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Article updated: 12/7/2012 7:04 PM

Lombard cockatiel survives 3-day MIA adventure

After Tango flew away, a lot of luck brought him back to his Lombard home

By Marie Wilson

Consider the adventure of Tango, the skateboarding cockatiel.

The pet of Frank and Kim Alonso of Lombard flew away Thanksgiving morning, got stuck in a handful of trees, was chased by a hawk and braved temperatures much colder than ideal before being warmed and cared for by a woman from Minneapolis staying at Lombard's Westin Hotel and reunited with his owners.

"It was a lot of one-in-a-million shots bundled into one," Frank Alonso, 24, said about the circumstances that allowed him and his wife to get their bird back. "When we got him back, it was like seeing a ghost."

Tango, who weighs only about 88 grams, flew out a balcony window of the Alonsos' third-floor condo and was whisked away by the wind. A neighbor helped Frank check for Tango on the roof, but the bird was nowhere to be found.

The couple quickly posted fliers about their missing bird, then mobilized family members to continue searching for him. Tango was spotted in three trees, but the Alonsos, along with Kim's father and sister, could not rein him in, even with a net, a pole, a ladder, duct tape and some of Tango's favorite food.

Then came the hawk.

"When he got chased away by the hawk, that was the last we saw of him," Alonso said. "We didn't know if he was alive or dead."

It was a long Thanksgiving weekend for the Alonsos, whose thoughts turned from hopeful to doubtful as time went by.

"My hopes were on Friday that he had found someplace warm and was OK," said Kim Alonso, also 24. "By Saturday, I thought it would be a miracle if someone found him."

Tango's owners didn't know it, but by Friday afternoon, their bird was somewhere warm, in the care of longtime bird owner Julie Bowman of Minneapolis at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center.

Bowman said she entered the hotel lobby and found a group of people crowded around a small, weary cockatiel.

"His wings were all tucked in and he didn't look so hot," Bowman said.

Hotel staff members told her the bird had been found in the parking lot. When they realized Bowman knew how to care for such an animal, she said they let her keep the cockatiel, and offered a box, a cup for water, a hangar to serve as a perch and any other help she might need.

It took almost two hours before Tango perked up from his nearly frozen state, Bowman said.

"I held him against my chest and tried to warm him up," she said. "He did not want to leave the side of a human. I don't think he wanted to leave home."

Cockatiels are native to Australia, and Alonso said they don't like weather below 45 degrees. The Friday after Thanksgiving brought blustery and temperatures in the 30s as a cold front settled in.

Once Tango warmed up, Bowman brought him along to the science fiction convention she was attending at the hotel. She explained the story of the lost bird to everyone she met until one account helped connect the dots.

A woman Bowman met in an elevator had seen one of the fliers the Alonsos posted. She dialed the couple's number and gave them a rush of relief.

"If she hadn't pieced it together, he would have been safe but living in Minneapolis," Frank said.

"He would have been in a good home but we never would have known," Kim added.

By the time the Alonsos contacted Bowman, it was Sunday afternoon -- three days after Tango's adventure began -- and Bowman was more than two hours away from Lombard. Arrangements were made for the bird to be temporarily housed with an animal control agency in Rockford until the couple could pick him up.

"I would have liked to keep him, but he wasn't mine," Bowman said. "I had lost one myself that flew out a door, so I know what it's like."

A few weeks after his narrow escape from a hawk and cold weather, Tango has regained the few grams he lost during the episode, his owners say. He's back to his usual tricks -- including gliding along on a mini skateboard Frank bought from Toys 'R' Us -- only under a slightly more watchful eye.

Kim Alonso said she plans on keeping Tango's wings clipped so he won't fly away again, and Frank offered another piece of advice for fellow bird owners, especially those who lose their pet.

"Putting up fliers seems like one of those really old methods, but it works," he said. "Stay hopeful because there's always a chance they can come back."

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