For Australia…Evacuation With Birds

Posted by Bird Tricks on


I was made aware of the disastrous flood situation being suffered by so many in Australia by reader and concerned citizen, Mel Vincent.  She asked me to post on the subject of evacuation for those of you with birds and other pets. I had done a post several months ago on the subject and will link you to that.  I asked her if there was anything that could be added to my post to make it more relevant to your situation.  In addition to supplying this helpful link, her poignant reply was this:

“I guess if I’m to draw from a news story here the other day. A man nearly died trying to rescue his 200 birds. All of his birds died. While 200 is more than most people would be dealing with, one thing that he said just resonated with me. He couldn’t catch the birds. They were just too terrified as the situation unfolded. People don’t think about their pets reactions. In fear, a bird will bite so it pays to have a towel or something to grab them with, don’t anticipate that they’ll cooperate – assume they won’t.

The other main thing that we’re seeing in Australia is that people are tending to ignore evacuation warnings and put their emergency plans into action too late. People tend to think that they’re in a high area/they’re safe in the inner city. (Toowoomba is basically up a mountain so why would it flood? Brisbane is huge – the damn should protect them. The whole it has never happened before thing…) People have a tendency to change their minds and leave at the last second which is how so many end up sitting on their roof, being swept away in their cars. People don’t realize that a helicopter will not take the animals from their roof, the animals die.

The television news just told some areas of Brisbane to “GET OUT NOW. It’s worse than we predicted. You no longer have hours, don’t stop for possessions, just go, there’s a wall of water coming your way, you literally have seconds- go.”

That’s a terrible thing to hear on the news when hours ago they said be on alert. If I was there I’d have left hours ago. So maybe advise people to err on the side of caution? Act early? The worst thing that can happen if you put your emergency plan into action is you leave for no reason for a while. The worst thing that can happen if you don’t is that your animals die.

So I guess in a nutshell three things I’d add:

1) assume your animals won’t be cooperative and plan accordingly.

2) Don’t hesitate. Enact your emergency plan when the first warning comes out. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

3) Have two different emergency plans. The one where you have seconds (after all, anyone’s house can catch fire) and the one that you have time to evacuate properly (such as flood, bush fire, gas leak in area…)”

Please be safe and heed her advice.  We’re thinking about all of you…

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


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15 comments

  • I live in North Queensland where cyclone Yasi passed over and the first thing i thought about was my peach faces budgies and my conure. I cant understand how people become so relaxed when it comes to their pets. I made sure I had my birds into smaller cages early in the afternoon. THere was plenty of warning!!!! And plenty of time and if you dont have enough travel cages you can always hire from your local vet or pet stores.

    AManda on
  • Preparedness is SO important. As I often say to my students, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. Living in So Florida we always have to have our hurricane supplies on hand. Mine include four very small travel cages for the birds – maybe not comfy but certainly fast and lightweight. I keep them easily accessible in the bird room’s closet – no digging about in case of sudden evacuation.

    I also believe it is very important to get your birds accustomed to being toted out. Whenever I visit a feather-friendly friend, such as my daughter, I pop a bird in a carrier and away we go. Now they are never stressed out by a car trip, even a long one. It means they are going to get to go somewhere new and they don’t mind being cooped up for the trip. They get excited.

    In practice for an extremely sudden dash for safety, I will regularly stuff a bird into my shirt and go outside. The Meyer’s & the Caique even enjoy having their daily “snuggle” and I will often walk to the nearby drugstore with one of them safely bundled inside. (I call them my “bosom buddies”!) Of course, as soon as I enter the store, Inca has to pop out and wave Hi! to all he sees. Even my Cape tolerates this temporary confinement, although she much prefers my shoulder.

    Since I always have a large dog cage in my car, I could grab birds and toss them into the dog cage for momentary safety. My dogs are trained for the command “In the car!” and will bolt in the moment they hear it. My heart goes out to those who lost birds, dogs, horses, any companion animal. We must do whatever we can to be prepared for such terrible events.

