What To Do If Your Bird Escapes Outside

What To Do If Your Bird Escapes Outside

 May 31st, 2009
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I used be very intolerant of people who allowed their birds to escape. I saw this as the height of irresponsibility.  Then, three years ago, it happened to me.  It was a fluke accident.  My cockatiels were in a bathroom that was off of my bedroom and both doors were shut.  I had not fully latched the door to my bedroom and my cat pushed it open creating a series of incidents which resulted in one of my cockatiels escaping out of the open sliding door in another room. I was horrified.  I managed to track him to the edge of the property, calling him, and praying he would fly down to me.  When he saw me from high up in a tree he gave his alarm call, but was chased off by the territorial blue jays also on the property.  It is easy to lose track of a small parrot.  It was the last time I actually laid eyes on him.

Camelot Macaw

The thing to remember is that when a bird is outside, it is completely disoriented.  It sees your house, and every other house,  from a perspective that it can’t possibly recognize and continues to fly in search of something familiar or to somewhere it feels safe.  Hopefully, it will seek shelter inside the foliage of a nearby tree and still be close enough to see your yard.  The first thing you want to do is calm down so that you are thinking clearly. Time is of the essence. Try to track where your bird is going visually and make note of the direction for when/if you lose sight of him. Keep loudly calling him, whistling and repeating familiar phrases. Help him locate you! If he is in flight, try to observe his proximity to the ground and nearby buildings. This might give you idea of where, or if, he has chosen to land, and where to search. If you have located your bird, be very careful to allow him to come to you.  Climbing a tree, or raising an unfamiliar object like a broomstick to get to him to come down will likely just frighten him away again.

Bring his cage out into the yard, in clear view, and put his favorite treats inside to help coax him down to the cage top.  The tops of their cages, unlike rooftops, are a familiar sight to them.  If you have other parrots, especially those that he’s friendly with, roll their cage out too, or bring them out in a carrier.  (Try not to make too much commotion doing this, you don’t want to scare him further away. Remember not to leave them outside unattended, or take any of them out of the cage or you might have two birds to find!)  With any luck their calls will lure your lost one home.  I hear a lot of success stories using this method.  Often the owner will go outside to find their parrot inside the cage eating a snack. Since my cockatiel had been chased off, this didn’t work for me, although I tried for weeks to get him back in this manner.

If you fear your parrot has flown too far away to see your yard, and while you are waiting for it to return to its cage, get on the phone.  Notify your vet about your missing parrot and have the staff at his office be aware of any “found” parrot coming into the office.  Sometimes they manage to get miles away and notifying any vet office you can is not a bad idea.  Ask them to let the staff know that you will be calling in to check with them periodically.  Notify the wild animal rescue centers in your area, and every animal shelter that you know of.  If there are any bird clubs in your area, they will be a big help as to who you can contact locally.

Camelot Macaw

Get online and put a listing on craigslist.  Go onto the bird talk boards and ask them for help in putting out the word – they log in from all over the world.  Ask for their help in cross posting to other sites.  Many will just do that automatically out of concern. Make a flyer. Make sure it includes the name and species of your parrot as well as a picture. Put in your contact info and things to make people realize he is a beloved member of your home, such as favorite words and sayings (like hello and nite-nite) and favorite foods (like bananas).  Feel free to offer a reward if it is a costly bird, someone may prefer the cash to the property.  I included my vet’s number, just in case, and arranged with the vet in advance that if anyone brought in my bird I would cover any expenses for it’s care in my absence.  Post them in your local vet’s offices, animal shelters, pet stores, local businesses (if they’ll let you) and on every available tree or telephone pole.  Put ads in the newspapers (and don’t forget to check for “found” bird ads!)

Go to www.911parrotalert.com to report a lost or stolen bird.  This is a “volunteer-run international initiative dedicated to helping reunite lost, stolen and found parrots and birds with their families.”

Finally, don’t give up!  I can recount countless heartwarming stories of people who got their birds back months and sometimes years later. Keep in contact with your shelters, vets and rescues on an ongoing basis.

