It's an owner's nightmare: A cage door left unlatched, an open window - and before anyone can stop him, the bird is gone. But how do you prevent a pet bird from flying off, and what can you do to get him back?
Preventing a Getaway
Make sure your birds are clipped by a groomer or veterinarian. Feathers should be cut back enough so your bird can't gain altitude and can only drift gently to the floor. Keep a sharp eye on the length of his feathers and make sure you continue to keep him clipped.
Never take an unclipped bird outdoors unless he is kept in an escape-proof carrier.
Make sure all windows and doors are closed before you allow your bird out of his cage.
Make sure your bird can't escape from his cage once he's locked in. Some birds are remarkably clever. If necessary, use padlocks or other bird-proof latches.
Make sure the bird is placed back in his cage before you answer a doorbell. Strangers can unnerve a bird and send him flying off in a panic.
Don't leave the bird uncaged with visiting friends or family who aren't used to birds; they're less likely to notice an open window until it's too late.
Keep current photos of your bird in case he does get out. They will come in handy for “missing bird” posters. Also, make a note of the markings on his band, which may help in identifying him. You may also want to have a microchip implanted.
If He Gets Out
Follow your bird for as long as you can see him. Even when clipped, a bird can fly surprisingly far.
If you can reach the bird with a garden hose, give him a good soaking, which may weigh him down too much to allow him to take off again (note: sending too heavy a spray from the hose can injure a delicate bird).
If he disappears, put his cage outdoors with fresh food and water. This is, after all, his home, and he may try to come back.
Make sure you have equipment on hand to catch him in case he is sighted: towels, cage, net, etc.
Canvass your immediate neighborhood, giving descriptions of the bird and asking people to keep an eye out for him. Make sure everyone knows where to contact you if they find him.
Put up flyers including a description of the bird (and any words or distinctive sounds he makes) as well as a recent photograph that shows his markings. Good places to post them: shops, utility poles, churches. Also, press your kids into service: Give them a handful of the flyers and have them pass them out at school. Offer a reward for info that leads to the bird's recovery.
Remember that your bird is not used to life in the wild and is probably terrified at being on his own. He probably won't respond right away, even if he hears your call, so you'll have to retrace your steps over and over again, calling continuously to him.
Quickly contact pet shops, bird organizations (such as the local Audubon Society chapter), veterinarians and animal shelters. If a bird is found, these are usually the first places a rescuer contacts.
If You Get Him Back
Take him to the vet right away for a thorough checkup and wing clip.