BARNEGAT, NJ – A frantic Barnegat family has offered a $300 reward for help in locating their beloved white-faced gray cockatiel named Belle. The fugitive bird flew the coop from the Cambridge Estates section of town on Saturday.

“I walked to the front door and opened it to pick up a package,” said owner Candyce Lape. “I forgot that Belle was perched on my shoulder.”

When Lape bent down to pick up the package, Belle decided to venture into the wild. She has not returned, and no one has reported a sighting of her.

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Lape took to social media and posted Belle’s disappearance. One response came from a cockatiel breeder who suggested that Belle might be a male. Other owners told the distraught Barnegat woman they found their missing bird several days later and miles from home.

“My daughters are 8 and 10 years old,” Lape shared. “They are simply devastated.”

According to Lape, her older daughter was playing with friends outdoors when she noticed Belle. She and a chorus of friends screamed out in disbelief and inadvertently startled the bird.

Belle had flown up high into the trees, as Lape was attempting to figure out how to bring her closer. The cockatiel initially watched from the end of the cul-de-sac, where the family’s home is located. She may have then visited the Mirage senior development or flown directly into the woods.

Lape has not lost hope that Belle won’t return to the family nest. The bird knows her name and repeats it as a matter of habit. Nonetheless, the cold weather presents its own set of concerns.

“I am asking anyone who spots Belle not to grab her with their hands,” said Lape.  “They should just call her by name or wolf whistle.”

Belle should quickly come to someone who calls her,” Lape continued. “She will land on their shoulders or hands. The person who finds her should next slowly walk into the nearest enclosed area and call me at 609 713-5992.”