By Dr. Becker
There was a story recently out of New York City detailing the harrowing account of two pet cockatiels who escaped their carrier on the way to a vet appointment and flew away. Neither bird had lived a minute of life outdoors.
One of the two birds was found later the same evening, but died within hours from wounds that might have been the result of a fight with another bird.
The remaining bird, Josie, was still out there somewhere.
Josie's owners did everything possible to find him. They put up full color missing posters all over the neighborhood and surrounding areas. They put his cage stocked with food down on the sidewalk outside their apartment building, where the doorman kept an eye on it for them.
They got up in the wee hours of the morning to walk the streets, calling out to Josie, and carrying a musical toy that made a sound the bird liked to imitate.
Unfortunately, their search was cut short by wind and rain as Hurricane Irene barreled up the east coast headed for New York City.
After Irene passed over the city and out of New York, Josie's owners sadly assumed either the storm took him, or he'd fallen prey to a larger bird or maybe a feral cat. They were devastated at the loss of both their beloved pets.
Then two days later, miraculously, Josie was found by a family walking through Central Park. He was tucked under a bench, and he wasn't in good shape.
Josie was taken to an avian vet who pronounced him weak, emaciated, severely dehydrated and barely clinging to life. He'd tried to feed himself by eating gravel and bits of metal he found on the ground. The vet told his owners Josie had only about a 50 percent chance of surviving his ordeal.
Over the next four days, Josie received antibiotics, fluids, and medicines to remove the metal toxins from his body. He improved each day, and on day four he was able to go home with his very grateful owners.
You can find the full article and see photos of Josie here.
How to (Hopefully) Never, Ever Lose Your Cockatiel
Cockatiels are nomadic by nature, meaning they don't have a strong homing instinct and won't likely find their way back home if they fly away.
A pampered pet cockatiel outdoors on his own will encounter any number of threats to his very existence, including dogs, cats, predatory birds, traffic, bad weather, dehydration, starvation, disease – the list is endless.
Don't assume just because your cockatiel has never flown off that she never will. It happens all the time when an unclipped bird is startled, or simply gets the very natural urge to fly when the opportunity presents itself.
Some suggestions for keep your pet safe:
- Either keep your bird’s wings clipped so she cannot easily fly away, or train her to wear a flight suit and be absolutely vigilant about putting her in it before you take her outside for any reason. Cockatiels are very strong flyers, and even some who are completely clipped are still able to get airborne.
- Make sure window screens and screen doors are secure and without tears or holes. Never leave an access point out of your home open and unattended.
- Make it a household rule that your pet must be secured in her cage before any door or window is opened.
- Make sure your cockatiel can't escape from her cage or her travel carrier, and always double check that cage doors are securely closed and fastened.
- Learn your bird's personality well enough to identify what sets her off or startles her. Work with her to strengthen her breast muscles so she becomes an efficient flyer who can also land in a controlled fashion. This will help reduce potential injury to your pet.
- Keep a recent picture of your bird where you can get to it easily and copy it quickly in case you need to make flyers to distribute.
- Make an audio recording of your bird whistling, chirping, and singing. Keep it handy just in case.
What to Do If Your Bird Takes Off
Despite the best intentions of bird owners, unfortunately, pet birds do occasionally fly away. If this happens to you, try not to panic and do the following:
- Follow your escapee as long as possible by whatever means possible. Your cockatiel may not be able or willing to fly all that far and could land close by, in a neighbor's yard, for example. Sometimes escaped birds land high in a tree -- close, but out of reach.
- If you see your bird in a tree or on a rooftop, it's important for someone to keep her in sight while you or a helper attempts to lure her down or capture her.
On the other hand, your pet could be a strong flyer who can travel miles before stopping. If you can't catch your bird or have lost sight of her, get the word out immediately.
- Make up flyers with color pictures of your cockatiel and post them around your neighborhood. Offer a reward if you can swing it. Each day post additional flyers farther away from your home. Many birds are found within a 10 mile radius of the owner's home.
- Talk to local animal shelters, police departments, nature centers, pet stores, veterinary offices, bird clubs and any other organization you can think of that might either come across your pet or receive her if someone else finds her. There are lots of good resources online, too, including www.birdhotline.com and http://www.missingpetpartnership.org.
- Talk to your neighbors and ask them to keep their bird feeders full and an eye out for your pet. Make sure the neighborhood children are also on the lookout for your bird.
- Put your bird's cage with food and water in your yard. If she's close by she may just fly right back into it once she sees it. If she's been spotted in and out of a tree in a neighboring yard, ask the owners if you can put the cage on their property to entice her.
- Play the audio recording of your bird at various spots around your neighborhood at dawn and dusk (it's a good idea to alert your neighbors ahead of time). This is when cockatiels are most active and most apt to be searching for food. Listen for a response.
- Be prepared to capture your cockatiel if she's sighted but can't be coaxed down from a tree or out of hiding. Your tools should include a trap cage, a net and a towel.
- Don't give up!