Kirby, the blue indian ringneck parakeet.

Calling your Lost Parrot Home

Calling your Lost Parrot Home

You can't see a fully flighted sky-blue jet fighter parrot flying through a blue sky. And when that sky blue fighter pilot parrot is the size of a banana, you'll be working hard to spy him in a tree bursting with new Spring growth. The only tracking device you are left with is the flock call.

 A flock call will do multiple jobs at once. It's the Swiss Army Knife of parrot communication. Our flock calls told Kirby, our IRN, we were there, we were looking for him, and we were not far away. The banana in my hand would let him know we came with offerings of good taste.


We walked the street calling, then listening. The anticipation and need for a return call is so painful, so deep. But you have to carry on, and you have to flock call appropriately. I used my "hide-n-seek" flock call. It's the one I use when we play the game. Dad used his "I'm home!" flock call. Dad had already been calling for a good 20 minutes before while I set up a different flock call in our backyard.
I put the cockatiel aviary out in the yard so Kirby could see and hear them. I opened the windows in the bird room, put the macaws in their cages and left them to deliver their normal windy day calls through the open windows.
Dad came back from his initial 20-minute flock call and I met him in the driveway to tag team and take over. He went in the house to handle the house flock calls and I went lakeside, across the street. Kirby had done this a few years before. He had spent hours in a line of trees across the street, lakeside. I stood in the middle of the street banana in hand, flock calling. "KirBEEEEE!!!!" That's our hide-n-seek flock call. It's rather like a pig call. SueWEEE!!! I called and called. Dad joined me on the street. A lakeside neighbor came out and asked if we lost a cat. "No", I answered. "Our bird."

And then Kirby called back. "KirBEEE!!!"

We found him! He was in a tree right behind our standing neighbor, lakeside. I stormed the other neighbor's fence gate and went into their backyard, I almost fell off their dock into the lake once, I almost fell into their pool twice. Finding line of sight was imperative. We called, he called back. It's hard to see a little blue bird 25 feet up in a tree full of spring growth, but we heard him. We triangulated the tree and looked for the happy voice coming from it.

Dad spotted him first. From that moment on I knew we would go home together. Kirby called "KIRBYKIRRRRBEEE!" Then he preened his chest. We were the only ones worried. Our flock calls didn't send a fear signal. We only used the familiar happy calls. For Kirby that meant we were there, we were looking for him and we were near.
By the time we literally put eyes on him he had been in that tree or nearby tree hearing us for 30 minutes. He knew his flock was near. Kirby was not in fear at all. A fully flighted and confident parrot who lives a life of choice wouldn't be. So he looked down at us, long and hard. And he yelled, "Good boy, KIRBEEEE".

You're in the parrot's lifestyle, NOT a human lifestyle.

I laughed quite a bit because that bird had zero worries and it was obvious, he had no intention of going anywhere. We were there. He liked it up there. And we brought snacks! The snack bit wasn't going to play for the humans in the long run. He and the rest of the flock had breakfast with dad earlier. Scrambled eggs and jelly toast. He was a fully fueled blue fighter pilot.

We three communicated back and forth, and back and forth. Kirby stayed in that tree happily looking down at us, over the lake and back. He preened. He called. He turned around. He moved between branches. And we called with banana and necks aching. We kept him in our sights. He would come down and we knew it. We scrambled, he relaxed. This parrot lifestyle is an odd feeling. He could fly off at any time, but he wouldn't because his flock was here. Yet, as a human, without constraints and controls all we had was a parrot's faith in the definition of flock.
That's unnerving.
45 minutes later he started his downward branch hopping. We moved to the best location for him, right in front of a main tree arm. Suddenly, like magic, there was our Kirby two feet in front of us. Proudly displaying open shoulders, pinning eyes, and a very impressive HERE I AM! flock call. Still unnerved, we humans turned around to start walking home and said, "Come on Kirby! Let's go!" He hopped onto Dad's shoulder.
Cali and I turned to face each other, I handed him the useless banana and asked Kirby to step up on my hand. He did. He hopped and landed with a grand flurry of flock calling and a very proud display of raised shoulders and tippy-toe lean, as only a ringneck can deliver. I pulled him into my chest and laid my other hand over him and we all went home.
There will be no wing clipping. The adventure didn't happen because Kirby can fly. I firmly believe in a mixed flock all parrots should be fully flighted for communication and territorial balance. I believe full flight adds to heart and lung/air sac health and there is no other replacement for it. I believe full feathering delivers personal balance and confidence as no other replacement can. Kirby will not be clipped because we humans let our guard down. We humans will add additional reminders and rules to compensate for our guards. It's on us. 
Know this; your flock call language built together is a powerful force. Create it wrapped in trust and recall games. Practice it together until it is second nature. That language is as strong as a harness. It's just a little unnerving, being a human in the parrot lifestyle.
Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


  • Michelle shared the store with you before, but our GCC conure escaped out an open door. We walked the neighborhood flock-calling for her for hours until we lost the light.

    I started again early the next morning, but I took her best friend, an Amazon named Woz, with me in a travel cage in a wagon as I walked around the neighborhood calling. This time, Wozzie helped, too. And our Baby Bird finally called back! I triangulated and found her in a tall oak in a neighbor’s back yard. She was tired and unwilling or unable to fly down, so my nephew climbed up to her, and she climbed down to him.

    She ride home in the wagon in the travel cage with Woz. I’ve rarely been more relieved. Losing her would have been too much… So maybe Fate, the Universe, our Baby Bird, or Whatever was looking out for us…

    I miss your KirbyKirby, too… but I am so grateful for the time and love you had with him and all the lessons you share with us.

    Lynn on

  • That brings back memories and one lesson. I never clip my birds they all are fully flighted. years ago I had a sun conure named Dazzle. I forgot he was riding on my shoulder as he often did and opened the garage door and he was off! Problem was he flew wonderfully but I had never taught him “down” . He flew in circles above me round and round. I was considering climbing a tree but I wasn’t able. long story short he flew until he fell out of the sky at my feet. I picked him up sure he was dead but no just exhausted. I think I cradled and cried with that bird for hours. Talk about guilt. He lived his life happily but no longer would he go anywhere near a door to the outside. My African Grey a few years ago also took advantage of a door that didn’t close as I carried laundry. Shortly my dogs and Great Dane and Greater Swiss Mountain dog who knew the birds are family came to me very concerned and let me to a corner of the yard where there was Kizzy scaling the chain link and saying “its ok” “its fine”. I was so afraid he would fly because now I live in rural Alabama and he would be targeted as lunch. I reminded myself to be calm walked over and ask him to step up, greeted him. He stepped up and I put my hand on his back and took him in , his heart was beating so fast I was afraid he would have a heart attack. Same result no interest in going anywhere near that outside world again.

    Karen Sheridan on

  • Loved the way you got Kirby back. Agree on keeping birds fully flighted. Also think people need to be careful about making sure their birds do not get out by mistake. Agree with your method of getting your bird back.

    Lois Epstein on

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