Poncho, a 7-year-old African grey parrot, was used to spending his summer days lounging at North Avenue Beach. At least until a recent day in June. That was when his owner, red and raw with sunburn, opted to put him in his carrying cage instead of giving him a shoulder ride back to their Near North Side apartment building. The second Poncho saw the cage, he started to shake and squawk. Then he took off and, carried by the wind, flew hundreds of yards out over Lake Michigan. He circled back with his owner, 20-year-old Alexander Siarris, running up the beach, waving his arms in the air and shouting: "Poncho! Right here!" Poncho flew past the concrete chess pavilion and into a patch of trees. As Siarris ran after him, beachgoers who had seen the bird shouted directions: "He flew into that big tall one!" A group of policemen nearby told Siarris to call animal control. An animal control worker told Siarris the case was labeled "high priority," but if nobody showed up by 10 p.m., it would have to wait until morning. Hours later, Siarris finally went home and tried to fall asleep. Last year in Chicago, Animal Care and Control reported that more than 7,000 pets went missing. Fewer than 20 percent of those were reunited with their owners. Some were adopted, but many were transferred to other facilities or euthanized or died on the streets. As a rule, the nicer the weather, the more pets tend to go missing, said Susan Russell, executive director of animal control.