It’s that fun time of year again (here in the Southern Hemisphere). You know the time I mean? The time when your visitors see your lorikeet doing a hormonal war dance on your ponytail and delightedly tell you how you should hold still because this is going to make the best YouTube video ever… Sometimes it’s hard to like Spring! It’s easy to see why people are desperately looking for ways to solve bird-hormone related issues.
Believe it or not, an increase in hormonal behaviours isn’t the worst thing that Spring brings. Unfortunately, I’m already noticing an increase in the number of lost bird adverts springing up around the place.
As the weather fines up, windows and doors are thrown open and we have a tendency to move our birds out to enjoy the lovely weather. The chances of an accidental escape increase dramatically. So I thought it was time to visit the topic of lost and found birds.
Preventing the worst from happening and preparing for when it does:
It is worth sitting down and looking at how your bird can escape and making various cage/aviary modifications to prevent that from happening. Make sure any outdoor aviaries are anchored properly. More than one bird has escaped because of an aviary blowing over in an unforeseen windstorm.
It’s very easy to sit back and say think about where your birds are and don’t leave doors and windows open when your bird is out. Preventing a bird from a permanent disappearance takes a lot more than that though. Accidents WILL happen, no matter how careful you are. It is unrealistic to believe that it won’t ever happen to you or your bird.
Wing clips will not save your bird from getting lost. If a wing clip is done correctly a bird should still have the ability to flutter safely to the ground. ANY wing clipped bird can be caught by a gust of wind and carried away. Many people have lost their bird because they honestly thought it couldn’t fly. I don’t actually condone wing clipping but whether you believe in wing clipping or not, please don’t be caught out by the myth that a wing clip can prevent your bird’s escape.
It is far safer to assume that an accident will happen one day and to have done some preparation for that event. There is some training that you can do with your bird to help prevent a permanent loss.
The first and most obvious thing is flight training. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where free flying is safe, I encourage you to check out the Birdtricks freeflight course. It is expensive for a reason. It is a full-on commitment but worth the effort if you can do it. Outdoor freeflight is not something to take on lightly, but if you are able to do it your chance of permanently losing your bird is drastically reduced.
For those of us who don’t have the option of freeflight training, (seriously scary birds of prey out there would prevent me!!!) There is another option. You can use target training to teach your bird how to recall to you while safely inside. Target training is covered in the Total Transformation Course.
The other type of preparative training that isn’t quite as obvious as flight training is teaching your bird to Talk on Cue. You can’t cue a bird to recall to you, if you can’t find it. Teaching your bird to talk is a really useful way of finding out where your bird is.
When one of my lorikeets undid a food bowl door and flew off last year, she disappeared over the roof of my house. I ran through the house and out the front door, but by the time I got out there my bird had landed and wasn’t visible. She has a very soft voice when she speaks, but has a brilliant whistle. I had trained her to complete a wolf whistle. I start the whistle – she finishes it. Fortunately, this allowed me to work out she was in the tallest tree in the street.
After a lot of effort involving me doing a stupid dance (in my pyjamas) to get her attention (while an evil neighbour got out his video camera), I was able to coax her down. The whole time wishing I’d done more recall training that involved a descent (and of course I was wishing I was wearing less skimpy pyjamas)!
One of the other things that you can do to help make an accident easier include having a list of your local vets, petstores and rescues. Think of anywhere a bird might be handed in. Have your list ready to go – it isn’t something you’re going to want to spend time researching when the worst happens.
I’ve actually done up a flier with a photograph for each of my birds just in case. I’ve saved the file and it’s basically ready to pull out when/if needed. The only thing that I have to do is fill in is the date of an escape. That’s a 2 second job, much preferable to spending hours wading through photos looking for a decent picture. Check out the section below on creating a leaflet for more help with that.
Consider microchipping your birds. In Australia, a microchip is now roughly ¼ size of a grain of rice. The procedure here is a simple injection and nowhere near as stressful as it used to be. My birds easily coped with the procedure. Other countries are still using slightly larger microchips (so the bird may need to be put under while it is inserted), but it is still worth discussing this with your avian vet.
What to do immediately after an escape:
- When your bird is flying off, it is important that you make noise so it knows where you are. It may well help your bird get its bearings and work out how to come back to you.
- Take note of the direction the bird flies and how tired it looks. It will help give you an idea of where it lands.
