The Incident…

Over the years I have posted many stories of some of the birds that have been in my care; some were fosters, others became family members. Many thoughts on how and when a bird speaks appropriately have been debated over time. I have had a macaw, a medium sulfer-crested cockatoo, a conure, and a yellow nape in the last 30 yrs or so. All were  great birds, well maybe not the conure, but he had severe issues from being left alone (previous owner) in a room for quite some time. My cockatoo only said, “Hi”; the macaw spoke some- rather appropriately too. She learned to say “Hi” when I uncovered her in the morning; to say, “Hot” when her food, which was warm, was placed in her cage. She learned to say, “Ow!” and then laugh after she had bitten someone. There were other things they said, but I have to say living with African Greys has got to be the most interesting for me.

Greys are so observant. They pay attention to detail even when you do not. Like the sounds of the buttons on the microwave. They know what’s coming when you push them, they often will make the beep sound just as you are ready to push the button! Or how about the door you didn’t realize needed some WD-40 until one day you put two and two together, as the bird started making the sound before the door moved! Then there is the case of the noise level that often occurs with any bird owner. In our case, one or two of the birds will tell the other birds to “Be Quiet!” when they become a bit to raucous. When they don’t die down they are told to, “knock it off!” So amazingly intelligent, loving, creative and brilliant creatures. I believe my birds think of me as one of them. They trust me, which is definitely learned over time, but more importantly they know to come to me when they want something, whether it be food or companionship. I cannot stress enough the need to develop a strong relationship with your birds. This became a most valuable asset a few months ago. This story could be an episode on a sitcom, although it was not funny…….well parts of it were.

One evening late in August, I began bringing the birds indoor from the outdoor aviary. If you know anything about Arizona in August, you know there are monsoon storms that come with the territory. The sky began getting dark and the winds started picking up as I was bringing everybody inside. Most of my birds are stick trained, which is helpful in the event I am not around, someone else can assist if needed without stress for the bird or the person. The ‘boys’ as I call them, Stu and Scooter (aliases), are best friends and are housed together in a large cage. As I was bringing them both in, Stu decided to start flapping his wings; a few moments later Scooter began doing the same thing. This is a scary thing because Scooter is a bit of a rogue and could actually fly, although I thought he was not able to get any lift at the time. Well, he was beautiful to watch, but the reality of it was horrifying. Off he took and I could not catch or deter him. He flew into a tree near our house, but we couldn’t see him and he was not responding verbally. After an hour and a half of calling and searching we saw him fly in the opposite direction, over our two story house and off to who knows where. The only saving Grace was that the monsoon that looked like it was headed our way never appeared. By now it was dark and we had no idea where he may have headed. Posts were put on Facebook, Craigslist, Nextdoor, 911 Parrot Alert’s FB page and I made flyers. Keep in mind the temps in August in the Phoenix Metro area average about 108. I worried all night and finally arose at 4 am. My husband (who had to go to a job a few hours later) and I went out and started calling, but still no response. Hours went by. Nothing. I was getting so discouraged. The people on the 911 Parrot Alert were awesome; they kept me going even when I thought the situation was hopeless. I perused the neighborhood on my bike, called him, listened, talked to people and posted flyers. If I thought I heard him respond I would stop and call again…then listen. All day, every hour I biked the area over and over again calling him.

One thing I have to say about Scooter is that he is a tough cookie, as I said a bit of a rogue. Years ago, he was actually found living in the desert. No one knows how long he had been out there, but rest assured, it was a while. The person who originally found him said they found a “red-tailed hawk”! A search was conducted to try and find an owner, with no success. If you scroll back on the pages on this blog you will actually see pics of Scooter when he had surgery on one of his nares a number of years ago. So I worried and stressed, but knew he was pretty tough to start with….but I wanted him home. Around 5 pm that day my husband came home from work, my daughter and cousin came over to help in the search. We formulated a plan and set out to find our boy. About an hour or so into it, I thought I heard him respond to my calling his name. I followed the sound and kept calling. By the Grace of God, there he was up in a tree about 30″ high! I called the search team and everyone came to the location. I should also tell you, we are in a development and he was in someone’s backyard. The homeowners were so very wonderful. They assisted and allowed us whatever help we needed. I was so happy to see Scooter up in the tree, but now it was dusk and much too late to attempt to climb the tree and get him down. (He made no attempts to fly to us, but it was obvious he wanted to be out of that tree. Sadly, we had to leave him  in that tree all night. I prayed he would stay put and nothing would harm him. We had made arrangements with the homeowners to get into their backyard at 5 am. Thankfully, he was still in place.

The next morning, we brought grapes, watermelon, veggies and pellets and his pal, Stu, which turned out to be fairly uneventful. He was most excited by the foods, which he could see from up there as I was tapping on the metal dish to draw his attention. My husband started to climb the tree; he kept talking to me, but I couldn’t hear him- frustration. He finally said he could see Scooter and was headed that way. I was on the ground tapping the dish and walking backwards when my footing completely gave out and I landed in the play pool! I got out rather quickly with my now wet iPhone, grapes on the bottom of the pool and no more sounds from Scooter in the tree. My husband said he could no longer see him either. We thought he had been startled by my fall and took off. So very discouraged, we packed up and left; my husband drove around and get out and call him. I went home- put my iPhone in silica gel and rice and got back on my bike. After an hour, I heard him again- in the same area. Having no phone I had to go find my husband and we both went back to the area. It turned out Scooter had not left the tree at all! I was elated, but apprehensive. We repeated the same process; hubs climbed the tree; me talking to him and showing him some food from the ground. Scooter was just out of reach, but he gladly got on the stick we use at home! My man climbed down the tree, one-handed with Scooter on the other. The crate was open and equipped with water and food, which Scooter was happy to see. We brought him home where he gladly drank water and ate, then fell asleep.

Scooter is doing great and had his wings clipped that night after some rest and food. I am not sure he would be home today if he had not responded to my voice that day………

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I am so very thankful to have him safe and sound. So please, be sure you and your bird(s) know you and your voice very well. If you ever are in such a situation, don’t ever give up. Be aggressive in your search efforts- it will pay off. I had not been in this situation previously and do not intend to be so ever again.

In my next post, I would like to talk about something that came up as a result of this incident- the clip or not to clip your birds wings?

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