A look into longevity…

You know that Chickadee you see in your yard, the one that can be counted on to come calling at your feeders, even on a day when the only activity outside in the frigid cold is that of falling snow? Have you ever wondered just exactly how long it has been around, how long it has called your yard and neighborhood home? What about that Red-winged Blackbird that comes back to the marsh each year to loudly proclaim the arrival of spring- how long has it been around? Don’t forget that Bald Eagle that lives down by the river, perched atop a tree, looking for it’s next meal; how long has it been around?

Ever wondered how old that California Gull really is?

Ever wondered how old that California Gull really is?

Trying to find out how old a bird is can be very tough. It is extremely difficult to follow a bird from the time it is born to when it flies for the last time. Often, birds don’t live very long thanks to predators, diseases, accidents, lack of food and weather. In fact, very few birds actually die because of old age. So, to band a bird in the nest and keep track with it until it dies is difficult. However, it can and has been done.

Birds in captivity such as this flamingo have no predators, plenty of food and are well taken care of, therefor, generally living longer.

Birds in captivity such as this flamingo have no predators, plenty of food and are well taken care of, therefor, generally living longer.

Averages can be quite tricky to work out as our information on bird longevity for every species is constantly evolving. For example, the longest known lifespan for a Laysan Albatross? A stunning 37 years and 5 months. Yet as thousands of banded Laysan Albatrosses reach their 30’s, we begin to realize that perhaps some species live longer than we ever expected. Therefore, instead of averages, here are the longest lifespans ever recorded for certain species. Are you ready? Prepare to be shocked at how long that Cardinal can live!

Arctic Tern- 34 years. Amazing considering this species embarks on one of the longest migrations of any bird.

Trumpeter Swan- 23 years, 10 months.

American Coot- 22 years, 4 months. Quite a long time for such a small guy!

Bald Eagle- 21 years, 11 months. I’ve seen some reports of up to 31 years. Has it really lived along the river all those years!?

Great Horned Owl- 27 years, 9 months. Wise old owl really is old.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird- 11 years. I’m going to have to see this one to believe it.

Black-capped Chickadee- 12 years, 5 months.

Northern Cardinal- 16 years.

Killdeer- 10 years, 11 months.

Mourning Dove- 31 years, 4 months.

Yellow Warbler-10 years, 11 months.

And finally… for you Grackle lovers out there. Come on, I know you love them; they may be loud and noisy and rambunctious and sometimes a little rude towards the other birds but still… Expect these guys to last a solid 25 years. Better get used to them!


About Matthew Sim

A 15 year-old birder and nature photographer, Matthew got caught up in birding in 2009 at the age of 11, buying a digital camera and zoom lens soon after with everything just spiraling downhill from there. He soon got involved with the birding community at home in Calgary, Alberta and expanded his knowledge from there. In the fall of 2011, he moved back to his native Texas for high school and was in due course amazed at the different levels of bird diversity between there and Alberta. Matthew is interested in all aspects of the natural world and is always eager to learn more.

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2 Responses to A look into longevity…

  1. Tim Hopwood says:

    Very interesting & enjoyable read!

  2. Dawn Fine says:

    Great post and information Matthew!