Top row: Fred, before we knew him as Fred, in the big cage a friend gave us; rubbing himself on my husband's neck; burrowing in my hair on the sofa; bottom row: sitting on top of the cage; with his true owner Timothy and grandson Xavier; and happily at home on the back deck in his own cage (an image Timothy sent me right after Fred got home).
Let me tell you a story about Fred, how he stayed at the Cobb hotel and how hundreds of folks helped us eventually get him home.
Fred is a bird. A green-cheeked conure to be more specific, which is a type of parrot. A week ago, Fred was sitting on a neighbor’s truck looking a little rough. That’s not exactly a bird you see in the wild, and clearly not a native of West Virginia. My husband was summoned. Upon finding a group of perplexed people, he stuck out his finger, the bird hopped on, and he brought him home.
We found a small cage that used to hold some critter when my boys were young that we still had in the basement, and promptly fixed our feathered friend a temporary habitat. He immediately drank the water and ate the sunflower seeds we had on hand.
We are not bird people. My husband’s been around them some and before we met, he once nursed a surly red-tailed hawk back to health that nearly tore his head off when it left. But with help from the Internet, my husband quickly identified what type of parrot we had on hand and what he might eat. I snapped the bird’s photo and started the process of trying to find its owner. I posted it on Facebook to my personal page and a lost and found pets page for Jefferson County. Before the night was over, we had heard from friends and former conure owners who shared some insights about parrot care that helped us all get through the night. We also learned how friendly and social our newfound friend really was. He was such a trip!
Over the course of a few days, over 300 people shared my posts to help us find the owner. We only had a couple of people who hoped it was theirs, but it would have been impossible, and one didn’t bother following up once we made it clear we’d need them to identify the numbers on the band encircling his right leg. This seemed necessary after finding out conures are quite valuable.
I searched online sites for lost and found parrots, called area pet stores and animal control and located additional places to advertise we’d found a lost bird.
We also received plentiful advice on care, offers to foster, names of foster organizations, donations of appropriate food, and many who wanted to take the conure in if the rightful owner wasn’t found.
Knowing our visitor needed a larger habitat and not knowing how long he was staying, I took a friend up on the offer to borrow a big cage. We brought it home, cleaned it up and my husband built a custom stand, a set of stairs and added in plenty of dowels for perches. We bought proper receptacles for food and water and a bag of conure chow then let Fred loose. He seemed happier and ate and drank with gusto.
I never knew birds were so social. Fred liked a human touch. He perched on our shoulders and crawled around the perimeter of our necks. He loved burrowing himself in my hair and my husband’s beard. He also liked pecking at us to test things out and made the cutest little sounds.
One morning he was squawking so animatedly, I came to see what was the matter. A red cardinal stood in the front yard and Fred was desperate to get its attention. No amount of noise made the cardinal take notice. I learned after that day how Fred would screech if he needed attention. I’d go talk to him or take him out of the cage for awhile to hang out. He would quiet immediately, seemingly content once he got settled close to my neck and ensconced in my hair.
During his stay, Fred became quite the online sensation. People checked in on him daily and I provided updates.
Finally, someone sent me a flier their neighbor had created on May 3 about their lost parrot. I knew the minute I saw it this had to be their conure—lost two days before we found him and in the same town. After swapping some photos via our mobile devices, the owner asked me to put my phone up to the cage. When he addressed Fred, there was no question these two were connected. Fred leaned in and his response was palpable. We swiftly arranged their reunion and a heartwarming one it was.
This was a great example of humanity on so many levels from my husband’s initial response, to the hundreds who tried to help, to a happy reunion of man and beast. It was our pleasure to host this little doofer and I already miss him a bunch.
This column appeared in The Journal on Sunday, May 14, 2018.
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