After one bird flies the coop, biker finds a new parrot

Gary Barnes shows off one of his birds at his home in Burton on Thursday.
Gary Barnes shows off one of his birds at his home in Burton on Thursday.

After three months of searching treetops, consulting pricey animal psychics and listening for the distinctive squawk of his missing feathered friend, Gary Barnes decided it was time to move on.

Barnes, 56, a support equipment mechanic at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, last saw his pet bird, Harley, an African gray parrot, in January. The bird's disappearance left a void in his life that had gone unfilled until he bought a new African gray named Harley II from a Miami, Fla., bird breeder.

Home in Beaufort for less than four hours, the newest chapter in Barnes' life nearly met the same sad ending as the one before it.

"I was going to go for a walk with him (Wednesday night), and he flew away," Barnes said. "His wings were supposed to be clipped so he could only flutter to the ground. He flew as if his wings had never been clipped."

Barnes found the bird Thursday morning near his Burton home.

"I was afraid I had lost him for good," Barnes said. "I'm so glad to have him back."

The 2-year-old original Harley and Barnes were inseparable-- even taking motorcycle rides together --until a night in late January when, having gone outside to get a package, the bird was startled by a slamming door and flew off his shoulder. Barnes struck out in an exhausting and expensive mission to track down the bird -- he even employed "animal communicators," who charged $50 to $150 for 30 minutes of telepathic communication with the parrot.

But Barnes never saw the bird again."She's supposedly told the animal communicators that she's happier free than she was living with a cage and that's fine," he said. "If she shows up, I'll call her Harley and name him, 'Fat Boy,' because that's the model Harley I ride. I was told she was living with a group of pigeons. If that's true, no one would ever be able to pick her out."

Barnes' healing process began Wednesday with a trek to Atlanta where he picked up Harley II. The bird arrived on a Delta commercial flight from Miami, where it was raised by abreeder who specializes inAfrican grays, Barnes said. Barnes declined to say how much he paid for the new bird.

Though he wants to give Harley II time to acclimate to his new surroundings, Barnes said he soon plans to train his new parrot to ride with him on the Harley-Davidson motorcycle after which both birds were named.

"I don't want to overwhelm him, so I figure by this weekend I'll have him on the bike," he said. "I'll start going slow, maybe 10 mph, around the neighborhood just to see how he reacts and then eventually we'll go a little farther. I figure in two to three weeks we should be out riding around."