I was lucky enough to get a free canary that was abandoned at the animal hospital. It was my first one and, even luckier, it was a male. For those who don’t know, males have a larger appeal because of their ability to sing. Females are just as pretty to look at and they chirp, but they don’t have the talent for rhythmic trills likes the males. It wasn’t long before I was opening the cage and letting the little guy fly around the room with the cockatiels. I didn’t worry about him because he was fast enough to get away. The rat cage was covered with towels so the birds wouldn’t be in danger of landing on it and getting grabbed from below.
As I’ve mentioned, our birds are housed in the basement due to my husband’s and two sons’ allergies. Every night I take inventory of the animals and get them in their cages before covering them and turning out the light. When I couldn’t find canary, I searched the basement. I noticed the one window that was always cracked was now broken and glass was on the floor. My first thought was that a golf ball came through the window since we lived on a golf course, but then I decided the strong winds from a previous storm had breached the crack and broken the window. I gathered the bird had smelled that outside air and flown the coop, so to speak. The hole wasn’t that big and this didn’t seem that plausible, but I blamed my husband anyway for not having fixed that cracked window a long time ago. It was wrong of me, I know, but I was bummed. I don’t think that window ever did get fixed. I covered it with cardboard or something. No birds ever went out it again and that basement got quite cold one winter, but everyone survived. It wasn’t until weeks later that I figured out that the canary had never escaped in the first place.
Next to the bird room is another room where the washer and dryer sit next to a large utility sink into which the wash machine empties. The sink would fill almost to the top and then slowly empty. I noticed it was emptying more slowly which meant I needed to clean some lint from the drain area. As I did this, odd fuzzy things were floating in the water. Then, near the drain I found a crumpled thing that was mostly unrecognizable until I saw the faded, bright yellow coloration. “Oh noooo,” I whined.
The canary perhaps decided to take a bath in what he thought was standing water when he got sucked into the current or before he realized it was too deep. I don’t know what happened, but I got that immediate feeling that I hadn’t been at my post; that I had let my pet down; that I wasn’t there when he needed me. The birds generally stay in the room designated for them, but I still should have had a curtain or something in that doorway to deter them. Frankly, I never thought the laundry area was a hazard in the first place.
Let this be a lesson to all who read so you won’t make the mistakes I’ve made. This wasn’t the first or the last. There’s a reason why entrances to zoo enclosures and many veterinary offices have two sets of doors. Animals wander, explore and escape; whatever you want to call it. It’s just a primal instinct. Leave an opening and they will go through. Birds are especially at risk with their awesome gift of flight. I can’t count the number of times I fielded calls at the animal hospital from people who’d had their bird fly away and wanted to know how to get it back. We would give them some ideas like moving the bird’s cage outside or sprinkling some seed out on the driveway in case it was nearby, but we couldn’t offer much hope. We would often remind them to have their bird’s wings trimmed as if they didn’t feel bad enough.
I can now offer better advice on the subject because I’ve had personal experience with losing a bird to the wind. We thought that bird was gone for good, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up which proved positive in the end. As usual, it was our best bird, Trickle, who found trouble, though from his point of view it was probably the time of his life. Or should I say times of his life?
This is Trickle. He was born in 1996 or '97. We acquired him from another owner who named him after a favorite Nascar driver, Dick Trickle. His color is called cinnamon, though it's a very light shade. He's the tamest exotic bird I've ever kept, yet he's had some wild times.