bird has flown, the
The individual sought has gone away, as in Jean hoped to meet her editor at long last, but when she arrived the bird had flown. This idiom has been used for an escaped prisoner, and more generally, as in 1655 by William Gurnall (The Christian in Complete Armour): “Man ... knows not his time ... he comes when the bird is flown.” [Mid-1600s]
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Sleek finds it far harder work than fortune-making; but he pursues his Will-o'-the-Wisp with untiring energy.The Pit Town Coronet, Volume I (of 3)|Charles James Wills
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Many of his bird neighbors,p. 31 for instance, liked the same things to eat that he did.
Although the bird people didn't know it, he was anxious to reach his grandchildren.