It was the Christmas adventure that had the Riverina’s social media all aflutter and Wagga residents keeping an eye on the sky in the hope of spotting an escaped South American parrot.
The drama began on Christmas Day when veteran parrot and dog trainer Carmen McGill discovered that Ares, a stunning blue and gold macaw, had escaped.
“I have two macaws: Miranda is the female that I rehabilitated from a very bad situation and Ares is her mate,” Carmen explained.
“They have their aviary, but every day they come out and spend some time in their big free-flight area.
“Ares decided that when I ducked inside to grab something it was his opportunity to chew a hole in one of the corners of the free flight.”
Returning just in time to spot the arrant adventurer soaring south from his Kooringal home, Carmen and the family set out in pursuit and issued an SOS across Wagga’s social media platforms.
“It was around lunchtime on Christmas Day and a big storm had just hit, so we were driving around and calling out because he knows his name and he does fly down to me,” Carmen said.
“It was amazing on Facebook because everyone shared the post and I had a lot of people commenting and trying to keep an eye out.”
As the storm eased off, they could hear the parrot calling out in distress and managed to find him in a nearby tree.
“He was in a big tree up the top and we couldn’t get him because he was just too frightened to come down,” Carmen recalled.
“Most of Christmas afternoon I was on the roof of my house trying to call him down but he flew to another tree at the school and no-one could climb up to him.”
As evening fell and Ares again took flight, he was tracked to another tree on the other side of Lake Albert Road, where Carmen waited with him until dark and returned early the next morning.
“He was still there and at one point he was saying, ‘Come on, let’s go’ because he can talk, but then some magpies attacked him and we lost sight of him, so that for the rest of Boxing Day we didn’t know where he was.
“We realised that we only had the public to let us know and that’s exactly what happened, we got a call and they said he’s here in our tree.”
By mid-morning on the 27th, Ares had been located in Tolland Heights, and this time Carmen thought his chosen tree was worth taking a crack at.
“It was only a 15-metre ghost gum and I’ve climbed trees since I was a child, so I’m pretty good at it,” she said with a laugh.
“The lovely gentleman that rang us got a ladder out and I climbed up and I just slowly lured him down with some of his favourite treats.
“When he finally came down and I had him on my hand, I realised – ‘Oh, my goodness. I’ve only got one arm now to climb back down the tree!”
Fortunately, Carmen and Ares made it safely back to earth and the pair were relieved to be reunited.
“When he got home, Miranda was a bit cranky at him because he wasn’t around, which was quite funny, but he was just very tired and worn out and dehydrated,” Carmen said, adding a heartfelt thanks to the community that aided in the search.
“I just want to thank everyone that helped, and for all the amazing messages they sent when they did find that he was back.
“People were so kind and caring and just wanted to help.”