African Gray Parrot Rescue-2004

Rescuing an African Gray that was lost in Reykjavík , Iceland back in 2004

LazyTown Studio in Garðabær, Iceland circa 2004

LazyTown Studio in Garðabær, Iceland circa 2004

In 2004 Amanda and I were in Iceland working on the first season of the children’s television show LazyTown.

The show was shot in a brand new industrial building in an area that had been carved into an ancient lava field on the outskirts of a small town called Garðabær.

LazyTown put us up in apartments in Reykjavík which was about a 20 minute drive from Garðabær. We were also give a small car for our transportation needs, but the arrangement was three puppeteers per vehicle. So each morning Amanda and I would pick up our colleague David and then we would make the trip to work.

The car was a Toyota Yaris. At the time this vehicle was not available in the US, and it was astonishing to see the prevalence of these tiny, but practical and fuel efficient cars in Iceland.

Our tiny LazyTown puppeteer car.

Our tiny LazyTown puppeteer car.

The top floor of the gray building in the middle of this photo is where Amanda and I stayed during the first season of LazyTown.

The top floor of the gray building in the middle of this photo is where Amanda and I stayed during the first season of LazyTown.

For some marketing purpose they thought it would be a great idea to cover our vehicle with LazyTown advertising. You can see the cartoon images of the characters, including the representation of the villain of LazyTown, Robbie Rotten with his recognizably oversize chin.

On the morning of June the fifth, 2004, the day started out like any other. Even though it was June, the temperatures were hovering around zero degrees celsius, or 32°F. After spending the late winter and spring in Iceland this felt like a comfortable and reasonable temperature.

We drove through the neighborhoods on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula just west of downtown Reykjavík where we would pick up David on the corner near his apartment. This morning we saw David but he was not in his usual spot.

He was closer to the intersection and he was looking at something in the middle of the street. He saw us and was pointing to direct our attention. I stopped the car and saw a small shape in the street. I was not sure what it was at first. Amanda hopped out of the car and approached it.

I saw her crouch down and hold the sleeve of her jacket with her hand, she put her arm towards this gray lump. It was then that I could see that it was a bird, but it was low to the ground and it’s head was down. I looked up at David, then I saw a neighborhood cat perched on a white fence just watching us, and the scene. The bird timidly stepped onto her arm, and then started to make it’s way up to her shoulder. Both David and Amanda then got in the tiny car, and we sat there, in the car, with a beautiful African Gray parrot perched on Amanda’s shoulder.

I think we debated some options, but the only sensible thing to do was to head to work though it did feel strange taking this bird 15 miles away from where we had found it. Surely the owners would be in the vicinity and looking for their pet. I could imagine they would be very upset. But we didn’t see anyone on the streets and we didn’t know where to begin in terms of a local search.

So we drove to the studio.

Stefan Karl and the African Gray

Stefan Karl and the African Gray

We brought the bird to the greenroom where all of the puppeteers of LazyTown spent time waiting to be used on set. The bird seemed very happy, and was extremely tame. Having been a bird owner I could see that this bird had been very well cared for and was very sociable and happy to be getting attention from people. Birds of that size do have the power to be harmful with their large beaks and if they feel threatened, but this animal was enjoying the new surroundings and the adventure.

Stefan Karl who plays the main villain of the show LazyTown owned a parrot as well, so we showed him the bird, and he knew exactly what to do. With one phone call he had located the owner.

So while we were doing our morning ritual in the studio and Stefan was putting on his make-up and costume we waited for the owner to drive to the LazyTown studio and retrieve his beloved friend.

We gave the bird treats and some toys to play with. Julianna, who plays the character “Stephanie” came in with her pink wig and robe that protects her costume, and she got to play with the bird.

The bird was completely happy to hang out with us and explore. While we waited we each had a moment of holding the bird or playing with him with some object that he could play with. And we took photos, of course.

When the birds owner arrived he was on the verge of tears. Relief, happiness and reunion, with a mix of surprise at finding his African Gray at LazyTown with Robbie Rotten of all people.

We would learn that the bird had been missing for three days. The winds in Iceland are very strong, and the bird was near a window. Someone opened a door or a window in another part of the house and a gust blew through and pushed the bird out of the window. The bizarre thing was that the bird wound up going in a different direction. For three days they had been searching an area that was spreading out into the opposite direction from where we found him. It is a miracle the bird managed to survive three days, and I fear that had we not collected him he might not have made it much longer.

The bird was very happy and I suspected that, though the bird was clearly happy to be reunited with it’s owner, it was also not eager for the adventure to be totally over given how much attention it had been receiving the last hour.

Ronald Binion