Camelot Macaw

If your parrot was stolen, take these same measures.  On your fliers, offer a “no questions asked” reward for its safe return and request that anyone being offered a parrot under suspicious circumstances or at an unlikely price for the species contact you.  Offer them the reward if it leads to your parrots.  Very often people who steal expensive birds, as well as those who buy stolen birds will have no idea what they’ve bargained for, and your parrot could wind up in a rescue months or years later.  Keep checking. As a matter of prevention, I think it goes without saying that you should keep all windows and doors securely closed.   Make sure each parrot knows and responds to it name.  Recall training is an excellent tool, but a parrot suddenly out of it’s environment might not reliably respond.  It is, however, certainly better to have that advantage. Don’t bring your parrots outdoors unless they are trained to be there.

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17 Comments on “What To Do If Your Bird Escapes Outside”

AJ  06/07/2009 9:58 pm

awesome blog Patty!

astright  09/14/2009 5:17 pm

This is really great advise. Usually, though, most people don’t bother to do any of these suggestions and rescuers are just swamped with birds that have been caught after escaping.

Jenny Yen from India  10/16/2009 3:03 pm

Hi Patty, I just read this one on escaping birds. Let me tell you that all the info that I’ve read from you so far, has been the best on parrots. I just can’t get enough of all that you’ve written!
O my Lord, I lost my 1 yr + old boy Alexandrian Tuku on 17 May 09 when he accidently flew out the bathroom window which I had not noticed was not shut properly and opened slightly with the breeze. Inspite of searching the crowded city area of Kolkata, India, where I live, I have not found him till date. It broke my heart and made me realise the cost of being careless. I still have my girl Taki, now almost 2 yrs old. She’s my pride and joy! Have also been given a 12 yr old male Alex by a friend who couldn’t look after him any longer. He’s been with me for 4 months and is now the most beautiful and loving bird. He just revels in the freedom that I give them twice a day and all the toys that they get. He had earlier been confined to his small cage all his life with no toys so I guess its made a big difference to him. My girl Taki, talks a lot and already has a large vocabalury. I wish I could send you photos of them…… I could just go on and on about my babies …….! Pleeease email me if you get the time. P.S. : Hope your house-moving goes smoothly….

Patty  10/17/2009 10:36 pm

Hi Jenny,
I am going to reply to all of your comments here to make it simpler. Thank you for your nice compliment! I’m glad you are enjoying my posts. I love Alexandrines – that huge red beak always makes me smile!
I am SO sorry about Tuku. I know you must be heartbroken. I think guilt over my carelessness in not ensuring the door was closed properly was the worst when my cockatiel Cocoa escaped. We make mistakes, we’re human, we just have to make sure we learn from them. I can tell how much you love your birds, and I’m sure they love you equally.
It’s hard for me to comment on the “mock fighting” because I can’t say whether it is aggressive or not. My tiels are housed together and they occasionally have spats, but I know that they don’t intend to harm each other. It’s more like: “Hey! I’m sitting on this perch, go find your own!” If you really think that their fighting might escalate into real violence, you should separate them, it isn’t worth the risk. Try experimenting with keeping them in separate cages, but with a communal play area and see if that lightens things up. Don’t worry about them growing apart. If they don’t like each other you can’t force them to, you’ll have better luck getting them to tolerate each other. Have you ever had a roommate that you didn’t like? It starts out okay, then becomes really annoying, and after a while one of you has to move because being around each other makes both of you miserable. It’s kind of like that. Better safe than sorry, though. They CAN hurt each other if it progresses beyond bickering.
Having said that, let’s look at the hormonal issues. This could be the problem. Normally, the age of sexual maturity for your species is around 3 years old. However, it sounds like you have an early bloomer. Your 12 year old male may have no patience for your hormonally charged female right now. Your female could be aggressively seeking a mate and frustrated at the lack of response she’s getting. Go back and reread the article about handling hormonal birds, especially the parts about how NOT to create a breeding environment for her. She is definitely making a nest out of the shredded paper, and definitely do not put in a nesting box because this will only cause her to be more hormonal and her behavior will worsen. Don’t feel bad for her because this is completely normal behavior for her age (even though it is coming a bit early). Just be careful not to allow bad behaviors to develop while she’s in this phase. Don’t reward nipping and screaming by giving her attention for it. Most of all, be patient. This will pass.

