5-Step Guide To Finding Your Lost Bird

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

Losing a beloved pet bird is an extremely stressful situation, but it’s important that you don’t panic as that’s not good for anyone.

You won’t be able to think clearly with a panicked and scattered brain.

Take a few deep breaths and calm down…

I’m certain that if you do everything you can quickly enough, you’ll get them back.

This article will give you a 5-step action plan to help you find your lost bird.

Time is of the essence here, so calmly go through the action plan below so you can find your lost bird as quickly as possible:

5-Step Action Plan To Find Your Lost Pet Bird

Here’s an overview of the 5-step action plan you’ll use to find and recover your lost feathered friend:

  • Step 1: Start searching for your lost bird – The first 24 hours after your bird flew away should be dedicated to searching the immediate area. Pet birds often don’t fly too far too quickly, so it’s vital to hit the streets and start searching ASAP.
  • Step 2: Spread the word – Letting other people know of the situation means more people will keep their eyes open for your bird. You must spread the word to people in your area that have a chance of coming across your wandering bird.
  • Step 3: Notify vets & various organisations – Vets and other organisations can help if you notify them that your bird is missing. Specifically, vets will inform you if someone has reportedly found a similar-looking bird or has brought one into their clinic.

We’ll cover these in more detail so you know exactly what to do for all 5 steps…

how to find a lost bird

Step 1: Start Looking For Your Recently Escaped Bird

Many people have recovered their birds almost instantly by simply looking in the immediate area where they escaped.

Many others have found their birds within a day of searching.

Here are some tips to follow while looking for your lost bird 👇

  • Gather a search party (as many people as possible)
  • Search everywhere in a small radius before expanding the search zone
  • Call out to your bird while searching
  • Play an audio recording of your lost bird’s call while looking
  • Look in trees, on top of roofs, on powerlines, on sidewalks, on the road, and everywhere else a bird could reach
  • Watch out for strange rustling in the trees
  • Look in the direction that your bird flew off (if you seen which way they went)
  • Don’t be afraid to check the same place twice
  • Watch out for strange wild bird activity (specifically, pay attention to wild birds if they’re focused on a precise area as they could be targeting your bird)

#1 Tip; Gather Teammates & Searchers

The more eyes you have looking for your bird, the higher the chances of getting them back.

Not only should you have people searching alongside you, you should also have people getting a start on the next steps. If you have plenty of people helping you search, you can ask other people to start spreading the word online and creating posters.

how to find a missing bird
Image source: Pixabay

#2 Tip; Entice A Response Or Call From Your Bird

As mentioned, you should call out and play an audio recording of your bird to attract its attention.

The goal isn’t just to attract their attention, it’s to entice a response call.

If you have one of those handheld Bluetooth speakers, use that to play your bird’s sounds and blast it to full volume.

If you don’t have a recording of your bird, go to YouTube and find your bird’s species call.

That’s normally good enough to cause a reaction from most birds.

Call out with words your bird is known to mimic or respond to.

Getting your bird to make noise will make them easier to locate and recover.

#3 Tip; Place Your Lost Bird’s Cage Outside With Food

This is a suggestion from BirdTricks.

The idea here is that birds will be attracted to familiar sightings and territory.

Since your bird likely spends lots of time around or in the cage, they’ll be attracted to the sight of it, especially if it’s known to contain food and water.

You should place the cage near where your bird escaped.

Or if you have good reason to believe they’re somewhere else, get the cage near there.

Make it look as familiar as possible.

Accompany the cage with noises that would attract their attention so they are encouraged to look over there.

#4 Tip; Notify Your Close Neighbours

While your neighbours likely won’t get involved in the search, it’s beneficial to notify them of what’s going on.

Give them your contact info and let them know to keep a lookout.

Showing them a picture of your bird is also a good idea.

Just think; What if your bird finds its way into one of your neighbouring backyards?

Your neighbours will be able to call you instantly to tell you they found your bird.

But they won’t do this unless you notify them that you’ve lost your bird.

How to find a lost cockatiel
Image source: Pixabay

Step 2: Spread The Word About Your Lost Bird

If after a day or two of searching the local area with no luck, it’s not time to panic.

Instead, you need to begin spreading the word about the situation even further, both online and locally.

There are 3 ways I recommend doing this:

  1. Create & distribute “missing bird” posters
  1. Spread the word via Facebook groups
  1. Use specific subreddits on Reddit

Create “Missing Bird” Posters & Distribute Them Locally

The best way to get local strangers involved is by putting up a ton of “missing bird” posters.

Ideally, you should place these in areas that get lots of foot traffic, such as shopping centres, storefronts, street lamps, bus stops, and anywhere else you’re allowed.

You can even have it on the rear windshield of your car so you’re advertising while driving (another great tip from BirdTricks)

I’ve created an example of a good “missing bird” poster:

how to make a missing pet poster

Notice the bright red colours?

