Took More than Cracker for Calif. Firefighter to Nab Parrott

Aug. 14, 2013
The blue-and-gold female macaw named Tikki was reunited with its owner just a few hours after its capture.

Aug. 14--Crackers were not enough to coax a large parrot out of a tree outside Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Instead, it took a firefighter and a blanket to bamboozle the vibrant bird and bring it to safety while onlookers clapped. The blue-and-gold female macaw named Tikki was reunited with its owner just a few hours after its capture.

"Oh gosh, I'm so elated it's like I can't believe she's here," Jenn Marble said when the bird was back in her arms.

The saga began around 1 p.m. when hospital staff noticed the bird. Madelaine Cope, a nurse and clinical specialist, initially thought the parrot she heard talk of was one of the smaller, green parakeets known to frequent the area.

But the parrot perched in a tree between the wound care and physical therapy buildings was more than 2 feet long, a far cry from the smaller birds. Cope correctly suspected it was a domestic bird that had escaped.

She called animal control and several veterinarians asking for help to no avail. She and other staff schemed to get the avian out of the tree and take it to a rescue at Cal State Bakersfield.

"I don't think this happens every day of the week so I don't think there's really rules for how this goes," Cope said.

First they tried luring Tikki to the ground with nectarines and cooing noises. She bent from her roost at least 10 feet high to examine the offering, but didn't descend.

Next, painter Kevin Barnett scaled a ladder underneath the bird. Tikki snagged a saltine cracker from him in her beak and tottered back and forth on the branch just out of of Barnett's reach.

He eventually got the bird to alight on his hand, but just as the drama appeared to be over, Tikki took flight, sailing over the heads of two television cameramen and into another tree across the parking lot.

A tense half hour passed as hospital personnel debated what to do next, and a couple of rubbernecking young men attempted to scale the tree to fetch the bird.

At last, a Bakersfield Fire Department engine pulled up in the parking lot.

"I personally have rescued an iguana out of a tree. Never a bird," said Captain John Rimmer as the firefighters extended the engine's ladder to just under where the bird sat. Tikki appeared unfazed as Firefighter Ben Henggeler scurried across the ladder and crouched in front of her with a blanket.

"I just wanted to make sure it wasn't going to take off and start scratching me in the face," Henggeler said.

The parrot squawked as Henggeler bundled it, but mellowed once swaddled. A few cerulean feathers poked from under the blanket as Henggeler hustled down the ladder and deposited the bird into a cardboard box.

"Here's your bird in a box," a firefighter said as he handed off the parcel to Cope.

Henggeler said he was already anticipating the jokes to come at the firehouse.

Staff from Fur and Feathers Pet Resort took the rescued bird and offered to house it until the owner appeared. Fortunately, Tikki didn't have to wait long.

Marble heard that Tikki had made the news.

The elementary school teacher, who lives on 33rd Street, said Tikki flew away from her on Saturday. She kept the bird company overnight while it rested in a tree in a nearby parking lot, but Marble realized she couldn't follow the bird from branch-to-branch.

"I couldn't pursue her. When I heard her I would go find her, but to go around the neighborhood looking for her was kind of useless," Marble said.

Tikki was happy to see her owner again after her adventures, bobbing her head and cuddling, Marble said. After the parrot's shenanigans, Marble said she plans to clip Tikki's wings and teach her to wear a flight harness, something the bird isn't fond of.

"She's going to learn to like it," Marble laughed.

Copyright 2013 - The Bakersfield Californian

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