Very light gray
Lost on 4-2-03 near golf course
One unusually warm, sunny April morning, the kids and I returned from an outing and shuffled into the house ready for lunch. On the way in we left our back door open. We lived in an old farmhouse at the time and there was an outer room between the garage and the back entrance to the house. The door was also just a few stair steps away from the basement where the birds were kept. They had only been down there since the previous fall when I moved them from an upstairs room. They had more freedom to fly down there and the mess was easier to clean.
At times, the birds would get spooked by something and we’d hear them whistle loudly or fly around. As the three kids and I relaxed upstairs watching TV that day, I heard them doing just that and remembered the back door was probably open. Since I was kind of dozing, I had my oldest child run and close the door. A while later, we decided to head outside, but soon realized the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped. That’s when I thought to check on the birds thinking maybe the wind had stirred them up. I didn’t think it likely that one would fly through two doorways to get to the open garage, but when I couldn’t find Trickle I started to worry.
I looked in all the usual perching spots in the basement and he was nowhere. I scanned the yard; I whistled for him and eventually left my number with the office of the neighboring apartments in case he’d flown over there. I tried to listen for his loud whistle and went out walking and whistling for him later that day and again the next morning. I knew he wouldn’t know how to look for food and probably couldn’t handle temperatures below 40 degrees. As I’ve mentioned before, when people would call the animal hospital at which I worked and say, “My bird flew away,” we would console by offering things they could try like setting the cage outside for the bird to fly to or posting signs, but what we really wanted to tell them was, “You should have had your birds wings trimmed and might as well go out and get a new one because that one is not coming back.” Boy, was I really feeling silly (my parenting word for stupid or idiotic) now.
That sunny spring Wednesday just got progressively colder and rainy. The next day was colder still and the rain poured down. As a last resort, I decided to place an ad in the local paper. I really didn’t think it would bring results, but felt I had to try every possibility knowing how tame Trickle is and that he just might fly right to somebody’s shoulder and scare them to death. That night I prayed that Trickle might be safe and dry in some kind person’s warm household, even if I didn’t get him back. I felt guilty about not spending more time with my birds and not checking on them right away after sending my 7 year-old to close the door.
The ad was supposed to come out on Saturday and stay in the paper for a week. On Friday, I drove into Chicago for a funeral. As my girlfriends and I drove home on I-290, through that pouring rain, I watched out the window for the remote chance of spotting my bird, now gone for 48 hours. That’s ridiculous, I know, and we laughed a little about it. Saturday and Sunday came and went and nobody called. I pictured Trickle dead in the grass somewhere having starved and frozen to death. Poor Trickle. I spent more time with the remaining cockatiel, Westin, because he was acting off with Trickle gone; whistling loudly and actually letting us pet him. By Monday, I had written Trickle off, told the kids in so many words that he was dead and not coming back. Since they’re kids and the birds are really my pets, I guess they weren’t too upset.
Well, guess what happened next? Monday morning I get a phone call. The girl says, “Are you the one who lost the cockatiel?” and I say, “Oh my gosh, yes!” When she asked me to describe him, I told her how all gray cockatiels have the same markings; yellow face with orange patches and a white strip on the wings, but that my bird was a very light gray color, almost tan. She relayed how he was found whistling very loudly in a tree in her tiny back yard last Wednesday night. Even her neighbor heard the commotion. As they tried to call him down, he flew to a bush and then to her husband’s shoulder. This gal lived only about a half mile away, in the opposite direction from where I’d gone searching. When she told of how the bird bows his head down for petting, I knew it had to be Trickle. Since she worked two jobs and wouldn’t be home, I wasn’t able to verify until two days later and, sure enough, it was him.
They had bought a cage for him right away, and food and toys and everything. I was so thankful and then some. After all that worrying, Trickle had never even experienced the bad weather aside from the first windy day. I paid the couple for the supplies they’d purchased and extra since she took care of my pet for a whole week. I learned that the night they found him was one of the only nights a week they’re not at work. I brought Trickle home and immediately trimmed his wings. The best part was learning he hadn’t suffered.
I continue to try to give our birds more attention and stimulation. Did I learn anything from this experience? Yes, but it wasn’t anything new. Animals will always find an open door or window and it’s up to us to keep our pets safe. We were very lucky that time and I hate to have to say this again, but it wasn’t the last time.
Another picture of Trickle: He's much lighter in color than the average gray cockatiel which makes him easy to identify.