Finding Lost Parrots in Hawaii

by Cinde Fisher

Those of us who have lost parrots know the feeling: the helplessness, hopelessness and guilt.

I have reunited several lost parrots with their owners, and these tips are based on my experiences.

In following these suggestions, it's important you do all the things recommended. One of the biggest mistakes made by owners of lost parrots is their assumption that a certain person will look in a particular place for the bird, thus leaving out important sources for finding their birds.

The person who finds your bird may not have a computer or may not be computer-savvy or may still read the daily newspaper's "Lost/Found" section. 

When the bird flies away

Most parrots are found within 1 mile of home so they are likely to be somewhere in your neighborhood or maybe a few blocks away. They survive well in our climate and, if an adult, know how to access food, though they aren't good at finding water. If fully or partially flighted, they are generally not in danger of predators.

Your biggest challenge is someone finding your parrot and keeping him, either because they didn't know how to find you, or because they just want to keep him. Many people know the value of parrots and may keep them to re-sell them.  

In order to avoid that, you need to stay vigilant and get the word out and keep the word out about your lost bird. Make it easy for someone to find you and make it hard for someone to keep or sell your bird.

Please follow all of these steps in your pursuit:

1) If you saw where your bird flew, do not lose sight of him.

2) Immediately, talk softly but clearly to bird and offer his favorite treat, if available. Don't shout and don't do anything to frighten bird. Do not use a ladder or other long-handled device to capture him. You'll only frighten him and cause him to fly. 

3) Immediately, call bird-friendly friends to help you. Two or more heads are better than one, and you will not think as clearly as you normally would when not stressed.

4) Birds initially enjoy their new-found freedom but don't take it personally. They may show no interest in returning or flying backwards to you, nor do they know how. It is likely that they will fly in another direction at this time, or a gust of wind may blow them away. Note the direction in which they went.

5) Bring a same-breed bird (in carrier), if possible, that can make the same sounds as your bird. Alternately, bring a recording of your parrot or a similar parrot making noise. If you have any toys or bells that make familiar noises your bird will recognize, bring those too.

6) Peak times to find birds are after sunrise for a couple hours, then in late afternoon after 5pm until dark. After dark they roost in trees.

7) Get or borrow a pair of high-powered binoculars. They will cover infinitely more ground than your eyes can see.

8) Birds do not act the same way once they've flown away as they do in your home. They are stressed and disoriented. They may want to fly back to you, but may not know how.

If you have friends searching with you or if people are standing nearby and bird is spotted or found, ask them nicely to hide or step aside. Your bird is not likely to come to you with strangers around, even if he is tame.

Getting the word out

8) Call the Humane Society (in Honolulu: 808-946-2187) and file a lost-pet report. Be sure to give any and all identifying information such as legband (if any), wings clipped, feathers plucked etc. Include a photo, which you can deliver later. 

All lost/found animals in Hawaii must be reported to Humane Society, though you may keep legal pets in your home, once reported, while owner is being located.

9) Post your ad on Craigslist on both the Lost/Found and Pets sections. The only way you can post on both section is to slightly change the text. If you post the exact same ad in both sections, one of them will be deleted. 

Refresh your ad on Craigslist on both sections every 48 hrs (every 2 days). Do not post just once. People tend not to look backwards on Craigslist, so if your bird is found several days after you posted your original ad, you want people to see that ad immediately. Continue posting until bird is found. This is very important.

Be sure to list a cell# or a phone# that always answers. Do not leave an email address. People aren't likely to stop and try to find a computer and email you if they find your bird in a tree or similar outside location.

Tell people to call you even if bird is just sighted, but then flies away. You'll want to know his general location, and more importantly, you'll want to know that he's ok!

10) Make as many flyers as you can and immediately distribute them in every nook and cranny of your neighborhood, including parked cars. This is where friends can really help, because it is extremely time-consuming. Give flyers to people walking, jogging or bicycling in your neighborhood also.

At top of flyer print "REWARD" even if you can't offer one. People just naturally notice those words more quickly than the words "Lost" or "Help". You may find that most people don't even want a reward, particularly if they're pet-friendly. Do offer one if you can, though.

11) Notify any schools in your neighborhood. Don't just call - go into the Main Office and talk to someone with authority. Leave as many flyers as you can. Kids love to look for things, and they notice things too! Notify any landmark gathering-places in your areas, if any.

12) Place a Lost Pet ad in the daily paper (Star Advertiser). There is a cost for this, but it's well worth it if the person finding your bird doesn't own a computer. (Note: There is no cost for a Found Pet ad).

13) Call the avian vets and any other vets in your area. Leave flyers with them. Do the same with pet stores. 

14) Post ads on any Community Bulletin Boards in your area, such as markets. 

Don't give up! It's normal to feel hopeless, but parrots have been found after days, weeks and even months.

Here is an excellent article on finding lost parrots by well-known avian behaviorist Barbara Heidenreich.

When your bird is found

Your bird will be weak, tired, hungry and thirsty, and it's important to be aware and respectful of that. This is not the time for loud celebrations. Immediately offer food and water. You may have to hand-feed if bird won't eat or to compensate for weight lost. 

Pet birds are likely to be dehydrated since they are not good at finding water outside, so continue to offer water throughout the day, and keep it in cage at night.

Take your bird to a qualified avian vet as soon as possible, regardless of how well he looks. Remember that birds hide their symptoms when ill, and do you not know what your bird has gotten into, or what has gotten into your bird! He may be harboring bacteria from a plant or toxic food he ate, or something that bit him. 

If your own vet does not offer emergency or after-hours services, see our link to our Avian Vets.

Clip the wings asap. That's likely how your bird got out, and it can happen again. 

Keep bird warm, well-fed and stress-free for a few days.