On a Saturday morning in mid-August, Oxford Road resident Daniel Rinehart cleaned out the cage usually occupied by his pet parrot, J-Bird, and left it outdoors to air-dry.
Nothing too unusual about the activity, until Rinehart opened the door to carry the sizeable cage back inside. At that same moment J-Bird decided to take flight and instead of settling on his favored perch — his owner’s shoulder — the bird started off on what would become a different kind of vacation for the parrot.
J-Bird has traveled all over the United States, his owner explained, but usually as a passenger sitting on the front seat or the steering wheel of an automobile. The bird had never tried solo travel, said Rinehart, at least not until that day back in August.
“It was just perfect timing on his part,” recalled Rinehart about the day J-Bird … well… flew the coop.
For the rest of that day, as well as the next several days, Rinehart searched the surrounding woods, whistling and calling for his best friend, which he has owned for six years and which typically follows him around like a little puppy dog.
Having no luck finding the bird, Rinehart became disheartened.
“J-Bird always answers my calls,” said Rhinehart, admitting that he began thinking the worst, fearing a vehicle on the heavily trafficked U.S. 158 had hit the bird.
“I left the cage outdoors for four days,” he said, explaining he thought that perhaps if the bird saw his house he might fly back into the familiar safe haven. But after several days and still no sign of his green-feathered friend, Rinehart said, he had “pretty much given up” any hope of ever seeing his beloved J-Bird again.
About three miles away, later on that same Saturday J-Bird took flight, Beth Farabaugh was outdoors and out of the corner of her eye, she caught the glimpse of a flying green streak.
Farabaugh recalled thinking at the time, “What in the world is that?” Once the parrot landed on her roof she wondered, “Where in the world did it come from?”
Farabaugh, with assistance from her father who stood on the porch banister, attempted to scoop the bird into a box only to have the parrot fly to the neighbor’s roof.
Then the wandering bird decided to attempt a landing on the slippery hood of Farabaugh’s father’s truck, not an ideal landing surface for a parrot.
“The bird kept slipping around and my dad slowly backed up to the bird and it just stepped onto his shoulder,” explained Farabaugh.
“We gave it some oats and water. It was drinking water, but we didn’t know what to do with it.”
Then Farabaugh remembered that one of her co-workers owns parrots and made a call for help to Steve and Sherry Carpenter.
The Carpenters lost no time coming to the aid of the little lost bird and promptly rode to the Allensville Road location with a cage to pick up the willful traveler and, hopefully, solve the mystery of the little lost bird by locating its owner.
“We looked over the bird and it was in good shape,” said Steve Carpenter, who is manager of Person County when he’s not out rescuing parrots. And once they realized the bird was banded, both Steve and Sherry admitted they thought it would be an easy course to locate the owner.
“We knew it was a Meyers parrot,” said Steve, describing it as a “pretty green bird with a black cape — not rare,” he said, “but not that common either; and they are prone to fly,” he added
“Sherry spent the night on the Internet,” said Steve, explaining she spent time e-mailing aviary veterinarians and contacting breeders throughout the state, since the Carpenters had no idea where the bird had come from or how far it had traveled.
She also contacted Person County veterinarians and even called 911. The following Monday she took the bird to the animal shelter to have it scanned for possible microchip identification.
The Carpenters even contacted seed places and pet stores in case the owner put up notices of the lost bird — all to no avail.
From the bird’s band number the Carpenters could tell the bird’s age and that the bird had been bred in North Carolina. There are about six to eight Meyers breeders including one in nearby Haw River, said Steve.
But when they contacted the branding company, which generally keeps track of breeders and birds through records coinciding with numbers on the band, the Carpenters learned the company was no longer in business. They were advised there was no way to assess the defunct company’s records.
The sleuths had reached a dead-end.
Without knowing the bird’s given name, Steve and Sherry began calling their guest “Doc,” after a local veterinarian.
Armed with experience and knowledge on how to care for parrots, the Carpenters integrated the little bird into their own household, while keeping their two jenday conures and umbrella cockatoo isolated from the newcomer.
And just in case Doc decided to again take flight, the Carpenters clipped their new houseguest’s wings to ensure that he stop his nomadic ways.
“We clipped him, and he gained altitude; and we clipped him again. He still could go the length of the house. These birds are notorious for flight,” emphasized Steve, referring to Meyers parrots.
After two weeks and seemingly no closer to finding the owner, the Carpenters decided to put a classified ad in the “Lost and Found” section of The Courier-Times. The ad came out in the next Saturday edition. Without identifying the bird, the ad requested that the owner identify the band number to verify ownership, explained Steve.
That Saturday, the Carpenters received a few calls offering to give the bird a home if the owner could not be found, but still no owner.
And then Sunday morning came a call from a gentleman who identified the bird, but admitted he hadn’t a clue to the band number. Instead, he offered to bring photographs for positive identification.
The Carpenters were comfortably sure it was caller’s bird.
Rinehart was trembling with anticipation when he arrived at the Carpenters’ home, explained Steve, and when the owner and bird re-united, the bird’s response immediately affirmed the bond and relationship.
“From the bird’s reaction, I knew this was definitely his bird,” said Sherry.
A happy ending for bird and owner and yet another missing bird case resolved thanks to the tenacity of the Carpenters, for which Daniel Rinehart is grateful. He also is appreciative of the care given to J-Bird by the Carpenters.
“They are super people,” said Rinehart.
Yet despite the very good care he enjoyed at the Carpenters, J-Bird seems to be happier still to be back home — clipped wings and all.