Before you take your bird outside

About 19,000 pet birds are reported lost each year. Only 20% are reported found. Those are gruesome odds. If found, some are kept by their finder, who think if the bird was loose, the owner was irresponsible, so they keep it without guilt – or they sell it to the first buyer they can find.

The majority of these losses happen to people who dearly love their bird, but have lost the initial fear of taking it outdoors unrestrained. Once a bond is formed, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking your bird wouldn’t fly away from you – or would come back if it did. So you take it outside on your arm or hand because you think your bird will enjoy being outdoors – and you may feel guilty for having to keep it in a cage. 

Please don’t think I’m being self-righteous. I fell into that trap. I walked outside with my parrot on my arm, she startled and flew up into the 80 ft evergreen trees behind my house where I could hear her, but not see her, and I couldn’t get her to come back down to me. I’d had her over 12 years. I lost sight of my responsibility as guardian of a wild animal whose main instinct is to flee from danger. I went into shock and was unable to think clearly about ways to get her back down to me. I searched online and tried everything I could – except call the local power company to see if they had a boom long enough to get up to her. I would do anything to have her back but I found wing feathers down the road 6 days after she flew away. I failed her by simply not thinking about what I might be risking by walking outdoors with her.

I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t fly back down to me when she got hungry, so I started doing research. I had to dig for it, but here’s what I found out:

1. If your bird doesn’t fly across the room to you now, it won’t fly to you when it’s outdoors and terrified. Captive bred parrots haven’t been trained by parent birds to fly downward (normal fledging), and fear will likely keep your bird from trying.

2. Captive bred birds miss that basic training because they are taken from the nest at 3 weeks to be hand fed so they’ll make better pets. They miss out on flight training, foraging for their own food, and learning what’s truly dangerous. Instinct will make them fly upward, but it’s parental training that teaches them to fly downward from a great height. Height equals safety to a bird.

3. The most commonly lost birds are African Greys, Cockatiels, and parakeets. More parakeets are ‘found’ than are claimed by their owners. They survive because there isn’t enough money in parakeets to justify hand feeding, so their parents raise them. They learn how to find bird feeders, and to fly upward and downward.

Stop feeling guilty about keeping your bird indoors. It’s the only life your bird has known and a roomy cage and familiar house equal safety. Natural sunshine is good for your bird – so take it outdoors in a cage or harness (harness training is not easy for an older bird). And provide a UVA/UVB bulb above the cage so it gets enough ‘sunshine’ to produce calcium and stay healthy.

A pet bird never, ever belongs outdoors unless safely restrained. There will always be people who refuse to think any pet of theirs would willingly leave them, and insists they take their bird outside and it doesn’t fly away because it hasn’t – yet. Unless you want to carry the horrendous sadness and guilt of a lost bird who loved and trusted you to keep it safe – refuse to allow yourself to be one of those people!

*Please feel free to copy and post in your state. Let’s try to save some birds!*