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Wings 'n Things on PetLifeRadio.comSusan Chamberlain, host of Wings 'n Things

Susan Chamberlain
Bird Expert, Author & Columnist

Cage Rage and Recovering Escaped Birds

Does your bird hate its cage or suffer from night frights? The solution may be right in front of you! Think like a bird and get quick results!

Every bird owner's nightmare: Your bird flies away and you're in a panic! Believe it or not, there are things you can do to increase the odds of getting your bird back! Learn some of the ways that you can 'escape-proof' your bird too!

Susan Chamberlain: Welcome to Pet Life Radio. I’m Susan Chamberlain, your host of WingsNThings where it’s all about pet birds. On this segment we’re going to discuss a few interesting things that affect all of us who share our homes with feathered friends. We’re going to talk about cage rage, the case of the terrifying table and other stories. We’re also going to talk about recovering an escaped bird something that’s important to us all. You never know whether your feathered friends is going to fly the coop if you’re not careful. So don’t you fly away, we’ll be right back with WingsNThings.


Susan Chamberlain: Welcome back to WingsNThings and cage rage when your bird is absolutely out of sorts. Romez, my yellow headed Amazon parrot would not be pacified one day. “Maaah…maahhhh”,  he kept calling me. “What the heck is that?” my neighbor asked, “There must be a little kid lost in the woods.” “No” I said, “It’s just my  parrot. He hates his cage.” Romez has recently moved into my home and was housed temporarily in his travel cage. It had a solid plastic dome style top and he was frustrated in his attempts to enjoy  his favorite past time, swinging to and fro and hanging upside down from the top of his cage. There were no bars to grip, only the smooth impervious top and he was one angry Polly.

Cracker my female double yellow head resembled an enraged pine cone when she was forced to spend some time in a long, low cage while we were in the process of moving to a new home. Bogart the Red-Lored Amazon, shrunk in fear from a black painted cage and Shorty my female Senegal parrot had rubbed the crown of her head raw on the bars of her first cage. Kelly the orange winged Amazon squawked loudly and climbed frantically in continuous circles.

What is going on here? Well we had several typical cases of what I call “cage rage.” What [indiscernible] birds at war with his cage? I just spent a fortune on this cage and my bird hates it. Before you dump the cage, take a good look at the surrounding area. In Kelly’s case, a new table placed in her line of vision was causing the neurotic climbing. Even tamed domestically bred pet birds have a primal need for protective shelter. My Senegal parrot, an import was exhibiting signs of stress when she shaved herself bald 16 years ago. It wasn’t the cage that upset her, it was the lack of a place to hide inside the cage. I covered about a quarter of the cage with the dark colored cloth and she surely began to settle done. When the in home quarantine period was over, I gradually introduced her to my male Senegal and eventually moved her in with him. Today the birds seek shelter inside their nest box or in a little fabric happy hut inside their cage.

Where is your bird’s cage located? If it’s exposed on all sides, birds will feel vulnerable. Promote a sense of security by locating the cage against the wall or near a corner of the room. You bird sees things you might miss. It took me two days to discover the cause of their distress when my birds were terrorized by the sight of a kite hang up in power lines two blocks away. Skylights or other large expanses of glass may provide a view of circling hawks or other predators. Move the cage to a more sheltered location or use a cover on a part of the cage to provide a hiding place. The higher they are, the safer they feel. At low elevation, household birds are easy prey for critters and children. Cracker probably felt defenseless in a low cage. Once her head was as high as mine, her anger abated and she regained her usual air of superiority.

Birds also like familiar things. Bogart had been housed in a white cage for years. When I attempted to substitute a black one, he rebelled. He’s so observant, he even notices when I change my nail polish and incidentally if it’s hot pink, I better watch out because he hates hot pink and he will chase anything hot pink right down. There’s an easy solution in Bogart’s cage, I returned him to the white cage and I gave Romez who didn’t have the same hang ups Bogart did to the black one.

