Recapture: What To Do When Your Parrot Flies
by Mattie Sue Athan
Few experiences are more heartrending than watching a beloved feathered
companion fly off into the blue. At this moment of high emotion and pumping
adrenaline, it is most important to remain calm and work quickly.
Try not to lose sight of the bird. A human-dependent parrot will eventually
come to someone. If the owner is there, the bird will come to the owner.
In the central United States it usually takes at least a few days for
a normal companion parrot to figure out where to find food and water.
The easiest time to recapture is before the bird learns to forage on its
own. Within 48 hours, the bird should be powerfully hungry and will come
willingly to the owner if the owner can get to the bird.
It is also easier to recapture before the bird, if clipped, regrows additional
wing feathers. Sometimes the regrowth of only ONE primary flight feather
on one wing can mean the difference between sailing away and making it
only half way across the yard. A new feather can become functional in
only a couple of days.
It is helpful to have another like bird, particularly a noisy bird, to
try to call the escapee down. For the safety of the lure bird, keep it
inside a cage as protection from dogs, raptors, or other scary things.
Larger companion parrots such as Amazons and macaws will occasionally
come to a food lure and then step up on the offered hand. Set up a food
station on a white sheet within the bird's field of vision. However, unless
a food dependency has been established at that location, it is unlikely
that a parrot will be lured down with food. Jealousy is a much more dependable
lure. A bird that is extremely bonded to the owner can sometimes be enticed
to come down to express jealousy against a known or perceived rival who
is being given favorite foods or affection by the bird's favorite person.
Smaller birds must often be trapped inside a cage with a remote door-closure
mechanism. Lure the bird with a like species bird in a small cage inside
a larger cage containing food and water.
A larger hookbill will usually fly at dawn and dusk and not much in between.
These "flight times" are prime time for recovery. Most birds
particularly larger onesthat are unaccustomed to flying might not
quite comprehend flying down. Usually, a bird like this is best lured
to climb down. Climb as far up the tree as you can easily. Carefully position
yourself so that neither you, the ladder nor the bird will come into contact
with power lines.
If you are lucky, you will have to climb down with a possibly-angry bird.
Wear a solid-colored towel or pillow case over your shoulders so that
it more resembles a garment than a restraint, then take the bird's VFF
(very favorite food) up the tree with you.
Try to have a little family group on the ground (containing both loved
and hated members of the bird's immediate social group) noisily and delightedly
eating foods that the bird likes. Be eating something yourself, crunching
and chewing loudly. Tap on the trunk or branch of the tree so that the
bird can feel the vibrations and lure the bird to you by describing how
yummy that food is.
You may have only one chance. Make the most of it. If you once get your
hand on the bird do not let go! You might get a bruise, you might bleed
a little, but the odds of having a bone broken are pretty remote and the
chance of having a body part "bitten off" is very, very remote.
Wrap the bird in the pillow case or towel as quickly as possible being
sure that the bird is completely contained before beginning the climb
Avoid trying to hose the bird down until it is too wet to fly. This rarely
works, except on poor flyers and birds with large, soft feathers, like
cockatoos. Also, if you can't get within 8 or 10 feet of the bird, don't
bother. It will simply leave the poor bird wet in a tree. This is particularly
unfortunate in cold weather. On the other hand, those "supersoaker"
type water guns are excellent for "herding" a bird to more and
more accessible locations. These giant toy guns can squirt water up to
50 feet, and you simply harass the bird, but it doesn't get particularly
wet. Be sure to aim at the bird's tail rather than its head.
If you must enter someone else's property or borrow equipment such as
a ladder, scaffold or rope, or if you have to hire a cherry picker, you
may need a legal all-purpose release of liability. This document should
assure all other parties that you and your heirs will not hold anyone
responsible for damages of any kind, and that you will, in fact, be responsible
for any damages done in the process of recapturing the bird. If someone
else is going to climb the tree for you, talk about safety in advance
and discuss who would be liable if (1) the human climber is injured or
(2) the bird is accidentally injured.
Again, be especially careful around electrical lines. A bird can survive
a walk on a live wire if it is not grounded; but be sure to stay out of
reach, in case the bird grabs for you and you happen to be grounded.
An equipment rental company or a tree service company might be willing
to rent equipment to reach the bird. Some fire departments will help;
some will not. At least a bird-at-large situation is not yet usually rewarded
with a summons and fine.
Pace yourself. Get as much rest and good food as possible. Don't give
up; even if the weather is below freezing, the bird is not going to drop
dead just because it spent the night out in the cold. Whether it's a long
time or a short time until it is recovered, the bird may come home sick
or injured. You may need to be strong for nursing it back to health.
Provide Pedialyte(tm) or Lactated Ringers(tm) or, if it is all you have,
Gatorade(tm) for the newly-recaptured, possibly-dehydrated bird. Don't
let the bird drink too much too fast. If the bird is weak or was outside
wet in cold weather, take it immediately to an avian veterinarian. Some
veterinarians are available for emergency counseling during this ordeal.
A veterinarian who has treated your bird before and know its usual weight
might provide emergency injectibles for you to have on hand if the bird
is in tough shape when captured.
Permission is granted herewith to any person using this
information for the recapture of pet birds to reprint this information
and distribute it for educational purposes as needed.