Lost and Found
Prevention and What to Do if You Lose Your Bird
Safe Guards and Prevention
Even with prevention, there's accidents, but if you know the keys to prevention it may reduce your risk of loss or facilitate your reunion with your bird if found.
1) If you transport your bird from aviary to indoors, use a carrier. It's too easy for something to happen and you lose your bird while holding it.
2) Have a double door system on your aviary and have secure aviaries that can't be blown over by the wind. Buy a quality aviary that is fully framed. Too many aviaries have cheap metal paneling with no frame to prevent bends and tears in the metal.
3) Bird cages are generally not appropriate for being outdoors. Bird cages are designed for indoor use. Some things that often go wrong with outdoor cages include: bird flying out when the door is open, bird escaping through food doors, bird escaping through slide out bottom grate, and cage being knocked over by wind, storm, or predators.
4) Set rules for your indoor birds. For example, when the bird is out, don't open the front door.
5) Walking outside with your bird on your shoulder is always a risk, even with clipped birds (refer to the section on safety and wing clipping). Use a harness or a carrier. Birds with clipped wings can still fly away with wind and adrenaline. It's not personal if your bird flies away from you. They just do not have the skills for free flight and navigating back to you.
6) Most important is to microchip your bird. For birds, in Australia, your microchip is your legal proof of ownership. It's also the quickest way back to you if it gets turned in to a vet or rescue. So keep your info on your microchip updated. If you do not get a microchip, and your bird has a leg band, write the info from the leg band down and keep it in your records. Leg bands can cause injury for birds, so I don't recommend keeping a leg band. The info on the leg bands generally is not helpful in tracking down owners.
What to Do if You Lose Your Bird
Even with the best safe guards in place, accidents happen. If you lose your bird and saw it fly off, follow it and try not to lose sight of it. Use treats and favourite things to coax it to come back down. It's often scary for a domestic bird to fly down from a tree. So, if your bird is not coming down, it's not because he wants to be wild. It's because he is scared and doesn't have the flight skills. If you can climb up to him, that is your best option.
If you did not see your bird fly off and do not know where he could have flown, you will need to take the following steps. The first 24-48 hours is most important. Most pet birds become very hungry, weak, and exhausted before day 3. They are also generally found within walking distance of your home within the first 3 days. The birds I have helped recover were generally in walking distance of the lost location and within the first 3 days of being lost. So, first, make a flyer. Include a picture, your info, and details on how to secure the bird. Then assign one person to make a post on all FB lost pages, send a copy to all vets and avian vets, send a copy to RSPCA, and post at pet shops if they allow. While your designated person is alerting everyone, you get as many friends and relatives as you can and go door to door in all directions from your home as far as you can walk. We have passed out hundreds of flyers doing this. This also helps if someone finds a friendly bird and is thinking of keeping it. If all the surrounding neighbours know it's a lost bird and owners are frantically looking for it, then it's harder for someone to claim it as theirs. Listen while you walk for your birds calls. Unfortunately, the reason the first 3 days is important, especially for canary, lovebird, budgies, cockatiels, and lot of your other small birds not native to the area, is that there are a lot of predators and your bird does not have the protection of a flock. Your best hope is your bird found the help of humans which they often do, especially when scared, hungry, and exhausted. So after the first 3 days, you are hoping to find the human your bird took refuge with. A few of the larger birds and native breeds like lorikeets, corellas, and cockatoos can often survive longer if they find a flock. Don't give up looking after the first 3 days. Sometimes a bird finds refuge with humans and the humans never actually contained it, or they don't contain it properly and lose it again. And, there are the lucky cases that defy the odds. I have one cockatiel that survived weeks in the wild by blending in with a flock of cockatoos and eating what they ate. He was all white and looked like a mini version of the cockatoos. So don't give up hope and follow all leads.
What to Do if You Found a Pet Bird
First and most important thing to do if you find a pet bird is to contain it. Bring it inside. If you have birds of your own, take it to a room away from your own birds (quarantine).
After you have contained it, take it to a vet in a secure box or carrier and get it scanned for a microchip. Microchips are usually located in the left breast muscle. Ideally, take it to a bird vet and you can surrender it for care. Unfortunately, not all vets know birds, so if you do not have an avian vet to take it to, ask the vet before surrendering it if they have food to care for it or if they prefer you take it home. Sadly, I have collected from vets who didn't know the bird couldn't go 24 hours without being fed. Any vet can scan the bird for a microchip, but not all vets know how to care for birds. If the vet can not take the bird, check to see if there is a local bird rescue. Rescues are usually experienced in connecting birds with their correct owners. If neither of these are available, make sure you correctly identify the type of bird it is, and research proper diet.
If you find yourself having to hold the bird after getting it scanned for a microchip, post the bird on lost bird or pet FB pages, Parrot Alert, and Lost Pet Finders. Then scan through and see if anyone is posting a missing bird matching your found one. Alert RSPCA, local vets, avian and exotic vets, and bird rescues that you have a found bird. People claiming to be the owners should be able to show proof. They should have a picture and should be able to answer some basic questions. I find when I ask opportunists or scammers detailed questions about the bird, they back out quickly and say it's not theirs without attempting to answer questions. People truly missing a bird and trying to be reunited, often will send an overwhelming amount of information when asked. Some details to be aware of, when posting a picture of the bird, do not show the legs. Then you can ask the possible owner if it had a leg ring, which leg, and what color. You can also ask what is it's favourite food, any paticular behaviors he may do like waving, or words he may say. A bird may not eat the favourite food, do the behavior, or say the words in your care, so it's not a no if you don't see the behaviors. But it's a match if they do. Also, birds respond to their owners. If you allow the person to come see the bird, watch to see the sudden excitement the bird has when he sees his owner and watch for the bird responding to the way the person handles him. Connecting a lost bird with it's correct owner is not an easy task. So when in doubt or when possible, turn the bird over to a bird rescue.