"My bird is clipped. When I take him outside on my shoulder, he does not fly away. We go outside together all of the time and nothing has ever happened." FAMOUS LAST WORDS.
Unfortunately, I have heard this excuse too many times. And I also have been contacted by too many people who have lost their Greys because they had stupidly taken their birds outside on their shoulders. A beautiful day turns into a nightmare.
A clipped bird can fly off of a shoulder, just as easily as a fully-flighted one can. All it takes is whiff of wind.or a horn blasting..or a motorcycle speeding..or a backyard bird flying off a tree. In a flash, the bird's 'fight or flight' instinct takes over when something abrupt scares him, no matter how many times he has been outside with his pet human.
On top of that, once he has flown off, he has absolutely NO IDEA how to get back to his human. Our companion parrots are not cats and dogs that find their way home. They are not homing pigeons either. They do not have the homing instinct to know where to find that "dot" that used to be the human's shoulder. Instead, the adrenalin and fear keep them flying further and further away.
Even worse, the bird does not have the skills to know how to protect himself. In nature, bird parents teach their young what to eat and what NOT to eat. If a bird does not recognize something as food, he will not eat. That's because instinct has taught him that if he doesn't know for sure that it is food, then it could kill him.
So, because of a stupid human mistake, the companion bird is lost outside with no idea how to get home..with no idea how to fend for himself...and with no idea how to feed himself. Maybe he will get lucky by being found by other humans..or by connecting with a few wild birds that will accept him in their flock.
Pet humans, please wake up and take responsibility BEFORE the "not-my-bird" syndrome becomes a nightmare for you..and even worse, for your bird.
- PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE always have your companion parrot contained in some way when you go outside, either in a small cage, carrier or by harness.
- If you train your bird to take on a harness, make sure the leash is ALWAYS attached to your wrist or belt. An unattached harness is just as dangerous as a clipped bird sitting on the shoulder. Actually, it can be worse because if the bird happens to fly away, the leash could get caught on a tree branch, leaving the bird vulnerable for a predatory ATTACK.
- Keep the leg band number of your parrot in a safe place and study distinguishing marks on him so that you will always be able to identify him. Keep a list of his most popular talking phrases and/or whistles.
- ALWAYS supervise your companion when he is outside, even if he is in a cage on the deck. When a parrot is terrified, it tends to flail around in the cage. A smart hawk, cat or raccoon can just reach in between the cage bars and kill the parrot. This has actually happened to one of my Grey Play Round Table® subscribers. The bird was playing happily in a cage in the garage. That is, until a raccoon entered the garage and killed him.
STEPS FOR RETRIEVING LOST BIRDS
I asked the "911 Parrot Alert" organizers for their recommendation on the the most important thing that people who have lost their birds should remember. The answer was that the humans give up too soon and too easily. Although they do not necessarily know how to fend for themselves, birds are capable of living for days..weeks.months...and even years after being lost. So, no matter what, DO NOT EVER GIVE UP.
- Remember that a "whiff of wind" can blow your parrot far away. So, do not just look for him in the neighborhood. Expand your search to at least a 50 mile-radius. I heard a SUCCESS STORY where a Grey that was lost in Michigan was later found in Las Vegas, several months later.
- If you locate your bird in your yard or in a tree, spray him with a water hose, if you can. SOAK him with as much water as possible. This will make him heavy and hopefully, throw him off to the ground. But do not drench him just before dark, unless you are sure you can get him.
- If you are sure he is in the neighborhood, throw some food on the rooftops. Place a small cage on the roof of your house, or in the area where he has been reportedly seen.
- If the bird refuses to go in the cage or allow himself to get caught, place a chipmunk-sized HAVE-A-HEART live trap in the area (with food as bait). A squirrel trap may be too big, allowing the bird to escape. Check the trap frequently!
- Keep a recording of his happy times playing in his cage. Play the recording in areas where he has reported to have been.
- Recruit ALL of the neighborhood kids. Offer them a reward if they find the bird. Kids will tell on people who may be "trying to hide" the bird too. Some people believe in the rule of "Finders, Keepers," and the police will not help you retrieve your bird from someone else's home. Therefore, if you have this problem, you will need to think through the situation very carefully.
- Get a pose of people to help you. Since some may not know how to handle the bird, make sure they have pillow cases handy for capturing the bird.
- If the bird is spotted and you need to go for help, make sure someone else is there watching the bird. Do not let him out of sight.
- It could scare your bird if you try to climb a tree. It may be better to coax him down or onto a tree branch or into the cage.
- Always look for your Grey BEFORE sun-up while it is still dark and AFTER sundown. They are the most vocal and active at that time.
- If the time is nearing dark, wait until dark to retrieve him. Parrots do not fly well at night. Take a high-powered flashlight with you, if possible, so that you can momentarily blind him while someone else either grabs or nets him. MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT MISS!
- Some parrots like the Amazons may stay in trees but African Greys will tend to come to the ground. Day 3 is when they get really hungry and try to come in for food. This is a time when they will go to almost any human, if they are tame.
- Contact organizations as far as 50 miles away. Contact all vet hospitals, bird stores, bird clubs, police stations, newspapers, television/radio shows and any other groups that you can think of. Put posters all over the neighborhoods. Offer rewards for the return of your companion. Also, contact all of the organizations on the Internet, such as the 911ParrotAlert@Yahoogroups.com .
- PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! Stay upbeat, positive and pray. Prayer can make miracles happen.
- Also, talk to your companion in your heart. Let him know that you are not giving up and will find him. Keep thinking positive things and holding him in your thoughts. Parrots are telepathic and they can pick up some of our thoughts.
- Contact Animal Communicators who specialize in finding lost animals. Many of them have been successful at helping people find their lost pets. You can find some contacts through the links section of the Grey Play Round Table® site: www.AfricanGreys.com Also, do a Google search for one.
I thank the professionals who have shared ideas with me over the years to help people find their lost birds. Hopefully, this article will help many people reunite with their lost ones. Also importantly, I hope this article will convince people to be careful so that this horrible nightmare never happens to them and their birds.
Maggie Wright is the author of the popular Barron's book, African Grey Parrots: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual . She created the Grey Play Round Table® African Grey magazine, which has been repositioned into Nature's Corner® Magazine ( www.NaturesCornerMagazine.com . For more information on African Grey parrots, check out our sites: www.AfricanGreys.com ; www.AfricaNature.com ; www.AnimalLoversUnited.com ; and www.NaturesCornerMagazine.com . Copyright © 2007 Equatorial Group, ltd. All rights reserved.