We use the Weibull model to characterize initial (extrinsic) mortality rates (m(0)) and rate of increase in mortality with age (omega) for natural and captive populations of birds and mammals. Weibull parameters can be estimated for small samples of ages at death by constructing survival curves and fitting the Weibull model by nonlinear least-squares regression. Both m(0) and omega decrease in captivity, on average, and omega bears a strong relationship to m(0), as it does in nature, irrespective of body mass or differences between birds and mammals. Rate of aging is most closely related to brain size in birds and to rate of postnatal growth in mammals. It is not related to duration of embryonic development, body size independently of brain size, or genome size. We suggest that causes of extrinsic mortality in nature may be replaced in captivity by intrinsically controlled causes of mortality related to processes that regulate the rate of aging.