ST. PETE BEACH — The little bird flew onto a Pass-a-Grille porch Sunday.
It was tired. It had six peck marks to the face. Its claws were worn down to nubs.
It was not in a great mood. But it was clearly a people bird, because it stayed on the couple's porch for six hours. They finally called their friend Vanessa Slade. She took care of animals and would know what to do.
Vanessa came over. The bird flew to her shoulder.
"Within 30 seconds, I knew it was that bird," she said, remembering a St. Petersburg Times story about a gray cockatiel just like this one.
Pete Collins, a 68-year-old retired landscaper, lost the beloved pet in March when it flew out his front door. Pete had searched high and low for Shadow, running down the streets and peering into trees. At a Largo shelter, he'd found a rescue bird that looked just like Shadow. He adopted it and named it Shadow II.
A month passed. Pete didn't want to admit it to his wife, Donna, but he feared Shadow was dead.
"Can you imagine?" said Pete. "I couldn't live on the streets for 30 days. I never thought I would ever see the little bird again."
The newspaper story said Pete lived near the Twistee Treat on the beach. So Vanessa went door to door in the neighborhood of cottages on 69th Avenue until she found the right house. She flipped open her cell phone and showed Pete a photo of the bird she rescued.
"That's Shadow!" he said. "That's Shadow!"
Vanessa returned with the bird inside one of her spare cages. Shadow flew right onto Pete's chest and clung. She shook and fluffed her feathers. She bit him. She groomed Pete's white beard.
Vanessa wouldn't take any money. She gave Pete and Donna a spare cage.
Shadow didn't pay any mind to Shadow II, who Pete and Donna decided to rename Trooper. She didn't sing or whistle at wiggling toes like she used to. She just toured the house twice on foot and ate birdseed like a machine.
Outside that night, a thunderstorm raged with pounding rain and crackling thunder.
Inside, Shadow slept for 12 hours.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.