After a winter of no sightings, escaped pet parakeet Sonny was once again spotted in Terrace on July 19, prompting jubilation on social media and even a Facebook fan page.
The Indian ring-necked parakeet escaped his owner Gina Funk last June, and was repeatedly spotted around Terrace for months after. Funk tried to catch the green robin-sized bird around 30 times in the months following his escape with no success.
When colder weather arrived, Sonny was nowhere to be seen. Ring-necked parakeets are native to the Indian subcontinent and are known to cope well in colder temperatures, but Funk was not optimistic about his chance of survival over the winter.
Then, on July 19, 2021, Sonny was spotted by Christine Vander Ploeg on the south side of Terrace on Kalum St. flying towards Evergreen St.
In a Facebook message, Funk told the Terrace Standard that she was happy to hear Sonny had survived, and that several community members have been invested in the bird’s health and were helpful in keeping tabs.
One of those people is Vander Ploeg.
“It was a big surprise and when I saw him it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is incredible,’” she said. “It was just so, so out of the blue.”
Vander Ploeg said that it was very common to see Sonny in the area around her house last summer due to a high number of fruit trees nearby. After a timid start to life in the wild he started to settle in.
“I don’t think it took long for him to really make connection with the birds around, he was really looking for companionship, so he comes out with a lot of the robins and the sparrows, the woodpeckers,” she said, adding that after a while Sonny was spotted flying with crows.
“He has definitely made himself at home with the birds around here.”
She suggested that Sonny may have migrated to a warmer climate for the winter, but there is no way to know for sure.
After Vander Ploeg posted the news of her sighting to the Terrace Community Bulletin Board Facebook page, people were quick to express their surprise and happiness in the comments that Sonny made it through the winter.
One Facebook user, Adam Yawrenko, created a new page called “SONNY The South Side Parakeet,” as a place for people to post pictures when they spot him in Terrace.
“Sonny is awesome, we are also southside and had many great moments watching him in our apple tree feasting and cruising around the yard with other birds as if he belonged with them,” Yawrenko said in a Facebook comment.
Sonny isn’t the first ring-necked parakeet to thrive in a new environment. In fact, ring-necked parakeets have had incredible success in Europe as an invasive species. A 2016 study found that there are 65 wild populations of the species across 37 European countries, totalling over 85,000 individuals.
The birds are successful in the Himalayas of northern India and Pakistan, as well as England and the Netherlands. Researchers believe that the booming populations in Europe are due to the repeated release of pet birds.