If your bird’s new cage is a different color than his present one, place it where he can see it for several days before attempting to move him inside. Install some familiar play things inside the new bird home and allow your bird to explore it inside and out before moving him in permanently. Sometimes it’s smart to just give up. Grey-cheeked parakeet owner Alise did everything right. She introduced little Emerald gradually to a beautiful new cage and furnished it with his favorite things and then she settled down to a month of pure torture. “He screamed his head off all day long,” Alise said. A friend suggested “Maybe he hates his cage,” and sure enough, “I fixed his old decrepit cage with twist ties, put him back inside and he was quiet and happy again.”

You know there’s no place like home, tweet home. Try to think like a bird. Are the perches convenient to the feeders? Is there a swing or a high perch where the bird can roost at night? Is there a mirror or other shiny object within sight of the cage? Your bird maybe disturbed by the changing reflections. Do passing cars cause scary shadows in the room at night? A night light will help your bird find its way back to the perch in the event of a night fright. Can your bird indulge in her favorite pass times inside the new cage? When Romez  was unable to hang upside down from cage bars, he was miserable. After I took him out of the cage with the solid top and gave him one with bars across the top, peace and tranquility were restored.

So the answer is, yes you can change cage rage to cage contentment. Just think about your bird, think what your bird wants and needs. Think about what might be scary. You know, you have to look around and see what’s in the environment. See what might have changed and not only might the cage be beautiful and pleasing to you but it just might not be practical for your bird. So those are things to think about when you’re selecting a new cage or even when you’re moving the furniture in your house. A lot of birds hate change. Some like my Amazons kind of love it though. If I get something new, they’re there trying to find out just what that is.

Well we’re about to start on our second topic. We’re going to talk about recovering escaped birds. I can’t imagine a more helpless feeling than watching your bird soar skyward. Police, fire departments and utility companies have other priorities and most municipalities; they won’t be able to help you if your bird escapes. However, there are many things you can do to prepare for and cope with a possible avian escape.
One of the most important things you can do is to plan ahead. Record your bird’s band number exactly as it appears on the band. This will help you prove ownership if a stranger finds your bird. Make an audio tape of your bird’s voice. In areas where people keep birds outdoors, escapees often turn up near aviaries attracted by the calls of the birds in sight. Your bird will respond to its own voice, that of his mate or another bird of the same species. Photograph your bird for possible lost posters and for identification  purposes if a stranger finds your pet. Train your bird to eat treats from the palm of your hand, this may help lure him down from a tree or roof top. Teach your bird to step up on to a stick or pole. Use a perch at first then a progressively longer stick or pole. Many escaped birds could be rescued if they’d only step from a tree branch onto an offered stick but amazingly most of them have never been stick trained and they’re afraid of these long thing poking at them.

Assemble a rescue kit. Include a bird net, pillow case--you are going need something to put the escaped bird in and you’re not going to be able to carry a carrier up on a ladder so a pillow case works great. Your cellular phone, the audio tape of your bird’s vocals in a little portable tape player, binoculars, a small cage or a carrier and  a long perch or a pole and your bird’s favorite treats. List the phone numbers of local bird clubs. Some like the Long Island Parrot Society will refer you to people who help rescue escaped birds. Include animal rescue organizations and anyone else to call for help if your bird escapes. Tape this list to your cellular phone.

Now the rescue itself. If your bird escapes, keep him in sight and don’t panic. Send someone else for your rescue supplies if possible or grab your cell phone and whatever you can carry on your way out. Discourage crowds from gathering as the commotion may frighten the escapee. Follow your bird but do not scream, wave your arms or run around wildly. Approach slowly if he lights with impossible reach. Speak softly extending your hand or a stick toward him. Place a bird cage on a roof, a deck or anywhere where your bird can see it. If he is in a tree, place the cage on a table beneath the tree. Bend the branch down toward the cage so he can climb down to it. Use a decoy. Bring your bird’s mate, companion or another bird of the same species safely in a cage to the area. Make a big fuzz over the other bird. Your pet maybe so overcome with jealousy that he’ll come right to you. Play the audio tape of your bird’s own voice on that battery operated tape player. Don’t attempt to rouse your bird from its roost after dark. You’ll be unable to find him if he flies away. Remain nearby if possible or note his position and return before day break. Call softly and offer some food. Hunger may lure him down. Play that audio tape again.

