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Zuzu, a parrot that speaks 3 languages, is missing in Belle River

Zuzu the African grey parrot isn’t just any bird: he knows 400 words, speaks words in English, French and Arabic, and loves corn. 

Now he’s gone missing, and the race is on to bring him home safely.

Zuzu flew away from Alyssa Rozgaja’s home in Belle River on Oct. 25 while his cage was being cleaned. Then he accidentally got out the front door of Rozgaja’s home in the River’s Down neighbourhood of Belle River. 

“He is my baby and a big part of our family. He was talkative and he was really funny but very stubborn,” Rozgaja said. “He was a really cool bird.”

A woman stands on her driveway
Alyssa Rozjaga is looking for her African grey parrot Zuzu. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Rozgaja says she’s devoted every spare minute to finding him. 

“As soon as I finish school, I’m out looking in neighbourhoods. I’m circling around,” Rozgaja said. “People probably think I’m crazy, but I’m just going down each neighbourhood that he’s been sighted at and I’ll walk down the tree lines on any trails behind the schools just to see if maybe he would be hiding there.”

There have been four or five reported sightings near Puce Road and the St. Anne’s area, Rozgaja says, and people have been sending her photos. They can tell it’s Zuzu because he’s about 30 centimetres (12 inches) long, and grey with a bright red tail. 

“The first sighting, they actually took pictures of him, and that was definitely my bird,” Rozgaja said. “They described it as a giant pigeon with a red tail.”

Neighbour Nadja Komar says she’s spotted Zuzu. 

A parrot with his head tilted to the side
Zuzu speaks English, French and Arabic. (Submitted by Alyssa Rozgaja)

“Because I’m the very last one here and the the birds fly all over here, we thought this would be a good chance for him to [see] the cage, which he’s familiar with,” Komar said. “We put food in there.”

African grey parrots can actually fly fairly high and over decent distances, Rojaga says. She’s worried about him being out in the cold, and hopes he’s found a warm place to shelter. 

“People see parrots as just birds … but they are more than just birds. They are lifelong companions,” Rozgaja said. “It would mean the world to me to get him back as he was my best friend.”

Birds like Zuzu will hide, but can recognize their names: Expert

Shanna Marin, also known as BirdTails on social media, is a local bird enthusiast. 

“First off, when birds do get out, if they’re not used to flying outside, they get scared,” Marin said. “So they usually try and head for specific areas and those are big trees, places where they can feel safe and secure.

Two women stand near a bird cage
Alyssa Rozgaja, left, and Nadja Komar, right, put Zuzu’s cage in her yard to hopefully attract the parrot back home. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

“African greys are … used to having a flock with them. So when they don’t have a flock with them instinctively, they’re going to try and hide the best they can, which isn’t helpful for people trying to find these birds.”

While it is getting colder, Marin said that as long as Zuzu has access to water and food like nuts, he will likely be OK outside. 

Marin says there are some things owners can do to make sure their birds stay safely indoors, such as making sure people coming in the home know there’s a bird there, and making sure cage doors are locked when the door is open.

But she also suggests screen protectors with magnetic closure on the outside of doors as a second barrier even if the door is open. 

Marin says African greys are attracted to familiar sounds, so if people can call Zuzu’s name, he will recognize it.

A woman in a leather jacket stands outside
Shanna Marin is an expert on escaped birds. She says Zuzu will survive outside for several months, despite the cooling temperatures. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

“So the best thing that you can possibly do, if you do see Zuzu, get his attention and call his owner so that hopefully they can come and get him down.”

“There is a high possibility that he’s just kind of found a place to roost and he is just chilling there, and that’s why we keep seeing him around.”

Rozgaja is offering a $1,500 reward for Zuzu’s return and sightings can be reported to zuzuthecongoafricangrey@gmail.com. 

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