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Pet Bird That Flew The Coop Found Whistling the ’1812 Overture’

June 8, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Sunshine, a cockatiel who flew the coop for four days, was found after it started whistling the ″1812 Overture.″

″I knew it definitely was someone’s pet,″ said Jim Barczi, who found the bird Tuesday. ″I was tempted to keep it, but thought someone was really hurting and looking for it.″

That someone was a frantic Stephanie Reitzenstein of suburban Woodland Hills, who was birdsitting Sunshine for its 10-year-old owner while the child and her family were out of town.

In her desperate search, Reitzenstein took out a lost-bird ad, suffered through a false alarm and found herself whistling Sunshine’s signature song in public.

″I ran down the street, whistling the ’1812 Overture’ for him,″ said Reitzenstein. ″People thought I was crazy.″

Sunshine flew out an open door June 1 after being let out of its cage. Reitzenstein’s wild-goose chase took her to a garage a mile away where a woman thought she heard a bird trapped inside.

″The woman had heard it whistling in the garage but hadn’t seen the bird,″ Reitzenstein said. ″So I’m whistling the ’1812 Overture’ and calling for Sunshine, feeling like a total jerk. For half an hour I look and then find the smoke-alarm battery was low and chirping.″

Sunshine’s owner, Sarah Schneider, and her family returned on Monday from their trip to the San Francisco Bay area, mourning what appeared to be the loss of a feathered friend.

″We were wearing black for two days and moping around the house,″ said Shelly Schneider, Sarah’s mother.

″I was crying,″ said Sarah. ″I thought he would be out mating with someone. I knew it would be a one-in-a-million chance to get him back. I just wished he would still be alive.″

The search ended Tuesday when Barczi saw the bird ad in the Los Angeles Daily News and called Reitzenstein.

The winged maestro was healthy, but a bit sleepy and hoarse from so much chirping.

″What a lesson I learned in honesty,″ Reitzenstein said. ″And pet birds should have their wings clipped.″

And she’s not whistling Dixie.

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