I used be very intolerant of people who allowed their birds to escape. I saw this as the height of irresponsibility. Then, three years ago, it happened to me. It was a fluke accident. My cockatiels were in a bathroom that was off of my bedroom and both doors were shut. I had not fully latched the door to my bedroom and my cat pushed it open creating a series of incidents which resulted in one of my cockatiels escaping out of the open sliding door in another room. I was horrified.
I managed to track him to the edge of the property, calling him, and praying he would fly down to me. When he saw me from high up in a tree he gave his alarm call, but was chased off by the territorial blue jays also on the property. It is easy to lose track of a small parrot. It was the last time I actually laid eyes on him.
The thing to remember is that when a bird is outside, it is completely disoriented. It sees your house, and every other house, from a perspective that it can’t possibly recognize and continues to fly in search of something familiar or to somewhere it feels safe.
Hopefully, it will seek shelter inside the foliage of a nearby tree and still be close enough to see your yard. The first thing you want to do is calm down so that you are thinking clearly. Time is of the essence. Try to track where your bird is going visually and make note of the direction for when/if you lose sight of him.
Keep loudly calling him, whistling and repeating familiar phrases. Help him locate you! If he is in flight, try to observe his proximity to the ground and nearby buildings. This might give you idea of where, or if, he has chosen to land, and where to search. If you have located your bird, be very careful to allow him to come to you. Climbing a tree, or raising an unfamiliar object like a broomstick to get to him to come down will likely just frighten him away again.
Bring his cage out into the yard, in clear view, and put his favorite treats inside to help coax him down to the cage top. The tops of their cages, unlike rooftops, are a familiar sight to them. If you have other parrots, especially those that he’s friendly with, roll their cage out too, or bring them out in a carrier. (Try not to make too much commotion doing this, you don’t want to scare him further away. Remember not to leave them outside unattended, or take any of them out of the cage or you might have two birds to find!)
With any luck their calls will lure your lost one home. I hear a lot of success stories using this method. Often the owner will go outside to find their parrot inside the cage eating a snack. Since my cockatiel had been chased off, this didn’t work for me, although I tried for weeks to get him back in this manner.
If you fear your parrot has flown too far away to see your yard, and while you are waiting for it to return to its cage, get on the phone. Notify your vet about your missing parrot and have the staff at his office be aware of any “found” parrot coming into the office. Sometimes they manage to get miles away and notifying any vet office you can is not a bad idea. Ask them to let the staff know that you will be calling in to check with them periodically.
Notify the wild animal rescue centers in your area, and every animal shelter that you know of. If there are any bird clubs in your area, they will be a big help as to who you can contact locally.
Get online and put a listing on craigslist. Go onto the bird talk boards and ask them for help in putting out the word – they log in from all over the world. Ask for their help in cross posting to other sites. Many will just do that automatically out of concern. Make a flyer. Make sure it includes the name and species of your parrot as well as a picture. Put in your contact info and things to make people realize he is a beloved member of your home, such as favorite words and sayings (like hello and nite-nite) and favorite foods (like bananas).
Feel free to offer a reward if it is a costly bird, someone may prefer the cash to the property. I included my vet’s number, just in case, and arranged with the vet in advance that if anyone brought in my bird I would cover any expenses for it’s care in my absence. Post them in your local vet’s offices, animal shelters, pet stores, local businesses (if they’ll let you) and on every available tree or telephone pole. Put ads in the newspapers (and don’t forget to check for “found” bird ads!)
Go to www.911parrotalert.com to report a lost or stolen bird. This is a “volunteer-run international initiative dedicated to helping reunite lost, stolen and found parrots and birds with their families.”
Finally, don’t give up! I can recount countless heartwarming stories of people who got their birds back months and sometimes years later. Keep in contact with your shelters, vets and rescues on an ongoing basis.
If your parrot was stolen, take these same measures. On your fliers, offer a “no questions asked” reward for its safe return and request that anyone being offered a parrot under suspicious circumstances or at an unlikely price for the species contact you. Offer them the reward if it leads to your parrots.
Very often people who steal expensive birds, as well as those who buy stolen birds will have no idea what they’ve bargained for, and your parrot could wind up in a rescue months or years later. Keep checking. As a matter of prevention, I think it goes without saying that you should keep all windows and doors securely closed. Make sure each parrot knows and responds to it name.
Recall training is an excellent tool, but a parrot suddenly out of it’s environment might not reliably respond. It is, however, certainly better to have that advantage. Don’t bring your parrots outdoors unless they are trained to be there.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.