SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 15, 2013

Pet parrot flies the coop

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Last year, it was Zeke the turtle. This time, it’s PeeWee the parrot.

A year after the saga of the wayward Zeke gripped Ryal Side, the neighborhood is once again on the lookout for a missing exotic animal.

PeeWee, a cherry-headed conure whose screech is loud enough to break glass, escaped from his home on Hillside Avenue on Aug. 5.

Owner Bonnie Michalowski and her husband, Don Talbot, have put up posters around Ryal Side, contacted police and taken out an ad in the newspaper. Michalowski took a day off from work to look for him.

The couple has had PeeWee for 19 years, longer than they’ve had their 12-year-old daughter, Merrick.

“It’s quite traumatic for my husband and I to lose him, because he’s been part of the family for so long,” Michalowski said. “It’s hard not to have him around. We’ve been pounding the pavement looking for this guy.”

Last August, Zeke the turtle walked out of his home on Western Avenue only to be found a month later by a neighbor. In this case, Michalowski said PeeWee apparently got loose when he bumped into the screen door while flying around the room.

The door popped open, and PeeWee, who hadn’t been outdoors since Talbot bought him at Liberty Tree Mall in 1994, was free as a, well, bird.

Michalowski blames herself, not PeeWee.

“I didn’t trim his wings,” she said. “I kept putting it off. It’s my fault, totally.”

Cherry-headed conures like PeeWee are native to Ecuador and Peru and have green feathers with a splash of red on their faces and heads.

The green feathers make it hard to spot PeeWee in a tree, but Michalowski said there have been possible sightings. A Bridge Street resident said a green parrot landed on a table in his backyard. By the time Michalowski and Talbot got there, however, the bird was gone.

In a couple of other cases, PeeWee has been heard but not seen. People reported hearing a parrot’s screech on Greene Street and Ashton Street.

“He’s small, but he sounds like one of those big parrots you hear in a zoo,” Michalowski said. “It’s not a natural sound to this area. You’d definitely know it was a parrot.”

PeeWee can utter a few words and phrases, including “Hello,” “Come on up,” “Gimme a kiss” and “Love you,” Michalowski said. He also makes a kissing noise when he’s happy and can say “Pyewackett” and “Boobus,” the names of two deceased family cats.

Michalowski is hoping that PeeWee, who normally eats a fruit salad every morning, can survive on his own. Linda Cocca, coordinator of Mass Audubon’s wildlife information line, said birds that grew up in captivity can last for a time in the wild.

“There’s fruit out there, to some extent, and people feeding birds,” she said. “It could hang out with other birds and do quite well, but not through the winter.”

Michalowski and Talbot also own another parrot, Maya, a female who lives in the same cage as PeeWee. Cocca suggested they bring along Maya in their cage in an attempt to attract her lost mate.

Anyone who spots the bird should immediately contact the owners, who will have a better chance of getting the bird to come to them, Cocca said.

“Even if a bird has been in captivity for 20 or 30 years, once they get out, they don’t easily come back,” she said.

Michalowski is holding out hope. She said she has been heartened by the response of so many people as word has spread through social media and other means.

“People have been so kind and nice,” she said. “My faith in humanity has definitely been restored.”

Michalowski and Talbot are offering a reward for anyone who finds PeeWee. They can be reached at 508-932-4088 or 978-473-6557.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.