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I’m being swamped at work. There are so many woodpigeon babies coming in – all squeaking for my attention, for me to feed them. I find it hard – oh so hard – to resist cuddling them. Thankfully I have a pair of white pigeon squablets that I can cuddle and kiss to my heart’s content!

Their mother was sadly killed by a sparrowhawk and the owners of the white pigeons didn’t know how to feed the babies. Since they come from an aviary, they’ll be returned when they are old enough, so I can talk and tame the white pigeon babies with unrestricted joy. (And we’ve told the owners how to protect the aviary from further sparrowhawk attacks.)

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White pigeons, only 3-4 days old - 19th July

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The two white pigeons tickle a baby woodpigeon - 26th July

Woodpigeons actually drive me a bit mad. Some babies can be very sweet and beg for food, others don’t want anything to do with you and huff and puff away like a little dragon, chest swelled out to look bigger (filled with air!) and wing slap you when you go to pick them up. Then they’ll jump about to get away from you, knocking the gavage tube from your hands and tipping over the food pot, spilling it all over the bench. After the fifth woody has done this I’m ready for a break. I’m only trying to feed them so they can grow to be big handsome woodpigeons!

I’m going to have to invent some sort of restraining vest while I hand-feed the baby woodies (cut a hole in a sock and pop their head through?). Most of the time the babies realise I’m not going to hurt them and calm down but some never do. The day they start eating seed for themselves is a joyous day for me. I can get them out into an aviary and let them feather up till release!

(Just realised I haven’t got many photos of woodpigeons. Gotta get my camera ready for tomorrow and have a woody-photoshoot! :) ).


I have to have a little quasi-rant now about how feral pigeons are portrayed in sitcoms and cartoons. Three come to mind:

  • Frasier – Season 11, Episode 12 – “Frasier-Lite”
  • The Simpsons – Season 22, Episode 7 – “How Munched is That Birdie in the Window”
  • Outnumbered – Season 3, Episode 4 – “The Pigeon”

SPOILER ALERT!

My rant will reveal what happens in the above episodes.


First off, why do writers feel the need to continue the ignorant and untrue potrayal of pigeons as “flying rats”? It’s starting to get really old. Seriously writers. Do your research!

In each of the above episodes the characters refer to the pigeon as being “diseased”, “unclean”or “flying rats”. (On the plus side, though, the characters try to help the bird.)

Secondly, why do the writers feel the need to kill the pigeons?

In each of the above episodes the pigeon dies. Is it funny? No. Is it necessary? I don’t think so. But I guess the writers thought that the story couldn’t develop or wasn’t interesting enough unless they kill the pigeon off.

Is it too much to ask to see a feral pigeon in a sitcom or cartoon (or movie!) being rescued, cared for and then released?! What’s wrong with that story line? Is that boring?

Every time I see a feral pigeon in a programme I think, “Oh no, what are they going to do with that pigeon?” I know that it won’t have a good outcome, but I still hold out the hope that it will. Maybe one day attitudes will change and we will see some nice story lines about pigeons.


After returning back from my week in Hungary I was very eager to see my Dora again, as well as all the other lovely pigeons she lives with (for photos of them all, please click here).

As I stepped into the aviary Dora and her mate, Pidge, were already by the door ready to greet me, both for different reasons: Dora, to demand peanuts! Pidge, to try to mate with my hand! Pidge is 18 years old and had been hand-reared from a baby. He loves people as well as pigeons, so while he’s now paired with Dora, he likes to flirt with any human who visit him. :)

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Pidge (left) and Dora (right) defend their nest

I give Dora a hug and a kiss with Pidge on my head (I think he’s also jealous of the attention) but she’s already trying to tell me off. “Where’s the peanuts?!” she coos. Then Pidge and Dora fly up to their nest area and defend it from intruding hands. … I only want to pet them, but what do I get in return? Pecks!!

In the neighbouring nest I see Rudderford and Mousie – the newlyweds. I’m happy they’ve paired up. Pigeons are so gregarious and loving; they need company, especially if they live in an aviary.

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Rudderford (right) and Mousie (left)

The newest member of the aviary, Button, hasn’t paired up with anyone yet, and the only single girl left now is Teresa. Will they pair up? Possibly. Although, Davey is single too and hasn’t paired up with Teresa yet (Teresa could be still in mourning after loosing her mate, Hookbill). But Davey is in love with Peaches who is paired up with Stanley. Pigeon relationships: Complicated or what! :)

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Button resting on a log

List of all the current resident pigeons (fancy or disabled) at my work:

  1. DORAfemale - fancy pigeon (paired with Pidge)
  2. PIDGEmale - feral pigeon (paired with Dora)
  3. GERTIEfemale - racing pigeon (paired with Marmaduke)
  4. MARMADUKEmale - Archangel breed (paired with Gertie)
  5. FLEURfemale - fancy pigeon (paired with Marmalade)
  6. MARMALADEmale - Archangel breed (paired with Fleur)
  7. MADDIEfemale - feral pigeon (paired with Lord Nelson)
  8. LORD NELSONmale - West of England Tumbler breed (paired with Maddie)
  9. PEACHESfemale - fancy pigeon (paired with Stanley)
  10. STANLEYmale - feral pigeon (paired with Peaches)
  11. SPECKLESfemale - feral pigeon (paired with Horatio)
  12. HORATIOmale - Highflyer/Tippler breed (paired with Speckles)
  13. LUMIfemale - feral pigeon (paired with Turk)
  14. TURKmale - Turkish Takla breed (paired with Lumi)
  15. MOUSIEfemale - racing pigeon (paired with Rudderford)
  16. RUDDERFORDmale - feral pigeon (paired with Mousie)
  17. TERESAfemale - feral pigeon (single)
  18. DAVEYmale - feral pigeon (single)
  19. BUTTONmale - feral pigeon (single)
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One end of the aviary

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The other end of the aviary


As many of you may know, I work at a wildlife rescue centre. The animals we receive are either injured or orphaned (or both) and need our help to recover and grow up for release. It is hard, continuous work. Feed, clean, feed, clean, medicate, feed, clean and more cleaning. The wildlife in our care depend on us and we have a responsibility to ensure they are clean, comfortable, stress-free and receiving the best care we can provide. The ultimate aim of all this: release back into the wild in tip-top condition for best chance of survival in the big bad world!

Sometimes we receive horrible cases of cruelty: pigeons and doves that have been shot! :( :(

Pigeons (ferals included) are protected by law in the UK. It is illegal to kill any bird unless a licence is held or if the person (or pest control company) isn’t following the criteria of the general licence. Please go to the following websites for more indepth information: PiCAS: The Law and Is it legal to shoot pigeons?

It is hard to see these beautiful birds with shot wounds, knowing that the bird is suffering because of a fellow human being. On the 4th April we received a white pigeon that had a horrific infected shot wound in her chest. The hole was very large! The photo is shocking to look at and I have to admit, I didn’t think the pigeon would live.

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Shot white pigeon - 6th April

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6th April

We immediately gave her medication to fight the infection and relieve her of any pain and kept her in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) for observation and care. Every day her wounds were checked and cleaned and medication was given. She wasn’t happy about the situation and soon became quite restless. She wanted to get out but we couldn’t put her in an aviary where flies could lay their eggs in the open wound. So the dear girl had to stay in her cage in I.C.U.

Slowly, very slowly, the wound started to close up (as you can see in the photos).

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Her wound is dressed - 2nd May

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25th May

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All healed! - 14th July

One day a thin feral pigeon was brought to my work and he was placed in a cage near the white pigeon. The male pigeon started cooing, calling, testing her reaction. They couldn’t see each other easily, only through thin slits at the side of the cages, but they could hear each other and they began to flirt. First the male pigeon said his piece and waited. Then the white female pigeon responded. The male pigeon twirled and cooed joyfully in response to what she had said. You get the picture! Sure enough, the two fell in love. I made the mistake of putting them opposite each other one day and they had an unobstructed view of one another. They cooed and danced all day (no kidding, ALL day!), the little flirts!

The day we could put the two together in an aviary was a very happy day for them. They started kissing and prancing about like the newly-weds they were. They were released together on the 15th July. What a wonderful result!! :D

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White pigeon and her new mate the day before their release - 14th July

Ps. Now you may be wondering why I hadn’t named the white pigeon. I try not to at work for two reasons: 1) the animal is a wild animal and not a pet, and 2) not all the injured and orphaned wildlife live to be released, and since giving the animal a name forms attachment it can be tough on us humans if the animal dies. Sometimes, though, it is hard not to become attached to an animal, and equally hard not to cuddle and talk to the animal, but when it comes to working with injured/orphaned wildlife, you have to remain distant because you want the animal to remain wild so that it can be released (since you cannot release tame or imprinted wildlife!).


A very confused ringneck dove is in love with a cat! What a sweet couple! Love it. :)

Follow this link for videos of another pigeon and cat couple: Video Friday: Beautiful pigoen and kitten


I spent a week with my family at my grandmother’s home in Orosháza (Hungary) and the weather was unexpectedly hot, ranging from 32°C to 38°C! I’m not used to such heat and generally don’t like it but this time it was a pleasant experience. So I made the most of it and spent a lot of time sitting under the shade of the walnut trees in the garden watching the birds.

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the ride!

At times the heat was stifling (which after a while would drive me to retire to the cool interior of the house), other times there was a refreshing breeze. I felt sorry for the male blackbird who lived in the garden. He looked very hot! He was quite tame – not even bothered by the presence of the neighbour’s dogs (he must have sussed out that they weren’t interested in him) – and would walk near me on his daily forage. Poor bird. He had his beak open most times but luckily he had a tray of water to bathe in to cool down.

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Blackbird bathing

The one vivid memory I have of my grandmother’s home in Hungary is the sound of cooing. As a child I didn’t know what type of bird was cooing (despite knowing what a feral pigeon is). It may be surprising for you to learn that I had never seen a woodpigeon nor a collared dove until I went to the UK. While there are woodpigeons and collared doves in Finland (where I lived before moving to England) I had never noticed them. When I started working at a wildlife rescue centre in the UK I saw lots of pigeon and dove species and soon became acqainted with all the different cooings. So when I went back to Hungary and heard the cooing in the garden I immediately knew what bird species was making the sound: collared doves!! And this time I noticed them. They are everywhere! And they coo continuously – talking to each other.

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Collared dove

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Mr. Pigeon enjoying the garden views

As I sat in the garden reading a book (during this recent visit) I started to notice how often the collared doves visited the garden to drink. There is a big tub of collected rainwater that they drink from. All sorts visit: sparrows, greenfinches, woodpeckers, blackbirds and even the neighbour’s dogs!

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Collared dove at the local "watering hole"

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Taking a long sip in the heat

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Mr. Pigeon wants a drink too

I did see a few woodpigeons (at the local water park) and a few flocks of feral pigeons in the towns, however, collared doves seem to dominate the area where my grandma lives.

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Collared dove relaxing in the shade

I had a lovely time with my family and with the birds there but I missed my Georgie and Elmo a lot! Mr. Pigeon was a comfort though. :)

The neighbour’s very friendly dogs, Pöti and Daisy:

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Pöti

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Daisy


I’ve made it back home from my holiday, safe and sound. Needless to say, Georgie girl is now very happy. Richard took her out of her cage and she perched on his hand while I let her know I was there. I could see her cock her head to one side a bit and stretch out as if to determine that it was really me in front of her! Then as I held her in my hands she started cooing and snuggling into me, I couldn’t put her down; she was too excited in nesting on my lap!

Elmo was very excited too. He ran about cooing and bowing as he does, then he sang to me on the sofa, prancing about my outstretched hand as I tried to stroke him.

Today, as I spend the last free day with them, they would not leave me alone. Elmo and Georgie have been calling to me constantly and I’ve had to give them both attention and cuddles at the same time while keeping them separate so they don’t fight. I guess this means Elmo did miss me after all. :D

Of course Georgie was jealous whenever I gave Elmo any kisses and cuddles (she always makes a bee-line to us when she hears me giving him any attention) and now she’s a bit touchy with me, pecking me every now and then as if to let me know she doesn’t approve of my “cheating”.

I’ve missed my pigeons a lot and am glad to be home with them. Here are the two rascals together, vying for my affections:

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Georgie (left) and Elmo (right)


I’ll be going away for a week and will be back in action on Tuesday 12th July (I’m going to Hungary to see family). Unfortunately I cannot take Georgie with me, nor Elmo or my hubby!

While I was packing, Georgie tried to smuggle her way into the bag:

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"Will mummy notice me?" thinks Georgie

I know she’ll miss me, however, Richard will give her lots of attention and affection (whether she wants it or not). Georgie can be a bit of a pain, though. She has mood swings: one moment she’s sitting happily by your side, the next she’s attacking you! So Richard will have to be careful with his interactions with her. I hope she doesn’t peck him too much!

Elmo, on the hand, will be happy to have Richard almost all to himself!! :) For one whole week he won’t have to share the sofa with me nor have to tolerate (or not! as is often the case) my vain attempts to cuddle him. I just hope Elmo’s not too disappointed to see me when I return.

Georgie made one last attempt to get into the bag, but I can only take one pigeon with me and I’ve chosen Mr. Pigeon as my travel companion.

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Mr. Pigeon and Georgie

I’ll try to check our facebook page and emails, however, I might not have the opportunity to be online every day. Richard will have to keep an eye on things for me.

I hope to see some pigeons in Hungary (I know there’s collared doves at my grandmother’s house because I’ve heard them cooing) and I’ll try to take photos of them. A sort of pigeon-spotting trip! :)


I’ve received and read the three pigeon books I ordered a while back (see: Pigeon books on order). I now have eight books solely about pigeons and although a few of them have the same things written in them, they are all good books for information and references. The following books are the ones I have:

For information about fancy and racing pigeon housing and care:

  • Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds by Wendell M. Levi (1965)
  • Fancy Pigeons by Aad Rijs (2006)
  • Pigeons: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Matthew M. Vriends and Tommy E. Erskine (2005)
  • Understanding Pigeon Paramyxovirosis by H. Vindevogel and J.P. Duchatel (1985)

For information on the history and current situation between people and pigeons:

  • Pigeon by Barbara Allen (2009)
  • Pigeons by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (1997)
  • Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird by Andrew D. Blechman (2006)
  • Superdove: How the Pigeon took Manhattan… and the World by Courtney Humphries (2008)