Tips for Recovering Missing Birds by Jean Pattison (The African Queen)
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.Additional suggestions from Scott Lewis are included.
Birds can live for days-weeks months, and even years after an escape. Never give up. Always look for a grey BEFORE sun-up while it is still dark, and AFTER sundown. They are the most vocal then, and the most active. Look for the bird constantly. Start where you think the bird landed and circle that area. Add a mile and 1/2 for every 12 hours the bird has been out loose. Since there are many variables, anything can send the bird off in a new direction, or he may even just stay put and hidden close to where you lost sight of him.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. This depends on how hungry the bird was when it became lost, and the weather, temperature, etc. The best thing to do is to forget the bird was a pet and start tracking him like a wild, loose, untrained bird in the neighborhood. Yes, food will being a bird down to the ground, but that could take a while for a well fed bird in the heat of the summer. Now that the instincts are in gear, any trained behaviors that were there before the escape may be unreliable.ALWAYS have a recording of your grey 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 they grey has been seen. The only time to put food out is if you want to establish a feeding place on which you will place a trap on the third day. Otherwise, all that putting free food out will do is prolong the time that your bird can make it out in the wild without anyone's help. Tell people to put him in a pillow case, and have friends carrying pillowcases while looking, or small cages. Sometimes greys are caught by inexperienced holders and they don't know what to do with them.Kennels usually work just fine, and won't add further trauma to an already scared bird. 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.Carry your cell phone with you at all times, and a flashlight and food treats. You stay with the bird and talk to him, let others go for the ladders and 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. Just get close to him and talk to him. Offer treats without reaching for him. Just befriend him until he remembers you and walks closer to you, then pick him up. 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. Scared birds WILL fly at night, even though they have no idea where they are going to. If you feel that approaching after dark is better, shine a flashlight into their face so they don't see your net coming down over them. Use a large fishing net with soft open netting.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 LewisI 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. An actual R/C parrot trap is best, but not many people have one.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. NEVER leave a trap unattended. A caught bird can easily attract a raptor, and besides, in most parts of the US, unattended traps are against the law. 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.