El Cajon

Exotic Bird Trainer Says Thieves Schemed to Steal His Cockatoo

Terry Rusheen performs with his macaws and cockatoos around San Diego County

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“I was panicking. I drove all around here, asked all these people.”

That’s what someone does when a family member disappears. That’s exactly what Terry Rusheen said he did when one of his prized cockatoos disappeared Dec. 15 while it was resting in a tree.

Rusheen, an exotic-bird trainer and performer, rescued the cockatoo only a few months ago and named it Fami.

“It’s short for ‘family,’ which is what she is,” Rusheen said.

Rusheen regularly lets his "family" exercise and rest in the trees in places like El Cajon and Pacific Beach. He also performs with them in front of small groups and at schools.

On Dec.15, Rusheen said, his macaws and cockatoos were resting in some trees in downtown El Cajon when Fami disappeared. Rusheen admitted he turned his back for a few seconds.

“It’s my fault,” Rusheen said. “It’s nobody else’s fault except my own. I should be in attention.”

Rusheen said his birds never fly away. He ran around the area and talked to the owners of buildings with security cameras. Rusheen said he found several recordings that show Fami jumping down to a woman, who then hands the bird off to a man on a bike. Rusheen said another camera recorded the man riding away with the white cockatoo on his shoulder. Rusheen said a third camera records the bicyclist handing the bird to a driver in an SUV that drives away.

“All of those things had to be planned, well in advance,” Rusheen said, sighing.

Rusheen said his cockatoo is likely giving his captors a headache.

“Fami is distraught, probably screaming a lot,” Rusheen explained. “If you have a neighbor with a screaming bird, please give us a call, because that’s probably Fami.”

Rusheen said he is offering a reward for his bird’s safe return. He said he reported the theft and the security video to El Cajon police.

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