Here is a situation that all parrot owners dread. Your parrot has escaped your home. Whether through negligence, an accidental oversight, or a series of unfortunate events your bird has flown out of a window or door. Maybe you had it outside and it got out of its cage or just flew away because it was startled. Even with clipped wings, a bird can fly a surprising distance if it senses danger. However it escaped, you now have to find a way to get it safely home.
What Are the First Steps to Take?
It is important to stay calm and approach the task of recapturing your bird methodically. Many lost birds are found and rescued so you need to maintain a positive attitude regarding your success and be prepared to put in some time. According to Emily Heenan of The Parrot Club, many people give up too easily and too soon.
The first task is to locate the bird. If you saw it fly out of the house you should go outside immediately and try to get your eyes on it. Call loudly to the bird so it is aware of your presence and can locate you. See which direction it is going and notice things such as its level of flight and how tired it seems. If you are lucky you will see where it lands. This is your best opportunity for a speedy rescue.
Start making calls and enlist friends, family members, and neighbors to assist. Neighborhood children playing outside love to look for lost pets and will often let you know if someone has taken your bird in, which can be a problem. Many people seem to simply adopt a found bird rather than attempting to find its owner.
Conducting a Search for Your Bird
Barbara Heidenreich at Good Bird Inc. gives some excellent tips on searching for your parrot. Most caged birds will not travel very far in their initial excursion and may be found in a nearby tree or on your roof. You should conduct a thorough search of the area close to where the bird escaped.
If searching with a group it is advisable to spread out and circle the area where the bird was last seen. Look carefully for movement in the trees as the bright colors may not be as obvious as you would think. The parrot may see you first and feel more comfortable once you are seen, lessening the chances it will move or call.
Many parrots are located by their screams and you can take some action to elicit this behavior. Call to your bird with words they know or mimic. If you have a recording of your bird screaming or calling play it as you search. This may entice the bird to call back and allow you to locate its position.
If you have another bird that is a housemate you may try bringing that bird outside. Taking care to ensure that the cage is secure, place the cage near where you last saw the lost bird and then walk away. This may cause the caged bird to squawk and the lost bird may call back or in some cases fly down to the cage.
You Found Your Bird But It’s Out of Reach
Your search has proved fruitful and you have located your bird. Unfortunately, it is out of reach, perhaps high in a tree. Even if in your own backyard, your bird is disoriented and cannot recognize anything familiar. A suggestion from birdtricks.com is to bring your bird’s cage out and near where you last had visual contact.
The top of its cage is a familiar sight for the bird and offers a haven that it may well need. Put its favorite food and toys in the cage and step away. Hopefully, this will coax it down and you can recapture your parrot.
The most likely way you will be reunited with your bird is to have it fly down to you. You should not use ladders or a broomstick to reach out as this is liable to scare the bird and lead to another flight. Gentle calling and offering of treats and favorite foods are your best strategy.
Your bird may want to get to you but be hindered by fear of the long flight down. Caged birds are not accustomed to flying down from great heights and though they got up there in a moment of fear, they may not come down so readily. Patience is the key to this situation. Your bird is most likely to come down in the early morning or near dusk, and will often come down on the third day of freedom. Here is a video that talks about what you should do:
What if You Cannot Locate Your Bird?
There are a number of steps you should take if you cannot locate your bird within 24 hours. Immediately contact local vets and pet stores to be on the alert for your bird. Often well-meaning citizens will find a lost parrot and assume responsibility, so the pet store can be on the lookout for such a customer.
Make fliers with a picture of your bird or a very similar one. Birdhotline offers some great tips on where to place fliers. These include supermarkets, vets, pet stores and community bulletin boards. Put up as many as you can and offer a “no questions asked” policy for the return of your bird. Also, make a post in the lost and found community sections of Craigslist or Gumtree.
There are online resources that attempt to connect lost birds with their owners. Parrotalert.com and 911Parrotalert.com are two places to list your lost bird. There are also Facebook and Twitter groups that can assist in the search for a lost bird.
Try Not To Despair
Though it is a stressful time, try to maintain a positive attitude. Many birds have been found and returned to their families months and even years after being lost. Also, prevent future escapes by ensuring you have secured your cage properly using the best bird cage locks and ensuring your bird has a leg band or microchip for identification. Here is a video of a cockatiel that returned home after 3 years, so hope is not lost.