Tango the macaw has a lot of people to thank for his safe return home April 22, after he spent the preceding three days and four nights on his own. The three-year-old bird was found about 10 miles from his Sorrento home, at Rock Springs Elementary School in Apopka.
“Thanking the community is everything for me right now,” owner Ashlyn Barnes said in a phone interview.
The macaw’s journey began the evening of April 18, when he and Barnes’ husband, David Kumanchik, were enjoying being outside. The couple do not clip Tango’s wings and, after training him, allowed him to fly free almost daily. Tango was on the roof of the house, where he often perches, and Kumanchik was below.
Through a combination of human error and chance, Barnes said, her husband got distracted and took his eyes off Tango, and then Kumanchik heard Tango’s alarm call related to predators. When he looked up, the macaw was gone.
That night, a strong storm blew through the area, and the couple was distraught as they tried to find him and asked for help on social media. The next day, they heard of sightings along Highway 437 about a mile from their house, and Kumanchik spent hours each day searching. But it wasn’t until Thursday that they were able to reunite.
Coach Charles Fullen and students were at PE at Rock Springs Elementary School when someone noticed Tango sitting on the roof of a nearby pavilion. Soon after, the brightly colored bird flew down and landed on the hoodie of one of the children, who remained calm, according to Barnes.
“A staff member stepped up, brought Tango inside, gave him some water and tried to give him some melon,” Barnes said. Tango was too weak to eat the fruit, but did accept some granola from Nisha Gillis, the school’s health assistant who cared for him.
It was through social media that the school staff knew how to contact the couple. Barnes’ initial Facebook post requesting help was shared more than 2,000 times, and when she posted on Nextdoor that he’d been found, the post received 3,400 “likes.”
While he appeared to have no major injuries, Tango did have a few cuts and scrapes and had lost 15% of his body weight, Barnes said. She said she was taking him to an emergency vet to get checked out.
When they lost Tango, Barnes and Kumanchik posted a $3,000 reward, and when Barnes offered it to Gillis, she turned it down. So, determined to reward those who helped return Tango to safety, Barnes decided to donate the funds to the school, as a way to thank Gillis, gifted teacher Jennifer McCarthy and the other staff and students who’d been involved.
After his return, Tango had a full veterinarian check-up and his scrapes have been healing well, Barnes said.
As for Tango’s future flight plans? Barnes said they couldn’t take that away from him, as it was an important part of his well-being – but they would not be letting him fly free anytime soon. Additional training, diligent oversight and a GPS tracker are in his future, too.
While the macaw cannot tell his owners about his adventures, he’s enjoying being back with them.
“Tango is really bouncing back to his normal happy self,” Barnes said last week. “He is still wanting cuddles every day, but he is also wanting to play more. We are just so thankful.”