The “Piano Man” played an unusual role in the resuce of a pet bird in South Carolina.
Last month Christine Iturrino was loading groceries into her Myrtle Beach home when Joel, the pet cockatiel she had adopted from a bird rescue group 18 months ago, flew out of the door.
“In a panic, I tried to grab him, which you’re not supposed to do with birds,” Iturrino, 58, told the Washington Post. “That freaked him out and he flew away toward the ocean, screaming all the way. I was heartsick.”
Iturrino, a bus driver, said her flying friend liked to listen to 1980s pop music and had free rein in her home, only staying in his cage at night.
In a Facebook post about the missing bird, she wrote that he particularly liked “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel, which she assumes inspired his name.
After Joel got loose, a devastated Iturrino printed up “Parrot Alert” fliers offering a reward and tacked them up all over her neighborhood.
“He’s very people friendly, so I had a lot of hope. But I was still pretty upset, especially as more time passed. I began to worry I’d never see him again,” she said.
But after “the longest time” — or nine days later to be exact –Iturrino received a text while at work.
“I work at the beach — I think we found your bird,” it said.
The message was from an employee of Sky Wheel Myrtle Beach, 200-foot Ferris wheel with 42 enclosed gondolas.
The employee, Theresa Glazer, sent a picture of Joel perched on her shoulder inside the SkyWheel ticket booth.
During a morning safety check at the wheel, employee Gavin Scire, who is often referred to as Spider-Man for his climbing prowess, was about 100 feet up on a ladder when he heard chirping.
He looked over and saw Joel hopping on one of the bars.
The bird, who was too afraid to fly to the ground, made its way to Scire, who then nestled him in his hoodie.
The cockatiel wouldn’t go into a pet carrier but found comfort on Glazer’s shoulder. When Glazer told her mother about the bird, her mother mentioned the story to a neighbor.
“The neighbor had seen the ‘missing bird’ notices about Joel and remembered the fact that he liked Billy Joel music,” said the park’s marketing manager, Sean Bailey. “Theresa was then able to get Christine’s phone number from the notice and text her.”
When they saw the post about his affinity for Billy Joel, they started playing some Piano Man tunes to see if it was indeed Joel.
“When he started bobbing his head up and down, that’s when everyone knew this was definitely Christine’s bird,” Bailey said.
Joel isn’t the only cockatiel to love “Uptown Girl.”
Nine months ago, a Reddit user posted an adorable video of their pet Moe whistling along to Billy Joel’s 1983 hit.
As for Joel, he was reunited with his distraught owner.
“He squawked at me, then flew over to my shoulder. I kept telling him how much I’d missed him, and what a brave boy he was. It really was a series of miracles that brought him home,” said Iturrino, who took her feathered companion to the vet.
The bird was pronounced healthy, save for having lost a bit of weight.
“I’m so happy to have him back — Joel is such a big part of my life,” Iturrino said. “I realized that every day while he was gone.”