Keith the cockatiel’s first time flying outside wasn’t just a short trip in the local area – but a more than 60km journey across the North Island.
Keith hadn’t been outdoors before, when, on December 23, his owner Peter Champion forgot the bird was sitting on his shoulder and walked out the front door for work.
“He made a startled squawk and flew up about 80 feet in the air,” Champion said.
“I called him, he was straight above me. He hesitated, then kept going.”
Losing Keith made Champion feel “absolutely rotten”.
Keith’s not just any cockatiel – he’s a singing, whistling beloved family pet with a “fantastic personality”.
He can sing “Happy Birthday” and the Queen hit “Another One Bites the Dust” and whistles “good morning” every morning.
Champion took to Facebook – “posting like mad” – on a desperate mission to find his adored pet.
Word spread quickly, with a lot of people sharing Facebook posts about Keith.
The Forest Hill resident on Auckland’s North Shore thought Keith wouldn’t get far – maybe to nearby Milford Beach.
But as days passed with no sign of Keith, Champion gave up hope of ever seeing him again.
Meanwhile, at a Coromandel Peninsula campground, an Auckland couple were sitting outside their tents on Boxing Day when an “abnormal” looking bird landed on their ute.
Amy Van Den Berg climbed up on to the truck to try to fetch the bird- which would turn out to be Keith – off the windscreen where he had landed. He then flew and landed on her arm.
She asked campers at the campsite if anyone owned the bird.
Van Den Berg then posted in a cockatiel Facebook group about the bird she had found – and was flooded with responses from people who recognised Keith.
She was linked up with Champion, and they soon realised that Van Den Berg’s partner had gone to school with Champion’s daughter.
The couple returned from their holiday a day early to give Keith back to Champion.
Van Den Berg said she was “shocked” by how happy Champion was to be reunited with Keith.
“He was stoked. We were amazed.”
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