On Monday evening, UPS driver Lee Purdy heard someone shouting "help me" from inside an Oregon home where he was making a delivery.
"I wasn't sure what to think at first," Purdy told TODAY.
Based on the sound, he was pretty certain the voice belonged to a parrot — a view bolstered by the fact that the cries for help were interspersed with squawking — but he didn't feel 100 percent. So, just to be safe, he decided to call the police.
"I asked them to do a courtesy check to make sure nothing weird was going on," Purdy said.
The police, upon entering the house, discovered a chatty parrot named Diego (who was, you will be relieved to know, unharmed).
"Sure enough it was Diego the parrot yelling for help," Sergeant Brian Jensen, public information officer for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, told TODAY, while laughing. "Nobody was in distress. Diego was fine."
Purdy said he felt much better after getting word from the police about Diego. But he still had some lingering doubts.
"Why was this bird yelling 'help me'?" he said. "There's got to be a reason."
Luckily, Diego's owner, Susan Baird, was able to clear up the mystery.
Baird told TODAY that Diego is a very talkative fellow (or, possibly, gal — it's not easy to determine a parrot's sex, and she's never gone out of her way to try). He meows like a cat, barks like a dog, and "he says quite a few things," Baird said. "He's very personable."
One of those things Diego regularly says is "help me."
Diego — who was born in 1976 and has lived with Baird for the last two decades since a friend gave him to her — tends to say this in situations that are not as alarming as the words might suggest. Mostly, it's when he's apart from Baird, and doesn't like it.
For example, Baird recalls hosting a group of women at her house one time; they were in one room, Diego in another. In objection, he began to cry "help me" — which Baird didn't even really notice, until one of the visiting women suggested that perhaps someone required Baird's assistance.
Baird has been out of town for the last two weeks; in fact, she spoke with TODAY on Tuesday while driving back. Her daughter is home caring for Diego — but Diego longs for his mom.
Baird's theory is that when Purdy approached the door, Diego thought it might be her and cried out the "help me" in an excited greeting.
"He goes not like me to be gone for a long time," Baird said. "He has really missed me."
Purdy buys this explanation, and can at last put his worry to rest. "Sounds reasonable," he said. "That makes sense."
Jensen, meantime, noted that while his office ordinarily handles more serious matters, this is not the only funny critter-related incident in recent times. It's not even the strangest one.
Deputy Lon Steinhauer was out on his patrol route the morning of Nov. 1, when he saw a woman by the side of the road "screaming hysterically," as Jensen put it to The Dodo.
It turned out she'd been badly frightened by a yellow spider on her dashboard. Steinhauer slipped on some gloves, carefully removed the spider, and set the little arachnid free — to the relief of the woman, and to the great delight of the internet.
"We all needed a lighthearted moment, and that's what this provides," Jensen said. "It's the wild kingdom here."
As for Diego, he is a peppy parrot once again. Baird got home from her trip at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and Diego started giving her his "I'm happy you're home kind of spiel," she said.
"I opened the cage and he was just wanting to make contact," Baird said. "He's just a part of the family."