While cruising one of my subreddits – parrots (yes Virginia there are more social media sites than Facebook) a woman posted she had found an African grey parrot who is now locked in a room by itself so her dogs don’t get to it.
She was seeking “care” advice and people were giving it to her. No matter that the bird might’ve had a microchip that could be scanned by a local veterinarian. No matter that the bird’s human family is probably freaking out.
Many people are under the false impression that a clipped bird can’t fly. In a modest wind, a 100 g cockatiel can be swept away and airborne on it’s way to the next state regardless of the severity of wing trimming. They don’t need a whole lot of lift to defy gravity – they’re birds!.
A bird that never leaves your shoulder under any circumstances may change the rules of the game once you walk out of doors. A loud noise in unfamiliar surroundings like out of doors can trigger panic flight.
Window screens are not a barrier to the outside world for any bird and make for easy escape routes after a couple of pecks with a razor-sharp beak.
With this being the time of year we take vacations it is not unusual to hire a pet sitter. But much like avian vets are more attuned to birds, bird sitters are far more appropriate than general pet sitters.
Bird sitters will know that birds will want to follow you from room to room and it is less likely the bird will get crushed in a doorway.
Bird sitters should also know that, unlike terrestrial pets, when doing a visual sweep of a room for the bird they know to look up as well as on the floor.
You’ve been warned.
I can bore you with a list of ways to prevent your bird from flying out an open door or window. I find it easier to follow one simple rule.
Know where your bird is in the home 100% of the time. If you don’t know where your bird is don’t open an exterior door or window – problem solved.
A relatively inexpensive safeguard ($50 – $150) is to have the bird microchipped which we talk about here
Like all emergencies, the key ingredient is to keep your presence of mind. There’s no right way to secure a bird that’s flown away. That said you need to put things in perspective. In other words, a bird whose wings have been clipped for the majority of its life is not a good flyer.
This can work to your advantage because the bird may be intimidated by its surroundings and not want to have to go through attempting to fly again which he finds uncomfortable and tiring.
Another factor is the degree of socialization your bird has experienced in its lifetime. A bird that has been isolated will be scared of other human beings and not likely seek food in a strange household. Conversely, a bird that is used to interacting with humans may very well end up in another human’s open window when he or she gets hungry.
The bird may be close and very scared. A temptation may be to get a ladder at this point but think about how you bird will react when it sees 20 feet of aluminum coming at it in a tree.
If you have a frightened bird in a tree that you’ve located you may want to wait until nightfall because parrots do not see so well in the dark and stay put longer.
Shooting water at it to wet it down may work at a bird show where you’re an enclosed building but much like the ladder, the water may push the bird to fly farther away.
If the bird is close make sure you or somebody stays with the bird around the clock. Have food and treats with you, maybe a favorite sleeping cage. If the bird is watching you, start eating. They may want to share just like they do at home.
If the bird is close, moving the birdcage the outside of the home may be helpful. Bringing out a trusted sleep cage could be helpful with lots of food to tempt the bird.
We have a friend whose Sun Conure escaped in a 300-acre campground on New Year’s Eve. Talk about a nightmare scenario!. Her first instinct was to drive around with a split-open 25-pound bag of bird food on the roof of her car. Didn’t work. She finally turned around and walked away, which ended up bringing the bird down out of the trees and onto her shoulder.
If you don’t immediately see your bird, start using your ears with the hopes that your bird will vocalize. If you have other birds in the household bringing one or more out in cages may encourage vocalization & communication.
In the worst-case scenario where you don’t see nor hear the bird, take that inmate-like picture of your bird that you saved on your desktop for this very moment. In fact, if you can take a picture of the two of you together (before the bird was lost) it is a better way to show and prove it is your bird.
The following information falls under the category of lost OR found birds
Create a flyer that you can distribute throughout the neighborhood.
Post at local stores in the post office and cast a wide net. Parrots can fly very far very quickly.
Whether you like your neighbors or not, they can be your best friends at this point. Kids love looking for lost cool stuff. Think about offering a small reward to make it even more interesting.
Notify the authorities including the police (file a police report), animal control, and then move on to local pet stores & veterinarians. Someone who finds a bird many times will make queries to veterinarians or social media about what to feed and how to handle a parrot they most recently acquired.
Other venues to pursue are bird clubs, radio stations and newspapers, bird rescues in your area, and local zoos.
On the found side if you get your bird to a vet or rescue or anyone who has a microchip scanner they can determine if the bird does in fact has a chip. If the chip is there a reunion is probably more imminent.
If you found a bird or know someone that has, your first thought should be that this is someone’s pet and they are probably out of their mind and highly stressed.
You can also contact a local avian vet to have it scanned for a microchip – some rescues have the micro-strip chip scanners as well. A bird with a microchip is more likely to have a reunion than not.
Whether you found a bird or lost a bird these sites can be helpful in recovery I have personally seen them work on several occasions.
Should your bird not be microchipped nor banded when you travel be prepared to have proof of ownership for other reasons like USDA agricultural checkpoints in the southwest. Parrots are under the authority of the USDA (just like poultry) A picture alone won’t work because most birds of many species are identical looking.
A more realistic scenario might be your African grey flew away and you live close to a state line. Thank goodness somebody close, right across the state line found the bird, paid their due diligence, notified the authorities and because you were smart enough to have had the Grey micro-chipped you got the call it on and you’re on the way.
You’re thrilled and excited your Grey is in the hands of a veterinarian close to where it was found. You’re practically skipping out of the car and can barely wait to see your bird while time stands still in the waiting room. Finally, you are reunited. You hand the veterinary tech your manila envelope that you’ve come with proving ownership of your now very happy African grey.
The veterinarian quite cheerful moment ago comes in a bit glum. “I can’t release the bird to you if you going to be taking it across the state line without a federal breeding license – it’s the law and I’m obligated to uphold it”
I’ll let that sink in
You’ve now got the memo If you want to learn more about how the government is outlawing our birds please click here.
You’ll want hatching papers or recent veterinary exam documentation. These documents should always be easy to find and part of your caged bird keepers toolkit.
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing
approved by nora caterino
your zygodactyl footnote