The following information has been compiled from numerous bird sites and years of experience from bird owners.

It's long, but very informative. 


The following is information intended to help with recovering an escaped bird. Many escaped birds are kept clipped and escape when one or two flight feathers grow in unnoticed by the guardian. Sometimes a door or window is carelessly left ajar and the bird gets out. Often the caregiver may forget the bird is on his shoulder when collecting the mail, the daily paper or greeting the Avon lady. Other people may bring their birds outside on purpose, with the intention of getting them some fresh air and sunshine, without knowing that birds can fly easily should a sudden gust of wind offer the lift needed despite clipped wings. An escaped bird often will not even recognize his or her own home and some suggest that it is wise to acclimatize your bird to their yard and outdoor surroundings.

Captive exotic birds once free, will not immediately know how to find food or water but after a couple of days of freedom will rely on instinct and usually are able to find a bird feeder or pond. Many will land on an unsuspecting stranger in search of food. Most captive exotic birds have no ability to escape predators and many will meet their demise as a meal for a hawk or cat. Extreme weather can also play a part in the bird's mortality but many birds have been known to survive many months if they are clever enough to find a shelter to roost in. Two Orange Wing Amazons survived an entire winter in Maine by sleeping in an abandoned squirrel's nest. It is important to let people with escaped birds know that they should not quit looking or stop putting up flyers. The one thing to remember here is DON'T GIVE UP!

If bird's whereabouts are not known:

If the caregiver does not know the whereabouts of the bird, one must take steps to find out where he/she is, where he/she is eating (often a fruit tree in season or a birdfeeder in someone's back yard) or sleeping.

Contact the local animal control agencies, the police, all vet clinics, pet supply and pet stores (they may not help you but they can serve as a contact should someone report seeing your bird). Make flyers with the bird's photo and distribute to all known "pet" or animal related groups. Offer a reward of $50 to $100. Post flyers at schools, on telephone poles and in shop windows within a five mile radius of your home. If possible increase this area by 5 miles within the next day and then one mile per day thereafter. (One bird was recently found over 100 miles from home within one week and birds are frequently found within a ten mile radius of "home").

Walk the neighborhood. Ask joggers and children to keep an eye out (it is good to have business cards or flyers to give everyone you talk to), pass out your flyers and try to find the people in your neighborhood that keep their birdfeeders well-stocked. Ask them to keep an eye out. Hopefully these steps will result in the location of your flighted friend.

Recovering an escapee:

Once the guardian knows where the escaped bird is, they can make attempts to coax the bird down with treats or even attempt to climb the tree. If the guardian does decide to climb the tree, he/she should take a pillow case (tucked in the belt or back of the trousers), with a long length of clothesline attached so that the bird can be lowered to the ground. This will be easier and safer than trying to climb down with a potentially biting or struggling bird. This method usually only works with an extremely tame bird. Most birds will fly off as one gets closer. Two people should be involved to keep track of where the bird goes should he/she fly off.

A decoy bird may be used and if there is a cage mate or companion bird in the home they too can be used to lure your "jail bird" back home. Remember to CLIP the wings of the decoy or companion as two escaped birds make life much more difficult. Recently when all else had failed to bring an escaped male cockatiel down from a tall tree, the offering of a female was all it took to bring the male down to the shoulder of his guardian. Recordings of the escaped bird can also act as a lure. Recordings of unfamiliar birds may have the opposite effect and scare the escapee away!

If none of the above work, it will be necessary to trap the escaped bird.

Locate two or three old cockatiel-sized cages. Larger cages will be needed for macaws. Contact local animal rescue groups and wildlife rehabilitators for old cages.

Get permission from homeowners in your neighborhood to put a cage in the yard and trees. They are usually happy to give permission. If possible, get homeowners and their family to keep an eye on the cages. One of the birds we caught this year was actually caught by a homeowner who shut the door to the cage and then called Foster Parrots to come and get the bird.

Put a cage on the ground and sprinkle seed around the opening, lots of peanuts, apples and favorite foods inside. Put another cage in a tree frequented by your feathered friend, if you know of such a tree.

To get the cage into the tree:

Put two rolls of pennies into an old (and sturdy) sock. Tie this to the end of a long length of clothes line coiled neatly on the ground. Throw the weighted end over the highest branch possible OR the branch nearest the birds favorite spot. Be careful not to spook the bird. The bird usually will not fly away if you manage to get the rope over on the first or second try but repeated attempts will scare him/her away.

Tie a smaller string to the door of the cage in such a way as to act as a closeable trap door (tie one end to cage door and thread through back of cage so that a tug shuts the door) and then hoist the cage into the tree. Trail these strings away from the cage to a distance of 40 or 50 feet and possibly in a place where you can hide, i.e. behind a bush or building.

