Every morning, Jean Loh prepares a salad for her six lovebirds – two parents and four babies. She serves it to them in their apiary, a converted bedroom within her 4-room flat, and clears what’s left of breakfast service after a couple of hours.
May 21, 2023 would’ve been just as uneventful, except two-month old Draki was nowhere to be found when Loh returned. Cause of disappearance: Jailbreak, as the members of Lost & Found Birds SG, a Facebook Group, call it.
TWO MONTHS ON THE TRAIL
“I realised that the baby birds had chewed a hole in the mosquito net (covering the window)… I was really shocked and sad, and quickly called my husband to tell him Draki had escaped,” Loh said.
Loh started keeping birds during the pandemic when she rescued Draki’s father, Clover, from a crow’s attack. Unlike Clover, Draki’s wings aren’t clipped and should have a better chance of survival. But flying wasn’t his strong suit.
“He flies every day in the house, but after one round from the bedroom to the living room, he will be catching his breath. Babies are like that. No stamina.”
The baby bird was expected to glide only as far as the gust of wind carried him. Yet, Loh would spend every waking day in the next two months searching for Draki, at times with his parents in tow.
“I told Sofie and Clover that Draki is missing, that they have to help find him by calling as loud as you can. Sofie was the best. She’s the mama bird so she called really loudly.”
Alas, it didn’t help that many residents in Loh’s neighbourhood kept lovebirds. All of them responded to Sofie’s calls, snuffling any chance of their hearing Draki. When Sofie got tired, Loh improvised by recording her calls and blasting it on loop.
“When night falls, you start to imagine the worst, like if they had been attacked by a crow, an eagle, or other predators like cats and dogs,” Loh recalled.
“My birds, even the babies, kept looking out of the window every day. For a few moments, they would chirp very loudly but I never knew what they were chirping at.”
The only way to know for sure was to bring “Draki” home to his family, and when she did so, all the birds swarmed him the moment they were let out of the room.
“His siblings immediately acknowledged him. They were so close and didn’t look like they were strangers, but I wanted mama bird to verify whether it’s Draki.
“Surprisingly, Sofie did not attack him. Mama birds are quite fierce and they will attack strangers, but she was very calm and she preened him. She doesn’t preen just any bird. It was touching to see mama bird and his siblings acknowledging Draki.”
“A PIECE OF MY HEART WENT MISSING”
Unlike Loh, other bird owners aren’t so lucky. For instance, Chen Xuanyu, another member of the Facebook group, hasn’t found her pet parrot, Diamond, even after upping the reward to S$3,000 from S$2,000 reward after a month.
“Diamond flew out of the kitchen window on Jul 22, 2023. He was likely spooked by the moving laundry with the strong winds that evening. It was within seconds that we heard him flap his wings (and rushed over), but we did not catch any sight of him,” said Chen.
Chen has had the 11-year-old Congo African Grey (CAG) since he was a baby, and likewise, he has seen his owner through her life’s milestones.
“Diamond accompanied me to my first date with my husband then, and became our ‘matchmaker’. He is in our wedding photos and has witnessed my little bump through my pregnancy.”
“It was a nice surprise but we had absolutely no idea what to do, (though) my boys, who are four and two years old, were very excited.”
Even when Lim attempted to release the budgie, it refused to leave his shoulder. He thought, “There must be a Facebook group for this”, and he was right. In that group, bird owners provided real-time guidance, even during the Lunar New Year, until the budgie was eventually reunited with its owner.