This was done intentionally to instantly capture the attention of those walking by, while also signalling urgency.

Other key elements of an effective poster include:

  • A detailed description of the lost birds appearance
  • Image to help identify the bird
  • When they were lost
  • Whereabouts they were lost and might be located
  • Contact info (essential)
  • Additional info to help identify or find the bird
  • Any rewards

You don’t need to specify the reward if you don’t want to.

The mere mention of a reward would motivate potential thieves or “bird flippers” to do the right thing and return your bird to you.

Please feel free to download and edit this blank “missing bird” poster template:

find lost pet bird

You can also create your own poster in the Canva app, which is where I created this poster.

Once you have a good poster, you must print them off in multiple copies and start placing them in the spots mentioned above.

Spread The Word Through Targeted Facebook Groups

Facebook groups related to lost or missing pet birds in your specific area are ideal.

For example, I’m based in Adelaide, South Australia.

If my bird went missing, I’d post to groups with these types of names:

  • Lost & found pet birds of Adelaide
  • Lost Birds of Adelaide
  • Lost Pets in Adelaide

Obviously, you’d look for these groups related to YOUR area.

Not only will posting to these groups cause some locals to keep their eyes open, but it’ll also make you easier to find for those who may locate your bird first.

You could assign someone to do this while you continue searching for your lost bird.

If your bird has a leg band, it’s important not to advertise the number as it’s one of the most effective ways of proving the bird is yours. If everyone else has the leg band number, they could falsly claim your bird.

A valuable tip from Barbara Heidenreich on GoodBirdInc.com

Use Specific Subreddits On Reddit

While less impactful than Facebook groups, using Reddit to spread awareness is still a good idea.

However, you want to avoid using species-specific subreddits (r/cockatiel, r/budgie, etc.) as they have members worldwide, which isn’t very helpful to you.

Instead, post in subreddits related to your area.

For example, I would post in r/adelaide to cause some of the locals to stay alert to my missing bird.

The reason why Reddit is less effective than Facebook is that there are no groups dedicated to lost and found pets. The subreddits with the potential to be most helpful are location-based subreddits, and truthfully, most of their members don’t care.

Or you’d get questions like…

“Aren’t birds supposed to be in the wild?”

“Just let your bird live in the wild, they don’t deserve to be locked in a cage”

Very ill-informed and unhelpful questions.

how to find a bird that flew away
Image source: Pixabay

Step 3: Notify Vets & Other Organisations

You might be confused as to why it’s worth notifying vets as it’s a bit unclear about what they can do to help.

As well as all the avian veterinary clinics in your area, you should also inform the following organisations of your situation:

  • Any RSPCA, SPCA, or animal shelters in your area
  • Animal control centres
  • Local pet shops
  • It’s even worth calling your local police station

When people find a lost pet, they often report it to these places.

How Vets Can Help

If you inform a veterinary clinic of the situation, they’ll likely ask for a photo of your bird and possibly the leg band number.

You can safely give this number to vets.

The way vets can help is simple:

They’ll notify you if someone brings in a bird they believe is your lost companion.

Or if someone reports finding a bird over the phone, they’ll also let you know if they believe the bird is yours.

The other organisations listed above will help in a similar way.

This is why it’s important to notify as many people, organisations, and locals as possible of the fact that your bird is lost.

Use 911 Parrot Alert

911ParrotAlert is essentially a database of lost, found, and stolen pet birds.

Since people regularly check the “lost and found” database, it’s beneficial to report your lost parrot to the 911ParrotAlert website.

It’s as simple as registering a new account and then going through the steps to report your lost bird.

The main benefit of reporting to 911ParrotAlert is this:

Someone who has found your bird may look to the 911ParrotAlert database, find your report, and then contact you. You would also want to look into the “view found birds” database to see if someone has reportedly found your bird.

The database can be filtered by species to make it easier to navigate.

They work worldwide too, so anyone can report lost and found birds.

how to find a lost bird
Front page of 911ParrotAlert

Step 4: See If Anyone Online Has Found Your Lost Bird

When it comes to pet birds and pets in general, people are more altruistic than you might think.

If your bird is clearly a pet and doesn’t look like any of the local wildlife in your area, someone would definitely pick them up when spotted. For example, a brightly coloured parrot clearly looks like a pet and someone will attempt to save them.

This is good news if your cockatiel or budgie has flown away in America.

But this is bad news if your Galah cockatoo has escaped in Australia, where Galahs are common wildlife.

I suggest searching in the following places for “found pet bird” posts:

  • Facebook groups in your area
  • Facebook groups dedicated to finding owners of lost pets in your area
  • Facebook groups for “lost and found” pets (ideally pet birds)
  • Search on Google for “found [your bird species] in [your area]” OR “lost [your bird species] in [your area]” and it’ll come up with all relevant posts from various media platforms. The idea here is that a post from someone who has found your bird will come up in the search results. Look in the “images” section for search as people often post it with images.

