GUIDELINES TO PARROT RECOVERY
By Steven Panzenhagen
PREVENTION of their bird escaping is by far the most important thing a pet bird owner can do for the life of their pet. Domestic pet birds while still wild in nature are no longer well adapted to 'Life on the outside'. Wing clipping, where the primary flight feathers are trimmed to prevent or hinder flight, is the best way to prevent escapes from occurring. The procedure is painless to the bird when done properly and can even enhance your relationship with your bird. Wing clips have to be maintained. Birds naturally molt out their feathers every six months and often lose other feathers in between the molting seasons. Each time you take your bird outdoors you should be aware of its flight ability, meaning you should check their wings every time! Even if it's just the next day! This will help to build a good habit. You should also check how strong the wind is or will become. Some birds can take off very easily in just a light wind when normally they wouldn't be able to fly.
Birds need to get out of the house and be socially active. That means we need to be cautious about what we're doing with them. Never leave your bird unattended as there are many predators out there, even in your own back yard. Cats, dogs, seagulls, hawks and even squirrels are all enemies to name a few. Putting your bird in a tree looks fun but will you be able to reach them easily if they start to climb? Always, Always, Always use a seatbelt on your carrier when you take your bird in the car. It might save their life.
Are you prepared if your bird escapes or is stolen? Write down the band numbers of all your birds and their physical descriptions. What color is the band? Open or Closed Band? Which leg is it on? Take a picture of yourself (close-up) with your bird on a regular basis. Keep this information in a safe place. A birds' coloring can change and make the bird appear completely different. What can your bird say? Having a list of your birds' vocabulary has helped more than once to identify a lost bird. Tape record your bird or birds at their noisiest! This is great for identification as well as helping to locate a bird that is out of sight. A birds' favorite foods are very useful in luring them down out of a tree or just to keep their attention while you approach them. Do you have a first aid kit for your pets? A well planned kit can save your birds life.
Most important is that you should up-train your bird, before a fly-away accident occurs. If your bird won't come to you from off his cage you certainly can not expect him to come to you from out of a tree! After your bird is up-trained then stick train it. This could make your life a lot easier if you can't reach your bird out on a limb. A bird that will step up on a long stick has a much easier chance of recovery.
If your bird should escape remain CALM. Follow your bird as best you can and call to it by name loudly without allowing anger or fear in your voice. Birds sense every emotion we have and tend to feel exactly what we are feeling. If you're scared then they're scared too. Take note of which way the bird went and mentally assess what the wind and weather patterns are. A strong wind can keep your bird from being able to fly back to you. Heavy rain or even light rain will make the bird want to seek shelter.
Escaped birds are not always in the highest point of the biggest tree, it just seems that way! They have been recovered from the ground and bushes, under cars and have even walked into garages (quickly shut the door!). When your bird lands, stay with it. Send someone else for help and supplies if necessary. Talk calmly with your bird and assure it that everything is A-OK. Remember that they feel what you feel so take a deep breath and relax. Always keep your eyes on the bird even if you have to have a conversation with someone else.
Patience and talking calmly are your two greatest assets. Start by trying to lure the bird toward you with food. Get as close as you can without scaring it. If the bird backs away then you back away for a minute and approach slower the next time. Keep up a constant patter of calming talk. Do not think about capturing it but rather think about feeding it. They DO know what you are thinking! Try the step-up command. If the bird steps up clamp your thumb on his toes and don't let go no matter how hard they bite! Grabbing the bird by the back of the head will help gain control. If you are in a tree then put the bird into a strong sack like a pillow case. Then lower the sack slowly on a strong cord. This way both of you can get down safely.
If you can't reach your bird and night falls come back in the morning before daybreak. If dawn comes and you are not there for your bird when it awakens it may fly off and you won't know where. If your bird is out for more than one night do not make the mistake of not being there at each daybreak. Birds usually hunker down for the night and stay in one place once the sun is fully down. Do not try to capture your bird in the dark. Not only is it dangerous but if you scare the bird into flight you won't be able to see where it goes.
Crowds gathering around will hinder the rescue attempt. This makes most birds nervous and shy. Try to have people stay back at least thirty yards except for your assistant(s). Utilize the crowd to watch the bird in case it flies off. Trying to spray your bird with water usually does not work. Birds can fly in the rain and the oils in their feathers shed water just like a ducks. If the bird is less than one year old this method may work as they haven't preened much oil into their feathers yet. Do your best to keep the bird in one place. Trying to tire it out by making it fly is going to wear you down a lot faster than the bird.
Other methods include using a birds play gym to lure it down. This works much better than its cage where it remembers being cooped up. Or using a pile of food in the middle of a deer net laid out on the ground and flipping the net over the bird when it feeds has been successful with small birds like parakeets. Another method is to set up a trap cage with a string tied to the door and lots of food inside. Always check to make sure your trap works properly and be careful that the bird is fully inside when you close the trap or injury may result. Birds tend to shy away from strange objects they haven't seen before, like fishnets on a pole or a bucket truck. They are afraid of these and may either fly or run away.
If your bird flies off and you can't find it you have to change your focus from one of finding your bird to trying to find the person who will eventually see your bird. Make up reward posters and place them all over within a miles' radius the first day. Start off with a hundred posters and go from there. Make sure your poster is easily readable from at least twenty feet! Use large clear plastic bags to help them last through bad weather. You'll need a staple gun and clear packing tape for metal light poles. Put your posters up near stop signs and traffic lights at eye level. Ask for permission to put them up at Convenience stores, Pet stores, Veterinary offices and anywhere else you can think of.
One idea that works well is to ask the Ice Cream truck driver. Tell him the reward is a weeks worth of free Ice Cream for the child who finds your bird. This really gets a lot of ground covered because children are always out in the neighborhood. Talk to all the local delivery people like the mailman, milkman and U.P.S. person also. Talk to as many people as possible. The more people who know, the greater the chance of recovery. A conversation carries more weight with people than just seeing your poster on a tree.
Put your ad in the paper right away. Don't wait till the next day on the chance you'll find him right away. It's better to cancel an ad than to wait an extra day for your notice to get listed. Most publications need two days lead time to place a listing. List the town or area, your phone number, reward (but not the amount), and what kind of bird. Decide how much you want the reward to be but keep that confidential until your bird is positively recovered. Make sure your answering machine is working and put a second number to call on the message where you can be reached if you're not home. If you have a cutesy message than I suggest you change it. This is a time to be serious. There have been instances of kooky people calling and making trouble. One of these people may even have your bird. A lot of phone companies now have call trace ability or caller ID. Ask your phone company business office for more information.
Birds usually don't go far when they first escape. Most are located within two or three blocks of home! Riding a bike can really help expedite the search. Most birds have a time of day when they like to make noise. Obviously this would be a good time to make sure you are out looking and playing the tape you made. Birds can live for months after escape and even longer so don't give up. Perseverance can pay off and usually does. Every situation is different and the suggestions given here may or may not work. Being adaptable is a must.
Escaped birds learn from their wild counterparts where the food and water is and are often spotted at feeders and bird baths. So feed the wild birds regularly and keep looking. If your bird is recovered and has been out for more than twenty four hours you should get it checked by a veterinarian familiar with birds. What they've been tasting and chewing out there, can make them sick. Close observation and quarantine should be mandatory for all recovered birds.
Remember that diligence and
hard work will produce results!
Our prayers go with you.
STEVE WAS HEAD OF OUR PARROT RESCUE COMMITTEE PRIOR TO HIS MOVE TO FLORIDA. HE IS DEARLY MISSED WITH HIS SKILLS & EXPERTISE.