All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Free Bird...Not a good idea!

Dear Marie,
Our next-door-neighbors have a beautiful, large, exotic pet bird that is frequently allowed to roam about unattended in their front yard, which is enclosed with a block wall. Their bird is an absolute sweetheart. He loves to be scratched on the side of his head, and will eagerly jump onto anyone’s extended arm. Though his wings are clipped, he has no trouble at all jumping to the top of the fence, and then out of his yard. We often find him at our front door begging to come in and our kids always take him back to his owners. I don’t have any complaints about his visits because we all find this bird completely delightful, but we just can’t understand why his owners allow this. He is a very valuable animal and I am certain that if the wrong person saw him out and about, he would be stolen in an instant. I've spoken with his owners about this on several
occasions, keeping the tone light and just expressing my qualms; but nothing I've said seems to be soaking in. I would hate to see anything happen to this sweet bird. What can we do?

Dear Lorene,
If the circumstances you have described have been going on for an extended period, your neighbor has been extremely lucky. A friendly, large, exotic bird that is allowed to roam about freely will certainly become a victim of theft sooner or later. Theft may actually be a harsh description, though accurate - an individual who sees this bird, may believe it to be lost and take it home. Commonly in our society, people who find lost pets believe it is OK to keep those animals. Almost everyone knows someone who has “adopted” an animal that he or she has found.

Even with your neighbors’ amazing amount of luck with respect to not losing their bird, there are many other risks associated with their lack of attention to its roaming, curious nature. Theft is actually one of the lesser perils.

Although your feathered friend is capable of limited flight, he is still at risk of being attacked by predators. Cats, dogs, and even wild animals may consider your neighbor’s bird an easy target. Even if he escapes, he may sustain serious injuries that he will likely not survive. In addition to the constant threat of assault by other animals, motorists who expect birds to fly away as their vehicles draw near may ultimately strike your neighbor’s pet if it wanders into the street. Being unfamiliar with cars, and unable to fly well, he lacks the ability to be safe crossing the road.

If this isn't enough information for your neighbor’s to re-evaluate how they maintain their bird, then add to this laundry list of dangers the fact that their beloved pet could become infected with a number of different diseases that are carried by wild birds or insects. I’m sure the last thing your neighbors want is for this sweet bird to contract a deadly disease.

Finally, remind them that poisons are used liberally in gardens, lawns, and other areas that are attractive to birds. Snail pellets look like food. Water that accumulates at curbside can contain pesticides and antifreeze. A thirsty bird has no way of knowing that drinking this water may be deadly. I am sure your neighbors love their pet and have no idea that allowing him such a broad range of freedom can ultimately end his life. Nevertheless, sometimes it is best not to beat around the bush when trying to make a point. I would recommend telling your neighbors that you are worried about the well being of their bird. Outline all of the dangers their pet faces each and every time it is left outside unattended. Offer to “baby sit” the bird if they are unable to remain outside with it. There is no reason that a conversation like this be un-neighborly. You are simply showing concern and offering assistance. You may be able to approach the conversation by taking the visiting bird back to its home yourself instead of assigning the task to your children.

I know it is hard to enter into conversations that may be interpreted as confrontational. But you seem like a compassionate person who will have no trouble pulling this off and that is what is needed to save this bird’s life.

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