Your aim with this step is to look for posts by someone who may have found and posted your lost bird.

Step 5: Recovering Your Bird After They’ve Been Located

This step is only actionable once you know where your bird is, otherwise, keep going with the search.

If you’ve found your bird and they haven’t yet been secured, you need to recover them.

And this needs to be done in a way that doesn’t cause your bird to fly away again.

Below I’ll provide tips for recovering your bird from these 3 situations/locations:

  1. Recovery from a tree
  1. Recovery from a rooftop
  1. Recovery from ground level (road, sidewalk, etc.)

But if someone else has found your bird and already have them in a secure cage, you only need to collect them from the rescuer.

Safely Recovering Your Lost Bird From A Tree – Tips

If your bird can see and recognise you from a tree top, there’s a low chance of them flying away again, especially if they’ve been loose for a few days. If they see you as a flock member and associate you with food, they typically won’t leave your sight, giving you plenty of time to recover them.

Here are some tips for tree top recoveries:

  • Show them food to entice them to come down. Ideally, you should use their favourite treats, but almost any food will work if they’re hungry.
  • Lure them down using your own call or an audio recording of your bird’s call
  • If possible, avoid climbing or shaking the tree as this may cause your bird to fly away in fear
  • Set up their cage within their view to encourage them to return to familiar territory
How to find a lost cockatiel
Image source: Pixabay

Recovering Your Bird From A Rooftop

Similar rules for tree recoveries also apply to rooftop recoveries.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If possible, get to the rooftop to recover them gently with a towel
  • Encourage them to come down voluntarily with the enticement of food and their cage (familiar territory)
  • To get their attention to these things, use your own call or an audio recording of your bird
  • Avoid using firetrucks as the bright flashing lights and general commotion could cause your bird to fly out of sight
how to find a lost bird
Image source: Pixabay

Recovering Your Bird From Ground Level

If you’ve spotted your escapee on the ground, such as on the sidewalk or on the road, recovery is going to be less challenging.

Here are tips for recovering your bird from the ground:

  • If they’re on the road, you must at least slow down traffic so the cars don’t hit your bird. This tip is extremely situational as different roads are harder or easier to stop traffic within. But you must quickly do everything you can to ensure your bird does not get run over if they’re on the road.
  • Lure them toward you using food, the sound of your voice, or an audio recording of them
  • Use a towel or pillowcase to gently grab your bird and place them into a carrier

Disclosure: In the first tip, I’m not suggesting that you throw yourself into high-speed traffic in hopes of saving your bird. But you must do whatever is possible at that moment to allow you to safely recover your bird from the road.

Preventing Future Bird Escapes

The best way to prevent your bird from escaping again is by analysing how they escaped the first time and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

Here are some common ways people lose their birds:

  • Opening front or back doors while birds are out of the cage
  • Taking birds outside in a cage and then opening the cage door
  • Bringing the birds on a road trip without a cage and then opening the car doors
  • Taking the bird outside without a cage or harness

If you avoid doing these things, you’ll lower the chances of losing your feathered friend.

how to find a lost bird

Answering FAQS – How To Find A Lost Bird

Before bringing this article to a close, I want to quickly answer some frequently asked questions about losing and finding pet birds:

What Are The Chances Of Finding A Lost Pet Bird?

If your bird isn’t a species commonly found in the wild of your area, the chances of someone finding the bird and rescuing them from the wild are high. But whether or not the rescuer will be able to find you depends on how hard they search and how much you’ve been advertising the situation. However, if you lose a cockatoo in a place where cockatoos are common, the chances of getting them back are much lower as people would assume it’s a wild bird.

Will A Lost Bird Come Back Home?

It does happen, but very rarely. Most pet birds are not trained to look for landmarks that would identify their home, so the chances of them simply turning up after flying away are low. If you set up some familiarities in your backyard, such as their cage or flock mate, the chances of them finding their way back are higher.

Does Wing Clipping Prevent Escapes?

Absolutely not, despite popular belief. A proper wing clip still allows birds to fly poorly, so it wouldn’t prevent fly-offs.

Conclusion

My goal in writing this article is to help you find your lost pet bird.

I’m hoping that after calmly going through the 5-step action plan, you’ll be on your way to successfully finding your feathered friend.

If you found your bird using the advice from this article, please let me know in the comments.

I’d be really happy to hear your story.

My final piece of advice is to keep your mind calm.

I know it’s a scary situation, but you can’t act effectively with a panicked mind.

Calm yourself…

Think strategically and thoroughly…

And you’ll be much more likely to get your bird back.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I know it’ll help.

View next: Found A Lost Pet Bird? Read This…

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