Beloved bird rescued

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

It was a long day for Brent and Cissy Darden, but it was especially tiring for their cold, hungry, blue-and-gold macaw. But Oct. 13 ended with a family reunion thanks to a local wild bird rehabilitator and his vertically-inclined associate.

The Darden family have been the proud owners of two macaws for about 13 months at their Suffolk home near the Franklin border, according to Brent Darden. They’re named Jasper and Curtis, after his and Cissy’s fathers.

Jasper is male, but Curtis is a female, which they only found out after she started laying eggs, Darden said. His lady bird has grown so accustomed to him that she’s often found on his shoulder with her harness on.

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“They’re awesome birds,” Darden said. “You’d be amazed at some of the stuff they try to do.”

But that became a problem when she was outside that day without her harness. Around 10 a.m., something spooked Curtis, and she immediately flew away from Darden and up into a tree.

She flew between four different trees that day, from late morning into the increasingly colder fall evening with predators on the prowl.

“I was really worried,” Darden said. “These birds can’t take a lot of cold temperatures, as well as the owls out there. Those great horned owls would have killed this bird.”

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries referred the Darden family to Tommy White, the director of director of Alton’s Keep Wildbird Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Suffolk and a certified wildlife rehabilitator. It was unusual in that White typically doesn’t handle such cases, but this was a special exception, he said.

“I heard his story and he was very upset about his bird, so I told him I’d come over and take a look,” White said.

Curtis was resting on a branch about 100 feet up a pine tree in the dark. The bird had been flying back and forth across Route 58, with traffic still cruising by in the night.

White called rescue climber Ricky Whisonant, and with a climbing deer stand, Whisonant scaled the tree adjacent to Curtis. Lights were kept shining on the bird to prevent her from seeing Whisonant and getting spooked yet again.

“It was a one in a million shot to get that bird,” White said.

But the team got lucky that evening. Curtis was safely netted and brought back down to the Dardens. She was red in the face and hungry but otherwise OK, White said.

Darden fed Curtis, and the bird refused to leave his side, he said.

“She immediately went inside, started eating and drinking and was right back on me. She did not want to get off of me for days,” he said.

She was even friendly when Whisonant made his approach. According to Darden, she said two words: “hello” and “Aflac.” Both of the birds have been parroting the insurance company’s commercial for months, he said.

“I believe the commercial was on television, because they sound just like the commercial,” he said.