Should you climb the tree yourself? Rescues have been effective when owners or rescue volunteers climb trees and lure their plucked errant birds from the branches. Others have been thwarted with birds taking flight just as they were within inches of capture. Unless you’re an experienced tree climber, you risk serious injury by going up after your bird.

Don’t give up. Can’t find your bird? Call the news media. Advertise in the newspaper lost and found columns. Blanket the area with posters. Scan your bird’s picture onto the poster. Check avian websites. Notify and distribute posters to police, fire departments, local bird clubs, animal shelters, pet shops, nature centers and other organizations people may call to report a found bird. Maintain your efforts. Birds have been reunited with their owners after months away. Don’t overlook the Internet, there are bird sites on the Internet Parrots911 for one. Many bird clubs have lost and found sections on their websites so register the birds on the online websites and have  people forward the information about your lost bird to chat rooms and everything. Many birds have been found that way.

Prevention is the best defense. Have your bird’s flight feathers clipped regularly. Have this done by a veterinarian or a professional bird groomer. Choose a groomer familiar with the special requirements of certain species. Cockatiels’ wings must be trimmed closely as many are able to fly even with their wings clipped. African Greys have prominent keel or breast bones. Their wings must be clipped conservatively enough to permit them to glide to the floor if startled from a perch or a cage top. Supervise your bird when she is out of her cage. Even a bird with clipped wings can chew through a window screen or walk out on open door. Within minutes she could climb a tree and be out of reach. Put your bird in a carrier or travel cage when you take him out of the house.

Many birds have escaped on the way to a wing clipping because their owners carried them on their shoulders. Can you believe that? It’s so easy to get a false sense of security after you’ve been walking around with your bird on your shoulder for years but if a truck back fires or there is a loud noise or a hawk flies overhead, there is no telling your bird maybe startled off your shoulder and fly away or glide into traffic. It’s just not worth it, get that carrier.

Now we’ll talk a little bit about escape prevention and preparation. Years ago when most people’s birds were imported from the wild, there was little chance of ever recovering an escapee. Those were basically wild birds and once they were gone, they were gone. But now with domestically bred, hand reared birds as the norm, the chance of getting your bird back is much better but certainly not guaranteed. Birds face predators, starvation and other dangers outdoors. There are many things you can do to stack the feathers in your bird’s favor. Again keep those flight feathers trimmed. An avian veterinarian, pet shop professional or experienced groomer can perform this service. Transport your bird to the vet or groomer safely inside a carrier or travel cage. Inspect your bird’s wings monthly for regrowth.

Escapes are more likely in warm months when windows and doors are opened more frequently but birds escape during the winter too. Keep window screens in good repair. Birds can chew right through them. Locate cages away from a direct route to exterior doors. Record your bird’s band number exactly as it appears on the band. This will help you prove ownership if a stranger finds him. Make an audio tape of your bird’s voice. In areas where people keep birds outdoors, escapees often turn up near aviaries attracted by the calls of the birds inside. Your bird will respond to its own voice, that of his mate or another bird of the same species. Photograph your bird for possible lost posters and for identification  purposes.

Did you know that the black lines on the blue and gold Macaw’s face are made up of tiny little black feathers? Those patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints. They’re excellent for identification purposes.

We’re going to take a break for just a moment and then we will be back with plenty more hints of lost proofing your bird.