- A pet bird is not going to have the stamina to fly very far at first. They generally stay within a mile/1km of where they were lost for the first few days.
- The first 24 hours are crucial. You need to get out there and physically look and call for your bird.
- Watch for wild birds, your bird might be hiding, scared and silent but if there are wild birds around they have a tendency to be very vocal about an intruder. They can help you identify your bird’s location.
- Your bird may be very still when it is frightened. Watch for any unnaturally leaf/branch movement – not just for glimpses of your actual bird.
- Alert any neighbours and make sure they can contact you. The more people looking, the more chance you have of getting your bird back.
- If you have other birds, take one with you in a travel cage as you walk the streets. If you are lucky enough to have more than 2 birds, it would also help to move a cage/aviary into your yard with your remaining birds in it. The other birds’ calls can bring your bird in.
- You are not likely to find your bird in the dark, so when the daylight fades it’s time to go inside and start the online campaign to recover your bird. See the links at the end of this post for some places to start.
When you don’t recover your bird immediately:
- Don’t give up. That’s easy for me to say BUT I know people who have got their bird back months after they have lost it. The longest I know of is 18 months later.
- Remember, a bird may turn to a human for help when it gets hungry and tired, so a leaflet drop is worth doing. Check out the advertisement tips below for advice on what to include.
- It may take your bird a while to find help. Unfortunately, this may come AFTER the house your bird ends up in has thrown out your leaflet. Don’t be afraid to do multiple leaflet drops in the same area.
- Tape posters to the rear window of your car. As you drive around – you’re advertising.
- If you live in a location where your species of bird lives wild, don’t forget to contact wildlife rescue organisations to see if they have come across your bird. As a wildlife rescuer – I commonly get called out to rescue what the public thinks is a wild bird, but is actually a talking pet. (Nothing like being told to “Bug off Bozo!!!” by an angry tame cockatoo.)
- Put up posters at your local vets, animal shelters/rescues, pet stores, post office – wherever you can think of. Don’t forget sports facilities such as golf clubs and football ovals.
- See if you can get the local media interested. A lot of local newspapers will have a lost and found section.
- Hit the internet. The longer your bird is missing the further it can travel and the average internet advert will reach a wide audience.
Tips for creating a leaflet/poster/advertisement:
- Offer a reward. This will encourage people to look for your bird, or if someone dishonest has him – might motivate a return. You don’t have to specify the amount on the leaflet.
- Do NOT put your exact address on your advertisement. I put a general area on mine, but not a specific address. Putting your address on a flier is like saying to a thief “Come to my place and steal my animals and then claim the reward” or “Hey check out my house – I keep expensive birds as pets”. Protect yourself and your other animals.
- Make your phone number prominent, but don’t leave your number somewhere where you can’t remove it from later.
- Include a photo of your bird. If you don’t have a photo, include a basic description. Don’t just pull a random photo off the internet of someone else’s bird. Someone may disregard you advertisement because your bird looks different to the pic you got off the internet.
- Clearly ask people to CALL FOR ANY SIGHTING. People may see your bird but be unable to catch it and just not call you. If you can track your bird by sightings you have a better chance of finding the bird yourself.
- Include a bit of a sob story – even if it is just the sentence ‘family is very distressed’. It’s quite possible someone has found and fallen in love with your cute talkative bird and they don’t want to give it up. The sob story might give them the motivation to do so.
- Do NOT include a legband number or microchip number. This should be held back to prove ownership of the bird. It prevents a dishonest person from removing a leg band. Feel free to say ‘he/she is microchipped’, just don’t give the number.
- If there is something that will make your bird easier to catch – include that info. E.g. comes when whistled.
What to do if you have found a bird
- If you have other birds – quarantine the found bird. Don’t just stick it in with yours. Wild birds carry diseases that this bird may have been exposed to.
- Locations to hand in found birds are going to vary internationally so my best advice is to contact a local vet and get their recommendation on where to take a bird if you are unable to hold it and look for the owner yourself.
- When advertising that you have found a bird, hold some details back. There are unscrupulous people out there who just want a free bird. Basic details should be enough to attract the real owner, who should be able to fill the gaps. So don’t list the bird’s entire vocabulary, legband number, etc.
