After reading that heading, anyone familiar with my flock will immediately know that my Blue and Gold Macaw named Fid, has been at it again. If there is a way for him to get into trouble – he’ll find it. This week he added the title “Jewel thief” to his resume.
It was one of those awfully fast scenarios that are over before you can blink. He had been talking to my goldfish, which were extra interesting at that particular time because I’d just completely overhauled their tank. He was on my arm, leaning into the tank saying “Oooooh” looking at the new shell at the front and I mistakenly believed this performance to be him innocently expressing his desire to steal their shell.
While I was distracted (looking at the shell) he suddenly grabbed the stud in my ear (by the crystal) and flew off with it. Not unfamiliar with Fid’s snatch and grab routines I was after him and caught him within a second after only 2 metres of flight. I am able to shove my fingers in his mouth without too much danger and I promptly did so, searching under his tongue where he likes to hold things until he can examine them at his leisure. I did not find my earring.
This left me with two options: Fid had either dropped it or swallowed it. The important question was – which was the reality?
If this happens to you, there are a couple of things to remember that might help you stay calm:
- Birds know the difference between food and objects. They’re unlikely to swallow objects – it’s possible but it’s unlikely.
- If a bird intentionally snatches an interesting object, it’s usually because they want a closer look. You can’t look at something if you swallow it.
- Small earrings fit in small cracks and places. I’m sure there is a planet where all the odd socks in the world go and it wouldn’t surprise me if there happens to be a pile of earrings there too.
- If a bird does swallow something, it goes into their crop, so it isn’t immediately on its way further into the digestive system. You’ve got a small window of time before the situation gets more serious.
So the search was on. The speed that Fid had moved and taken off with my earring was enough to tell me that he knew I was going to chase him to retrieve it. Whether or not he’d swallowed it in that split second in order to stop me getting it was what was worrying me. I began the long and arduous task of dismantling my open plan home. I made good use of a vacuum with a stocking covering the nozzle. I dismantled furniture in my desperation but failed to find the earring.
I could feel an earring sized lump in Fid’s crop. Unfortunately before he’d been talking to goldfish, he’d just been eating pellets. My earring was the same size as a pellet. He was panting, so that was a bad sign but then again he was stressed because I had unceremoniously grabbed him and shoved my fingers down his throat. Not to mention he’d be sensing my stress too.
The next question was how serious was this? What were the chances of the earring causing metal poisoning? Well for half a second I was relieved. The earrings were a gift. They were supposed to be excellent quality Swarovski Crystal, which should in theory mean they were a safe metal. Unfortunately, it was the first time I’d worn them for more than an hour. The remaining earring was turning green. They weren’t the quality they were meant to be and metal poisoning was a very real possibility.
As these things go, it was well and truly after the hours that all of the avian vets had closed. By now I suspected that I was going to have to get Fid X-rayed and that surgery might well be the next step. As much as I love the emergency vets in my area, trusting them with my beloved bird when they’re not qualified? It was unthinkable. I made the decision that the earring would still be in him the next day and I would have him at the avian vet’s for their first appointment next day.
The gods of google told me that other people in my situation had fed their bird peanut butter in the hopes of coating the earring and making it easier to pass. I chose not to follow this advice. I knew that if he’d swallowed it, peanut butter or not – it was most likely to end up in his gizzard and stay there. I could understand the peanut butter idea if an X-ray wasn’t an option, but an X-ray is honestly the best first step if you can’t find the earring.
A bird that needs an X-ray, requires an anesthetic in order to have that X-ray. I knew this, so instead of feeding Fid peanut butter, I removed all food from his surroundings. For the safety of the bird, it should fast before an anesthetic. Some water is fine, but the bird really shouldn’t eat. In terms of for how long the bird should fast, it’s going to vary depending on the species of bird – so discuss it with your vet. It’s a good thing to be aware of. For a bird of Fid’s size, taking the food out overnight and having the X-ray in the morning was ideal.
