Monday, January 04, 2016

Budgerigar rescued after weeks spent outside braving Canadian winter

A bright green and yellow bird not built to brave a Winnipeg winter has been rescued after spending more than a month outside. The budgie was first spotted outdoors in the Island Lakes area in early November. Soon after, Sylvia Cassie noticed a bright green anomaly amidst a cloud of little brown house sparrows at a feeder in her yard in Southland Park on Nov. 22. "I just stood there and looked at them and I couldn't believe in the middle of the flock was this little fellow," Cassie said. "There he was in all his glory with 50 sparrows." The bird started showing up three times a day for a week and would hang out in the cedar tree by Cassie's deck. It had been taken in by a group of sparrows, which were showing him where to feed and some of the warm spots in the area, Cassie said.

"They just seemed like a gang of buddies! We'd never seen such a big flock," said Cassie. "I felt that he was really being looked after by them, but we didn't want them leading him astray." Cassie and her husband contacted the Winnipeg Humane Society and were put in contact with Melanie Shura, president of Avian Welfare Canada. "They [budgies] enjoy being in a flock, that's their safety and security and what they're like in the wild," Shura said. "They're really rugged little birds. They can fly up to 500 kilometres in a day following thunder in their native country of Australia." Despite their relative ruggedness, budgies aren't well-equipped to survive in the wild in Winnipeg in January.

The species thrives in 20 C temperatures and gets about 12 hours of sleep a day on average, Shura said. "The stress of trying to maintain that body temperature outside with the long nights we have is astonishing," she said. "Once they've become kind of feral, which doesn't take long, about a week … and you've got a wild bird on your hands, then you need to try to reverse that process, and it's not very easy." In an attempt to rescue the bird, Shura brought a cage with a heating lamp and special bird food over to Cassie's. The cage then had a length of string attached to the door. They played the waiting game but weren't able to coax the bird into the cage. It was then seen by Shelley Corvino at her home in Southland Park in early December.

It was chumming around with a group of house sparrows at her feeder, too. "'Okay,' I said, 'That is not a house sparrow,'" Corvino said. She also got in touch with Shura, who helped her set up a cage with toys, a heat lamp, millet and seed in their yard. On New Year's Day, Corvino's husband saw the bird in the yard. It slowly made its way into the cage. "He pulled the string, which he'd MacGyver'd to capture the fellow, through the little gate on the setup here … and that was it! He was still feeding!" Corvino said, referring to her husband capturing the bird. "We high-fived and actually went and drank a toast and then we called Mel and Sylvia right away," she said. The bird, which the Corvinos have named MacGyver after the fictional secret agent who makes complex machines out of ordinary objects, slept through the night in the cage at their home. "He's going to have a nice new home," Corvino added.

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