There are few things as heart-wrenching as watching your parrot fly away, out of reach and out of sight. This is followed by days, weeks, even months of worry and self-blame and dead-end leads.
Twenty years ago people posted notices of their lost birds on Internet forums, but it was a scattergun approach. With a lost animal, timing is crucial. Owners were wasting time posting everywhere they could think of rather than being outside looking for their bird.
Owners were also posting locations that could border different counties, states, and even countries. If they lived on the border of England and Scotland, or the USA and Canada, there was no way to search across borders.
Neil Rutherford, an information technology guy in the UK for more than 20 years, also used forums back then and noticed that posts for lost birds looked hopeless. He began to investigate what was available for the UK and found that what was available was very restrictive and not searchable.
In typical IT fashion, Rutherford began to design a prototype for an effective lost and found system. How far from a given location was a point on a visual map? What birds were currently missing X-miles or kilometers from that point? There would need to be a way to alert folks via email as well.
“The idea was to build a lost and found reporting and alerting system that socializes lost and found via a community of eyes and ears,” according to Rutherford. “It was built based on the direction the crow flies and a visual mapping system.”
Thus, ParrotAlert.com, an advanced global geographical lost, stolen, and found parrot reporting and alerting site, was launched in November 2010 as an effective prototype. Rutherford says it is still an effective prototype and will be undergoing a complete rewrite shortly.
ParrotAlert.com uses mapping technology to help you report the precise lost or stolen location of your feathered friend and alerts a registered community within the area of your lost/stolen location.
It cross posts to Facebook (respective country groups), Twitter, emails to members within the reporting area, as reports are searchable via Google, Bing, etc. All reports also generate high-visibility PDF printable flyers to help with your off-line search.
While Rutherford is based in the UK, ParrotAlert.com is currently hosted in the US and operates across several countries (Australia, Canada, UK, South Africa, USA, Greece, and a few more). Volunteers help in Australia and UK.
ParrotAlert.com has nearly 16,000 members worldwide: 5,819 of those in the US. Since its beginning 3,270 birds have been reported lost, 55 reported stolen, and 1,869 reported found. ParrotAlert.com receives an average of 255 lost reports a month, with an average of 140 found (seeking owner) reports a month.
The site relies on donations, which can be made via PayPal.
Besides the struggle for consistent funding, Rutherford said, “We have a problem with people failing to notify us of reunites, which is why we still have so many old reports open. Months to years later we get emails saying to close the report with no further information given. We are going to address that soon by adding a report follow-up feature to ParrotAlert.com. Based on what we do know, it’s around the 10% mark for the past 12 months, compared to about 2% back in 2011.
We have liaised with other groups, but generally, as our system is accessible to all, lots of other groups and services use it directly to contact people. There are services that won’t let you contact the reporter and it must be communicated via them. We’re a peer-to-peer service and we place no restrictions. We have a lot of veterinarians using and monitoring our service.”
There are dozens of special stories about a lost and/or a reunited bird. Rutherford especially remembers a true case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in South Africa in the early days of ParrotAlert.com.
“The lady who found him on Thursday was at a friend’s house when she noticed a cat running with a “blue bird” in its MOUTH!!!! They managed to retrieve the bird, unscratched and completely intact. So she took him to a bird vet. This is where he was kept until today! She too also placed a report on ParrotAlert.com. A happy ending . . . I am so grateful as I was heading for depression! ”
Then there are emails from a grateful owners, like this one:
“Hello. Thank you so much for hosting the lost report. He showed up one mile away just over 24 hours later. He flew up to the 15th floor of a block of flats and tapped on the window with his beak! The man living there let him in and gave him some food. His daughter then Google’d (ParrotAlert.com) and found the posting you hosted for me with my phone number. She then promptly got in contact with me so he could be picked up. I will be forever grateful to your website. Thank you so much and keep up the good work. ”
In Australia a man offered to help a lady with a bird she had just found only to discover the bird was the bird he’d lost 12 month earlier.
Find out more about Parrot Alert at ParrotAlert.com.