Pablo the Russell macaw: Search moves to rural South Auckland

A Northland family have been given fresh hope after a months-long search for a missing macaw was sparked back into life by a flurry of sightings in rural South Auckland.

Pablo the parrot disappeared from Russell in late January after an alleged violent incident and was initially tracked in East Auckland – but sightings dried up.

Owners Lulu and Hamish Peterson took Pablo on at four months old and trained him for two years to free-fly, undergoing the same techniques used to train hunting falcons to return when called.

Peterson says the couple were “starting to fear the worst” after the trail went cold but locals in Franklin District had given them fresh hope with repeated sightings of the much-loved macaw.


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“I haven’t had to ask,” she said of the community support.

“It’s just phenomenal, absolutely incredible.”

A Facebook page set up for Pablo has kicked back into life, with possible sightings shared by those eager to help bring Pablo home.

Doritos, dog roll and ‘Bob’

Anyone wanting to help attract Pablo needs to know the foods he favours, Peterson told the Herald.


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His snack of choice?

“Chunky dog roll and Doritos, the Thai Sweet Chilli Doritos,” she said.

Peterson explained that Pablo had developed a taste for the foods at the family’s Russell home and could identify the distinctive purple Doritos packaging from a distance.

One local woman followed the advice yesterday and laid out the treats for Pablo, only to suffer an unfortunate reaction.

“She was afraid of birds,” Peterson said.

“She screamed and he took off.”

Thai Sweet Chilli Doritos, one of Pablo's favourite snacks.
Thai Sweet Chilli Doritos, one of Pablo’s favourite snacks.

Pablo’s owner said the woman could not be blamed for her reaction to the large parrot’s arrival, saying that most people were shocked by Pablo’s size when they met him and adding that the information the spooked local was able to provide was crucial to the search.

“You’ve got to be prepared for the fact that he might fly down and actually land on you,” Peterson said.

“The most important thing is under no circumstances do not grab him because if somebody goes to grab him and he gets a fright, he’ll just take off and it will put us way back.

“So they’ve almost got to ignore him actually and just let him stand on their shoulder and walk very slowly whilst feeding him chunky dog roll or Doritos, into a house and close the door.”


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In another twist, a local man reported that Pablo landed on his shoulder.

Peterson said she understood that there were photos taken of the man, named only as “Bob”, with the bird.

But Bob has since gone to ground following a trip up north and Peterson is desperate to hear from him.

Bob reportedly said that Pablo appeared sad and the pair formed a brief connection, with the bird following the mystery man halfway home.

Winter is coming

Peterson said she and husband Hamish would be travelling to Auckland in the next 24 hours and aimed to stay until the weekend, or whenever they could recover Pablo.

She said, with the help of concerned locals and animal experts, they had worked out a rough daily flight path for Pablo that saw him fly over Clark’s Beach, Glenbrook, Waiuku and other neighbouring townships.


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Peterson also shared her fears for Pablo as winter begins to creep over the country.

She said the cold would be “very tough for him” as his usual diet of fruits and seeds dries up but expressed hope given he had survived for so long in the wild.

Well-loved Pablo the macaw from Russell is missing after an alleged altercation with a local. Photo / Supplied
Well-loved Pablo the macaw from Russell is missing after an alleged altercation with a local. Photo / Supplied

Pablo has recently been sighted with rosellas, the smaller Australian parrot that has found a home in many parts of Auckland.

Peterson said she believed he would be watching them and copying some of their feeding behaviour.

But he has also been seen being chased by a hawk.

Was she worried?


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“No, because he’s trained in predator evasion,” Peterson said.

“We trained him to fly with hawks and seagulls.”

Despite hawks being a bird of prey, she said the seagulls were actually more of a threat.

“They bomb and dive. They operate in groups and they’re nasty, really nasty.”

Seagulls were a bigger threat than hawks, Peterson said. Photo / File
Seagulls were a bigger threat than hawks, Peterson said. Photo / File

How did Pablo get to Auckland – and what happens when he returns home?

Peterson said she and Hamish “won’t ever give up” searching for Pablo but said his much-hoped-for return would bring significant challenges.

An Australian parrot expert has told the couple that they may be able to slowly retrain Pablo, first flying him indoors before letting him fly free in what Peterson admitted would be a “massive leap of faith”.


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But there is also a risk that he may never again be able to roam and return as he previously had.

“Clipping his wings and keeping him in a cage is not something I’m a fan of,” Peterson said of the possibility.

As for how he made it as far as Auckland, Peterson told the Herald that the family had received information that the bird had been transported to the Super City shortly after a confrontation in his hometown of Russell.

But Peterson said the family’s focus was solely on finding Pablo and bringing him home.

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