Mount Vernon area cockatiel decides flying the coop is for the birds


Ollie enjoying indoor life with his Mount Vernon area family

Not all lost pet stories have a happy ending, but for one Mount Vernon area family, a clever game plan launched by a concerned teenager resulted in a joyful reunion.

On Dec. 9, Ollie — a 2 1/2-year-old cockatiel — was working out his wings around the Rios family household when a family member arrived home. Spying an opportunity for adventure, the bird escaped through the open door and perched in a neighbor’s tree, at least 40 to 50 feet off the ground. According to Jenny Rios, attempts to lure Ollie down with snacks didn’t work, and when a group of starlings joined him on the tree, they all took flight toward Richmond Highway.

Rios’ older teenage son, the bird’s primary caretaker, was heartbroken, and the entire family was concerned about the following day’s forecast of heavy rain. Cockatiels don’t fare well in colder temperatures, said Rios, and there were hawks circling in the area. She posted notices about Ollie on a couple of local online forums and was touched by the response, including from people who actively searched for the bird.

The next morning at 6:30 a.m., Rios’ son said he had concocted a plan, and he began giving everyone their marching orders. He had recorded the classic tune “Lollipop” by the Chordettes — a song they whistled to Ollie each morning — on two phones. The family split up in two cars and blared the music loudly through the speakers as they drove around the Sherwood Hall area where the cockatiel was last seen. Then they waited and listened. After driving a few blocks, they circled back. On the second go-round, their son heard Ollie’s familiar whistle. They continued playing the tune, and the bird kept responding. 

Soon, Rios’ son got out of the car and dashed through several neighbors’ yards where he found Ollie about 20 feet up in a tree — around two to three blocks from their house.

“He recognized us,” said Rios, noting that the bird’s whistle was a little softer than usual due to his being tired and weak.

Her son began talking to the bird and gradually coaxed him down to a point where the teen could climb up and reach him. As the rain started, he managed to get Ollie onto his finger and back to safety. Over the following days, the bird seemed to be his old self, whistling, singing, eating, drinking and greeting himself in a mirror.

Rios said she’s still in disbelief that Ollie made it home. “We got lucky that he wanted to be found,” she said.

While she’s glad that Ollie’s outdoor adventure was short-lived and ended happily, she said there was one unexpected benefit from the incident.

“It was a really good experience for us as a family because it was a crisis situation, and we had to jump into action,” said Rios. “It was a good test for us.”

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