Advertising Online for a Lost or Found pet/bird:
No doubt some of the links below will eventually become redundant, so before I put up any links I want to give you a couple of very important tips:
- Do a Google search yourself. Pretend you are the person that has just found your bird. Whatever comes up in your search results is likely to come up for anyone who actually does find your bird. It will give you a very good idea of which sites are current at the time of your bird’s loss, which sites come up locally to you and therefore which sites to place an advert on.
- Another tip for an online advert is to remember that not everyone has your bird knowledge. For example, the average person on the street is not going to know what a male Eclectus parrot looks like. They aren’t going to type ‘lost Eclectus’ into google when they find your bird. They are more likely to type ‘lost green bird’. Remember that when you do your advert. Feel free to say “Lost Eclectus Parrot” in your advert, but make sure you include a simple description from which key words will be picked up by google. Describe your bird. It might seem too obvious to say something like ‘green bird, yellow-orange beak’, but to the average person those are the words they will use to find the owner.
- Include a date lost, but make sure you say “still missing” in your description, even if it has only been 2 days. Remember this advert is going to be what brings your bird home if he/she is found in 6 months time. You don’t want someone to discount your advert as ‘too old’.
- Include a rough location. Don’t be too exact in area, because birds fly and you don’t want someone to discount your advert just because your bird is found far away.
- Keep a record of the sites you put adverts up on – so that you can remove them if your bird is found. Do not put adverts up in locations where you can never remove your personal details. Unfortunately, there are some sick people out there who may give you harassing phone calls.
- Jump on the bird forums or some of the bird groups on facebook. Post links to your lost advert and make the privacy setting on your post ‘public’ so that people can share it.
Useful links to sites that might help:
Note some of these sites allow people to register with them and will notify you of any lost birds in your area as they get lost, which will warn you to keep an eye open. So even if you haven’t lost a bird – check them out.
World Wide Lost & Found Bird Hotline: http://www.birdhotline.com/
911 Parrot Alert: http://www.911.parrotalert.com/
Parrot Alert: http://www.parrotalert.com/
Pet Amber Alert: http://www.petamberalert.com/
Birdmart Parrot Classified Ads – Lost & Found: http://birdmart.com/classifieds/
Flealess Market’s Lost Pets International: http://www.flealess.org/lostpets/
Gumtree Classifieds: http://www.gumtree.com/
Lost and Found: http://www.lostandfound.com
It’s worth searching ‘lost pets’ on Facebook and on craigslist and seeing what comes up too!
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.
I live in a house with abusive parents and my dad is a controlling freak. each one of our individual decisions have to assessed by him, if he doesn’t like them, we can’t do them, if we do then we get a long lecture accompanied by berating and yelling. this context is needed to understand my story. so fast forward, one day he randomly decided to buy a bunch of birds, I have so infuriated because I knew birds are hard to take care of and he doesn’t have it in him. slowly over time, however, I grew a very fond of the birds, especially the two cockatiels. we got them around September (2022), one was a female (reka), and one was a male (pickle) – both of them were very young. the two of them brightened my days, made it easy for to cope with my depression. I was so emotionally attached to them, we spend our mornings together, they woke me up with their whistles. yet yesterday, both of them died. I blame myself because one of them had seizures and was very sick, I tried taking them to vets but we barely got any bird specialists in our area, and it costs a fair bit, we can afford it buy my dad, a scumbag, decided its too much, so we couldn’t take them to the vet because of him. I had to see the cockatiel suffer and it killed me inside every single day. one day she got better, I was so happy. but yesterday proved that maybe she didn’t and both of them had a painful death, I had to see one of them have seizures multiple times, I feel like I killed them. I should have done something, I should fought my dad.
Plsss help me to find my bird . She’s 4 months old parrot. She flew away early in the morning when everyone was asleep. We got to know about he absence about 15-30 mins later . One of our neighbor said to have seen her but wasn’t aware it was our parrot as we didn’t told them about our missing parrot. So we tried searching for our parrot in the specific area our neighbor told was seen . But we didn’t succeed in finding her . Its been 4 days we kept searching but couldn’t find her. She flew away on 19th August. Today its 22nd August . Please help me find my bird .
Hello from the USA! Superb article! I hope no one loses their beloved Bird but I pray every day for those who do and for their little Birds to come to no harm.
