by Mattie Sue Athan
Every year, we hear from a number of people with Quaker Parrots that have flown away. Mattie Sue Athan has assisted with many escaped parrot recoveries and is considered an expert on this topic. Here she offers step-by-step advice for the owner of a lost parrot. We have seen many recoveries of lost birds when owners follow this advice.
Question: My Quaker Parrot flew away. What are a handfed Quaker’s chances of survival? And what can I do to get it back?
Accidental escape is one of the most common tragedies to befall the companion Quaker parrot. In the past this represented a danger to the environment because wild-caught Quakers could survive easily in the wild. However, an escaped handfed Quaker’s chances of survival are not especially good, especially in areas where there is raptor activity. Fortunately, handfed Quakers know where “their bread is buttered”. In my 20+ years of experience recapturing Quakers in urban settings, I see that handfed Quakers usually find accommodating humans and “adopt” them, usually within the first 24 hours of escape. For this reason, I expect a handfed Quaker recapture to primarily be a public relations project. If you don’t know where the bird is, you must advertise to find it.
Typically, the bird is returned by humans who have been caring for it as soon as they see the advertising. Call the local newspapers, the humane societies, animal control, local bird dealers, avian veterinarians, groomers, and recapture services. Be sure to report your lost “property” to the police. If the bird is found and the people holding the bird won’t relinquish it, the police may intervene. You must be able to prove ownership, possibly with a recorded band number, registered DNA configuration, micro-chipping or by identifying physical or behavioral anomalies in the bird.
Place ads in the local newspapers, on church and grocery store bulletin boards. Make a flyer with a photo or a reasonable likeness of a Quaker. Prepare an 8-1/2 x 11 inch white original so that it can be easily copied on to brightly colored paper. The flyer should also contain a contact phone number, if possible, and alternative contact phone number, such as a pager, and the street corner or local landmark nearest to where the bird flew away. The flyer should mention small rewards available for information leading to the location of the bird and a more sizable reward for the return of the bird. It’s a good idea to minimize the value of the bird, possibly, in the case of the Quaker Parrot, mentioning that the bird is noisy or of less-than-perfect disposition. Identifying characteristics may be mentioned, such as missing toe or banding on a particular leg.
Talk to everyone you see, and make lots of flyers to just hand to people. Use a different color each time the flyer is reprinted. If the recapture process lasts a while, the signs may have to be occasionally reposted after bad weather, and a new color will help people to understand that the search is still “fresh”, and they should call if they see the bird. Don’t forget to take your flyers down immediately upon recovering the bird. It’s only polite, and in some places you may be fined if you do not take them down.
During late summer or early fall, there may be sufficient ripe fruits to sustain the bird wild for a while. In the case of a true “recapture” wherein we know where the bird is, a handfed bird will usually come willingly to the beloved owner. Expect a really good flyer to fly down. Expect a poor flyer to climb down. It’s easier to lure a Quaker parrot with jealousy (have the favorite person stand hugging the most hated person) than with food.
Don’t give up. Keep looking. A bird doesn’t usually just disappear. Somebody has it or somebody has seen it, or they will see it soon.
A friend told me that he lost a pair of Quakers in northern Colorado on the 4th of July in about 1985. Exactly one year later, also on July 4th, he was contacted by a neighbor who reported that he had captured the birds in his hen house. There had been no reported sightings of the birds in this rural setting for that entire year.
Wild-caught or poorly socialized Quakers might have to be trapped. Trapping instructions for Quaker Parrots may be found on page 81-82 of Guide to the Quaker Parrot.
Mattie Sue Athan has been a companion parrot behavior consultant since 1978. During that time she has averaged two to three new Quaker clients per week. Her first book, Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot, is an industry standard. Her second book, Guide to the Quaker Parrot, sold out the first printing in 5 months. She also wrote Guide to the Senegal Parrot and Its Family and Guide to Companion Parrot Behavior.