Utilize when a Flighted Parrot Escapes
By Barbara Heidenreich
My blue fronted
Amazon parrot, Tarah, does not have clipped wings. However like many birds that
were clipped during the fledging process, he has never quite learned the kind of
flight skills that might earn him the title of a "flyer". I often said "He's has
his flight feathers, but he doesn't fly." One day I learned, the hard way, that
this wasn't exactly true.
I was visiting my parrots as I was moving from southern
California to northern California. When I arrived I brought Tarah in his cage to
my old bedroom. I opened the door to the cage to allow my bird some much needed
free time. Before I knew it, he bolted off his cage, through the bedroom door,
took a right and made his way down the hall. He then banked left and flew
through the living room. At that very moment my father was just opening the
sliding glass door to step out onto the deck. Guess who went through the door
too? The deck was on the second floor, so my bird had two stories of lift to
assist him on his grand flight down the fairway of the golf course behind the
house. Thank goodness he was a green flying brick. He ran out of gas and slowly
descended to the soft green grass before a tree offered its branches as refuge.
Juiced by adrenalin, my feet barely touched the ground as I ran after my bird.
I have always been very careful about the choices I make
having a flighted bird in the house. But I was very surprised by the amazing
flight my bird made on that day. Sometimes birds that we think will never fly do
indeed fly. Sometimes birds that have flight feathers trimmed surprise us when
feathers return. Sometimes experienced flyers get frightened or find themselves
in unfamiliar territory. Whatever the situation, there are some strategies that
can be very useful to recovering a bird that has flown to a location undesired
by you. The following information is provided to prepare you for that day when
your bird may find itself airborne and heading in the wrong direction. These
strategies apply if you bird has no flight skills or is a world class flying
Bird is flying away
- Call to your bird loudly as he is
flying- it may help him find his way back to you.
- As your bird is flying, do not
take your eyes off of him. Note the last place you saw him, the level of his
flight, how tired he looked. He may have landed in that area. (Radio or
phone contact for a group of people searching can be very helpful in this
situation. Grab your cell phone!)
Searching for your bird
- If you have a group of people,
spread out and circle the area you last saw him.
- If you cannot locate him, call to
him. He may call back. Say words or sounds he knows or mimics. Most parrots
are located by their screams.
- If he has another bird he likes,
put that bird in a cage and bring it to the area you last saw him. Walk away
from the bird in the cage. It might encourage the bird in the cage to
scream. This may inspire the lost bird to scream. Keep talking to a minimum
so you can listen for the scream.
- Look carefully in a limited area
(within 1 mile) in the early stages of your search. Parrots usually do not
go far unless, blown by the wind, chased by a bird of prey or extremely
- Keep in mind your parrot may see
you before you see him. When this happens, parrots are sometimes very quiet.
This may be because the parrot is more comfortable now that you are present.
- Despite some parrots bright
colors, they can be very difficult to see in trees. Look for movement buried
in the trees as opposed to your whole bird perched prominently on the tree.
You have located the bird,
but he is out of reach
- Once you find you bird, relax
(unless the bird is in immediate danger.) It is better to let the bird sit
where he is (if he is inaccessible) while you work out a strategy. Do not
frantically try to grab the bird, hose or scare him down.
- If the bird has just landed. He
will probably not fly again (if at all) for awhile.
- Bring the bird's favorite person
and/or favorite bird friend (in a cage) to the area where your bird is
- Bring favorite food items,
familiar food bowls and the bird's cage if possible.
- Be careful not to ask your bird to
fly from a great height or a steep angle. Try to position yourself (or bird
buddy, or bird cage) to allow short flights or short climbs to lower places.
- Try to lure your bird to fly or
climb to branches/objects that are similar to those upon which he is sitting
if possible. A bird may be too frightened to climb onto a distinctly
different perch. (For example, the bird might be afraid to climb off of a
tree onto a fence.) If you have no other option, expect the process to be
slower and be patient with your bird as he builds his confidence. He may
also fly again if he touches the new perch and is frightened by it.
- Do not raise unfamiliar objects up
to your bird to have him step onto it. More than likely this will only scare
your bird to fly farther away. If you have a familiar item, you may have a
chance that the bird will step onto it. Keep in mind things like ladders,
people climbing trees, cherry pickers etc. may also scare your bird. Go
extremely slowly if you resort to using these items. Stop any action if your
bird looks like he wants to fly away.
- Try to call your bird down when
his body language indicates he is ready to try to come down. Do not
- Try hiding from your bird on
occasion. This will create a level of anxiety in your bird which may cause
him to try to come to you once you reappear. Usually birds will scream and
or start moving around a lot when they are ready to make an effort to return
to you. If you notice this activity, come out from hiding.
- If you hear your bird screaming
while you are hiding, he may be ready to fly or is already in the air. Come
out of hiding right away. Most parrots scream when they are flying in this
type of situation.
- Birds also often relieve
themselves and also scream right before they fly. Be alert for this. You may
need to see where your bird flys. Be ready to run if necessary.
- Avoid having a crowd of people
around the bird's favorite person. A scared bird may not want to fly into a
crowd of strangers. Give the bird's favorite person lots of room.
The sun is setting and your bird is still out.
- Parrots will usually fly again
shortly before the sun starts to set. This is probably your last opportunity
to get your bird back before he will begin to roost for the night. Take
advantage of it. You can try to get the bird "pumped" up by yelling and
creating a level of excitement. This may encourage one last flight.
- As the sun starts to set, your
bird will start to fluff his feathers and get ready to roost for the night.
At this point it is best to just allow him to go to sleep. Keep an eye on
him until the sun has set completely. Remember his exact location.
- Before the sun rises the next day,
return to that location. Your bird should still be there, unless he was
frightened in the night (owls can cause this).
- Usually by 8:30 or 9:00 AM your
bird will be ready to fly again or make an attempt to get to you. Repeat the
steps described in the section "You have located your bird, but he is out of
Your bird has flown off and after 24 hours of searching
he has not been spotted.
- Contact the following people and
let them know you are looking for your bird. If a person finds your bird
they may contact one of these organizations.
- Call animal control
- Call the SPCA/humane society
- Call local veterinarians
- Call local zoos
- Call local pet shops
- Call local police
- Place an ad in the classified
section of the paper for a "lost" bird.
- Note: Don't give out the
bird's band number. If your bird accidentally falls into the wrong hands
this could lead to removal of the band.
- Check the classified section of
the paper for "found" bird. Answer all ads. People are sometimes unaware of
what they have found. A Congo African grey may be mistaken for the mythical
red tailed pigeon by a helpful stranger who is unfamiliar with parrots.
- Post flyers that state "lost bird"
in the areas you last saw your bird. You may also wish to offer a reward as
incentive for people to call.
- Often times a bird is found within
24 hours of his disappearance. The trick is to find the person who found
your bird before you.
Do not give up
The key to getting a bird back is perseverance. Do not accept that you will not
get the bird back once you have lost sight of him or her. As a professional bird
trainer that free flys many types of birds on a regular basis, I can attest that
parrots are often the easiest type of bird to locate and recover. Trust me -
nothing is more frustrating than searching for the silent, but observant owl who
has buried himself in the bushes and has watched you walk by 100 times!
Thankfully our parrots often seek out human or bird companionship if and when
they have a big flight adventure.
Barbara has been a professional in the field of animal
training since 1990.
She owns and operates a company, Good Bird, Inc., (www.GoodBirdInc.com)
that provides behavior and training products to the companion parrot community.
These products include Good Bird Magazine (www.goodbirdinc.com/magazine.html)
books, videos (www.goodbirdinc.com/books.html
) , and training/behavior workshops. She is the author of "Good Bird! A Guide to
Solving Behavior Problems in Companion Parrots" by Avian Publications and also
"The Parrot Problem Solver. Finding Solutions to Aggressive Behavior" by TFH
Publications. She is the past president of the International Association of
Avian Trainers and Educators (www.IAATE.org).
Barbara's experience also includes consulting on animal
training in zoos and other animal related facilities. Her specialty is free
flight bird training. She has been a part of the development and production of
more than 15 different free flight education programs. Barbara continues to
provide consulting services to zoos, nature centers and other animal facilities
through her other company Animal Training and Consulting Services (www.ATandCS.com).
In her career she has trained animals, trained staff, and/or presented shows at
facilities around the world.
Copyright 2005 © Good Bird Inc. First appeared in Good
Bird Magazine Volume1 Issue1 Spring 2005. Cannot be reprinted without
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