As if by a miracle, a woman found her exotic pet bird who flew away in New York City and landed on a stranger’s windowsill.
Lenah Alshowaiman, a PhD candidate at Columbia University, owns a 2-year-old African grey parrot named Zoya, an intelligent bird that can mimic human sound — Zoya says “good morning,” “massage” and “more.” When Alshowaiman leaves her apartment, Zoya even squawks, “peace out!”
“I’ve always wanted a bird instead of a dog or a cat,” Alshowaiman tells Yahoo Life. “Our relationship is about communication.”
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the pair have visited Riverside Park, with Zoya attached to her harness or in a carrier. However, on Monday, Alshowaiman spontaneously allowed Zoya to roam free on the grass. But after 20 minutes, an ambulance sped by and the siren startled Zoya. “She freaked out and flew directly into the trees,” says Alshowaiman. “I screamed and ran after her crying.”
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Alshowaiman searched the park for three hours until 9:30 p.m. The next morning, she returned at 5 a.m., where she spent six hours calling to Zoya. And in the afternoon, in between alerting missing pet groups on social media, she printed 500 fliers with Zoya’s information and posted them around town.
“[Knowing] this was my fault killed me,” Alshowaiman tells Yahoo Life. “I felt devastated and hopeless. But Zoya is not afraid of strangers and I thought she might land on someone’s shoulder when she wanted food.”
On Tuesday, Liz Franco, a mother of two in upper Manhattan, was on a business call when she heard commotion in her living room.
“One of my sons said, “There’s a bird on our windowsill’ so I ran out and saw a beautiful grey parrot,” Franco tells Yahoo Life. Having battled COVID-19 in recent days, she hesitated to get close, so her son fed the bird a strawberry and sunflower seeds.
The family tried to contain Zoya, unsuccessfully. “She wasn’t having it,” says Franco. Noting an identification band on the bird’s wrist with a series of numbers, Franco figured it was a pet, so she wrote a Facebook post asking to spread the word. Franco also called the Wild Bird Fund, her veterinarian and a local animal center, which was closed, for advice.
Franco’s friend then found a social media post about a missing African grey parrot in New York City. “We were so excited, it was total chaos,” says the mom, who called the phone number in the post.
Alshowaiman received Franco’s phone call right before leaving her apartment to search for Zoya. “I appreciated that Liz asked me to read the numbers on Zoya’s band to verify I was the owner,” she says. “That Zoya landed in a nice household made me burst into tears.”
The women arranged to meet in “a beautiful reunion,” says Franco. “It was a sweet ending.”
“People said I would never find Zoya,” says Alshowaiman, adding that the species can have an 80-year lifespan. “She is a [forever] companion.”
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