HE's the feathered pet whose screeching and squawking from his cage certainly didn't endear him to some family members.

But today Bob the African grey parrot has been hailed a hero after he saved the lives of three members of the Hall family when fire ripped through their home.

It was the three-year-old tropical bird's frantic squawking that alerted them to the flames and smoke.

Francis Hall and his sons Trevor and Sam scrambled to safety after first rescuing their lifesaver by carrying his cage into the garden.

They were only a couple of minutes from death as the lethal smoke filled their terraced house.

Now Bob could be set for his reward for his life-saving - a female companion.

Francis, 59, told the Daily Echo last night: "The first thing I knew was Sam shouting the house was on fire. Bob's squawking had woken him.

"Bob doesn't say a lot. He wolf whistles and makes all sorts of weird noises. He sometimes says his own name. But when he feels threatened he makes a very loud squawk."

The parrot, who cost £500, is in line for ample reward for his efforts. Francis said: "I'm definitely going to get him a treat, some new toys, a swing, a bell and a mirror.

"It might be the right time to get him a mate. I've been thinking about an outdoor cage. Now the house is having to be re-done, this might be the time to do it."

The drama happened in Pilchards Avenue, Fair Oak, near Eastleigh, at around 6.25am yesterday when fire broke out in the kitchen, possibly in the microwave.

The fire crept unnoticed through the kitchen before Bob in the living room became alerted to the choking smoke.

His increasingly frantic screeching alerted Sam, the only family member to sleep with his bedroom door open. Sam woke and roused his father who rescued Bob as Sam woke his older brother, Trevor.

Francis and Sam suffered serious smoke inhalation and were given oxygen outside the house before being taken to hospital by ambulance for a check-up. Trevor also suffered smoke inhalation but did not need to go to hospital.

The crews took about 20 minutes to douse the flames and about a further hour to clear the smoke.

Crews from Botley and Eastleigh attended the blaze which wrecked most of the ground floor.

Sam, 18, a storeman, said: "I used to find Bob very annoying with his growling and squawking. But not now. He is a legend. He saved our lives. We just got out in time."

Trevor, 40, a warehouse operator, said: "To say we are lucky is an under-statement. It's devastating really."

He praised the actions of the fire service and the Red Cross who swiftly provided clothing.

Bob is named after Francis's father who died about three years ago. Bob served in the Royal Hampshire Regiment during World War Two and was a prisoner of war in Italy.

Francis said: "That was the reason we called the parrot Bob because of my father. That is why he means so much to me, having lost my father three years ago. My dad's namesake saved the day. Maybe he was looking down on us."

A fire service spokesman said: "The Halls were extremely lucky to have a parrot to indicate danger. It shows the importance of everyone checking their detectors."

The service offers free home fire safety visits when personnel will risk assess people's properties. Ring 023 8062 6809.