    Lynn on
  • @Hester, I don’t think the helicopters had much choice. So many people were being pulled out by helicopter that they needed every inch of space and literally had no time. They had to make people the priority. I know one town had 300 people to get out by helicopter. They did take the animals when they could, but there were situations where they couldn’t even take all the humans in one go and they couldn’t be sure if the ones they’d left would still be alive when they got back.
    @Georgina, I should clarify, the wall of water that the News I was watching was referring to, was not the one that had hit Toowoomba. I didn’t mean to imply that Toowoomba residents had time to prepare for that specific scenario. You’re 100% right, their situation was very different to Ipswich and Brisbane. The ‘inland tsunami’ had well and truly hit Toowoomba by the time I sent that last message to Patty. The News listed Brisbane areas and said "Get out now’’ because they were unhelpfully panicking about the possibility of another wall of water hitting some areas of Brisbane. They were wrong as there wasn’t a literal wall from what I hear, but it was the point in time where the water rose to a point where road access to some areas was cut off and this happened earlier than they had predicted. I was saying that unlike Toowoomba, those areas had been warned, so it shouldn’t have got to that point.
    I was incredibly frustrated sharing info online to bird owners I know. Some of them had water in their yards (in Brisbane) and they were being told by authorities to evacuate. They still wouldn’t even consider packing up their birds because it was never going to happen… except it did.
    @anyone, it is definitely too late for some Aussies in these floods but the floods continue to spread and disasters crop up everywhere. They are saying that the flood water has to go somewhere, so at least part of it will continue to spread through the river systems.
    When I wrote that original email, I was in a comfortable house, sitting with a coffee, in Victoria – no thought of a flood threat. In contrast, on Friday my street was cut off by flood waters overflowing from a run off. (Effectively what is normally an empty concrete river/drain filled and overflowed in 30 mins). Luckily it receded as fast as it came and the result was only 2 houses with minor damage in the neighbouring street. Still, the road filled with fast flowing water very quickly. 15-30 mins more rising at that rate and I would have had water in my house. Ideally that’s the timeframe I’d need to comfortably pack up 7 parrots, 3 dogs, a cat and a sick grandmother with her dog as well.
    I live in the suburbs in an area that isn’t supposed to flood. Like in Toowoomba it just isn’t an area that you’d expect to deal with a flood emergency. I must stress that flood is the most unlikely thing that I should have to face. (Bushfire is likely considering the neighbouring reserve.) My area wasn’t even listed as one of the areas with a lot of rain on Friday. It was nothing compared to Qld (it was never going to be a climb-on-roof situation thank goodness) but still a shock to have to put my birds in evac. cages just in case I needed to leave. Who knew? The irony after writing that other post…
    I’m pleased to say 6/7 birds cooperated. The other isn’t hand trained (yet).
    Bright side, I got practice catching a bird with a pillowcase (hand in pillowcase, grab bird, turn pillowcase inside out over the bird, tie a knot and you have an angry bird in an impromptu travel case that they can breathe in.) I use them a lot in wildlife rescues (great for possums). I’ve always got at least one in my car. I also keep a stack near my aviaries. They are my ‘If I only have seconds and can’t carry six cages but can carry six pillowcases in one go’ plan. I can always empty the pillowcase contents into a cage later.
    I guess I just really want everyone to think and to not wait for a specific threat before you come up with a plan. I would have been so stressed on Friday if I hadn’t bought those evac cages in the past. I don’t want anyone to live with “If only I had…” running through their heads over and over. I’ve seen people do that and it’s truly awful.

    Mel Vincent on
  • You’re wrong that everyone thought they were safe. No one got a quick enough warning to evac & were pretty much left to the last minute to get out & the floods hit faster than were expected. Not everyone had a choice of evacuating in time.

    Hester,
    it isn’t as simple as heli just taking the animals off the roof. Just to let you know animals are being saved everywhere so what is cruel? the fact you think animals aren’t being saved because you haven’t seen that part on TV? And using a heli & a lot of time in planning some animals were actually saved. I would like to see you in that situation yourself & then say it’s cruel. The animals are getting as much help as everyone else but like humans, it’s unfortunate that some animals don’t survive, not cruel.

    ksf on
  • Patty, my heart goes out to you and everyone in Queensland – including the animals. I keep updated with the news to see if there is anything I can do to help (apart from donating money which I have already done). I cannot believe the sheer devastation of parts of your state. Let me know if I can be of help.

    Jan Cullen (Sydney, Australia) on

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