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    A Guide To Safely Catching Birds For Your Animal Sanctuary Or Rescue Part III: How Bird Type Or Species Can Impact Your Plans

    An image of two white domesticated geese standing in front of two grey domesticated geese, with a Canada goose in the background.
    What species and type of bird you are trying to catch can have a big impact on your plans. In this image you can see multiple types of domesticated geese, as well as a wild goose. To learn more about the kinds of things you would have to consider in this scenario, read on! Photo by Josie Weiss on Unsplash

    This Resource Is Part Of A Series!
    This resource and its associated infographic are part of a series meant to assist you with the many considerations you may encounter when it comes to loose birds in need of rescue.

    For Part I, Supplies Helpful For The Safe Capture Of Birds, click here.
    For Part II, Planning For The Site And Strategizing Timing, click here.
    For Part IV, Capture And Handling, click here.


    It’s always important to remember the general abilities and characteristics of the birds you are trying to capture. As mentioned in Part I of this series, every bird is an individual. With that being said, certain elements may change your approach to birds in need of rescue, depending on their type, abilities, and relationships with humans to date. You may not always be able to have the answers to these questions in advance. However, knowing the essential differences between different breeds of birds and how different backgrounds may impact their interactions with would-be rescuers can help you in your rescue preparations and efforts.

    Catching Wildlife
    Please keep in mind the unique considerations associated with wildlife rescue, including legal restrictions. To learn more about wildlife and the issues (legal and otherwise) that may accompany rescues of these animals, please check out our in-depth resource found here. Also, consider differences in how you approach “feral” birds versus those who have primarily lived with humans and are accustomed to their presence. To learn more about the differences between wild, feral, and domesticated birds, you can check out our resource here.

    Size And Strength Considerations

    In general, catching a goose will require much more strength, planning, and likely more people than catching a quail. Remember again, however, that every bird and situation is unique! If the goose is disabled and ill, they may be much easier to catch than a fully flighted quail like a bobwhite! However, keeping in mind that larger, stronger birds are generally more capable of causing accidental harm or damage to rescuers is vital to keep everyone safe!

    Getting calls to catch larger birds, especially those with significant wing strength like geese, peafowl, or muscovy ducks, or bite strength like large parrots, means that you should assemble a bigger team if possible, and also consider having people who are experienced with techniques like toweling (discussed further below.) You also may want to ensure you have a sturdy and large carrier that can accommodate a bird of this size and strength and secure them inside as quickly as possible.

    With smaller birds, you can potentially get away with a smaller team (unless they are flighted and perching in high areas) but you will want a team who understands that smaller birds are very delicate and who have experience with the gentle touch that they require.

    “Non-Flighted Bird” Rescue

    The kinds of “non-flighted” birds that you may encounter who need rescue may include (but are not limited to) certain large breeds of chickens, domesticated large breed turkeys, some domesticated quails, domesticated large breed ducks, ratites (ostriches and emus), as well as certain highly domesticated species of pigeons such as King Pigeons, whose flight may be more limited due to their size. 

    Remember that even though these birds are typically considered to be non-flighted, some may have some ability to fly, at least enough to make it complicated. Do not assume that this will be an easy catch just because you got a call about a chicken! Even when it comes to large breed turkeys, while adults may not be able to fly very high, poults can reach pretty remarkable heights!

    An image of an urban setting. On top of a building a rooster is standing.
    This bird pictured on the top of a building (to which he flew from the ground) is a game rooster. Lighter birds, like game birds, can fly fairly well, so it is important to avoid making generalized assumptions about species and their flight abilities. Some chickens can fly better than others. Multiple rescuers attempted to catch this bird during the day and had no luck. He simply flew beyond their reach and laughed at them. He was ultimately captured after community members identified his sleeping spot, and rescuers were able to herd him with netting and corner him in an alley at night when he couldn’t see well enough to escape. He is now named Fuego and safely lives his life in a microsanctuary.

