My Bird Escaped
By Krista R Menzel
The thought of losing a pet bird to the great outdoors is a
nightmare shared by all bird owners, and rightly so. Budgies and
cockatiels are naturally nomadic birds that do not have strong "homing"
instincts. For this reason, few can find their way back home after
that first frantic flight out the door. The world can be a dangerous,
confusing place for a budgie or cockatiel that suddenly finds itself
flying free. While they do retain many of their natural instincts, our
pampered pets are not able to survive alone for long once they escape.
They rarely encounter conditions similar to the arid habitat where
their ancestors lived. Dogs, raptors, traffic, disease, starvation,
dehydration, and inclement weather are constant threats that our birds
just are not equipped to handle.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
As your bird's caretaker, you have made a promise to keep your
bird as safe as possible. Taking precautions to prevent escape in the
first place is the smartest, easiest way to meet this responsibility:
Have your bird's wings clipped by an experienced veterinarian or
bird groomer and maintain the clip on both wings as new feathers grow
in. Remember, however, that even a fully clipped cockatiel or budgie
that has had a good scare can fly surprisingly well with a tail wind.
- Make it a family policy to put your bird in his or her cage before opening any exterior doors or windows.
- Unclipped birds should be kept safely in a bird room or aviary with at least two doors between the birds and the outdoors. Make sure one door is tightly closed before the other is opened.
- Make sure that your bird can't escape from his or her cage. Check all doors, trays, and nest boxes to make sure they are secure. If your bird is a little Houdini, lock all doors with C-clips, padlocks, or other devices.
- Never take an unclipped bird outside unless it is locked in an escape proof carrier. If you use the cage as a carrier, tie the bottom to the top portion of the cage and secure all doors and trays.
- If you allow your bird to sit on your shoulder, double-check that he or she is not hitching a ride when you head outdoors.
JUST IN CASE
- Take close-up photos or videotape your bird, noting unique markings.
- Write down its band number.
- Write down or record its vocabulary and/or song repertoire.
In spite of all best intentions, birds will still occasionally
escape. In such a situation, time is of the essence. The steps you
take right away may mean the difference between life and death for your
- Follow your bird as long as possible. Pet birds, especially those
with clipped or semi-clipped wings, are often in poor condition and
cannot fly very far. You may be able to catch one of these out-of-
shape escapees on the ground after a short trip across the yard or
down the block. Birds accustomed to flight will, of course, be more
difficult to recapture. They may fly for miles before stopping, or may
fly high into a tree where you cannot reach them.
- Soaking an escaped bird with a hose will often weigh it down
enough to make flight difficult, but it may also do more harm than
good. A strong blast from the hose is enough to seriously injure small
birds. In addition, a soaked bird will easily become chilled, which is
dangerous if you don't recapture it quickly.
REPORT YOUR LOST BIRD
If you can't catch your bird, you should start advertising as soon
as possible. Notify:
- Bird breeders
- Animal shelters
- Nature centers
- Pet stores
- Bird clubs
You can often place ads in a local paper inexpensively. It is also
a good idea to distribute and post flyers with your bird's picture
around your neighborhood. Don't forget to talk to the neighborhood
children (with parents present). If anyone will notice a loose bird,
it is the kids who play outdoors! Local TV stations and newspapers in
need of human interest stories may also be willing to publicize your
search. Offering a reward for the safe return of your bird never hurts.
BAITING YOUR BIRD
- Place your bird's cage with tempting foods and water in your yard. If your bird is sighted on someone else's property, ask permission to put the cage there.
- If you choose to use live birds as bait, make sure they are safely
housed so they aren't harmed in the process.
- Broadcast audiotapes of other budgies or cockatiels and listen for
- Develop a capture plan and have necessary equipment (e.g., trap
cage, net, towel) ready should your bird be sighted.
- Don't give up!
IF YOU SUCCEED
- Clip your bird's wings.
- Take your bird to an avian veterinarian to check for disease or
Back to Cockatiels |