Susan Chamberlain: Hi this is Susan Chamberlain. We’re back on WingsNThings on We’re talking about lost proofing your bird, loss prevention, keeping your bird from flying your coop and what to do if it does. We’re still talking about hints for loss prevention and preparation so the last one we talked about was having your bird photographed for possible identification purposes and there’s another great way to identify your bird. Have your bird micro chipped. Ask your avian veterinarian for specific advice on this procedure. It just involves injecting a tiny little transponder or a microchip with information on it. It’s about the size of a grain of rice and it goes in the bird’s breast, right under the skin in the breast of the bird. Birds larger than Cockatiel size can be micro chipped and the information on this microchip is retained by a registry and if the bird is lost and it eventually turns up at a veterinarian’s office and the veterinarian subscribes to the registry service, he can just wave these reader over the bird and find out that the bird is micro chipped and who it belongs to. So ask your vet for the details. Micro chipping is something that you might want to look into. It’s not painful. The microchip is inserted in just about five seconds at most. It’s very, very quick.

Train your birds to eat treats from the palm of your hand. This may help to lure him down from a tree or a roof top. What’s your bird’s favorite thing in the whole world? Is it pine nuts? Is it popcorn? Is it little piece of cheddar cheese? You know what gets your bird coming running. With my Cracker, it’s cheese, any kind of cheese. If she sees cheese, she’s your best friend.

Establish a contact call with your bird. You say, “Hello”. The bird answers. It can be anything. It can be a certain whistle like a “woohoo”, something like that. It would be something that just you and your bird know and you repeat to each other.

Teach a bird to step onto a stick. That stick again. Use a perch at first then a progressively longer stick or pole. Many escaped birds could be rescued if they’d only step from a tree branch onto that stick so practice with your bird and get your bird cracking there.

Assemble a rescue kit. Include a bird net, the pillow case, cellular phone, audio tape of your bird’s voice and a tape player, binoculars, small cage or carrier and the pole. Keep a list of  phone numbers of local bird clubs, animal rescue organizations and anyone else to call for help if your bird escapes.

Now we are going to talk about the rescue operation. If your bird escapes from your home, keep him in sight and don’t panic. Send someone else for your rescue supplies or grab your cell phone and whatever you can carry on your way out. Discourage the crowds from gathering. Commotion might frighten your bird. Follow your bird, again but don’t scream or run. Place the bird cage on the roof or deck. Use a decoy and be careful not to try and rouse your bird from its roost after dark. Don’t give up. As we say, keep those wings clipped. Supervise your bird at all times and especially around the holidays or anytime that you’re going to have a lot of company, people coming in and out of your house and coming and going. It’s really very, very important and can make the difference between your bird escaping and your bird not escaping.

You want your bird to stay with you for a long time. My Romez, when he was in his first home, he was out in the tree in front of the house for several days. He got out and stayed up in the tree. Luckily  he didn’t fly away, he just hung up out there until he finally decided that he would let his former family go up there and capture him. I guess he just gave up or decided he’d rather be with people.

Well we have a few more minutes now. We can talk about something else that’s of interest to bird owners. How about fruit flies? Those tiny little flies that fly around your bowl of fruit or your bird’s dishes. They’re really are pretty harmless but they’re very, very annoying. Fruit flies are tinier than gnats and are harder to smack the no-seems but there are ways to eliminate them. The miniscule winged creatures we call fruit flies belong to the order Diptera. We must often see the variety known as the vinegar fly. They feed and breed on over ripe rottening or fermenting fruits. Hence their penchant for hanging out near our bird’s fresh food sources.

Fruit flies are attracted to garbage. Dispose of discarded fruit and tightly close containers or by putting it down in in-sink garbage disposal. Wipe your kitchen counters and wash cutting boards and utensils immediately after preparing your bird’s fruit and vegetables. Even a tiny bit of sticky residue will attract resident fruit flies. Make your kitchen less attractive to fruit flies by keeping fruit in the refrigerator rather than on a bowl on the table or kitchen counter. If you must keep fruit out, check it frequently for freshness. As soon as it begins to deteriorate, those flies will be back. Empty and wash your bird’s fruit dishes after several hours. Again, cleanliness is so important. Change the paper  liner on the bottom of the cage and wipe fruit fragments. Say that fast three times—fruit fragments, fruit fragments, fruit fragments. Wipe them from the cage bar, floors and walls. They’ll be there, believe me. No food, no fruit flies.