Tend the cages daily and continue to look for other places the bird may be hanging out. Don't give up, the one thing that EVERY person who used this method told us was that we were the only ones to give them hope and that this message alone kept them looking.

-by Sarah Gaffney, Feathers in Distress


If you belong to a bird club, please ask your newsletter editor to publish this. If your club holds a bird fair, please distribute it. If you know of someone who has lost a bird, please send it along. If you have a personal web page, please put this up. If you are a breeder, please include this in your educational packet. Please forward this to other lists. If you know of lost/found web pages, please ask them to put this up.

Courtesy of Tips for Recovering Missing Birds
by Jean Pattison (The African Queen)


  • Birds can live for days-weeks months, and even years after an escape. Never give up.

  • Always look for a bird BEFORE sun-up while it is still dark, and AFTER sundown. They are the most vocal then, and the most active.

  • Day 3 is when they get hungry and try to come in for food, they will go to just about any one at that time if they are tame.

  • ALWAYS have a recording of your bird when he is playing and having the most fun. Play this recording intermittently as you look for him.

  • Throw food on rooftops. Place a small cage on the roof of your house, or anyone's where the bird has been seen.

  • Tell people to put him in a pillow case, and have friends carrying pillowcases while looking, or small cages. Sometimes birds are caught by inexperienced holders and they don't know what to do with them.

  • Water hoses do work if you can spray him shortly after his escape. Hit him with as much water as you can all at once. He is heavy from not having exercise, and the water throws him off enough to ground him for a bit. Do not drench just before dark unless you are sure you can get him.

  • If possible contact organizations 50 miles away. Sometimes people find them while traveling and go home with them. Greys can also get that far just flying.

  • Give all the children in the neighborhood a buck and tell them there is more if they can locate your bird. Kids tell on people that are hiding them also. (per Mattie Sue Athan) Police will not help you retrieve a bird from someone else's home. You have to plan that one very carefully if they decide they want to keep your bird.

  • Have someone watch the bird at all times if he is spotted and you need to go for help.

  • If you try to climb the tree, it often times scares them up. A long branch may be better to coax him onto. Use your head here. Raise his cage to where he is.

  • Have friends and family miles away in other cities watch the lost and found ads.

  • If he is roosted near dark, wait until dark before trying to retrieve him. They don't fly well at night, and they don't want to fly, but make sure you don't miss. You may use a high powered flashlight to momentarily blind the bird while another person nets or grabs the bird.

  • If sighted, keep the mobs of people away, and let the owner try and coax him down. Have your helping friends in tall trees or on roof tops to watch where he goes if he takes off. You NEED spotters prepared and willing.

Additional Information/Comments by Scott Lewis

I might add to all this that if the bird is hanging around but refuses to go in a cage or allow itself to be caught, a Have-A-Heart chipmunk trap may do the trick. This is a small live trap. We recaptured a hawk headed parrot with one. With this sized bird, which is roughly the same size as a Timneh African Grey, anything larger will not work because the bird can go in and out with impunity. We know this from experience. After watching in total frustration as the hawk head repeatedly walked in and out of a Have-A-Heart squirrel trap to eat, we got a chipmunk trap. She went in, she was back.

Place the trap high in the area the bird is frequenting. Remember that height equals safety to parrots and most other birds. Be sure to check it frequently. If the bird is caught, it may panic. And, there is a good chance you will catch native birds, which won't appreciate it a damned bit. I have released a few extremely irate grackles and such.

For little birds, such as lovebirds and budgies, a sparrow trap works well. We had a black-masked lovebird show up at the aviary. I suppose it was attracted by our birds' calls. Given that lovebirds can carry PBFD, to which all our birds are very susceptible, two vets told me to get a pellet gun. I didn't have the heart to do it. But, I caught him in a sparrow trap within a half hour after I set it.

Finally, a hose does work, but don't be shy. The idea is to totally soak the bird in a big hurry to the extent that it can't fly. If you're shy with the hose, you will simply watch a damp bird fly away.


Normally a bird will not show signs of illness unless itís in serious condition. If the birdís feathers are fluffed and it isnít moving much, this is a clear sign the bird is critical. Signs of starvation include lack of appetite; lethargy, imbalance, and possibly emaciated (examine the bird for thinness & protruding ribs). Within a day or two a bird can become fatally dehydrated. Pedialyte is high in electrolytes but you can offer Gatorade or PowerAde at room temperature for energy & nutrients. Frostbite may include coldness, swelling, hardness, and noticeable pain in toes.

Also look for discharge in nose or eyes, heavy breathing, vomiting, bloody stool, or bleeding due to injuries (Cornstarch is a safe coagulant for smaller injuries), and beak fractures. Contacting an Avian Veterinarian is always advised, they may be the birdís only hope of survival.

- Diane Barker, Parrot Trooper

Also see: Lost Bird Tips or Found Bird Tips