“The Phone Call” has become the yearly indicator that spring has arrived. The sorrowful, frantic shouts of people whose parrots have escaped, and the happy, though bewildered, sounds from the other side – those who have discovered a bird. We had an unusually warm and bright February and early March in Portland, Oregon, so “The Calls” began early this year. So far, more parrots have been discovered than lost, and several have been joyfully reunited with their families. This “Lost and Found” conundrum is becoming more prevalent as more people purchase companion birds and, tragically, get little information about their requirements and care.
Okay, first and foremost, parrots are made to fly! Second, when birds molt, wing trims grow back in. So there is no such thing as a bird that cannot fly! Proper wing trimming is intended to restrict flying; excess trimming is never a good idea since the resulting violent crashes to the floor may damage not just beaks, legs, and keels, but also self-esteem. Even in the worst-case situation, birds quickly recover flight as new main feathers develop. I’ve seen birds that only fly down within the house soar rather far OUTSIDE – far enough to fall in the path of an approaching automobile or beneath the nose of the neighbor dog. So, the ultimate conclusion is that ALL parrots, clipped or not, should be deemed flight competent.
Unfortunately, most missing birds are not successfully located, caught, and returned to their owners. Our spoiled companion birds lack the ability to hunt food and water and often succumb to thirst and hunger. Predators abound, including dogs, cats, hawks, raccoons, and others, and parrots are easy prey. Birds that are discovered often wind up in the wrong hands, where they are considered as either a “free” pet or a commodity to be sold for a few dollars. There also seems to be a widespread belief that the owner of a missing bird does not “deserve” to have him returned. I’m not sure why people make so little effort to locate the family – these same individuals frequently work tirelessly to locate the owners of lost dogs and cats, but I hear this time and time again when it comes to birds. So, what are your options?
First and foremost, you must be an informed and responsible parrot owner! Maintain regular wing trimming, including touch-ups as required. Check your bird often by gently throwing it over a bed or soft mat. Long-tailed, slim-bodied birds recover flight faster than stocky, short-tailed birds. Cockatiels, in particular, have a broad wing span and a small body weight, making them incredibly aerodynamic. Once one or two new primaries grow in, most ‘tiels can fly rather effectively. ‘Tiels should never be carried outdoors without a leash or a carrier, in my view.
Always keep an eye out for open doors and windows. Check that the screen doors lock firmly and that the window screens are securely in place. Set up a check procedure before let birds out of the cage in households with children or several people.
Put your bird in a cage or carrier if you take him outdoors or in the vehicle until you get at your destination and are securely inside. Avoid windy days and acclimatize your bigger bird to wearing a leash if he loves spending time with you in the yard or anyplace outside.
Microchipping parrots weighing more than 150 grams may assist in identifying a lost bird and locating its owner. Microchips are little, rice grain-sized implants that are placed into the breast muscle by your veterinarian for roughly $40 – $50. The chip number, your name, and other essential information are entered into a form. A national registration then stores this information. Make a note of the chip numbers and inform the registration of any changes in address or ownership. Scanners for microchips are available at most veterinarians, humane organizations, and certain pet stores. Unfortunately, at this moment, new chip types can only be read by new type scanners, while old chips can only be read by old type scanners. Although leg bands cannot be used to locate a bird’s home, they may help you identify your bird if it is discovered. Make a note of the numbers and keep them somewhere secure.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking your bird won’t or can’t fly away! I often hear, “He never flies,” “He never leaves my shoulder,” “He loves me, therefore he’ll come back,” and so on. Even the most docile, placid, and intelligent bird may get frightened, catch a wind, and fly away. Backfiring cars and crows flying past are well-known parrot-startlers. Our dogs’ instincts are still guided by wild, inherent “fight or flight” tendencies. This implies that when they are terrified, they are designed to FLY AWAY. Once in the air, parrots fly up and away, not down and towards you!
Okay, he’s gone, you’re feeling bad and self-blaming, and you realize the chances of finding him are minimal, so should you give up? NO!! Stop hating yourself, think logically, and act immediately. The first 24 hours are critical in retrieving your bird, just as they are for missing children. If you spot him, approach him carefully and quietly. Get your hands around him, disregard any biting, and bring him inside!
If you spotted where he flew, go in that direction, yelling his name. Keep him in sight of someone while you enlist the assistance of relatives or neighbors. Gather a blanket, a net, a reward, and anything else that will assist in capture. Walk around the neighborhood, knock on doors, carry your second bird (in a tiny cage or leash!) and leave his (the escapee’s) cage outside with the door open, covered with food.
Make a flier containing his images and a prize offer, as well as his name and phrases he knows. Make 100 copies and distribute them on street corners, grocery stores, local veterinarians, and pet shops. Post a classified ad in the “lost and found” section. Contact your local humane society, animal shelters, local bird groups, avian vets, and bird stores. Look for pet lost and found on the internet.
Although birds may migrate quickly, most stay within a five-mile radius at first. For assistance, contact any local bird rescue or adoption organisations. If you get word that he has been seen, gather a group of buddies, an extension ladder, your “catching” gear, and a carrier. Take him to his avian vet right away for an examination. He might have suffered from exposure, frostbite, sunstroke, dehydration, or a cut or infection. Remember to cut his wings!
When a parrot is discovered, the local “Bird Lady” or “Bird Man” will be contacted. I maintain a list of all the above-mentioned local contacts and advise people to contact all of the same organizations and sites that have been indicated for missing birds. Investigate the internet. Distribute fliers but DO NOT contain a picture or specifics about marks, speeches, or band numbers. Some less conscientious individuals may utilize excessive information to stake claim to birds that are not theirs. If someone claims to own a bird, demand a detailed description, bill of sale, vet records, or other evidence of ownership. Most newspapers publish free classified advertising for lost pets. Place an ad right now. If the bird is larger than a cockatiel, take him (in a carrier) to a vet or humane society to be scanned for a microchip. Remember to scan for both sorts of chips.
While you wait, put the finding bird in a cage for protection – if you don’t have one, check if a rescue organisation can lend you one. Isolate him if you have birds to avoid illness transmission. Get some high-quality seed mix; feeding him what’s around the house or what your other pets eat will weaken his immune system even more. If you can afford it, get his wings cut as soon as possible and have him checked by a veterinarian for any injuries or disease. If you identify his bereaved owners, they should be willing to compensate you. If his family is never found and you are unable to commit to giving him a permanent home with you, place the bird with an adoption program that will screen people and properly place him – do not simply give him to anyone who asks.
I’d appreciate it if I didn’t receive “The Call” so often this spring. Every one of these lost or discovered birds hurts my heart because it might have been avoided. I think of the poor little bird who is alone out there, and of his family, who is sad and waiting. If you’ve done everything you can to find your lost bird or reunite a found one, you can take solace in knowing you tried. If you lost him, hopefully you learned something. If you find him, I hope you did the right thing; imagine how you’d feel if it was your child.
The bottom line is to BE SAFE, BE SMART, and PROTECT your parrots and yourself from having to go through this unfortunate and unnecessary ordeal EVER AGAIN. I’m hoping that when I hear from you, it’s not “The Call,” but something more upbeat and enjoyable!
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