I didn’t find the earring by morning, so off to the vet Fid and I went. Naturally, it turned out that it was Fid’s vet’s day off. Fid has a knack for being accident prone on his vet’s day off. You’d think he picks his moments on purpose! Fortunately, Fid’s vet has backup. Understandably though, I was worried about how Fid was going to cope with a new vet. I found myself hoping she wasn’t wearing earrings.
I was halfway to the vet when the storm hit. It suddenly felt like the wind was trying to pick up my car. Trucks in neighbouring lanes on the freeway were clearly struggling to drive in a straight line. Debris was flying around and absolutely no one’s windscreen wipers were helping with that rain. Not surprisingly, Fid was picking up on the stress. I had to hand it to him. Vet’s day off AND the storm of the year. He sure picks his moments!
We did actually get to the vet and not surprisingly, the only other animals that were at the surgery braving the weather with their owners, were very serious cases. There was a very distressed couple who were crying because they were having to make the hardest decision possible for their budgie. Add the flickering lights, shaking walls and roaring noise of the wind and you can imagine how calm Fid was. He was taken out the back for his X-ray leaving me in the waiting room where I watched in horror as the surgery’s sign became airborne and smashed its way through 4 lanes of traffic. It was a miracle no one was hurt.
It wasn’t long before I was called out the back. They needed my help. No one had been able to get Fid out of his travel cage. When I arrived he was still in his cage yelling “NO!” at the vet along with a less than polite version of “Go away!” It’s at moments like these that I like to pretend that Fid doesn’t know what he’s saying and isn’t really insulting the nice new vet. Unfortunately though, it was more than obvious that Fid knew exactly what he was saying. He took one look at my face and said: “Fid! Be good and step up.” I offered him my arm and he stepped up beautifully. He then took off, swooped the new vet and did a circle coming back to land on my arm and said “HA!” It was on purpose and in that environment he wasn’t going to cooperate for anyone but me.
I solved that problem by restraining him for the anesthetic. Once anesthetized (and unconscious) Fid became cooperative whether he wanted to be or not. It didn’t take the vet long to do the X-ray and work out that my missing earring was still missing. I still didn’t know where it was, but at least I knew it wasn’t in Fid.
As Fid was waking up, the flickering lights were making my next problem more and more obvious. Checking the weather radar on my phone, it was obvious that the storm was going to last for most of the day and that it would get worse still and fairly quickly. The radio was advertising road closures due to flooding and a lot of those closures were near my home. Fid needed warmth to recover from the anesthetic and I had no reason to believe the power at the surgery was going to stay on. I needed to get him into my car with the heater on and home as quickly as possible – before all of the roads home were cut.
The drive home wasn’t easy. The roar of the wind was loud and it was taking all of my attention to keep the car on the road. It was slow going because visibility was down to just a few metres. I put the radio on because Fid loves music and I hoped it would hide the noise of the wind. As stressed as I was, of the 22,000 songs on my iPod, I couldn’t quite believe which songs it randomly started playing. “We’re all going to die someday” sung by Kasey Chambers, followed by “Another One Bites the Dust” sung by Queen and finally “If Tomorrow Never Comes” sung by Ronan Keating. Fid didn’t seem to care and joined in with a few “LALAs” anyway but I have to say I felt like someone up there was messing with me.
We did make it home. The end of my street was under water but that was as close as floodwaters came to the house. Currently my flock are all enjoying the fresh tree branches that the wind so kindly home delivered.
As for the mystery of my missing earring? Like all good mysteries, there’s a twist. It turns out Fid the jewel thief had an accomplice. While I was frantically searching the area surrounding where Fid must have dropped the earring, Fid’s accomplice recovered the earring and played the world’s best game of kitty soccer. I located it 2 days later under my bed. The kitten had taken it out of the living room, around a corner, down a corridor, past 4 rooms, around another corner and into my bedroom. It hadn’t occurred to me to search that far away from the original snatch site. Sometimes I’m torn between being glad my animals survived and well I’m sure you know the feeling!!!
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.