Nearly two weeks had gone by since Aimee Kudlak saw her miniature parrot, Basel, and she decided it was time to give up hope that she’d ever see him again.

On Thursday she brought in his cage, which she had put out on the roof of her Portland home, and threw out the toys that had gotten moldy in the rain.

“I said, ‘This is it. I have to get over it,’ ” said Kudlak, 62, who bought the bird after a trip to Costa Rica introduced her to parrotlets, the smallest species of parrot.

Then, that night, she got a phone call.

•••••

Kudlak had posted a lost-and-found ad on Craigslist the day that Basel flew away.

That morning had started like any other, with her feeding three pistachio nuts to the 4-year-old bird while she made her coffee.

He sat on her shoulder while she cleaned up the kitchen and walked to the back stairs toward the compost heap.

But when she got to the door, instead of flying back inside as he always does, Basel flew out.

At first, Kudlak kept track of Basel by his chirp, as he hopped from tree to tree in her backyard on Berkeley Street.

She brought his cage out to the table where they usually sit together in the evening and took her laptop with her to play YouTube videos of other parrotlets talking.

The next day, she moved the cage to her roof, where she thought he might be more likely to fly in, and kept the videos playing out a window from inside the house.

After a while, bird sounds started to blend together and she couldn’t tell if she was hearing Basel anymore.

For days, she sat outside crying while she waited for him to come home, until Thursday, when she gave up.

“I lost my best friend,” said Kudlak, a single mother whose son is off at college.

•••••

Two miles away, Julie Sawtelle was on the deck of her house in Riverton, about to put burgers on the grill, when a bird appeared on a railing.

With feeders in her front yard, Sawtelle has wild birds around her house all the time. She knew this wasn’t one of them.

She started taking a video of the lost bird and talking to it, when it flew onto her head. Sawtelle started texting her neighbors and yelling to her wife, “Come see this, there’s a bird on my head.”

The bird flew into a tree, then onto another neighbor’s head. So they put out a bowl of sunflower seeds to entice it inside. The bird flew right onto the bowl.

“He was chowing right down,” Sawtelle said.

They backed the bowl with the bird on it into a pet carrier that a neighbor brought over, then posted an ad on Craigslist, in the pets section, not in the lost and found.

•••••

Karen Wakefield, a member of a group called Lost and Found Birds Worldwide, saw Sawtelle’s ad with a picture of what looked like a parrotlet.

She and other volunteers from the group search newspapers and websites for notices of lost and found pet birds and keep them in a database.

“Some birds are found weeks, months, even years after escaping,” she said. Without the database, she said, “by then there is no way to find the owner.”

Wakefield had remembered seeing an ad about a lost parrotlet in Portland the week before and responded to both posts.

Others had responded to the found bird ad, but they didn’t seem right, Sawtelle said. In an email exchange with Kudlak, she said her bird doesn’t land on fingers, but on people’s heads. That’s when Sawtelle knew she had found the owner.

•••••

Kudlak was watching television when she got the call.

She put the cage in her car and drove right over to the house where Basel had been staying.

“He looked as healthy as can be,” Kudlak said.

When she brought him home, he perched on a mirror, curled up and went to sleep.

Kudlak decided to let him be and went to bed, too.

The next morning he was back to normal, chirping away, she said, but she has noticed a change in him.

“He’s more sure of himself,” she said, noting that when he used to fly to the second floor of her house, he’d refuse to come back down. Now he sits on her shoulder as she walks down the stairs.

That also means she has to be more careful about opening doors when Basel is in the room.

“He’s learned to go outside and probably would like to go out again,” she said.

•••••

Kudlak found out more about the adventure Basel had when she went to Pat’s Meat Market to pick up groceries the day after he came home.

She was recounting the tale to an employee, who told her a woman working in the deli had a parrot fly into her pool at home. The woman showed Kudlak a picture of the bird and, sure enough, it was Basel.

“I wish he could tell me where he was and what he did,” Kudlak said Monday, as Basel nipped at her finger and flew around her kitchen.

Basel doesn’t talk much aside from the occasional “whatcha doin’ ” and “birdie, birdie, birdie.”

But he likes to jump on people’s heads, play with toys and mess with Kudlak’s miniature poodle, Freddy – the only one less than thrilled to see him return.

Everyone who meets Basel loves him, Kudlak said, and everyone she tells about the past couple weeks is as awestruck as she is.

“He’s home,” Kudlak said. “I just can’t believe it.”

 

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