Ken Globus

The Bird Whisperer

 

 

 

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Lost Bird

 

by Ken Globus

 

Angelo was a nervous bird – a rescued eleven year old Timneh African Grey that startled easily.  His wings were kept lightly trimmed - about an inch off the tips of the last few flight feathers - just enough to allow him to do what he loved most, swoop across the room and land on Karen Walker’s shoulder.  Yes, coincidentally, this is the same woman who wrote about her phobic Orange Wing, Ed.    It was a blustery, Midwestern, October day when Karen was about to take out the trash.  She had no reason to imagine that anything unusual would happen. 

As Karen opened the door, Angelo took off and flew across the room heading for Karen’s shoulder.  But Angelo overshot his mark, sailed right past her and out the door.  The startled bird suddenly found himself being lifted upward by a strong gust of wind. 

 

Terrified

 

The air current carried the terrified, screeching Angelo higher, up over the house and out of sight.  When Karen ran around to the front of the house Angelo was nowhere in sight; and she could hear his frightened screams fading beyond the distant trees.    Karen was frantic.  She raced up and down the block, knocking on doors, asking the neighbors for help.  They all pitched in.  Sharon Wendt, a knowledgeable bird person and friend of Karen’s, drove over to join the search.  They combed the area, calling Angelo’s name over and over.  They were very aware that the longer a bird is missing the less likely it is to recover him.  Along with that, the nights were getting cold and some red tail hawks had taken residence in the neighborhood.  As Wednesday afternoon moved into night there was still no sign of Angelo.  

On the second day Karen and Sharon trekked the neighborhood, posting signs and talking with everyone they could find.  They showed photos of Angelo and implored people to keep an eye out for him. 

At about 9 PM of day two they came across a woman who told them, “I saw a funny looking gray bird about six blocks away.”  Karen and Sharon drove to the area and  searched and searched, calling out Angelo’s name.  But there was no response.  As it became dark, they decided to resume the search the following day. 

Late that night, Karen and Sharon were discussing their search efforts, trying to figure out if there was anything they overlooked.  They realized that Karen had been repeatedly calling Angelo’s name to find him.  Then it finally occurred to her that she had taught Angelo a “contact” call.  To get her attention, Angelo used to make make unpleasant squawks, so she worked to change the behavior by teaching him to substitute the squawking with the more pleasant contact calls.  She taught Angelo to call, “Yooooo hoooo,” whenever he wanted her attention.  This is a very useful technique used to change screaming behaviors. 

 

Calling Angelo

 

Early the next morning Karen returned to the area and started calling, “Yoooo hoooo.  Yooo hoooo.”  After a moment, there was a faint, distant peep.  Again, she called out, “Yooooo hooooo.”  This time she heard it, in a voice similar to her own, “Yooo hoooooo.”  It was Angelo.  Karen scurried toward the sound and called again.  Angelo responded even louder.  "Yooo hooo."  Each call brought Karen closer and closer until she spotted Angelo high in a tree, terrified and shivering.  When the Timneh saw her, he tried to scramble down but couldn’t manage it.  Karen kept calling, "Yooo hooo," urging Angelo on, until he finally mustered the courage and flew down and landed in  a nearby shrub.  Karen scurried over, reached out her hand and Angelo stepped right up.  She had recovered her beloved bird. 

That night when Karen got Angelo home he was clearly shaken.  Karen called her vet, who told her to bring him right in.  After a thorough exam Angelo got a clean bill of health.  Although quite traumatized by the experience Angelo has since bounced back and become his self old again.  In the end, it was teaching Angelo that contact call that saved his life.