Failed Macaw Rescue

We are often called upon to accept unwanted birds or to rescue mistreated birds. Most of our tales have had good endings. Some, though, did not.

We always advise folks to keep their bird wings trimmed. This is critical for a variety of reasons, including training and safety. We disagree with some fans who believe the bird should be allowed to fly about the home for exercise. After all, they are designed to fly and should not be restricted from doing so.

But birds in the wild don’t have to worry about ceiling fans, windows, lighting, or hot stoves. And then there’s the scariest nightmare… What if a tame bird escapes via an open window or follows you out the door? The bird has relied on you to care for and feed it its whole life. It has no idea how to scrounge for food or where to search for refuge.


We received a call from a local animal rescue organisation on a cold Saturday morning. They sought our assistance in catching a Blue/Gold Macaw that had been reported in a backyard tree.

We could see the bird around 40 feet up in a huge tree when we arrived. Because the yard was enclosed, bringing a bucket truck or ladder truck was difficult. Attempts to approach it with a pole were futile since the bird just flew away. The fire department couldn’t assist, and my longest ladder couldn’t reach it.

As a last ditch attempt to entice the bird to fly down, we placed some food. We also brought one of our own Umbrella Cockatoos in the hopes that the other bird would feel at ease feeding with it. Meanwhile, we visited with the animal rescue organisation, who informed us of the situation.

They had been attempting to capture the bird for many days. The neighbourhood youngsters were unhelpful, scaring the bird more than anything else. Tossing bottles and horseshoes at it didn’t seem to work. They persisted on playing basketball in the driveway 30 feet away while we were attempting to get the bird to come down. They couldn’t have given a damn.

When the property owner realised what was going on and learned the worth of this bird, she said that it was her bird and presented an 18-inch Cockatiel cage as evidence. Unfortunately for her, no consideration was given to how a giant macaw might pass through the little door opening (DUH!) In reality, we never found the owner.

Meanwhile, it started to drizzle softly. The prediction was for light rain throughout the day and night, as well as a dip in temperature. We realised that if we didn’t save this bird, it wouldn’t make it through the night. We continued to wait and watch, hoping that the bird would pick another tree that was easier to approach. We have access to a telephone utility vehicle that could reach the bird if he migrated to another tree. However, it was unable to enter this backyard area. We had our avian veterinarian on standby (remember, it was the weekend!) in case the bird need medical assistance. We were also visited by local TV news crews who were covering the issue.

We departed after many hours, leaving the rescue group to continue their wait. They regretfully called it quits when it grew too dark to see till the following morning (the neighbourhood was not one of the safest places to be in).

We got a call early the following morning to say the bird had perished. They were able to climb the tree and retrieve the corpse. There was a legband on the bird, but we couldn’t find it. The bird had no chip and could not be identified in any other manner.


We’ve been practising strategies for collecting birds from high areas since then. I created a telescoping pole with a rather big net that can reach a distance of roughly 50 feet. However, since it is lightweight and constructed of fibreglass, it bounces about and is difficult to manage. But it’s much better than nothing.

However, the greatest form of rescue is prevention! This bird was in full flight when it escaped from its owner. It would still be secure at home with a loving family if its wings were cut, rather than battling for its life in a foreign garden with kids throwing bottles at it.

Every time we clip our African Grey’s wings, we remember this tale and wish we could make them realise why we are robbing them of their flight.

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