    “Less flighted” may be a more appropriate term for these kinds of birds, and it may apply more to specific subsections of these species. For example, “less flighted birds” such as large breed domesticated chickens (like Cornish Crosses), large breed domesticated turkeys (like broad-breasted), or large breed domesticated ducks (like Pekins) may be a far easier catch than a lot of other birds. In addition, these types of birds tend to be highly food motivated, and as a result, you may simply be able to lure them to you with food and then net them or even just pick them up. If you are working on capturing these birds and using food to lure them, remember that bread is never an appropriate treat for them. Instead, use healthier options like peas or the proper food for the species. 

    Flighted Bird Rescue

    The kinds of flighted birds that you may encounter who need rescue may include (but are not limited to) non-domesticated but formerly captive game birds such as bobwhite quails, chukars, pheasants, guinea fowl, peafowl, non-large breed turkeys, pigeons who were raised for “racing” or “dove releases,” and parrots (discussed at some greater length below.) 

    These kinds of birds often require a more significant amount of planning and consideration to capture unless they are injured and cannot fly, in which case the task will be easier. In the case of fully flighted birds like these, you will want to aim to try and capture the birds at night when they are perched and sleeping, but the likely complication you may encounter is that their perching spot is high and out of reach. If you cannot find and herd the birds into an ideal capture site like a barn, garage, or area where birds can be cornered (discussed in Part II of this series), you may have to use some additional tools. This is where step stools and ladders can come in handy, but again, ensure that you have rescue buddies who can help ensure the stability of your ladders.

    Telescoping, long-reaching nets can be handy here. Rescuers have managed to “sandwich” high-perching birds between two long nets and gently bop them off their perch into one of the nets. This strategy can be effective but requires a significant amount of calm, strength, and steadiness. You’ll also need to be able to coordinate quietly and keep very calm in order to avoid waking the bird! Keep in mind that the bird will likely panic and may become entangled in the net, and must be quickly de-tangled and secured in a carrier as soon as possible. You will also want to plan to have appropriately sized nets for the kind of bird that you are trying to capture. 

    An image of a parrot roosting on a branch at night. Underneath the parrot is a person standing on a step stool. On either side, two other people are holding up nets to sandwich the bird between them. On the side is carrier for the bird and another person holding a towel.
    This illustration shows how you might be able to capture a flighted bird in a higher perching spot at night. Using a team, you can use two people to “sandwich” the bird between nets while a third person on a step stool is prepared to guide the bird into the net and help secure them. A fourth person is prepared with a towel and carrier.

    Waterfowl Rescue

    We’ve discussed some of the considerations involved in waterfowl rescue in Part II of this series. You should also consider all of what we’ve discussed regarding bird size, strength, and type when planning a water rescue. Specifically, in this context, a team of multiple people is very helpful, as is ensuring that everyone using watercraft and waders is well trained.

    What else is helpful when it comes to rescuing waterfowl? Decoys, mentioned in Part I of this series, can prove helpful to lure waterfowl to a particular pond area where capture may be easier! Also, look at the following diagram: Again, slow and steady wins the race. If you can gently shoo a bird on the water into a closer and more confined area, you will have better luck catching them. In the below illustration, a kayak is used in deeper water with a net to shoo the goose into shallower water, where rescuers in waders are waiting quietly with nets. Patience is vital in these situations. As much as you might want to catch a bird as quickly as possible, if you rush them, you are more likely to scare them and cause them trauma, making second and third attempts at capturing them much more difficult. 

    Note the use of traffic triangles, the fact that the rescuer near the road is wearing a safety vest, and the appropriately-sized carrier closely available. This way, upon capture, the goose can be secured inside of it as quickly as possible.

    An image of a pond by a road. By the road, a car is pulled over with traffic triangles set in front of it. Behind the car is a rescuer in a neon traffic vest with reflective tape, and a carrier. On the pond is a goose. A kayaker with a net is gently paddling behindd the goose to herd them to a more shallow area, where two more rescuers in waders are waiting with nets to capture the goose.
    While we always encourage bringing a buddy when it comes to rescuing stray birds, in the case of trying to capture waterfowl on the water, you will need a larger team. In this example, a kayaker navigates deeper water with a net to gently herd a goose towards the narrower part of a pond and toward rescuers in waders with nets. Another rescuer waits on shore with a large carrier prepared. Teamwork is critical in waterfowl rescue, and so is safety! 

