It was a cold, dark January night when Holly Tieszen let her dogs out in her backyard before going to bed.
Her Green-Cheeked Conure, Huey, was perched on her finger, like he was just about every night.
But something spooked the small green parrot. He flew off Tieszen's finger and into the night before she could react. She ushered her poodle and golden doodle inside and called for Huey in the backyard. She saw a green blur circling the yard, but then he disappeared again.
Tieszen couldn't leave her home to search for the bird. Her husband was deployed and her three children were asleep in bed.
Her hopes of finding the family pet were low. The tropical bird likely couldn't tolerate the South Dakota cold, and he couldn't survive off bird seed like cardinals or robins in the area.
How a Sioux Falls social media group helped find Huey
But four months later, Tieszen has been reunited with Huey thanks to a group of helpful Sioux Falls social media users, or what she likes to call "Huey's fanbase."
"I'm genuinely thankful and grateful to everyone and really shocked that so many people were willing to share and keep up with it," said Tieszen, referring to the more than 700 shares on Facebook her post to locate Huey received shortly after he was lost. "We got supportive and nice comments instead of backlash for letting him go by accident. Now we'll be more careful about opening doors around him."
Meaghan Verbit, who recently moved to northwestern Sioux Falls from Colorado, recovered Huey in mid-May near her apartment, which is about four miles from Tieszen's house.
Verbit's apartment manager called her on May 13, asking her if she and her husband lost one of their birds, since a green one was distressed and calling out from a tree near the office building.
Verbit checked her "flock," but none of her birds were missing. She and her husband found a spare bathroom towel and grabbed a handful of millet to entice the bird, she recalled.
It took about 10 minutes to coax the bird down from a tree. He was skeptical about Verbit, especially with larger, predatory birds picking on him. She wrapped him in a "bird burrito" in the towel and walked him back to their apartment while they waited for animal control. He perched himself on her shoulder as they waited, realizing that "this is someone's baby" and that she had to help find his home.
She joined the "Sioux Falls Area Lost & Found Pets" Facebook group and posted about the bird. Within minutes, members connected the dots and directed her toward Tieszen, remembering the vibrant green Huey the Conure who went missing months ago.
It was a long shot, but members were hoping for a happy ending.
A happy ending for Huey and his family
Tieszen and Verbit connected, but Huey was escorted by Animal Control to the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society before they could meet. After Tieszen visited the Humane Society and brought the bird home about "95% sure it was Huey," she was convinced when she realized he was potty trained to use the cage as a bathroom and could say "poopy."
"He seemed happy and content, and he wouldn't leave my shoulder when we got home. He just wanted pets," Tieszen said. "Who knows what he went through on his journey, but he seemed happy to be home."
Tieszen's family adopted the bird in April 2020, having driven all the way to Rapid City to adopt the specific Green-Cheeked Conure. Her husband, who is a flight paramedic, named him Huey after a type of green helicopter.
"All that time waiting, still looking and having the cage as a reminder you don't have your pet is so hard," Verbit said.
What could've happened to Huey during the four months he was lost?
Both Verbit and Tieszen doubt Huey was outdoors for the full four months — and the extreme storm that swept through eastern South Dakota on May 12. They believe that someone took him in and cared for him, since he still looked like he had proper nutrition in his time away.
While the person they suspect took him in with good intentions, Verbit urges people to call authorities or use groups like "Sioux Falls Area Lost & Found Pets" to reunite pets with their rightful owners.
"There was this whole community within that Facebook group that was so invested in this story because it just spoke to us all," Verbit said. "The beauty of social media is that, in those moments, we can have compassion for other people or animals, come together as a community to get things done and get them resolved in a very happy and right way."
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: How a Sioux Falls bird, Huey, made it back home after 4 winter months