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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A wayward orange bird has captivated Spokane residents hungering for more sightings

A mystery bird has been driving birders in the Spokane area a little cuckoo.

Ron Burdick, who lives near Indian Trail, certainly wasn’t expecting to see this flighty new friend.

“I was sitting out in my backyard on the Fourth of July. You know, I’m just enjoying it, and I saw this orange object flying across my backyard,” Burdick said.

The bird landed in some of Burdick’s backyard vegetation, where he lost sight of it for around an hour and a half before he spotted it flying across his backyard again.

Upon second inspection, Burdick realized that this was not your everyday Spokane bird.

He took some photos and posted them on the Facebook group Spokane Birders, where local bird aficionados identified it as a “Euplectes franciscanus” or “northern red bishop.”

According to the National Audubon Society website, the northern red bishop is a popular cagebird that is native to Africa, but there are some escapees that have established nesting populations on the coast of southern California and near Houston, Texas. Escapees are also sometimes seen in Florida, as they have an established population in Puerto Rico.

What’s unique about this bird is that it has two bands on its feet. One is blue and the other pink.

President of the board of the Spokane Audubon Society Alan McCoy said most people believe the bird was an escapee.

“It was probably a pet bird with someone, although why a pet bird would have bands on its legs, I don’t know,” he said.

Local pet stores known for carrying exotic birds, like Sparky’s Birds and Northwest Seed and Pet, do not sell northern red bishops, adding to the mystery of the origin of the bird.

According to McCoy, Spokane does get the occasional bird blown off course. Big storms, especially during migration, which generally happens during spring and fall, have the potential to blow birds off course. But “there hasn’t been a storm recently, and it’s certainly not migration at the moment,” McCoy said.

Lori Barach, a member of the Spokane Birders Facebook group who lives near Farwell Elementary, commented on the post that the bird has been visiting her on and off since May. She also mentioned that another woman in Colbert has reportedly seen the bird.

If these other sightings are correct, the bird seems to have covered quite the distance and survived for quite some time.

McCoy said that when a pet bird gets free, “You just let it be, and they generally find their way back or they die.

“In general, it’s best just to let nature take its course.”

Laura Sheikh's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.