When Your Parrot Flies Away…

Last week, Chris, a member of the Birdtricks community, posted a horrifying message on facebook that his beloved african grey, Kendi, had flown off. We were heartbroken for him because we knew how much love, time and effort he had put into turning Kendi into the trusting bird he had become. There were many issues to be worked through in the beginning of their union, but diligence and dedication had finally paid off and the two shared a wonderful, while hard won, relationship.

Kendi escaped from Chris on Saturday and flew into a tree and perched about 100′ up, where he stayed within view until Sunday morning.

I think we can all fill in the blanks – without a doubt, Chris called relentlessly to Kendi while he was up in the tree and I’m sure he tried to bribe him down with food and treats. But Kendi didn’t budge for 15 hours.

It could be argued that Kendi might have feared the descending flight, which is often the case with escaped birds who are not exceptional fliers. But that argument fell apart when Kendi finally decided to move and did descend to fly right past Chris, then over a building and out of sight.

African grey Kendi in tree Photo by Chris Padgett

The story has a happy ending. Kendi was found not far away and was safely returned on Tuesday after three long days for both he and Chris. The hardest part about hearing Chris recount his story, was his description of what he was feeling during the ordeal – especially the part where Kendi remained in the tree, refusing to come to him.

Chris walked away from the experience happy and grateful to have his bird back, but heavy with feelings of betrayal. Kendi chose to fly away from him after he had been trying for so many hours to save him. To his way of thinking, it was not reflective of the relationship he thought they shared. And he began to have doubt about his place in Kendi’s heart and wonder if the effort is all worth it in the end.

Many people who envision themselves in this situation are falsely comforted with the idea that, as long as their bird remains within view, their powerful mutual bond will draw the bird home again. It almost never plays that way in reality.

Kendi - home again with buddy Lucas

When a bird in that situation chooses not to fly back to you, it isn’t a statement about the relationship. A bird’s seemingly uncharacteristic behavior is merely a part of a decision making process in a stressful event, in which he might not see you as a viable part of the solution.

We don’t know what Kendi was thinking and we don’t know what he might have been seeing from his vantage point that would explain his actions. All we know is that in the same situation, a human would run for the comforting arms of a trusted friend. However, we must be careful not to impose human emotional responses onto that of a bird.

A bird’s behavior outdoors might be the result of instincts coming into play. A bird may be thinking: “Look at this huge new room to explore!” and head out to do just that, or it might be experiencing terror causing it to behave with only survival in mind.

The lesson here for everyone is that you cannot count on predictable behavior from a bird that suddenly finds itself in unfamiliar territory – and possibly in jeopardy. Do not count on your tight relationship to influence your bird’s decisions. Your bird has reasons for its actions that are its own and cannot be taken personally.

This is one of the first things you learn in freeflight training: before you even consider letting your bird fly outdoors, you must acclimate it to the new environment so that behaviors will not be fear-based and unpredictable when there.

Clipping your birds wings should not be used as a precautionary measure to an escape. Most birds with clipped wings are quite able to ascend up and away from you – especially when frightened by a loud noise or sudden movement. Should this happen, clipping puts them at a terrible disadvantage.

The clipped bird's hampered flight ability makes them vulnerable and unable to outfly predators and could cause reluctance to attempt to find safety with a human when they become hungry.

Freeflight is the future of companion bird ownership. Certain people, magazines and websites that have been railing against it for years are finally coming to realize how beneficial it is for our birds. However, If you and your bird are not trained by a professional, you should simply never take your bird outside without a harness.

