A yellow bird looks down at its feet

What To Do If You Find a Stray Bird

A weak and scraggly African grey parrot suddenly appears in your backyard. He sits on the ground a few feet from your deck and gives you a faint-hearted squawk. You figure he’s either someone’s lost pet or an abandoned bird. How can you help him get back to his owner – or at least find out if he has one?

Your first step is to capture him. “If the bird is tired, you can usually contain him with a large towel,” says Bob Plymesser, past president of the Parrot Rehabilitation Society in San Diego, California. “Come at the bird from the front and drape the towel over him. If you come at the bird from the back, he may fly away because he’ll think you’re a predator.”

To keep him from biting, grab the bird from the back of his head, so you’re holding his jaw. Wrap the loose ends of the towel around the parrot’s wings and feet and then transport him to an empty cage, pet carrier or a sturdy cardboard box.

Coax Bird With Food

If the bird is perched in a tree, coax him down with food. “Set out an empty bird cage and put some seed or nuts inside to try to attract the bird,” suggests Julie Murad, director of the Gabriel Foundation, a parrot rescue and rehabilitation organization in Aspen, Colorado. Then you can just shut the door when the bird walks into the cage.

Place the bird in a quiet area of your home and cover the cage with a towel so he’ll calm down. If he seems cold, put a light bulb near the cage or a heating pad underneath it, says Murad.

Stray birds often carry psittacosis or other infectious diseases, so keep the stray away from your own pet birds. “It’s also a good idea to change your clothes after you’ve been handling the stray bird, before you interact with your pets,” Murad adds.

Once the bird is settled in, you can try to locate the owner. Contact your local police department, animal shelter and humane society to see if anyone has filed a missing pet report. Birds can fly great distances, so call every animal shelter within a 100-mile radius of your home.

Next, take the bird to a veterinarian (or an animal shelter) and ask to have him scanned to determine whether or not he has been implanted with a microchip. The chip is a tiny glass tube embedded in the bird’s skin that contains a transponder coded with a number. If the bird has a microchip, the veterinarian will be able to read it and get the owner’s phone number from a national database. The same is true if the bird is wearing a bird band.

Tracking Down The Owner

If the bird has neither chip nor band, all is not lost. There are several other ways you can go about tracking down an owner.

Bird Rescue and Rehabilitation Organizations

Many animal shelters and humane societies are not equipped to handle birds. But bird rescue groups have been organized across the country to offer refuge, rehabilitation and adoption services for homeless or mistreated parrots, as well as educational programs for bird owners. Here’s a list of some of the largest of these groups: