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Sometimes I look at Elmo and George and think, “Wow, I have pigeons in the house!” It’s an amazing thought. Out of all the pet owners out there, how many have pigeons? Before getting Georgie and Elmo I had never met anyone who has pigeons as pets. I didn’t even consider pigeons an option. Dogs, guinea pigs, parrots and rats were my prefered animals. Then I met baby George and she needed a home – so we gave her one. Then Elmo came along needing a home and we quickly welcomed him into ours.

Although I sometimes long to have a dog or other animals, at the moment we cannot, but I also wonder if we can ever get a dog for fear of it hurting George and Elmo. Would a puppy who we can train be better or an oldie who has little hunting desire left in him? I’m not sure I could take the risk.

So at the moment we have two pigeons in the house – but I’m also desperate to get an aviary (aviaries preferably!) to fill with disabled ferals and tame fancy pigeons. … but that dream has to wait till we win the lottery to be able to buy a house with acres of land! … In fact, I can boldly say that if I ever do win a big cash lottery prize I will set up a pigeon sanctuary for all those darling pigeons that need a forever home (well, I might do this even if I don’t win the lottery).

Anyway, I’m kind of forgetting what this post was originally supposed to be about: litte people in my home. Let me explain:

I’ll be in the kitchen and in walks Elmo, pecking at the floor (- just like a dog will pad into the room). I do a double-take and really look at Elmo – trying to see him as a pigeon but sometimes I see more than his external pigeon-looking body. I see his character and personality brimming over his body – disguising him – making me see him as a person rather than a pigeon. Love can do funny things to your eyes.

Some days I really struggle to view Elmo as a pigeon – he’s turning into a person in my eyes – but not a human – just another kind of being (kind of human). Confusing? Well, it is to me! :)

Remember the story of the South African pigeon that was faster than broadband? (see: Pigeon faster than broadband) Well, recently there was a similar stunt performed, this time in the UK.

Now that we know that pigeons are faster than broadband maybe we should employ them to carry our messages – like in the olden days! :)

The following article is from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11325452

16 September 2010 Last updated at 16:12

Pigeon flies past broadband in data speed race

Pigeon at a Greek train station
In urban areas, broadband cleanly wins, but rural areas are a different story

Broadband is the most modern of communication means, while carrier pigeons date back to Roman times.

But on Thursday, a race between the two highlighted the low speeds of rural broadband in the UK; the pigeon won.

Ten USB key-laden pigeons were released from a Yorkshire farm at the same time a five-minute video upload was begun.

An hour and a quarter later, the pigeons had reached their destination in Skegness 120km away, while only 24% of a 300MB file had uploaded.

Campaigners say the stunt was being carried out to illustrate that broadband in some parts of the UK is still “not fit for purpose”.

It is not the first time that such a race has taken place. Last year a similar experiment in Durban, South Africa saw Winston the pigeon take two hours to finish a 96km journey. In the same time just 4% of a 4GB file had downloaded.

The pigeons are expected to complete a 120km journey to Skegness in around two hours, but Tref Davies, who is organising the stunt to give publicity to the campaign for better rural broadband, said the broadband connection will take significantly longer to transfer the 300MB file.

“The farm we are using has a connection of around 100 to 200 Kbps (kilobits per second),” Tref Davies, the stunt’s organiser, told BBC News on Thursday morning.

“The kids need to do school work and the farmer has to submit online forms but the connection is not fit for purpose.”

Mr Davies, who is co-founder of business ISP Timico and serves on the board of ISPA (Internet Service Providers’ Association), believes the issue is one that industry and government needs to address.

“This is the UK. It should be well-connected but around a third of homes still can’t get broadband,” he said.

However, BT disputes his figures. A spokesperson said that 99% of homes could now get broadband, leaving an estimated 160,000 lines “where excessive line length means broadband won’t work”.

Speed test

Even among those who can get broadband, rural areas are fighting to get reasonable speeds.

Research commissioned by the BBC last year found that around three million homes in the UK had internet connections of below 2Mbps (megabits per second).

The government has committed to delivering a minimum of 2Mbps to every home by 2015.

However, a recent report by communications watchdog Ofcom found that while these “headline speeds” were on the rise, they are not the relevant measure for broadband customers.

According to the report, “although headline speeds increased by nearly 50% between April 2009 and May 2010, actual speeds delivered increased by just 27%, and averaged just 46% of headline speeds”.

Lloyd Felton, founder of the Rural Broadband Partnership, said the effort to draw attention to rural broadband deprivation and low speeds was laudable.

“It’s true that there are particular areas of the country that suffer much more than others,” Mr Felton told BBC News.

“You’ve got massive deprivation – this long-quoted ‘digital divide’. As we all get more dependent on the internet, that divide gets wider.

“In the end it’s who takes ownership and responsibility for co-ordinating how a parish is going to handle it – what we say is that ‘communities need to help themselves to broadband’.”

For weeks now we have been trying to capture on camera Elmo doing the Very Big Hop – with no success.

Let me explain what the Very Big Hop is:

Elmo is busy attacking my hands on the sofa. Then he sees Richard’s hand hovering over his nest. Eagerly leaving my hands Elmo walks (with a certain glint in his eyes) over to his nest and does a Very Big Hop with tail fanned out, ending with his head bowed low under his body under Richard’s hand. Ta-da!!

It is the sweetest thing ever to watch! So funny!

But every time we try to set the scene Elmo doesn’t do the Very Big Hop – rather a very small one, which doesn’t have the same flare and character as the Very Big Hop. … Somehow I think Elmo knows what we’re doing and actively sabotages the camera shot.

We’ll just have to keep trying.

Watch this space! :)

Monday mornings are always busy for me at work – coming in after a 2 day break to find the Intensive Care Unit busting at the seams with casualties from the weekend. It takes us a few hours to reassess and sort out the new arrivals and older patients – but first I always have the need to go see Dora, Pidge and the other resident pigeons. I need to know that they are ok.

So I go to say good morning and to also check for any eggs (which, if found, I’ll replace with fake ones) and upon seeing Dora and Pidge I burst out laughing.

This is what I see:



It seems that Dora and her mate, Pidge, have been a bit too eager and ambitious in their nest building! :)

What darlings! Pigeons always seem to do something new to make me laugh and smile – this little skyscraper nest being such a gem. I can just see Pidge’s determination and dedication as he picks up another piece of straw and takes it to the ever growing pile. Dora must be thinking, “Are the eggs going to stay on top of this?”

I must admit I’d be very worried for their babies if I did let them raise a pair. I’d be too afraid that they’d fall off the nest – seeing as it is so high and a bit unstable. Surely Dora and Pidge must realise that the eggs and babies would be the safest in the basket – not balanced on top?!

Oh well, I just have to let them pretend that they know what they’re doing. :)


Last night Georgie was very naughty. She kept attacking me while I was trying to watch a movie. … Maybe she was bored with the movie – didn’t like the actors or the story and was trying to get me to change channel? Maybe she was overtired and wanted to go to bed? Whatever the reason she was really getting me annoyed – and bruised since she insisted on standing on my shoulder – and then pecking at my face and neck!

I had to talk softly and sweetly to her – little coos and soft kisses to her head – but nothing could make her stop pecking me. I kept removing George from my shoulder and putting her on the sofa but she just kept climbing back onto me. She wanted to fall asleep on my shoulder, but was not happy when I made a movement. In the end I had to be put her in her cage to calm down and go to sleep – which she did.

Georgie has her bedtime and if she’s out past that time she gets very grumpy – a fact that I sometimes forget – hence the red marks on my neck!

Today Georgie spent a good hour snuggled on my lap – all memory of last nights events forgotten.


I only got this photo because her eyes were closed when the camera light went on.

Elmo has also been snuggling up to his loved one today:


I watched a wood pigeon land on the water dish in the garden – a big fat woody all intent on having a drink – when along came a little fiesty feral pigeon. The feral hopped onto the water dish and pushed the wood pigeon off! What a little cheeky sod! :) After the feral had his fill and had flown off, the woody came back for his drink.


Now that we’ve stopped throwing copious amounts of food into the garden we don’t have 50 pigeons sitting on the neighbours roof all day anymore. We still have feral pigeons visiting our garden (we throw seed and peanuts out sporadically) – and we recognise many returning ones – so we know that the pigeons are doing alright without our steady supply of food. We believe it is better that pigeons (well, all wildlife really) don’t become reliant on humans as their sole food source. They need to be able to find food elsewhere, otherwise what would happen if we moved house?

A few weeks ago a small clump of white mushrooms appeared – which proceeded to grow and grow – until they eventually disappeared. We had Elmo out in the garden one day and he didn’t like the look of the mushrooms. Not to his taste at all and he quickly retreated back to the front door – the days adventure over! What a scaredy-cat!! :)


And today I saw our little fox cub – now all grown up – appear for a sniff and a scavenge in our garden. What a handsome lad he is now (could be a girl – but I haven’t checked)!


I’ve never seen a King pigeon before – in fact, I didn’t even know about this breed of pigeon until seeing a link to a King pigeon rescue blog (I don’t think there are many King pigeons in the UK – but I could be wrong). After reading about them from the below websites I can see how such beautiful pigeons would make lovely pets – either indoors or in an aviary. They sound like gentle giants.

Originating in the US, the King is a dual-purpose breed – used for squab production (for their meat) as well as for exhibition. The King is large in size and can be found in a variety of colours – however, the white strain is found in the squab production pigeons. These ones have no survival instincts if released and will often die from predator attack, starvation or being hit by a car. If found and taken to a rescue centre a permanent home is needed to house these non-releasable birds.

The following websites tell the tales of many King pigeons – please have a read (and help if you can):

MickaCoo! – “a division of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue dedicated to the rescue of doves and pigeons, a sadly overlooked segment of the avian companion population.”

The Rescue Report – a blog about rescuing and rehoming King pigeons

You can also find them on Facebook: MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why have a pigeon for a pet?

Originally published in the
Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue Newsletter, July 2009

I had never considered having a king pigeon (or any pigeon) as a pet until I met a tame one, Gurumina, who had been surrendered by her owner to SF Animal Care & Control. I was there doing my volunteer shift socializing the rabbits and rats and guinea pigs and she kept bouncing up and down in her stainless steel cage. She sounded like a bowling ball in a clothes dryer. Shelter volunteers usually don’t handle the birds but Gurumina wanted attention and when I opened up the door to her cage, she stepped out on to my arm, surprising me both with her weight and her charm. Rather than let Gurumina be euthanized (which is what usually happened to king pigeons), I decided to find her a home. At the time, I had two parrots, two cats and a dog and was feeling full up (ah- the good old days), but figured I could foster her until I found the right adopter. With Mickaboo’s help, I did. Her adopter, Shafqat, has this to say, “Having a king pigeon is a nice alternative to having a more demanding pet. My Gurumina is low maintenance and independent. She quietly follows family members around the house while we go about our business and is lovely to look at on top of that. I’m very glad I have her in my life, she’s a peaceful and pleasant presence.” Since meeting Gurumina, I’ve adopted six and fostered almost one hundred pigeons. So beware, pigeons can be addictive.

Kings pigeons are domestic and can’t survive in the wild. They’re bred to be eaten as squab and so are big-bodied for maximum meat yield and white (white feathers are a byproduct of the pink skin consumers prefer in meat birds). Bay Area animal shelters get quite a few in (several a week in SF) because they get away from backyard breeders or people see them for sale in live food markets, feel sorry for them, buy them and set them ‘free’- a gesture most don’t survive (and that only rewards the breeders). Once free, king pigeons stand around, not sure what to do or where to go and are quickly killed by hawks, dogs, cats, and cars. The few lucky survivors make it to shelters where adopters are scarce and euthanasia likely.

As a breed, king pigeons are calm and very adaptable. They’re alert but not prone to panic. Their energy level is much lower than that of parrots and they tend to have really great leisure skills- lounging and napping and watching more than being busy, busy, busy. I think of parrots as being hot and spicy while pigeons are cool and mellow, maybe even boring to some. Pigeons will interact with you and some like ringing bell toys or adopting cat toy balls as surrogate eggs. They don’t talk and while they are flashy strutters, I don’t know of any that dance. Pigeons are quiet with the male courtship cooing/moaning being the main vocalization. They do coo or trill at you sometimes but they never scream or yell. While quiet and mellow, they are still full of opinions and personality and each is an individual. Like when adopting any bird, you have to accept them as a cherished guest in your life and not try to change them or force them to be something they’re not. Most of my pet pigeons will give me some quality snuggle time when in the house but prefer not to be handled when they’re outdoors (like it’s our little secret). Louie, who I’ve had for almost two years, does not want to come indoors or be handled ever and I respect that wish. I leave her be and am content to love her from afar.

If you keep your pigeon indoors as part of the family, two or even one alone, given enough attention, is fine. They need a home base such as a large dog crate, flight or Amazon-size cage. The less ‘out time’ they get, the bigger their home base needs to be. They’ll walk around more than fly (and never climb) but will likely pick out a high perch or two (atop kitchen cabinets is a favorite) as well. Poop can be managed (especially on hardwood or tile floors) with meal feeding and some designated hangout places or controlled with pigeon pants. Pigeons ‘hold it’ while sitting on their eggs and so have the potential to be potty-trained. Pigeons don’t bite (though they may peck or pop you with a wing if they have a point to make) and they don’t chew so your woodwork and walls and electrical cords are safe. They do seem to love walking on keyboards (Note to self: Buy an old keyboard or two on next thrift store visit).

Frances, a sick and terrified shelter king I brought home to nurse a couple months back, surprised me by becoming completely tame. I’ve nursed lots and would have swore he was an aviary-only bird but he now spends his days outdoors in my backyard loft but his mornings & evenings in the house with me, three cats, a dog and three small parrots. Usually he gets along fine with everybody but once in awhile he’ll get in the mood to attack the cats (!) and I have to put him in his crate for a time-out so they aren’t terrorized. I absolutely adore hearing Frances pitter-pattering around the house. He’ll do his own thing for a while (like deciding to take a bath in the dog’s water dish) and then comes looking for me and always brings me a smile when he comes.

It’s extremely easy to keep king pigeons as outdoor pets. They can’t be safely flown (they are easy targets for hawks and cats) and so must be protected in an enclosure. Kings are birds of leisure though, and don’t need a lot of flight space (they do, of course, need room to move around). They require a safe, predator-proof enclosure with some protection from weather extremes but, because they are soft-bills, it is safe to contain them with wood and galvanized wire- no stainless steel required. If kept outdoors, it’s nice to have a small flock of four to eight birds and I highly recommend a walk-in aviary because it’s easier to clean and fun to go in and interact with them. They say no one ever wished for a smaller aviary so plan it to be as big as possible. Minimum size for four birds would be at least six feet long (horizontal space is most important) by four feet deep and five feet high and the bigger the better. They’ll spend their time bathing (pigeons love water), preening, lounging in the sun, eating, watching the sky, napping, socializing and courting. Every four to five weeks, couples will lay a pair of eggs (which should be replaced with fake for pigeon birth control) and take turns sitting on them. Pigeons are extremely devoted to their family and usually (though not always) mate for life. They adjust well to life in the human world and make really easy, sweet pets. I highly recommend them!

Elizabeth Young, MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Coordinator

(From: http://www.rescuereport.org/2008/09/why-have-pigeon-for-pet.html)

Here’s Sophie, a beautiful white pigeon (looks like a King pigeon):

Is there a difference between a dove and a pigeon? Technically, no. There is no difference. “Dove” and “pigeon” are just names used to call the different bird species of the Columbidae family. In the simplest understanding, smaller species are called “doves” and the larger species “pigeons”, however, this is not a hard and fast rule.

The word “dove” has purer connotations, whilst “pigeon” can arouse a variety of reactions, ranging from indifference to disgust, fear to hatred. This is a shame since they are one and the same. But as Dr. Jean Hansell so nicely put: “People just don’t make the connection between the dove of peace and the pigeon in the street.” *

(For many people, though, the word “pigeon” will make them smile with love.)

It is quite funny how the so called “white dove” can be considered cleaner and nicer than a feral pigeon – considering that the white dove is in fact simply a white coloured racing pigeon. These white pigeons are commonly released at events such as weddings and graduations. (Not to be confused with the white ringneck dove species that has no homing instinct and should never be released at events!) It may simply be that the colour white is associated with kindness, purity and cleanliness in people’s minds – regardless of what type of bird it is.

Some people make a difference between racing pigeons, fancy pigeons and the common feral pigeon, however, when you strip away their seperate names, you’re simply left with a pigeon – albeit ones bred for different purposes. But neither type are better than the other. Some come in fancy shapes and colours, some can race, and some can clean up the food litter dropped by careless humans. They all deserve respect and in many cases, admiration.


Some may call this a dove, others may call it a white pigeon


Diamond dove


Feral pigeons - in many different colours


Collared dove


Stock dove


Archangel breed of fancy pigeon


Some may call this a dove due to her petite features, others may call her a fancy pigeon

* Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.

We went to see Toy Story 3 and were delighted to see a pigeon make an appearance in the movie! I won’t spoil anything but the pigeon scene made us pigeon lovers squeal with delight! :)

Yesterday, after writing my post, Georgie took me hostage and I ‘unfortunately’ couldn’t move for the whole evening because she was sat so comfortable on my chest. I just couldn’t move her. She looked so sweet. I wish I could take a photo of her when she’s all snuggled up but Georgie doesn’t like camera lights nor flash and reacts immediately to any cameras and phones near her. Pity. (More about this at: Technophobic George)

So I just have to stay put and take delight in her pretty delicate face feathers and content look. She melts my heart.

The pigeon rule” still applies so my poor hubby was at my beck and call! :)

What to say about dear Elmo? Well, firstly, he’s one of the sweetest, cutest, funniest and most loyal and loving pigeon there is – on the other hand, however, he’s one of the most annoying little sods around!! – How does he do it?! :)

So why am I saying this? What could Elmo possibly be doing to make me want to grab him and give him a big fat kiss – a kiss of love as well as a kiss of frustration at his behaviour. Well, Elmo has been patrolling his territory again and is been a bit tough on the rules – he’s giving me no leeway on the subject – I must not cross the territory lines or there’ll be hell to pay! This all makes getting comfortable on the sofa a bit difficult, especially when my arm sometimes goes over the line and it gets pecked at quite hard – ouch and owie!

So I end up staring at him as he stares at me – Elmo shaking a bit in his eagerness to attack me, me trying to give him the evil eye but failing miserably (how can I when Elmo is so adorable?!).

Now remember folks, when my husband isn’t around Elmo eventually backs down and asks for my attention and affection – which I can give him with little fear of being attacked. But as soon as Richard comes home, Elmo switches back to his original alliance. Talk about a cheat!

So I have to endure Elmo’s relentless negative attention at a safe distances, resisting the urge to grab him and smother him with kisses because I just love him so much! Even though he doesn’t love me (…well, maybe he does a bit but he sure doesn’t show it readily).

Pigeons, eh?! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them! :)

Ps. More on this subject: My own personal guard