Jenny Yen  10/26/2009 9:00 am

Hi Patty,
I can’t thank you enough for replying to all my queries. Since writing to you, I have separated my pair and what a change…..!! Mithu the male seemed eager and happy to go into his own cage and Taki the girl became much calmer. However, the very next morning, after spending the night in their separate cages, the male almost gave me a heart attack! Immediately after letting them out of the cages, he went straight to her and started attacking her most viciously (which he had never done before… in fact always seemed the more docile of the 2). I managed to separate them in time and took Taki on my shoulder. But every time I put her down, he came to attack her. She was scared and wouldn’t leave me after a few tries…. When I tried to scold him, he just did a little victory dance as much as to say “There, now I’ve got my revenge!” I now think that is what it was all about – him getting his own cage and showing her who was boss. I was frantic, trying to think of how I was going to manage this behaviour on a daily basis…. would I need to take them out at separate times….. how difficult that was going to be etc…etc… Most thankfully, when I let them out in the evening (keeping a wary eye on him), he was much calmer and didn’t show as much aggression towards her. By the next day morning, he was back to normal with just the occasional threat when she went too close to him. Let me tell you, that all through this behaviour between them, they were both most loving and gentle with me. In fact, Mithu the boy, over the past few days, has become even more attached to me and looks out for his time on my lap and shoulder, during which he will not allow Taki to come to me! I think you’ll agree that its all because of putting them in separate cages. They are both happy in their own cages during the day out on the balcony and I’m so glad that I read through your article on bird aggression and took the step to separate them. I can now leave the home in peace, knowing that they cannot harm eachother. I’m now going to once again go thru’ the article on hormonal birds to understand what I need to do when Taki gets another hormonal surge! Once again, Patty, many thanks for your advice…. I will keep going thru your articles and will keep in touch…..

Jenny Yen from India  10/28/2009 3:27 am

Hi Patty,
This morning, Mithu once again came out of his cage and aggressively went to attack Taki. I had a difficult time trying to control him the entire morning. Twice I tried taking Taki into the bedroom and shutting the door while leaving him alone in the drawing room for some time, trying to show him that his behaviour was not correct but each time we returned to him, he repeated his attacks. I then had to spend time with Taki in the bedroom, put her into her cage on the balcony and then sit with Mithu and give him the attention that he wanted before putting him into his cage. I hope and pray this behaviour will not continue coz it will be extremely difficult for me to manage them both. The fear of him harming Taki will drive me to think of giving him away though it would hurt me too much. I am so worried and confused – need your advise desperately please…… Jenny

Patty  10/29/2009 8:36 pm

Hi Jenny,
It’s really hard for me to advise you because I’m not sure what’s happening. I’m also not sure how your home is situated. Are the birds in separate cages but have a common play area? Is there any way to keep the cages in separate rooms where you can spend time with each individually without the others knowing (to avoid any jealousy issues that might add to aggression)? While you are working this out, please be certain to keep yourself safe from harm.

Jenny Yen from India  10/30/2009 2:50 am

Hi Patty,
Thanks so much for your reply…. These past few days, I have somehow managed to keep Mithu from reaching Taki. I have to be very alert coz he’s still going for her.
I live in an apartment and whenever they are in their separate cages, both cages are kept side-by-side on the balcony/verandah. They are fine then, each eating his/her own food, playing with toys and generally enjoying the fresh air and sunshine in their respective cages. At night, I bring their cages in to the spare bedroom and cover them up. They sleep peacefully. If you recall, they were both initially in Taki’s large cage doing a lot of mock fighting but whenever I would let them out at 8 a.m. they would play together with me in the drawing/sitting room area – climb up and down the wrought iron dining room chairs and onto my shoulders and lap etc. and also do a lot of mock fighting for attention/food. However, since the day I put them into separate cages, Mithu has become this aggressive. Now, when I let them out in the morning and evenings, he immediately chases her and I’m sure he’d bite her badly if he catches her. These past few days have been difficult – I let Taki out in the bedroom and let him out in the sitting room. Then I bring Taki on my shoulder into the sitting room after cleaning out her cage. He’s ok till the time I put her down anywhere – he goes for her…..
I am trying to train him to understand that every time he attacks her, I just bring her into the bedroom and shut the door for around 10 mins. When I take her back to the other room, he seems calmer for some time and then again goes for her…… I do the same thing… bring her to the bedroom……. I have a feeling that he is beginning to understand that we will leave him alone every time he does this wrong and will learn to control his aggression BUT I also know that they are just birds and cannot really control their natural urges AND that I will have to be very alert and careful at all times that they are out together.
I am single and live alone (with a help coming in during the day). I had taken an early retirement from my job and though I can give Mithu and Taki a lot of time – twice a day, it would be almost impossible to spend time with each of them separately. That would leave me very little time to attend to my daily routines. I am hoping that Mithu will settle down and get over this mood change soon. Not to worry, I am extra careful when managing them tho’ both are still very gentle and loving with me. I hope you don’t mind if I keep writing to you and keep you posted on their progress. It gives me a lot of encouragement and hope…. Thanks, Jenny

