Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production rates are reported to be inversely related to maximum lifespan potential (MLSP) in mammals and also to be higher in short-living mammals compared to short-living birds. The mammal–bird comparison, however, is mainly based on studies of rats and pigeons. To date, there has been no systematic examination of ROS production in birds that differ in MLSP. Here we report a comparison of mitochondrial ROS production in two short-living (quails) and three long-living bird species (parrots) that exhibit, on average, a 5-fold longevity difference. Mitochondrial ROS production was determined both in isolated mitochondria (heart, skeletal muscle and liver) as traditionally done and also in intact erythrocytes. In all four tissues, mitochondrial ROS production was similar in quails and parrots and showed no correspondence with known longevity differences. The lack of a consistent difference between quails and parrots was not due to differences in mitochondrial content as ROS production in relation to oxygen consumption (determined as the free radical leak) showed a similar pattern. These findings cast doubt on the robustness of the oxidative stress theory of aging.