    As mentioned above, keeping the type of waterfowl you are trying to catch in mind is helpful. If you are trying to capture a Pekin duck, who generally will have much more limited flight abilities and a high drive for food, you may be able to do this simply by luring them with duck-appropriate food. However, species like Muscovy ducks, geese, and swans may be much more difficult due to their large size and strength. Muscovy ducks also have powerful claws, which you must look out for. Safely securing wings close to the body as quickly as possible is critical because these birds have significant strength in their wings and can easily cause blunt force trauma to a rescuer should they not be held tightly. Again remember that there is a balance here! Too much pressure can cause injury to the bird as well as inhibit their ability to breathe! Also, remember that long-necked birds like geese and swans can bite, so gently securing their heads can help prevent injuries to rescuers.

    Parrot Rescue

    If your animal organization rescues birds, you may even encounter calls to capture large and small parrots needing rescue! These can be particularly challenging rescues. Parrots, unless their wings have been clipped, fly very well and have a lot of built-in self-defense mechanisms such as large beaks, strong feet and sharp claws. This is especially true if they are larger birds like cockatoos and macaws. If you do get a call about a parrot rescue, it should generally be considered an emergency because, in most settings, their bright colors and unfamiliarity with their environment put them at high risk for predation and other harm. 

    There is one exception to this general rule. Keep in mind that in some areas in the United States, certain species of parrots have established themselves as permanent feral residents, much as pigeons and other non-native birds have! As unfamiliar as these birds may look when you encounter them, they may well be doing just fine and may not require your assistance! Quaker parrots (also sometimes known as Monk parakeets) are the primary species that people encounter in this context. Quakers hail from South America but have naturalized themselves to many environments in the United States. For a little Quaker mythology you can check out this resource!

    An image of a small green and grey parrot standing on a branch.
    Quaker parrots are small green birds who have naturalized themselves to environments across the United States after escaping from homes where they were kept as “pets,” and other circumstances! As unusual as they may seem, they may not require your intervention! You will need to observe and assess to determine what to do. Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

    If you encounter a Quaker, first do a quick visual check of the bird. Can they easily fly away from you? On visual inspection, do they look like they are in good shape? Then check the surrounding area. If you see other Quakers in the environment, this bird may be a part of the colony. If they are not easily caught, fly well, and look to be in good condition, it is likely best to let them be. As social birds, Quakers do enjoy engaging with humans from time to time, even if they are feral birds. Healthy feral Quakers have even been known to learn human speech and engage in conversations with humans nearby!

    This does not mean that Quakers do not, at times, require assistance. Sometimes former “pet” Quakers are dumped near feral colonies, and may be rejected by the colony and need human intervention. Also, in some urban settings where Quakers live freely, they may have created nests in locations like utility poles, and at times municipalities and utilities will cut these nests down. In these contexts, they require help, as well as when a nest has fallen and the nestlings are at risk. But in such cases, it is likely better to follow protocols that apply to wildlife, so consulting a skilled wildlife rehabber is your best option.

    In virtually all cases that involve large parrots such as macaws, cockatoos, Amazons, or African Greys, or small birds such as budgies or cockatiels, assistance from folks skilled with parrot handling is likely required. The main thing to keep in mind here, in addition to the considerations mentioned above about flighted birds, is that large parrots have powerful beaks and bite strength: a large parrot can easily bite through a finger! Therefore if you do not have experience with this kind of bird, you should seek assistance from those who do as quickly as possible. Toweling is a technique that can help mitigate injury but should only be attempted by those with experience. (To read more about toweling check out Part IV of this series!) 

    While macaws may seem to be the most intimidating parrot due to their beak size, birds with longer necks, like cockatoos, can easily crane their necks about and bite rescuers very hard with their double edged bottom beaks and cause significant injury. With regards to smaller birds like budgies and cockatiels, they may not be able to inflict as much injury as a larger bird, but their bodies are very delicate, and you can easily cause them significant harm if you do not know how to properly handle them when they give you a pinch with their beaks.

    In many cases with these kinds of parrots, they are escaped “pets.” Therefore it can be helpful to look through neighborhood group posts where birds are found, social media lost bird groups, and talk to local avian veterinarians to see if anyone has reported a lost parrot. If so, you are best off contacting the “owner” so they can aid in capture, as they will likely best know their bird’s language and favorite treats to lure them. Reserving judgment on how the parrot escaped and working with “owners” can help secure the bird safely faster.

