Remember back when I wrote a few of my columns about Lucy, the leucistic hummingbird? I can’t believe it was three years ago already. Lucy vanished from the neighbhourhood at some point years ago and although it was a wild bird, I had hoped she’d stick around.
Recently, however, a little white bird did end up back at its home with the help of a few humans, after six days of being on the lam.
Maple Bay’s Chris Young said the family cockatiel Lacy, (not to be confused with Lucy the wild hummingbird) took off on a six-day adventure. Unbelievably, they got the bird back.
“The reason I found it so amazing was the local valley and neighbourhood network social media platforms; that’s the only reason we got Lacy back,” Young said. “There would have been no way [otherwise]. People need to sign up for these things. They need to use social media for how great it can be to leverage information quickly at the press of a button.”
Lacy, who is often permitted to fly free inside the house, escaped through an open screen door on July 28 while Young was out watering.
“It was like a flash of lightning. She busted past my head and she was gone. She flew up into the Cowichan Valley blue yonder hundreds of feet into the air, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “And I’m just standing there going ‘Oh boy, this is not good!’ She was gone. I’m looking at her fly away going: ‘This is it, I’ll never see her again’ and it’s not even my bird, it’s my son’s bird!”
The first thing the distraught dad did was post the information to the Maple Bay-area neighbourhood group social media pages he’s part of. The community took it from there.
“I just started getting all of these responses and it kept on going and there were hundreds of people looking at it and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing.’”
Days went by but, according to social media, Lacy had been sighted so there was still a speck of hope.
“A pure white cockatiel sort of stands out in the wild, you know?” Young said.
With continued chatter online about his missing feathered friend, Young realized how amazing social networking can be — if it’s used for good.
“There’s a platform here where I pressed a button and all of a sudden everyone’s aware of what’s going on with our little bird,” he said. “Then all of a sudden she gets found.”
It took six days, and poor Lacy was not doing all that well, but she was found alive, a mile-and-a-half away from home, by a nice family who’d been part of the, Young estimated, “500 eyes” keeping an eye out for her.
“People need to join these groups that are local. They’re not trashy bulletin board talks, they’re ways to get to people in a click of a button. We would never have seen that bird again. There’s just no way,” Young said. “Join these things. If there was a missing child or something goes wrong that’s worse than our little white bird…people have to realize how powerful these little local chats are and what a difference they can make for even greater things.”
He said membership in these online groups is only increasing.
“Those platforms are expanding and they’re critical to the safety of our kids and our valley,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to it a little bit.”
Young thanked everyone who played a role in finding his son’s bird — especially the family that found her.
“They found her on her last legs,” he said.
Young said his research shows domesticated birds usually last just two days outside their homes.
“They don’t have any mechanisms to survive in the wild,” he said. “The biggest thing is water. They don’t find water because they don’t know how to do it really.”
Now she’s safe, Young has let himself imagine what life must have been like for Lacy out in the wild.
“She survived in the world of predators,” he said. “She must have dodged Cooper’s hawks and Peregrine Falcons and she would have stood out like a sore thumb and somehow she survived.”
I hope the same can be said for my Lucy, wherever (s)he is.
And, from following so many neighbourhood groups in search of “good news” stories to tell, I can attest to the usefulness and practicality of some social media neighbourhood groups. While some are just NIMBYs and full of negative talk, I’ve witnessed others work together to round up horses, pigs, find dogs, return prescription glasses, raise money, reunite kids with lost stuffies and more.
Growing up, my mom used to send us out with a warning that she had eyes all over town so if we were up to no good, somebody would let her know.
I know it’s not the same but it’s kind of nice to know that those eyes, however digital, are still on the lookout when folks need a helping hand.