Constable: Hoping pet bird in sky isn't needle in a haystack
Losing a pet during normal times can be stressful. Losing a pet cockatiel as the suburbs grapple with COVID-19 restrictions adds another degree of difficulty, with fewer people out and about, and not everybody willing to engage in conversations with a stranger looking for a bird.
But Jacob Fennell, 25, of Rolling Meadows clings to the hope that he and his cockatiel will be reunited soon. Named "Digi" after the didgeridoo wind instrument invented by the Aboriginal people of Australia, the small Australian parrot is outside on his own for the first time in his life.
"We love him very much and are extremely sad that he is missing!" reads the posters Fennell has been attaching to light posts and handing to people when possible.
While Fennell, his mom and stepfather have been careful to always close the door when they leave the house, Digi's escape was the result of bad timing as the stepfather was leaving the house about 5 p.m. Saturday.
"He hopped on his shoulder as he was stepping outside," Fennell says of his pet.
While the stepfather tried to step inside and close the door, Digi panicked and flew outside, says Fennell, who lives near the intersection of South Street and Oriole Lane, just east of Kimball Hill Park.
"I sprinted outside and saw Digi in a tree," he says. "I hopped over a fence to get close to him. We were whistling and calling his name. He was chirping back at us. At one point, he flew back toward us, but he seemed to have trouble flying in the wind."
They tried to coax him back into his cage with chips and goodies. A couple of hours later, Fennell lost sight of his bird, and Digi no longer answered his whistles.
Fennell leaves the bird's cage out with food and has reported his missing pet on Facebook and social media sites dedicated to lost pets. "It's been pretty heartwarming," Fennell says of the reactions to his posts. "There are some avid bird-watchers in the neighborhood who have been keeping an eye out."
About the size of a robin, the grayish-white bird sports a yellow crest and orange cheeks. Fennell bought the bird nine years ago.
"Growing up, I was always asking for dogs and cats," Fennell says, adding his mother nixed that idea because of her allergies. She let him have a parakeet, which he named Chocobo, after the bird character from the Final Fantasy video game series. After Chocobo died, Fennell wanted a cockatiel.
"I found him on Craigslist," remembers Fennell, who bought the bird from a breeder.
Digi generally stays in a cage in Fennell's bedroom. "But if I'm home, he's out," Fennell says. "He was totally free to fly around the house."
The bird isn't house-trained but generally sticks to a couple of areas, where Fennell would clean up the droppings.
"You get used to it as a bird owner," he says. "He has his area."
As with most cockatiels, Digi likes to be in direct contact with humans, often perching on Fennell's shoulder.
"It's fun to have a little companion," Fennell says, explaining how he taught Digi to say a few words. "He doesn't have a large vocabulary, but he knows how to say his name, 'Pretty Boy,' 'Hello,' and he did whistles, like the catcall whistle."
Fennell took time office from his job as a warehouse manager for Blue Apex in Palatine to look for his bird and hang posters. .
"He's never had much interest in getting out," Fennell says. "I had brought him outside in his cage on the patio. While he liked it, he was also in an alert mode, looking out for predators."
It might seem like a longshot, but Fennell says he believes Digi fly home or someone will find the bird and return him.
"The kicker, too, is Sunday was his birthday," Fennell says. "That's an extra punch in the stomach."