Do 32 cockatiels really deserve $100,000?

By Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia (cockatiel 2) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia (cockatiel 2) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
A wealthy New York woman — Leslie Ann Mandel — made a $100,000 provision in her will so that her 32 cockatiels will be taken care of for the rest of their natural lives. The story — broken by the New York Post — has now gotten worldwide media attention and sparked blowback on social media. To some, she’s the latest incarnation of Leona Helmsley, who left her dog Trouble $12 million.

But is $100,000 really that extravagant an amount? Only to those who don’t know how expensive it is to keep pet parrots.

Cockatiels are members of the parrot family who live, in captivity, for about 20 years. $100,000 divided by 20 is $5,000 a year. Yes, the funds will probably be invested in some interest-bearing account, so let’s say the fund lasts longer and we up the yearly allotment to $6,000 a year.

$6,000 divided by 365 = equals a daily budget of $16 a day.

That’s $0.50 per bird.

That’s not a lot for food, sanitation, and care. It doesn’t provide for any medical attention (people who operate on tiny bird bones don’t come cheap).

With larger parrots (for example cockatoos), the food, space, and recreational requirements may extend far beyond $16 a day. A friend who takes in abandoned cockatoos now requires donees to post a minimum bond of $75,000 for each bird he takes in. This sounds like a lot of money, but doled over the life of a cockatoo it’s not much.

Give Leslie Ann Mandel a break. Her gift wasn’t extravagant. Parrots live a long time. They’re expensive to buy, expensive to keep, and expensive to provide for. She did the responsible thing – something that more parrot owners need to do.

Sure, you can argue that there are deserving humans out there who should have been the beneficiaries, but unless we abolish the institution of private property, rich people can do whatever they want with their money as long as they pay their taxes. Unlike Leona Hemsley, Mandel appears to have done so, so she’s OK in my book.