    Remember The Legal Questions That Are Associated With Escapee Cases!
    While this advice applies to all birds you may find as strays, it particularly applies to “expensive” or “valuable” birds such as parrots. In cases of roosters found in contexts like forest preserves, you will likely never encounter an “owner” willing to reclaim them. But sadly, with certain kinds of birds, you may encounter situations where people claim the bird as “theirs.” For more on the legal issues associated with these situations, you can check out our resource on cruelty cases, seizures, and escapees here!


    We hope that this list of things to consider when it comes to different bird types who might need rescue can help keep you, your team, and the birds safe! To learn even more about how you can safely capture stray birds, please read on to Part IV: Capture And Handling. For a quick infographic reference regarding bird type and species considerations, you can find that below!


    Considering Species Bird Catching by Julia Magnus

    Click Here For A Text Description Of The Infographic!
    Title: Considering Type And Species When Catching Stray Birds

    Subheadder: Consider Size And Strength
    Image: A large turkey is overlooking three small turkey poults.
    Bullet Points:
    -Every bird and situation is unique.
    -Larger stronger birds may require a larger team.
    -Remember to work under the guidance of licensed rehabbers for wildlife.

    Subheader: “Non-Flighted” Birds
    Image: An image of a chicken hen.
    Bullet Points:
    -Even birds commonly considered to be “non-flighted” may have some flight abilities.
    -Large breed birds may be highly food motivated, so using bird healthy treats to lure them can help!

    Subheader: Flighted Birdds
    Image: A pigeon flying.
    Bullet Points:
    -Catching all birds is easier at night, but especially flighted birds.
    -Try and guide birds into an enclosure and wait for them to perch and sleep before capturing.
    -Multiple rescuers help in this situation

    Subheader: Waterfowl
    Image: An image of a goose.
    Bullet Points:
    -Multiple rescuers are likely necessary.
    -Ensure anyone using watercraft or wadders are skilled in their use.
    -Be cognizant of water quality and make sure rescuers take measures to protect themselves.

    Subheader: Parrots
    Image: An image of a parrot perching
    Bullet points:
    -Take special precautions to protect yourself from strong beaks and claws.
    -Reach out to the community to see if the bird is an escaped companion.
    -Be aware of “feral” parrots like Quakers.


    A Guide To Safely Catching Stray Birds For Your Animal Sanctuary Or Rescue Part I: Supplies Helpful For The Safe Capture Of Birds

    A Guide To Safely Catching Stray Birds For Your Animal Sanctuary Or Rescue Part II: Planning For The Site And Strategizing Timing

    A Guide To Safely Catching Stray Birds For Your Animal Sanctuary Or Rescue Part IV: Capture And Handling

    What Does It Mean For Each Animal Sanctuary Resident To Be An Individual? | The Open Sanctuary Project 

    Managing Requests To Take In And Help An Animal Outside The Scope Of Your Sanctuary’s Mission | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Domesticated, Feral, Or Wild: What’s The Difference? | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Domesticated, Feral, Or Wild: What’s The Difference? | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Introduction To Rooster Behavior Part I: Dismantling Rooster Stigma | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Large Breed Chicken Considerations | The Open Sanctuary Project 

    Large Breed Turkey Considerations | The Open Sanctuary Project 

    Chukars: How We Got Here | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Peafowl: How We Got Here | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Pigeons: How We Got Here | The Open Sanctuary Project 

    Introductory Care Topics For Ostriches | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Introductory Care Topics For Emus | The Open Sanctuary Project  

    Techniques And Practices Necessary For Responsible Parrot Care | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Managing Cruelty, Seizure, and Escapee Cases At Your Sanctuary Or Rescue | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Escaped Pet Parrots Are Now Naturalized In 23 U.S. States | UChicago Medicine

    The Monk Parakeet: A Jailbird Who Made Good | Audubon

    Lost Parrot Emergency Guide: How To Find And Catch An Escaped Parrot | Here Bird (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Non-Compassionate Source?

    If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

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