Patty  10/30/2009 2:28 pm

Hi Jenny,
I think it would be a very good idea for you to be keeping a journal of things you are observing in your birds. Sometimes, when we are watching them and take the time to put things you see down on paper, we can have a revelation. Just writing things down will make you think a bit harder about a situation we can’t quite grasp. Look around your apt, and take notice of things that might be adding to aggression. Taki has the larger cage, does Mithu object to that? Is Mithu’s perching lower? Do you spend equal quality time with them? Most importantly, how do you respond to the mock fighting? Do they get your attention for doing this? Are they healthy? Write down your feeding schedule and what they are eating. Who do you feed first? What time do they go to bed? After two weeks, go back and re-read what you have written and see where changes need to be made, or if anything comes to you that might be heightening the aggression.

Jenny from India  10/31/2009 8:56 am

Wow, Patty, you’re a genius with birds! I never thought of doing this….. yes, I think it will help. I must make a note of what we do in the morning and evening free-time sessions. There must be things that are irritating Mithu. Will try this for a couple of weeks and see if I can come up with some improvements. Thanks.

Patty  10/31/2009 10:24 am

Try to remember that every unwanted behavior is preceded by something. If you can figure out what happens to bring about that behavior, and eliminate it, the behavior will stop. Good luck!

zeta  12/30/2009 6:26 pm

I am sad you lost Cocoa, i too never dreamed anything like this would ever happen to me. I love my Blue and Gold so much and she is my only ‘ child’ so when she sliped out of the door that never gets opened and the neigbours cat made her startle all i could do is watch in horror and slow motion her disapering in to the distance. I found her after an hour she responded to my call to let me know. Ladders and brooms were my choice and she just got scared and bolted again. This all happened over 53 hours 7 trees and 2 roof tops. Trying to force a scared little baby down simply did not work , patience favourite toys and a vigil sleeping under trees with her and she finally came,
It was the longest time of my life, freezing cold and stress level i never knew……accidents do happen i never dreamed this ever would to me but it did and your advice hits the nail on the head and all bird owners should take note. We never intend for these things to happen so we can only prepare for if they ever do.
Thankfully i can say i am writing this with a very sweet and cuddly pampered princess who though her ordeal showed true courage and came through, i can only imagain how she must of felt xxxx 🙂

Patty  12/30/2009 7:59 pm

I am so happy for you that you got your precious baby back. There is no way to describe the horror of watching your bird fly off. I am still hopeful that my Cocoa, being so friendly, made a soft landing into the lives of a sympathetic animal lover. I’ll bet every uncomfortable hour of your vigil was worthwhile to you.
Something that people don’t realize is that while a bird ascends easily, the descent is much harder and trickier. Birds that are unaccustomed to real flight, like those in our homes, are very often too afraid and too confused to get themselves down, even though they desperately want to. I’m glad you had a happy ending.

Kalem  06/03/2010 9:41 pm

i just lost my cockatiel bob on June 2nd and we’ve tried all of this advice and i am hoping since this is day 3 that he will at least go on a neighbors yard and possibly that neighbor could call my number on the fliers but other then that yea i hope this advice works.
PS if someone does keep him and at least tell me i’ll be sad, yet happy he is still alive.

Dougie  06/26/2012 10:32 pm

I lost my cockatiel I was out side and my bird was out of his cage when my friend opens the door she tried to come and see me landed on my sholder I went to cover her to bring her in but she got scared and flew Off 🙁