The following information has been compiled from
numerous bird sites and years of experience from
It's long, but very informative.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A BIRD ESCAPES
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
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:
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
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Additional Information/Comments by Scott Lewis
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.
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.
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
CAPTURED! NOW WHAT?!
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.
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
Diane Barker, Parrot Trooper
Lost Bird Tips or
Found Bird Tips