Old World Aviaries
Tips for recovering missing birds
by Jean Pattison with Scott Lewis
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.
Birds can live for days-weeks months, and even years after an escape. Never give
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Have friends and family miles away in other cities watch the lost and found
- 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.
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, 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 and placed him in a good home.
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.
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