Recovering A Lost Bird Guide 

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 


Diana L Woods

I’ve experienced this unfortunately. I have a male Parrotlet. He came to me from the breeder as a baby hand reared. We live on a golf course in Texas so I named him “Birdie” due to a golfing terminology! At the time he was 3 years old. Birdie had a sm/med outside cage under our covered patio and I would carry him out in my hands cupped because he’s not clipped. On this day it was Very windy. As I removed my cupped hand to grasp him to put him in the cage a huge guest of wind caught him and he was blown out of my hands. He was caught in an up draft ant was sent across the green into a grove of dense brush and very tall trees. I ran out to where I saw him go and started calling his name! I heard him calling to me! I finally spotted him! He was so tiny against the vast trees…and the wind was swaying the tree tops I’d guess upwards of 4 maybe 5 feet per sway. He was clutching at the near top branches. He and I just kept calling to each other. The wind was very loud and it was difficult to keep watch on him. This was about 5:00pm in the evening. I called my husband at work, he came home immediately. I never lost contact with Birdie be it visually or his chirps that were at times hard to hear due to the loud wind rustling. Birdie tried to fly to me 3 times. Each attempt resulted in him being caught up in the wind updrafts! And with each failed attempt the wind blew him further and further from our home. My husband said the wind should die down as the evening began. So, we stood in the middle of the golf course for 2 hours calling and talking to him so not to lose sight of him. Finally there was a break in the wind! Birdie made another attempt to come to his momma…he was maybe 12 feet above me as he tried to drop down only to be blown away once again. This wind blew him to our next door neighbors house and landed on their window screens. I ran over and took him off the screen! By this time he’d been out for 4 hours in this! He was exhausted. I loved on him and placed him in his bedtime cage. Telling my husband he’s been through so much. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll be rested and ok. Thankfully he was his sweet usual self when I went to take him out in the morning! I feel so blessed to have him back. He’s my only birb and he’s very very bonded to me. I still get tears when I think back how he tried to fly to me and with every attempt got caught up in the wind gusts….so blessed indeed.

Diana L Woods

my 2 year old eckie has been out for 5 hours now. he decided that his going to go and fly at the worst possible time – just before it got dark. now it’s past midnight and i can’t do anything about it.although i have placed all his favourite treats outside with his 2 stands and turned on all the outside lights. i feel so terrible and blame myself. the thing is that kiwi has a lot of freedom at home and i trust him so much that i always keep him on his stand during the day outside in our varanda with all the sliding glass doors open. but today a bird came near him and i guess he wanted to chase him off in case he ate his food, idk it doesn’t make sense coz there’s always wild birds near him. i just don’t know where his going to sleep or how he’s going to sleep. he hates going to bed so i usually have to stay near him and sing him to sleep, and then early in the morning screaming all the words he could muster up. if that didnt wake me then he flies up to my room and starts pulling at my hair and pulling up all the tricks up his sleeve. but after a little head rub he sleeps as sound as a baby. we stay like that for another hr or 2 before he wakes up and makes his presence known due to his full bladder. i realise im rambling quite a bit but i have nothing else to do. although my body is killing for sleep, my mind is running fast with thoughts so i dont think sleep will come. i just want to know if his safe.


My “Kiwi” Conure of 17 year’s having her escaped by accident when my husband was cleaning her cage outside. It’s been 5 weeks now & I have looked everywhere for her. I’m heartbroken without her. Her wings were never clipped & she always had freedom of movement inside the house. She clinged to me always as her own choice. I cry everyday for her return… Wondering if she ever will return. Anyone know if Conures return after being gone so long. Absolutely heartbroken! 😪


A friend of mines Macaw got away last Monday in Northern MN, She is still Missing. Prayers that she will be found would be greatly appreciated. http://www.911parrotalert.com/lost/lost-mn-bemidji-green-wing-macaw-olive-jun-18-12/

paulette arana

Oh how I pray I can find my African Grey, Joey. I look everywhere iall around my neighborhood. No one has seen him after one month….I am broken hearted, but I cannot give up. I live in Houston where there are a lot of trees and he could be having the time of his life. I search everyday .I can imagine how he felt when he got his Grey back..I hope that feeling will come to me also.

paulette arana

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