Gus the Cockatoo

Cats are not the only pets that get stuck in trees. I have rescued an iguana before (Dino, the iguana), and my Mississippi cat rescuer colleague and friend, Bob Reese, has even rescued a dog in a tree (Bawlie -- The overzealous climbing coon dawg). That is rare, of course, but even more rare is the rescue my North Carolina cat rescuer colleague and friend, Patrick Brandt, did for a coatimundi (Tangled coati rescued from treetop). Yes, I had to look it up, too.

Of course, more commonly, it is the escaped pet bird that gets into a tree, but they don't typically get stuck. I have been called to rescue a few pet birds before, but I typically refer those callers to a bird expert who will tell them exactly what to do to get the bird to come to them. That is the most successful way to rescue a bird, because installing a rope in the tree or climbing up to it usually scares it away. This case, however, was different. This was a case where the bird had a leash attached to his foot, and the leash became tangled around a limb making it impossible for the bird to escape. This bird was trapped.

Gus is a one-year-old Ducorp, or Solomon, Cockatoo, and he is a sweet, cool bird that lives with Jason, Nicole and their three young children. From his first day of life, Gus was raised by a person, so he is very comfortable with people and has lived with his family almost all of his life. Gus is not only funny and entertaining, he is also very loving and affectionate. He is not simply stuck in a corner or room somewhere; he is an active and included member of the family, so they have all become very attached to each other.

Gus has escaped outside twice before, but he always stays very close to home. The first time, he stayed in the tree overnight, but he came down on his own the following morning. The second time, they lured him back down by showing him the powdered coffee creamer can which he loves for whatever unknown reason. This time, however, there was no way to lure him down, and the family stared helplessly at him while trying to figure out some kind of solution. It was their neighbor who finally made a connection with me by calling an arborist he knew. That arborist was my first tree climbing instructor, and he referred him to me.

Gus was 55 feet high in a very large Live Oak tree. Beneath the tree was a ditch lined with bamboo and small trees and shrubs. I picked out the only spot in the tree near Gus where I could install my rope, and I would have to work my way over to him from there. Once I climbed up to within 20 feet of him, Gus looked at me and puffed up the feathers on the top of his head. I am ignorant about birds and their behavior, so I did not know what that meant. I felt at a disadvantage here not knowing how to read him. All I knew was to approach him calmly and hope his general trust of people and sociable nature would be enough.

After I worked my way close to him, he did not appear concerned about me and even, to my untrained eye, seemed to be happy to see me. When I held my hand out to him, he came down to approach it. Though the picture makes it appear that he wanted to bite my hand, that was not the case at all, and he never appeared to me to feel threatened.

I noticed that Gus had a tinge of red on his wing and wondered about it. I didn't know if that was a natural color or a sign of blood or something else. I learned later that it was something else. It seems that one of the children was painting near him days earlier and brushed up against his wing.

Gus's leash was wrapped around a small, short limb. My plan was to break that limb off to free him from the tree while holding onto the limb and leash to make sure he does not get away from me while I put him in the cat bag, now repurposed as a bird bag. I broke the limb off very slowly and carefully to maintain control over it and then prepared to put the bag over him. I have never done this before, and my clumsy attempts failed at each turn. I kept losing sight of the bag opening and tried to feel where both it and Gus were. As I struggled with the bag, I unknowingly pulled Gus downward by the leash until he was hanging upside down on the limb. I placed the bag around him and had him in the opening while I pulled him away from the limb, but I did not get him deep enough into the bag, and he managed to pull himself out. I still had a good hold on the leash stick, so I was not in danger of losing him, but at that point, I moved him onto my lap where I could have more control over him. Fortunately, he never panicked or tried to escape. In fact, he seemed quite docile on my lap while I struggled to find the bag opening again. Once I got the bag straight, I slipped him into it and secured him inside with a big sigh of relief.

I brought him down and handed him to Jason who took him inside the house. Gus checked out just fine and was soon settling back in to his routine. The whole family had feared they would have to watch helplessly as he died in the tree, so having him back home and safe was a huge relief. Gus was pretty happy too. After all, they were so happy to have him back, that they let him have some of his favorite food: spaghetti and meatballs.  Woohoo!

The next day, I got a very nice note from Nicole thanking me and explaining just how much Gus means to them. She also sent these pictures of Gus eating his spaghetti and standing on top of her head. It is rewarding enough just to see how happy they all were to have Gus back home again, but the sweet note made it even more so. On top of that, the youngest daughter drew a picture of the rescue (below), and Nicole sent it to me later. Now, isn't that sweet.

Just like cats and dogs, birds are family too. But if I am going to get any more bird rescues, I better start learning more about them, and, especially, learn better bagging or other rescue techniques.