tiel and my hope is he will connect with this bird and get his mind off mirrors (I hope).

 

All three places I’ve bought birds have all gone out of business (I live in NYS) but I think I finally found one.

 

Any suggestions on what I should do?

Thanks!

 

Catherine Tobsing replied

Doreen

Your tiel wants a buddy. It does not have to be a hand tamed baby.

 

Even another older tiel will be fine.

 

It is for him not you and why spend the money on the hand tamed up cost.

 

He is revved up sexually.

 

You may be able to break that by trying a light cycle treatment.

 

Your bird’s cage light has to stay on for 72 hours, no dark, no tents, no shade.

 

The bird will chirp at all hours, it won’t affect anything badly.

 

He will still eat, groom, drink, nap.

 

It should cause his circadian rhythm to be disrupted which will cause him to not care about breeding for a while. Perhaps long enough to get back to normal.

 

Remove his mirrors for now too.

 

The Light Treatment works well for egg-laying females but may work for him too.

 

Try to locate a Bird Club in your area. They may be able to help locate the right bird for you.

 

Google New York bird club to start with and go from there.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Doreen R  replied

Thanks, Catherine!

 

I’ll try everything you’ve suggested!

Doreen

 

Kathy Houser asks

Greetings,

 

I would like to get my birds some interactive stuff.

 

I’ve attached a photo.

 

budgies in large parot cage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just have the two budgies.

 

One is new (the lighter one).

 

She is a new mate for the one who lost his partner about 8 weeks ago.

 

This new gal, April, is a bit more curious and active.

 

Keats and his now-deceased partner were happy just hanging out.

 

This new gal wants more.

 

I have added the mirror and the colorful ball deal. Thinking about a ladder.

 

But really, I have no idea.

 

I took the birds on originally as a favor.

 

Have grown to really love them. But need help figuring out the cage accessories. Please help. You have great stuff.

Thank you!

 

Catherine Tobsing replied

Dear Kathy

Oh yes, you definitely need to fill in that cage.

But as Mitch observed its a parrot cage with wide barspacing which may induce a head or neck injury should they squees between the bars.

 

It is so devoid of bird toys and accessories the birds may feel “exposed.”

 

They will not be as relaxed as they would if you had the inside bars covered with toys, palm strips, paper towels strips, a number of different perches and anything else that comes up.

 

[videopress sLmh2FBn]

 

Our Breakfast Club cage has room to fly while offering areas for privacy.

 

I would remove the mirror. It will help the two birds like each other more.

 

The mirror is good if you have a solitary budgie only.

 

You really don’t need ladders, the whole cage is a ladder.

 

Are they flighted, if so they will flit about the cage much faster and better than having a bunch of ladders.

 

The vine ball toy is good but very big.

 

I would move it closer to the perch end so they can pick at it.

 

The toy with a sun on it does not appear to be near a perch.

 

Move it to the end of another perch so they can reach it.

 

The toys in a birds cage don’t all have to be chewed up to have value.

They are the furniture in your birds apartment.

We may only sit on the sofa in our living room, but the room is so much more comfy when there are tables, and arm chairs and a bookcase and pictures on the wall.

The toys, etc in your birds cage are the leaves on your birds tree, they feel good to be around. Safe.

 

You need to add at least 10-20 new toys, accessories, and perches.

 

They will help the cage become a cozy place.

 

I would add some Booda rope perches in small sizes. 

 

They should be attached low on one end and higher on the other to create a bridge of sort encouraging travel around the cage both high and low.

 

Then some shredders woven in and out of the cage bars creating privacy spots.

 

[videopress 9YXhBfgH]

 

We have some woven into the front left corner of our budgie cage and behind it a small perch.

 

We have one of the 4 budgies that love to sit there. It calms him as his view of the room around the cage is somewhat blocked and he feels better.

 

Then add some toys, nothing too big.

 

This category will have the smallest of bird accessories.

 

Go from there. Let me know how it goes.

Thank you

 

Kathy H replied

Thank you for the advice.

 

I did buy the mirror when my Keet became a bachelor.

 

He never really enjoyed it, though.

 

I’ll go shopping on your site and add some stuff to their environment.

 

Thanks again for the help.

 

If I have another question or two, I hope you don’t mind if I send them your way.

Kathy

 

Catherine replied

Dear Kathy

Oh yes, let me know whenever you have questions.

 

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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