THE WHEREABOUTS of a Northeast Philadelphia family's beloved pet parrot are still unknown, almost six weeks after their house was burglarized.
Jackie and Barry Miller returned home from vacation July 7, with their children Jake, 13, and Carly, 4, to find their home ransacked and Tex's cage dragged to sliding doors in the back of their house.
The burglars apparently took Tex, a talkative 24-year-old bluefront Amazon parrot and longtime family pet, along with computers, jewelry and other items. A leopard couch throw also was missing, and Jackie Miller believes that whoever broke in threw the blanket over the bird to carry him away.
The devastated family has papered the neighborhood with fliers, checked out numerous tips, scanned online sales and reported Tex missing to the police and the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A PSPCA spokeswoman said that fliers with Tex's picture and description have been posted with its Animal Care and Control Team.
Sympathizers also have posted Tex's picture and description on the Web.
Yet the family has received no word of the bird, Jackie Miller said yesterday.
"A lot of people think [exotic] birds are worth thousands and thousands of dollars," said Kathie Hahn, of Bird Paradise, an exotic-bird dealer in Burlington, N.J.
Not so in this case, because of Tex's age, she said. In a store, he would be worth several hundred dollars, she estimated.
"But you can't put a price on love," Hahn said. "Losing a bird is like losing a child."
To the Millers, Tex is priceless, and his talents many. Jackie Miller, whose parents bought Tex when she was a girl, says that Tex is particularly close to her children and yells, "No," when son Jake heads off to school; says, "Come in," when somebody knocks at the door; and screams, "What up? What up?"
Managers at two local pet stores said that the burglars would have a hard time selling Tex at most pet shops.
"You can tell - when somebody comes in and says, 'What's this bird worth?' " - that sets off alarm bells, said Scott Friedman, a manager at World Wide Aquarium, on Frankford Avenue.
A manager at a PetSmart in the Northeast said that the store doesn't buy pets from the public.
Richard Farinato, of the Humane Society of the United States, said of Tex:
"I suspect that it's right in a local pet shop. There's really no way to identify where a bird comes from, if somebody walks into a pet shop and says, 'I want to sell this bird,' " Farinato said.
"It's not surprising to me that somebody sees a bird like this and says, 'I can make some money on this,' " Farinato said.
"The bottom line is, birds like this are very marketable," Farinato said. "People want them. They've become very common as pets."
What price would a stolen bird command?
"On the street, I guess it all depends on who they [the thieves] approach," said Pat Baltozer, who heads the parrot-adoption program for the South Jersey Bird Club. "It depends on how desperate they are."
Baltozer said that whoever took Tex could be sporting some serious injuries.
"If they don't know you, they'll rip you apart with that beak," she said.
"What people don't realize" is that parrots "are very difficult to take care of," Farinato cautioned.
Parrots are "extremely social," and bond closely with their "flock," even if it is human, he said.
"Many birds that are stolen and sold are never happy in their new homes and refuse to settle down," and suffer psychologically, said Joanne McDermott, who adopted a conure from the South Jersey club.
"Because this bird in particular has been with his family for so long, being separated in this way will be devastating."
"They bite and scream, making them intolerable to their new owners," she said.
"They sadly end up in breeding farms, or worse."
People sometimes spend $10,000 or more for an exotic bird, McDermott said.
"The more exotic the better for some who wrongly see them as an accessory to a room or a status symbol instead of an intelligent, self-aware being."