Fruit flies are attracted to yeast and fermented products. Pour half an inch of red wine or beer into a bottle with the tall neck and put it in an area where flies congregate. The fruit flies will enter and drown in the liquid. Fruit flies like a calm atmosphere. Move the air around with the ceiling, counter or window fan. Be sure to keep your birds away from fans and turn off ceiling fans when birds are at liberty in your home.

Have bird’s wings clipped to further reduce risk of injury and escape. Reduce the gnat population by locating your houseplants in a well ventilated area. Keep the soil free of leaves and other debris. I top off my houseplant soil with a layer of bird gravel for a neat clean look. Did you know that color attracts fruit flies? I use an agro-biotech fruit fly trap which uses color and no toxic chemicals to attract the bugs to a very sticky glue where they’re trapped and killed. Add bait such as a little beer or a slice of banana to the trap to attract and kill more flies. Eliminate fungus gnats. Those insidious bugs hovering around your houseplants with bug sticks sticky traps.

Years ago, I watched a friend feed her parrot and she opened the dark cabinet, underneath her fish tank and pulled the paper bag out that was half filled with bird seed. Well, another bug-a-boo flew out…moths. About a hundred of them! “I can’t do anything about this. There are always moths in the bird food”, she complained. Her mistake was, that she was storing the seeds in the paper bags which was packaged in at the store. She wasn’t fastidious about removing the nearly empty bags before replacing them with full ones so the cabinet and her home eventually became infested with a very healthy moth population.

Actually moths are very easy to control and bird food manufacturers have been a big help. Packaging has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Many seeds and formulated diets now come to us in air tight, insect resistant containers. Larger quantities of food, 20 lbs and  up are still packaged in heavy weight paper sacks but many of these are lined with moisture and bug resistant materials.

You can stop moths before they gain a strong hold in several ways. Reserve a separate cabinet or shelf just for bird food. Wipe the shelves clean weekly. Bay leaves may help repel moths. Scatter some leaves in food storage areas. Purchase only as much bird food as you will use within about a month. Store small quantities of  seed and other moth prone food in glass or plastic containers. It will be easier to identify and isolate moth infestations if you use separate containers for different types of food. If moths are present in one container, throw it out. Larger quantities of food maybe stored in a clean trash can with tight fitting lids. I use plastic trash can for that and it’s easy to wash. It doesn’t rust, there are no loose seams, it’s right in there, no moths.

Use all the food in the storage container before replenishing it. Wash the container before adding the new supply of food and make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you put the food in there. Keep the bird area clean. Sweep or vacuum discarded seed off the floor every single day. Check your closets, basement and storage areas for moth infestations. Don’t use mothballs. The fumes they emit maybe toxic to birds and they can make people who are sensitive to them  pretty sick. I use a small electronic insect zapper as a night-light near my bird’s room. Because it’s used indoors, it does not kill beneficial insects yet the light attracts gnats and moths to the zapper. Never permit birds access to these or any other electrical appliances.

Use pheromone lure moth traps in closets, cabinets and near your bird’s area. Don’t permit your birds access to these traps. Although they’re non-toxic, they are sticky. These sticky traps attract male moths via a small pheromone attractant pad inside. The traps are odor free and they work amazingly well. If you have moths they’ll begin disappearing within a few days. If you think you don’t have moths, you’ll be amazed when you see how many end up in the trap. They belong in every bird owner’s pantry.
What’s your favorite method of getting rid of crawling insects or flying insects without using toxic chemicals? I’d really like to hear your suggestions so email me Also if you have questions, email me your questions. Tell me your experiences with your own feathered friends and I’ll discuss them here on Thanks for tuning in.

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