What To Do If Your Bird Is Lost

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Compiled by Emily Heenan and Amy Hopkins

  1. STAY CALM, confident and positive that you will recover the bird. People tend to give up too easily and way too soon.

  2. FINDING THE LOST BIRD. This is often the hardest part, but once accomplished is half the battle to successfully recovering the bird. Time is of the essence in this phase. As long as you know where the bird is, you can get it down with time - in most cases with enough time it will come down on its own, so long as you can keep track of it long enough. If you already know where the bird is located, skip to III. RECOVERING THE BIRD.

    1. Listen, listen and listen some more - if the bird is up in a tree or out of sight, chances are that you won''t be able to see it. But, if the bird vocalizes, you will be able to find its location by listening. It will almost always make noises that can be heard, giving direction to look in. Taking another bird out to the area may also help, especially if the other bird is a noisy friend of the lost bird or a mate or cage partner.

    2. If you can't hear or locate the bird:

      1. Make and distribute flyers in the neighborhood, including local convenience stores and the Post Office.  Include a picture!

      2. Notify the Humane Society, Animal Control, all local animal shelters, and wildlife rehabilitators.  People might bring a bird to a wildlife rehabber not realizing it’s not native.

      3. Call area pet stores and vets.  Ash them to keep their ears open for strange telephone calls like people asking, “what does a parrot eat”, “what kind of bird looks like this?”, etc.

      4. Place classified ads in newspapers.

      5. Post and look for found birds at 911parrotalert.comParrotalert.comNextdoor.comBirdhotline.com, local Craig’s list, neighborhood Facebook groups, and any local and state lost pet online groups.

      6. Enlist the help of neighborhood kids.  Children love to help look for lost parrots.  They also tell on people that are hiding them.

      7. Don’t limit your notification activity to the immediate vicinity where the parrot was lost.  Frightened birds may fly a long way off.

      8. Offer a reward.  You don’t need to specify an amount.  A reward will get people’s attention.

      9. Put something on the poster like a child is heartbroken, the bird needs its medication, etc.  It doesn’t have to be true.  People need to realize how important the bird is to you since people often think birds are disposable.

      10. Consider getting the press involved (TV, local newspaper), especially if you live in a small town.  Again you’ll likely need some kind of story to be featured.

  3. RECOVERING THE BIRD: Chances are that the bird wants to get to you but is too frightened or doesn't know how. Often, the key is getting the bird motivated to get to you on its own. This can take a while. A long while. Continue calling calmly and soothingly to the bird.

    DO NOT use a ladder or cherry picker/bucket truck or long sticks. Keep anyone and anything strange away from you that he might be afraid of. These will only frighten the bird away.

    DO NOT take the popular advice to attempt to spray the bird with a hose. This too will frighten the bird, and a wet bird can still fly.

    1. Morning and late afternoon/evening are the most likely times that the bird will come to you. It will rest in the afternoons and go to roost at night. If it is nighttime, do not waste your time trying to get the bird to come down. This time is better spent either resting up for the next day or working on flyers and other contacts.

    2. Have someone watch the bird at all times during the day if you need to go for help.

    3. If the bird is in a tree that you can climb, make sure the person climbing is someone the bird is comfortable with. Bring a favorite treat with you.

      1. If you can reach the bird, calmly secure it and stuff it under your shirt so it can't get frightened and fly away again.

      2. Some folks have even taken scissors up with them and trimmed the bird's wings then and there. This may be a little tricky……

      3. Put a familiar cage and food out where it can be seen by the bird.

      4. If you have a second bird that the lost bird will recognize the calls from, put the second bird outside where the bird can hear it.

      5. If the bird has been out for a while pack a picnic and eat right under the tree where the bird is. Make sure it's something decadent and tempting such as French fries. Make a big deal about how delicious it is.

      6. Jealousy (a Significant Other giving the bird's #1 person attention, or another rival bird or pet getting attention from said #1) can work to lure the bird down.

      7. With time and patience, the bird will calm down and relax and become much more easily recovered. Signs of such change of state include preening, playing with leaves/branches, aborted attempts to fly down, etc.

      8. It may take days for the bird to become motivated enough to come down to you. Don't give up!!

    You may have to prove ownership.

    1. If your bird has a band, make sure you write down the band information BEFORE your bird is lost.

    2. Microchip any bird that can get one (small birds usually can’t) and keep your contact info up-to-date with the microchip.

    3. Have photos of your bird from all angles. If your bird has any unusual physical attributes, like a deformed toe or beak, make sure you have good photos of that. An unusually colored feather might be molted out or lost, so that’s no guarantee, but make sure you have photos of it just in case.

    4. If your bird sings or says anything, have recordings of it.

    5. Your avian vet’s records might be helpful in case of dispute. There are cases where a bird is found and positively identified, but the finders refuse to give it up (free bird!). You might have to get law enforcement and the legal system involved.


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