Taking Your Flock Outdoors – Part 2
-by Gaye Thomasson
In my last blog entry, I wrote about making your outdoor flights or aviaries safe and enjoyable for your parrots. I omitted one vital point, and it lies in the word “taking.” Getting your birds safely outdoors and back inside is a critical portion of this endeavor, and it needs to be addressed.
Some history: three years ago I was bringing all of my birds inside from a day outdoors. It was automatic: first a macaw, then an Amazon, another macaw, you get the idea. I had a system. And, unfortunately, I really was on autopilot. And did I mention that all of my birds are flighted?
My yellow-naped Amazon has never warmed up to consistently stepping up on my hand without drawing some blood in the process. It’s just the way he is, and I accept him. We kind of have an agreement; for taking him out of his cage, I wrap my hand in a white bath towel, and he either flies to the clump of white (of course first giving it a good chomp) and then lets me set him on a wooden perch, where he offers his left foot with gentlemanly grace, then steps up on the towel so that I can get a good grip on his toes. I then transport him outside to his flight. Bringing him indoors is the reverse process, less the stage with the perch. He steps onto the towel while I’m inside the flight with him (door latched behind me), I grab his toes and we are off.
This one-day was different. I had him on the towel, had shut the flight door, and something spooked him. An owl, hawk, airplane, gnat, the wind? It didn’t matter what it was, my head wasn’t there, and in a moment, neither was my dear Amazon. He jerked, I loosened my grip on his foot, and he took flight. Up up and off he went, heading into our woods, about thirty feet in the air.
I panicked, concurrent with running into the woods, over rocks, logs, tree stumps, around trees, etc., trying to stay up with him, talking, whistling, singing. But before getting very far, I backtracked to the house and engaged my husband’s help. We both tore back through the woods, our minds racing with the inevitable images of how he would come to his demise. We could hear him above us, singing refrains of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” whistling, and telling us that he was a “baaaaaaaaaad bird!” I knew if he landed in a tall tree, it would be impossible to ever retrieve him. An owl would make short work of that.
We ran at least a few football fields and then stopped to assess our progress, or the impending tragedy. If he were to fly across our property to our neighbors’ hundreds of wooded acres and canyons, it would all be over. I craned my neck, swung around 360 degrees, and searched. Nothing. Then I heard a whistle. I whistled back, but couldn’t see where it was coming from. Nothing up. Perhaps camouflaged in the branches. And then, I turned around and looked on the ground, about fifteen feet from me, and there he was, as if to say, “Well, I’m utterly exhausted, I don’t have cab fare, and I’d appreciate a lift home.” Gasp! I didn’t have a towel! But I made my split second decision to donate blood, and gingerly stepped toward him, leaned down and magically, my tired boy stepped willingly onto my hand. Might I add, I put a death grip on his toes this time as we walked back home.
So another long post with a moral to the story: when you take your birds outside, whether they are flighted or not, be in the moment with your bird. Watch what they are watching. Hear what they hear. Are they fearful or relaxed? Whatever you do, have a firm grip with your thumb over those toes until the bird is safely placed where it is going. It DOES NOT MATTER if your bird has been clipped or is flighted. Accidents happen. Parrots can get away from you. Minimize those chances by just holding onto those toes! For me, an incredibly horrific experience that luckily had a happy ending. Believe me, it hasn’t and won’t happen again. Please don’t let it happen to you and your flock.