Hi, we’ve lost our beloved pet cockatiel Loco in Swindon England 3 hours ago. From sn5 6 we to be specific. Is there any help or advice you can suggest for finding him. He is 10months old and hasn’t had his wings clipped. Absolutely devastated 😢
Plzzzz help me .. I have lost my parrot 4 days ago … now m nt able to see him .. actually we went for a small vacations so I kept him at my neighbour ‘s place .. then he flew away … he ws sitting there for 1 day afr he flew but now he’s not there … what should I do ? Plzz reply me fast he lost on 21 September 2015 .. plzzz suggest me .. he’s very active .. he reponds to us whenever we call him .. plzzz help me
Cat health insurance provides reimbursement coverage to your pet’s eligibhle topical treatments, surgeries, lab fees, X-rays, prescriptions and more. Yoour pets emergency kit isnt much different by comparison. One afternoon, dashing for an appointment, I almost didn’t stop.
I had a sever macaw that flew away a few years ago. It took me 9 hours to find him. In our bird room we had another bird, a yellow naped amazon. I moved the amazon’s cage outdoors because every evening at sunset the two birds would do their evening calls. This worked for me. The amazon began calling at dusk and I could hear the severe returning the calls from about 1/4 miles away. I left the amazon outdoors in his cage; he continued his calling and I headed in the direction of the replies. After hours of searching and walking in the fading light, finally, I found the severe high up in a tree, which had a very skinny trunk. A friend who went with me assisted in bending the tree closer to the ground where I was finally able to reach my bird. He was rescued. I was very happy and I never let him sit outside unattended again. I have now had that severe for more than 20 years and he has proven to be the very best pet bird I have ever owned after keeping more then 40 over all of the years that I had shared this incredible love of birds that so many of us share. Hope my story helps someone out there with a similar situation.
Lost a handreared lorikeet a few years ago. She was a brilliant talker. I was putting washing out and had accidentally left the back door open. She flew past me and screeched welcome then crossed to a park near where i live and landed in very tall gumtrees. I could locate her when i walked through the park and she called out “Hello darling” repeating it many times. She always greeted me when i walked in the door with this. I called and she kept answering me. Went back to the park with a cage for many days but she must have joined another flock of lorikeets who were regulars to this park. Hope she has a happy life. I was very sad and disappointed.
This also happened to me. I was walking my cat in a pet stroller (weird i know) with my dusky conure “Picky” on my shoulder. His wings were clipped. I noticed a piece of plastic trash on the ground and when I bent over to pick it up to throw it away Picky flew off my shoulder. What a sight i was running across traffic with that cat stroller. As the article states, i watched what direction he flew. He flew up onto a 75’ sycamore tree in a neighbors backyard. He didn’t know he could fly and it scared him, so he flew down to the ground. I frantically knocked on the door and asked for access to the backyard. (They have a 6’ privacy fence.) The lady let me in and said I was lucky her dogs were not out at the time. I called for Picky and her answered with his screechy voice. He was in a patch of English Ivy, the exact same color of his feathers. My instincts were what saved him. I did what Chet suggests in this article completely on instinct. I love my flock and we don’t go outside much after that incident. Thanks Chet!
This was a great article, and since everyone was sharing, I decided to share my lost bird story. Right after a wing clipping, by a veterinarian by the way, my Myers Parrot flew out the door and over the neighbor’s roof. I searched and searched, went home to create some flyers, went out to search some more and had to give up when it got dark. My bird had green feathers and went silent when scared, so she blended in with the neighborhood foliage and sat very still in someone’s back yard listening to me walk up and down the streets in my neighborhood calling for her. People came home from work, started up their stereos and lawn mowers, and created so much noise I knew that even if my bird had started to call back I’d never hear her. My own whistles and calls were getting drowned out. So, I decided to take the animal communication tactic and said out loud (I must’ve sounded pretty strange to the neighbors), “I can’t see you, you blend in too much. I can’t hear you, it’s too loud out here. Please stick around, don’t give up. I want to find you.” After a sleepless night I found I could hear her calling in the dawn, so I went out for one last attempt. Miraculously I found her a block behind my house – she was hiding under a bright red truck clucking like a chicken! I was thrilled, she was thrilled, and she never tried to fly out the door again. Still, I say alert now, and make sure all the doors are locked against accidental escapes whenever she is free-ranging the house. I want to get her microchipped, but the vet says she’s too small. Now we are working on getting her to come when called. It’s a process, but I hope it will come in handy if this were to ever happen again.
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