How Long Can Birds Go Without Food and Water?


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

how long can birds go without food

Birds, like people, require food and water to survive. These are some of their most fundamental requirements. If you want to keep birds as pets, you should learn as much as possible about feeding birds, including when to feed them, how and how much to give them. You love birds and take good care of them, but in case you have to go away for a few days, can you leave the bird alone? and How long can birds go without food?

Birds have a high metabolism, so they have to be frequently fed, but it does not mean that you can’t go away for several days. Unlike dogs, you can fulfil the bird feeders without worrying that birds will eat up at once.

This article will clarify the answer to the question “How long can a bird live without food and water?”. You will find out that there is no exact answer for this question because it varies according to certain factors, such as the birds’ species, sizes, temperatures, stores of fat, or what they had for the previous meals.

First, Let’s Look at the Variables Affecting a Bird’s Day Without Food.


1. Bird species and sizes

Birds of various species and sizes have varying capacities for dealing with food scarcity and harsh temperatures. For instance, to endure the dearth of food and cold weather, hummingbirds can undergo hibernation, but this only works for a short period of time. Due to their strong metabolism, parrots and parakeets can get severely sick if they go more than 24 hours without eating. Larger birds like hawks, eagles, and owls can stand longer without food or water.

2. Temperatures

When temperature changes are not at the extremes, birds may survive longer without nourishment because their body uses less energy to maintain the internal temperature.

3. Fat reserves


If a bird has been feeding a lot for a long time, it will accumulate fat reserves. When energy demands are high and food supplies are low, the bird can burn up its extra fat reserves.

4. Previous meals


A bird may not have to feed for a time if it has just loaded its crop with a sufficient quantity of food. Birds of prey, such as raptors, frequently consume more calorie-dense foods, enabling for an even longer fasting duration.

Usually, the main source of nutrition for birds of prey is small animals or insects, while omnivores also eat more nuts and grains. Both of these food sources are very attractive to birds. Furthermore, since these food sources contain high levels of protein, thus if the bird’s last meal contains these foods, they can go without food for longer.

However, you have to be very careful that dried packaged nuts are also very high in fat, which can make your bird obese or vitamin A deficient. This is the most common problem veterinarians have discovered in the diet of birds. Therefore, if you are raising birds, provide them with a balanced diet that includes vegetables such as celery, bok choy and fresh fruits.

5. Feeding time

The length of time the birds may not need to eat depends on how often and when you feed them. As for wild birds, they will usually feed after 30 minutes of sunrise. For other birds, you need to feed them around 4 to 6 pm because this is the right time to provide fiber. You should regulate the time and amount of food for birds to easily control. Usually if the bird eats less, it is not feeling well. You should pay attention to this.

Above are the factors influencing how long a bird can survive without sufficient food supply. Now let’s dig deep for more details.

How Long Can a Bird Go Without Food at Different Temperatures


If we consider only the fat and temperature aspect and ignore the other factors mentioned above, we have an exact answer for small songbirds through research done in the 1950s and 1960s. According to researchers, a small singing bird can survive for 1 to 3 days without food under favorable conditions. Under unfavorable conditions, a small songbird cannot survive a day in extreme temperatures and without fat reserves. In fact, they can only live from 12 to 18 hours.

In Europe, researchers have found that starlings at normal temperatures (23-30 degrees Celsius) can survive for 1 to 2 days when they are not given food. However, this study did not address the effect of body fat stores on the survival of birds. On the other hand, this study also tested European starlings in cold temperatures (1 to 4 degrees Celsius). When the birds are not given food, they can only last 6 to 24 hours at this temperature.

Bird Survival Without Food Based on Activity Level

While resting: A red-winged blackbird at rest can survive without food for 3 to 5 days because its metabolic state is not very active at that time. During this time, its body weight will lose about 30%, of which 10% is fat. This time will be shorter for a bird with no stored fat.

While active: When in an active state, a bird with a body weight of 10%-20% fat, if not fed, will survive for 1 to 3 days. Similarly, if birds do not have stored body fat, survival time will be significantly shortened.

How Long Can a Bird Go Without Water


We’ve got the answer for how long a bird can survive without food but what about “How long can a bird go without water?”. In addition to food, water is also essential for the birds’ survival. According to Dr. Gregory Burkett cells are made of water, therefore if a bird does not drink enough, the cells would dry and die. Birds will quickly turn into severe dehydration if their bodies are not hydrated for 2 days, which greatly affects their survival time.

Therefore, make sure to provide enough clean water for the birds. If possible, you should check and change the bird’s water tank every day.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do if you spot a starving bird?

During the migratory and cold seasons, birds often require large amounts of food to store fat to keep their bodies warm and migrate to areas where food is abundant. However, birds of prey can have a hard time in the winter because their food isn’t available.

If you see an omnivorous bird that is hungry, try giving it some dried mealworms or common nuts like sunflower seeds. These foods are usually quite easy to find and affordable.

If you encounter an ill or wounded bird, it is critical that you take it to a qualified wildlife rehabilitator. If you are not a registered wildlife rehabber, retaining and taking care of the bird is illegal. It is unlawful to possess a wild bird (or its nests, eggs, or chicks) without an authorization by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

What to do if your bird refuses to eat?

If you see your bird refusing to eat or eating less than usual, that’s a worrisome sign. Anorexia will lead to bad effects on the body, for example, severe illness or longevity of birds. Take your bird to a veterinarian if it doesn’t eat and sleep a lot and has other symptoms such as lethargy, short of breath, and feather loss.


We hope this article helps you answer the question of how long birds can survive without adequate food. The survival time of birds depends on many factors such as species, temperature, diet or activity level. We learn these things not to test how long birds can survive, but to know how to take better care of them, even if we have to be away for a few days.

So do you find this article on how long can birds go without food useful? We would be happy if you could share with us your bird care experience in our forum post on “How long can a bird go without food?”!

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