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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.
- Post signs at veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, pet-supply stores, libraries, schools, animal shelters, post offices, grocery stores and other “high traffic” areas in your neighborhood. Your flyers should state that you found a lost parrot, the date you found it, where you found it and your name and phone number.
- Place a “found” ad in the newspaper. “Most newspapers will place these ads for free for three days,” says Bonnie Kenk, founder and director of the Parrot Education and Adoption Center in San Diego, California. The ad should give the date and place in which the bird was found, plus a contact number. “Anything more specific will allow someone who is not the true owner of the bird to claim it,” Kenk says. The person placing the ad should never answer any other questions. Usually, people will call and ask, “What kind of bird did you find?” The answer to this question is “What kind of bird did you lose?”
- Check the “lost pets” ads in the newspaper and respond to any that even vaguely resemble your stray. The bird you found has been through a lot of trauma and may not look like the bird his owners describe.
- Contact radio stations that broadcast missing pet announcements and ask them to publicize your find.
- Go online and place a free “pet found” notice with two national databases: the Bird Hotline (www.birdhotline.com) or the Missing Pet Network (www.missingpet.net). Both groups have volunteers nationwide who look out for lost birds.If no one claims the bird, you might consider adopting it yourself. Or you can take it to a parrot rescue organization or animal shelter where, with luck, the stray will find a new home.
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:
- Caged Bird Rescue
911 Thompson Road
Pegram, TN 37143
- Feathered Family
PO Box 1133
Erie, CO 80516.
- Feathered Friends Adoption and Rescue
4610 Ecstasy Circle
Cocoa, FL 32926
- Foster Parrots Limited
P.O. Box 650
Rockland, MA 02370
- The Gabriel Foundation
P.O. Box 11477
Aspen, CO 81612
- Northcoast Bird Adoption and Rehabilitation Center
P.O. Box 367
Aurora, OH 44202
- Parrot Education and Adoption Center
P.O. Box 34501
San Diego, CA 92163-4501
- Providence House Avian Rescue and Support Services
P.O. Box 4040
West Richland, WA 99353
- Rescue Me
P.O. Box 534
Ark, VA 23003
- The Tropics Exotic Bird Refuge
P.O. Box 686
Kannapolis, NC 8082
- Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue
P.O. Box 697
San Jose. CA., 95106-0697
Phone: (650) 301-6521