Archive of past newsletters
What to do if you lose your bird - Summer 2010

    I am a firm believer in having my bird’s wings clipped.  I have seen too many accidents and heard of too many of my customers that come in devastated because they lost their precious feathered child.  I have even seen customers coming in the door of the shops with their bird on their shoulder and the bird getting startled and take flight, out the door.  Many hours I have spent personally on ladders trying to talk a bird down a tree outside the stores or in the tree at some neighbor’s house. 
blue and gold macaw     Once, in front of the old Lake Forest store, a customer brought in two Blue and Gold Macaws.  Both were on his shoulders.  He walked through the door and one took off outside.  He flew into the tallest tree outside the store.  Steve, the owner sat out under the tree with his other, now clipped Macaw, trying to talk the bird down.  With food, water, treats and even the other bird calling back and forth.  Luckily, he had the other bird there.  It was getting late.  We were closing the store.  The Fire Dept. would not come out for the bird rescue.  I borrowed a 16 foot ladder and it was just long enough to get me to the center of this Eucalyptus tree.  A couple more branches up and there was the bird.   OK, I was 10 years younger too.  That helped.  The bird was getting ready to fly, I had Steve keep talking to the bird and making his other Macaw talk.  I don’t know how it happened so fast, but I grabbed the bird by the legs and feet with one hand as quickly as I could and began hanging on with the other hand since I was unstable.  This is the only time I have ever been bit so hard and so many times in such a short time.  The bird was upside down biting on my arm while my main worry was not to fall out of the tree or ladder and not to let the bird go after all this.  But the bird was safe and shortly after, clipped.  I will now share other ways not so dangerous.
     When your bird flies away from you, do not lose sight of him.  Don’t freak out.  Yell at anyone around you to also look to see where the bird lands.  Normally, when he lands in a tree, he is in shock and scared.  He is just as freaked out as you.  He normally will not continue flying until he gets his bearings.  If this happens at dusk or late afternoon, the bird may even stay in that tree until early morning.  He will just freeze up.  So this is why it is so important to know or see where he goes.  I will assume that the tree is very high and that the bird is not used to flying around your house.  Speak calmly to him.  He will recognize your voice but not your body and size.  You will be the size of a dog to him, not the size of a giant that he is used to.  Get the nearest hose.

     I have rescued many birds with this method.  Hopefully it is not cold and getting dark when you do this.  If so, camp out with the bird and wait until morning to do it.  You need a good sprayer that goes far.  If the tree is too high, then you will need to climb on the nearest roof with the hose.  What you will do is spray near the bird to where it feels to him like rain falling.  You will not spray the bird directly at this time.  Birds normally don’t fly in the rain and he will sit there and just get wet.  That is what you want.  You want him soaked.  I mean very soaked.  Once he is very wet on his back and head and wings, begin spraying to get in front of him, but not with much force yet.  This will get his front area and under his wings wet.  Water is heavy and a soaked bird cannot fly well, but well enough to break his fall.  Now you will spray him hard to try to knock him off the perch and fly down.  It works.  He will fall out of the tree and fly heavily to break his fall on the ground.  It sounds harsh, but your bird will still be your bird and alive, not someone else’s pet or prey.

     You can also try to get the bird to fly or climb down to you by putting a cage, or his cage, outside with food and water.  If he is around, he may spot it and recognize it.  If you have another bird that is his buddy, have that bird with you while looking for the bird.  Any noise the lost bird makes, your other will respond to him, even up to a mile away.  Your other bird will hear him.  The food trick under a box with a stick, like when we were kids, works but the birds really have to be hungry.  A bird can be out without food for three days, but without water about two.  So the last thing the bird or you should be worried about is his food for the first 24 hours. 

     The key is to know where the bird is.  If all else fails and it gets dark and the bird begins to sleep, get the net out.  Once a few years back, I was called to help catch a Toucan in Mission Viejo.  It had just gotten away and six of us were trying to catch it with nets in a park it went to.  Toucans are very fast.  Hours of going back and forth from tree to tree.  No hose in a park.  I instructed the owner to just wait and keep an eye on it until it got dark.  We were all exhausted and the running after the bird was not working.  We knew where it was and it tucked his head and went to sleep when it got dark.  A young kid slowly climbed the tree with the net and slowly put it around the bird and caught him.  It seemed so easy.  Birds don’t see well at night and they can be easy to catch when they cannot see you coming.

     People make the mistake of training the bird to fly in the house or in the yard and then they feel that the bird is best full flight and that he will always fly to them from anywhere even if he gets startled.  When outside and the bird is flying to you and a gust of wind picks up the bird and he flies over your head and over the next house and can no longer see you or you see him, what does he do?  He gets scared and flies farther and harder.  You can no longer see him.  It happened to me when I first got into birds 28 years ago and I was proud that I had trained my bird to fly to me.  That was so cool.  We found him about eight houses away in a yard three feet away from a barking Pit Bull on the end of his chain.  Cutie was very lucky, and we learned.

No matter what your preference, please keep them safe. 

Thank you, Omar


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