A cockatiel's lucky landing ends cross-country caper
What started as seemingly harmless hitchhiking turned into a perilous flight from Aquinnah to Lambert's Cove, followed by a fortunate rescue for a 12-year-old cockatiel named Crystal.
The all-white cockatiel with brown eyes, nicknamed Cryssy by owner Lauri Bradway, likes nothing better than riding around on someone's shoulder. On May 28, Ms. Bradway's friend who was visiting from Las Vegas forgot she had the avian hitchhiker onboard and walked outside. Seizing the opportunity to spread her wings, Cryssy took to the skies. A neighbor saw her circle around his house, screeching and trying to make a safe landing, but he had his dog in the car, whose barking scared her away.
Most cockatiels, the smallest of the Australian cockatoo family, are gray with yellow head-feathers. Ms. Bradway feared Cryssy's unusual bright white plumage would make her a standout appetizer for predators such as hawks, ospreys, or a visiting juvenile bald eagle she heard was in the area. The hand-fed, hand-raised, sweet-natured bird that Ms. Bradway describes as "a little princess" had left behind her world of readily available bird and people food for the dense Island woodland terrain filled with many plant species toxic to her, including pine needles. A touch of moonlight had to substitute for the nightlight Cryssy was used to in her room at home.
Christen Cutter offers reassurance to the weary and hungry cockatiel after her three-day Island flight. Photo by Kelley DeBettencourt
Ms. Bradway and her friend Kathy Proulx, who also loves and owns cockatiels, put up flyers about Cryssy's disappearance all over the Island. A few people called to tell Ms. Bradway Cryssy had been found, but it turned out to be a gray one that had been lost a week earlier.
On May 31, Mary Ann O'Connell and her crew from O'Connell Painting were working on a house near the ocean at the lower end of Lambert's Cove Road when Cryssy flew down and landed near Christen Cutter and Darque Olivera, who spoke soothingly to her and coaxed her to stay.
They urged Ms. O'Connell to call Tisbury Animal Control Officer (ACO) Laurie Clements, who arrived to find Cryssy sitting on the roof near Ms. Cutter and Ms. Olivera, sound asleep. After a few attempts by Ms. Clements to catch Cryssy in a net, she flew onto Ms. Olivera's shoulder and was then caught.
Ms. Clements placed her in a cage and headed to SBS to buy her some birdseed. "She was starving, the poor thing," Ms. Clements recalled. She grabbed a flyer about Cryssy posted at the front of the store, brought it back to her office, wrote "found" on it, and hung it on the back of her door. When Ms. Bradway arrived to pick Cryssy up, she found her sitting on the shoulder of West Tisbury ACO Joan Jenkinson while she covered for Ms. Clements.
Depending on how the crow, or rather the cockatiel, flies, Ms. Bradway said she figured her bird traveled about 18 miles. After her bird's misadventure, she made the difficult decision to have Ms. Clements clip Cryssy's wings. "Because she was full-feathered, she got away," Ms. Bradway said. "If she had been clipped, she would have landed only a short distance away. You like to see them fly free, but you don't want to see them get hurt."
Cryssy arrived home just in time, before a rainstorm with thunder and lightning hit the Island. Ms. Bradway, ecstatic about her feathered friend's return, took Ms. Clements two big boxes of Chilmark chocolates and a crisp $50 bill for a reward and asked her to split both with the O'Connell painting crew. Ms. O'Connell said last week they plan to treat themselves to an extra nice coffee break with their money, and made short work of the chocolates.
In the meantime, Cryssy is back to her life of pampering from Ms. Bradway, who also has four other cockatiels, all rescued from people who no longer wanted them. She plans to write and illustrate a children's book about Cryssy's cross-country flight, in-between her jobs as a beach attendant at Philbin Beach and a bathroom attendant at Aquinnah.
"Everybody has been asking if I got Cryssy back, and everywhere I go, everybody has been extending the hand of friendship and warmth," Ms. Bradway said last week. "What a community to live in - they know how much it would hurt to lose a pet and are so empathetic. I've been here 20 years, and it just never fails to amaze me how the people pull together and care about one another."