Thursday, July 20, 2000

Parrot's luck brings him home

After four days of wandering, bird is safe

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Debbie Perrin and Chad.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        WEST CHESTER — The words stunned Debbie Perrin: “Chad's gone.”

        Her beloved “Baby Chad,” a 3-month-old African grey parrot that she hand-raised, flew out of a fifth-floor apartment window in downtown Cincinnati July 10.

        But the exotic parrot's eventual return — after four days among downtown buildings — is a story of luck, coincidence and what one person believes is a miracle.

        Jim Keen, who had recently purchased Chad from Mrs. Perrin, didn't realize that a young parrot could fly so soon. But when Mr. Keen opened the window briefly, Chad flew as though he had done it a hundred times.

        Mr. Keen's heart sank. He had come to love his noisy 11-inch companion, whose kind is considered highly intelligent. Despite a fixed income, Mr. Keen sent Mrs. Perrin $30 a month until he had paid $700 for his new buddy — he was paying on the bird before Chad was even born.

        The same day Chad escaped, Mr. Keen learned that he has lung cancer. But talking with Mrs. Perrin, he was more upset about losing Chad.

        “I left Jim that night crying all the way back to my home in West Chester,” Mrs. Perrin said.

        For Baby Chad, it was life and death. He couldn't yet eat on his own. And as a parrot, Mrs. Perrin said, he is not a bird of prey, but the prey for a falcon or some other urban predator.

        In her suburban home, where she feeds parrots for a breeder friend, Mrs. Perrin couldn't help but think of the little bird she bought in April from a Dayton bird farm. Chad was only 2 weeks old.

        “I hand fed this little guy, and he was a part of me,” she said.

        Four days passed. No trace of Chad. Then Chuck Corman, a roofer from Whitewater Township, saw a bird sitting on an 18-inch boiler pipe on a building at Fifth and Main streets.

        “I thought it was a pigeon at first,” Mr. Corman said. “He could barely hold his head up. I extended my arm to him and he tried to get on it, but he stumbled and fell 80 feet into a big open vent pipe.”

        Mr. Corman called the Cincinnati Zoo for help. A zoo employee suggested a call to Second Chance Wildlife, a group of volunteers that helps injured or abandoned wildlife. Soon Mr. Corman was joined by Linda Ott, a Second Chance member from Price Hill, and Courtney Glass, a maintenance worker at the building.

        For more than an hour, Mr. Glass cut into the pipe. No one knew if Chad was alive. When they finally broke through, a flashlight revealed the parrot huddling near the carcasses of about 25 birds that had suffered a worse fate.

        “Luckily,” Mr. Glass said, “the parrot was in just the right spot for us to catch him. He was just sitting there, looking at me like, what took you guys so long?”

        Ms. Ott called a local bird club member, who traced the band on Chad's leg to Mrs. Perrin.

        “It gives me chills to think of the coincidences that led to his finding,” Mrs. Perrin said. “It's amazing that he's still alive. I don't know how he withstood the trauma.”

        Today, Baby Chad is back at her West Chester home, living in a clear plastic cage in front of a wide window looking out at a small woods. When Mrs. Perrin holds him, he nestles his beak into her chest.

        He's taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection, but his prognosis is good. If all goes well, in a couple of months Mrs. Perrin will return him to Mr. Keen, who for now is keeping company with a friendly adult parrot.

        “One burden has been lifted,” Mr. Keen said. “I thought I'd never see Chad again. Somebody else had a hand in this. To me, it's a miracle.”


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