Friday, November 20, 2009

Rescuing Ms. Daisy

When we first moved here we introduced ourselves to the neighbors, of course, and were pleased to find that everyone seemed very friendly. On one side of us is a married couple getting on in their years some who happened to breed cockateils. I thoroughly disapprove of hobbyists breeding any kind of animal when there's such a huge surplus of them suffering for want of a good home as in our shelters and rescues but, determined to be a good neighbor, I made sure to mention my extensive experience in handling pets including birds and that I'd be more than happy to help with them if she needed me. I've handfed countless numbers of chicks, cared for, and done routine grooming like clipping wings and nails.

So when I was working out back one day this last summer and saw a little cockateil perched on the side of our pool trying her very best to reach the water we immediately assumed that one of the lil guys just got loose from them. Hubs went over to tell them we'd found their lost little one while I tried hard to coax her into grabbing range. He came back with a cage and a vaguely disgusted look.

"They didn't lose her. They let them all loose."

I was shocked for a moment. They seemed so nice and well educated. "What do they want us to do then?"

He looked like he was bracing for an inevitable explosion and said, "They said not to worry about it."

Apparently they didn't want the burden of caring for them anymore and simply let all dozen or so of them fly off!! (insert a long stream of language foul enough to incinerate the hair in people's ears) There are only three fates for animals that have been dumped off, they are recaptured, die (all too often in horrible, painful ways), or live. Feral animals are a danger to people they come across, other animals both wild and domestic, can spread disease, and are often destructive to the environment. Some states are learning this the hard way as quaker parakeets turned loose have not only survived but are managing to increase in numbers. One problem with this is they like to nest around phone and electric lines and are interrupting people's services. They clearly can't stay, they can't all be caught, and people have fits when someone is sent out to kill them (but just as loud if they lose phone or electric, I'm sure!) And this type of thing happens more often than most people realize. Florida has numerous types of non-indigenous animals causing all sorts of problems. Australia has a huge problem with feral cats killing off large numbers of native species. Heck even the bane of all Texans, the fire ant, is an introduced species, not native, which is why they spread so rapidly and are incredibly hard to get rid of, they have no natural predator to keep their numbers in check.

We stayed out in the heat for hours trying different methods of catching her. For a long time she wouldn't fly away, she was clearly desperate for that water, but wouldn't be caught either. In the end she did fly away and we trudged inside with heavy hearts. The odds were against her survival but we left the cage out there open hoping she'd recognize it as a source of food and water. My sweet, darling hubs even overflowed the pool thinking that if she did come back to it she could at least reach the water.

At least a week passed during which I scanned the skies, checked the pool, and kept my ears perked for a piercing little cockateil whistle. I feared she was already dead until one day one of the boys came through the house shouting "She's back! That cockateil is back!!" As we all raced to the back I prayed feverently we'd catch her this time. Once again she was perched on the edge of the pool trying to get a drink as the water level had fallen fast in the Texas heat. And once again we tried various methods of capture that were just not working. She was habituated to people enough that she would let me edge to within an arm's reach of her but if my hand crept out to bridge that last distance she'd simply fly to the other side of the pool.

Finally I told the boys and hubs that it was clearly not going to work. It was time to attempt a riskier ploy, to get as close as possible then make a sudden grab for her. They lined up all around me, tensely watching with nets and blankets to toss over her if she should get past me. I inched over to her talking softly, trying to look very calm and she flicked her head to one side to check her escape route, as she was about to fly again, I made a desperate leap reaching for her...and missed. My heart plummeted even as I noted that my grab had unbalanced and panicked her enough that she'd flown into the middle of a nearby cedar instead of skyward. My leap turned into a frantic lunge to the cedar. Surrounded by the dense foliage she tried to scramble away in a frenzy as I plunged recklessly through sticks and needles and...clasped my hands around her! I had her! She was safe!!

Not at all grateful for being rescued from almost certain death she screeched loudly then sank her beak into my hand, grinding it back and forth to make sure that I understood just how furious she was. I don't know if the tears in my eyes were joy or pain but I held on until I popped her securely in her cage. The boys promptly named her Daisy in keeping with the theme we've started with our two umbrella cockatoos, Jasmine and Lilly. Daisy ate and drank until I feared she'd burst then hunkered down comfortably for an incredibly long sleep.

That would be the end of the story except I've found another one! When I went outside yesterday to do my doody duty like I said I would in my post I left the back door open to air out the house some since the air was comfortably cool. Daisy, having settled in better by now, decided that it was a fine time to start yelling happily at the world but this time she got a reply! Startled I looked closer at the small bird flying overhead and sure enough it was a cockateil! When he perched on the fence I got a better look at him. He's a large, handsome bird who looks like he's actually done quite well for himself somehow! My attempts to catch him failed. Daisy decided to stop yelling and his calls got fainter and fainter as he moved away. By the time she started calling again there was no reply. The weather has started to cool and every day he's loose his chances of staying alive grow smaller. He may even be a bird who escaped more recently from someone else, who knows? I'll keep trying but if anyone has a spare good thought to send his way I'm sure it wouldn't go amiss :)


  1. It is heartwarming to hear how dedicated you are to the lives of animals and so attuned to their plight. I am happy you saved little Daisy. But how very horrible of your neighbors! It is hard to know what leads people to be so idiotic. Pathetic, really.
    PS I often see outside my work window in Austin, down by Town Lake, parakeets now wild..the population is growing.

  2. Dreamfarm Girl, I do tend to feel way more comfortable with animals than people, I'm afraid. But to me they're really so uncomplicated in comparison! They're innocent and honest and so very REAL!

    As for my neighbors I really shouldn't feel shocked anymore. Far too many people out there just don't think outside of their own little space they've designated for themselves. I know they didn't do it out of meaness but it doesn't even occur to them that they've done something cruel and irresponsible.

    Wild keets in Austin *sigh* Who knows what'll happen as their numbers grow. They've got some really sharp lil beaks and do love to nibble at everything in reach :(