Enormous hazards face birds even before they hatch. Although the odds against one individual bird appear staggering, avian species as a whole survive well, except where they are threatened by the man-made effects of environmental destruction or poisoning.

The life span of most birds in the wild may be no more than six months to a year or two.  Generally, larger birds have longer life spans – wild Canada Geese have lived over 18 years and Golden Eagles for 30.

Among medium-sized birds, cardinals have lived in the wild for 10-12 years and robins for 17.

Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched on a branch in Southeastern Ontario, Canada.  © Glenn Bartley.

Chickadees and goldfinches are known to have survived for 8 or more years in the wild.  Keep in mind that these are not the norm, since the stresses of disease, injury, migration and winter starvation take enormous tolls, particularly on young birds during their first year of life.

Bird banding studies are one of the ways scientists are able to determine bird life spans and sometimes even the age of a particular bird.  The USGS web site has excellent information on bird banding.  Both professionals and trained amateurs band birds. This page has information on the longevity record for many species.  

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