Justin Walls retrieves Amelia, his Catalina macaw who was stuck in a tree overnight in Scotts Valley, with the help of a bucket truck. (Courtesy of Janice Allegri)

Amelia the Catalina macaw was rescued Monday afternoon in Scotts Valley after becoming stuck in a tree outdoors for more than 16 hours.

The bird’s owner, Justin Walls, a 32-year-old old construction industry salesman, says after local emergency officials were unable to provide assistance, neighbors he’d never met before came to the aid of his feathered family member.

“She’s like my child—I chose not to have children in favor of having a macaw,” he said, noting the breed, powerful beak and all, isn’t the best to have around kids. “That’s how important she is to me.”

The ordeal began amid Sunday’s high winds, as Walls returned around 8pm from grabbing takeout, with Amelia along for the ride.

Just as they returned home, one of his cats jumped out at them.

“Amelia got startled,” he said. “She got some nice vertical lift, and found her way up 30 feet into a tree next door.”

Amelia, a Catalina macaw, waits for rescue Monday afternoon in Scotts Valley after becoming stuck in a tree outdoors for more than 16 hours. (Courtesy of Janice Allegri)

Now, Amelia’s wings are not clipped. But she is a rescue. And, as an indoor bird, her flying muscles are not developed.

Plus, explains Walls, birds instinctively like to gain altitude in order to avoid predators.

“Ascent is easy,” he said. “A steep descent is extremely difficult for birds. It’s like an advanced maneuver.”

In the 15 years he’s had her, he says Amelia has only gotten out three times.

“I was like, ‘Crap. This does not look good,’” Walls said. “I was not happy. It was pretty shocking actually.”

There wasn’t a way to climb the pine, he says. He tried to coax the bird down, to no avail.

While Amelia is quite good at the puzzle games they play together, this was one problem she wasn’t able to solve on her own.

“I stayed out there till dark,” said Walls, adding he noticed Amelia eventually began hunkering down for the night. “A parrot doesn’t have night vision.”

Walls set his alarm for 15 minutes before sunrise and tried to get some sleep himself. But that was easier said than done, given he was aware of all the dangers in the Santa Cruz Sandhills ecosystem—falcons, eagles, hawks and more.

“It was depressing,” he said, noting Amelia generally sleeps about 15 feet away on a shower door.

Nick Allegri of Phil Allegri Electric uses a bucket truck to lift Justin Walls up to rescue his parrot in a tree. (Courtesy of Janice Allegri)

At dawn, he went outside and, low-and-behold, his macaw was still there in the tree. He also spotted a bald eagle.

Multiple calls to emergency services bore no fruit (a 9-1-1 dispatcher told him they don’t do animal rescues anymore, he says). Amelia started getting frantic.

Janice Allegri, a 71-year-old Pinecone Drive neighbor, took notice of the squawking.

“It sounded like there was maybe a bird fight, or maybe a cat was attacking,” she said.

She and her husband Phil went down to see what that commotion was all about. It wasn’t exactly the ideal scenario for meeting a neighbor.

“I introduced myself to Justin,” she said. “He was at wits’ end.”

The Allegris have been operating a contracting business since 1949. They called son Nick around noon on Monday to see if Phil Allegri Electric could send a vehicle over.

Justin Walls holds on to Amelia after rescuing the parrot. (Courtesy of Janice Allegri)

“No way, dude!” thought Walls. “Someone’s actually going to send a bucket truck to rescue my bird?”

Nick appeared about half an hour later. He got behind the controls and sent Walls up in the bucket toward his pet.

As soon as he put his arm out, Amelia’s eyes started “pinning”—a sign of excitement.

“They got smaller and then got bigger,” he said. “She was thrilled to be back with me.”

Back at home, Walls served up her favorite Harrison’s Bird Food pellets.

He says he’s fortunate to have neighbors like Janice.

“She did this out of the kindness of her heart,” he said. “It was a happy ending.”

Amelia the Catalina macaw clings to owner Justin Walls after he rescued her with the help of some neighbors. (Courtesy of Janice Allegri)
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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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