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Rescuers go out on a limb -- for a bird

Jane Stafford tries to get a blue and gold macaw that has been hanging out in an oak tree almost 100 feet above the ground for four days in the backyard of John Arrowood's sister's home in Bessemer City, N.C. Above left, the blue and gold macaw gazes down at the rescuers.
Jane Stafford tries to get a blue and gold macaw that has been hanging out in an oak tree almost 100 feet above the ground for four days in the backyard of John Arrowood's sister's home in Bessemer City, N.C. Above left, the blue and gold macaw gazes down at the rescuers.

BESSEMER CITY, N.C. -- A daylong effort to lure a macaw from an 85-foot high branch stalled Tuesday when rescuers in a tree service bucket couldn't quite reach the blue-and-gold bird, marooned inexplicably in a Bessemer City backyard.

Just a few feet from being snagged, the macaw flew off. Its would-be helpers then followed it farther into the woods, where it had spent days shrieking in a tree, eating the leaves in the treetops where it paced. Tuesday evening they were still looking and planned to come back today.

The bird was first spotted in John Arrowood's sister's backyard four days ago. Arrowood, a student at Appalachian State University, remembered seeing a "lost bird" sign months ago. A local woman, Jayne Stafford, had lost her African Gray parrot while moving to Gastonia, N.C.

He tracked Stafford down. It wasn't her bird Mic, but she posted news Tuesday of the macaw-in-distress on the Web site www.911parrotalert.com along with Arrowood's cell phone number. Arrowood got almost 20 calls within a few hours.

"It's been crazy," he said. "This one lady in Massachusetts had me put her bird on speakerphone, so her bird could talk to him. I had birds talking long distance."

Bananas couldn't lure it down. Birdseed didn't work. Bright-colored toys? No interest.

By late-afternoon Tuesday, volunteers from a parrot welfare group made it to the macaw. One went up in Kenny Bumgardner's bucket with a bowl full of nuts and tried to cajole it with bird talk.

"We got the idea we'd try to grab the limb the bird was sitting on and pull it down," said Bumgardner, who owns Carolina Tree Service in Kings Mountain, N.C. "When we went to do that, that's when it flew off. It made one loud sort of crow or whatever it is they do and flew away."

Bird experts say macaws and other birds in the parrot family often escape or are abandoned when their owners find out how difficult bird ownership can be.

"They're very popular pets, but unfortunately most people buy a bird without doing their homework," said Ann Bush, founder and director of Phoenix Landing. "People find out they're messy, they're loud, they don't always like to be around dogs and cats. And they live a really long time."

Macaws can cost $900 to $1,400 and live up to 80 years, said Pat Leonard, spokesperson for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

"They're with you longer than most of your family members," she said.

When the bird gets hungry enough, it might even come down from the trees, Leonard said.

"If it was a captive bird, it's probably pretty confused right now," she said.

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