'It's getting out of hand,' say B.C. bird rescuers reporting an unusual surge in escaped budgies

A budgie found in the middle of a street in East Vancouver on May 9 is just one of many turned into the region's animal hospitals recently. (David P. Ball/CBC - image credit)
A budgie found in the middle of a street in East Vancouver on May 9 is just one of many turned into the region's animal hospitals recently. (David P. Ball/CBC - image credit)

Bird rescue centres across B.C.'s Lower Mainland are taking in an unusually high number of escaped budgies.

Although warm weather often causes more of the tiny tropical birds, also known as parakeets, to fly the coop, more of them are being turned in earlier in the year, according to rescuers.

"It happens every year, but it's more so right now," said Jenny Tamas, adoptions director with Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary. The organization has a facility for large pet birds in Surrey, and Tamas keeps smaller birds like budgies in her own home.

"People open their windows, and they start flying out," she said in an interview. "Pet stores are now selling more.

"It's getting out of hand [with] these poor little budgies in particular, and cockatoos and love birds."

She said this year, she currently has roughly 25 budgies in her care, compared to 40 during all of last year. Although the temperatures soared earlier this year than usual, which could account for the sudden increase in budgies escaping from open windows, Tamas also suspects many were pandemic-purchased pets that some owners found themselves unable to care for or supervise.

Night Owl Bird Hospital in Vancouver also confirmed a large number of found budgies have been turned in to their 24/7 facility in the past month. It provides free veterinary care for pet birds brought in but asks those who help rescue birds to consider donating to support their service.

Maple Ridge SPCA/Facebook
Maple Ridge SPCA/Facebook

'Out into the wild blue yonder'

"Most likely, it has to do with people not trimming wings and with the nice weather," said Terran Gimpel, who owns three exotic birds and is a former vice president of the B.C. Exotic Bird Society, which administers a lost and found birds group on Facebook.

"It's not uncommon for them to fly through open doors and out into the wild blue yonder because they're birds.

He advised anyone who finds an exotic pet bird in the city to be careful approaching it in case it flies away, and if they must handle it, to be careful not to injure it.

"Take a picture of it and let the wider community know," Gimpel said, suggesting posting to Facebook groups, contacting the B.C. Exotic Bird Society, and reaching out to Greyhaven or Night Owl Bird Hospital for advice.

"If a bird decides it wants to land on you, it's probably looking for support — make sure they have a little water and some bird seed if it's something like a budgie."

In the past month, 13 found budgies have been posted in one Facebook group alone, B.C. Lost and Found Exotic Birds. The postings span the region, from Maple Ridge to Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Delta and Langley.

And that's not including dozens of other exotic birds, such as parrots, love birds and cockatoos, also posted as found on the page.

David P. Ball/CBC
David P. Ball/CBC

Tamas said it's possible for budgies to fly great distances, even between cities. She hopes people will be more aware of the risks of pets escaping — and what to do if they are thinking of buying a budgie for their home.

"There's lots of rewards to having a bird," Tamas said. "They're just intelligent, wonderful little beings.

"But you have to do research. If you have birds, make sure you have screens on your windows and doors because it's really terrible if they get out … the raptors will get them or the heat or the cold."