A reader wrote, sharing a painful loss of a pet bird, and asking how to prevent one in the future and what to do if a new bird goes missing. Here’s what I told her.
Q: A couple years ago, our cockatiel flew out the front door, and we were never able to get her back. We saw her for a couple of weeks in the neighborhood, and then she was gone. Can you suggest how we can protect against losing another?
A: It can indeed be difficult to catch a bird on the wing, which is why the best strategies for preventing a pet bird from being lost forever are preventive. Have your bird microchipped. Keep his wings clipped to prevent him from flying away, and make sure everyone in the family knows to keep doors and unscreened windows closed.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it? But there are things you can do if your bird flies away:
— Don’t waste time. The longer your bird is out, the smaller the chance of recovery. Immediately start searching nearby. If you have some game you play that would elicit a response from your bird, start playing it. If your bird is used to responding to your whistle or call, you’ll have an easier time locating him.
— Lure your bird with his favorite treats. Even without wings, birds can climb far out of reach quickly. Gathering your bird’s favorite treats may lure him back down. Put his familiar cage in an area that’s easy for him to see and get to, and put treats inside with the door open. Because birds are more likely to eat at dawn and dusk, even a bird who’s not immediately interested in treats may come into a familiar cage at feeding time.
— Use the hose, cautiously. Because being sprayed by the hose is frightening and may injure the bird, don’t go for this technique first. Some bird experts are dead-set against it, in fact. But a bird at large is in as much danger of dying as he is if he falls to the ground after being drenched. Using a hose is a judgment call, and you’ll probably get only one chance, so play this card wisely.
Expand the search. If your immediate actions don’t bring in your bird, don’t give up. Put up fliers around the area and at the local bird shop, pet-supply stores, veterinarians’ offices (especially avian veterinarians) and pet shelters. Post everywhere you can online as well.
Many birds are found days, weeks and months after they’re lost, but they’re found by people who don’t know just who is looking for the pet. If you don’t keep putting the word out, your bird may be lost for good, even if found.
You’ll find more, including how to prepare for disasters whe you have pets, in this week’s Pet Connection!