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Last week at work I noticed that one of the disabled pigeons in Dora’s aviary was sitting down a lot and was very reluctant to move about. It was Teresa, an old girl with a broken wing (old injury). After examing her I found that she had hurt one of her legs, however, there wasn’t anything obvious (no breaks, cuts, etc.). She was just reluctant to use it. So I took Teresa into the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) to receive the care and bed rest she needs.

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Teresa in a hospital cage

Teresa is still in I.C.U. on medication (pain relief, etc.) and bed rest, and she’s eating lots and her droppings are normal. I’m hoping she’ll be on her legs and back in the aviary with her friends soon.

In other news, we have two new resident pigeons to join Dora and the gang! :)

Burko

Burko, a tame feral pigeon

Burko is a grey checker feral pigeon that was found on the ground in February. He was healthy but was simply not flying. It is thought that he had just fledged and maybe got dazed and confused. After a bit of care Burko started flying again.

Tux

Tux, a tame feral pigeon

Tux is a black and white pied feral pigeon. She was found in March, all wet and oily with a damaged left wing. The wing healed within a few months, by which time Burko had wooed his way into Tux’s heart, since the two had been living in the same house together (with a few cats too). Both are a bit too friendly towards people and cats so they cannot be released and were brought to my work for rehoming.

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Burko and Tux in their new home

Tux and Burko settled in fine in Dora’s aviary and I’m sure they’ll be sitting on eggs soon (fake ones when I sneakily replace them). I cannot wait to get to know them better. When they were in the isolation pen Burko kept attacking my fingers in a playful manner, so I can see he’s a very feisty pigeon, however, Tux was not so keen to interact with me. I think she’s a bit more timid and may take a while to get used to me and her new surroundings.

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Some of the pigeons in Dora's aviary

Remember Birdie girl? Unfortunately, she hasn’t chosen a mate yet. Neither Button or Davey have stolen her heart. :( I’m afraid she may never choose a pigeon mate, rather preferring a human companion. If she seems unhappy I will have to rehome her to a loving home, however, at the moment she doesn’t seem unhappy with the pigeons. I will keep an eye on her and assess the situation later. On a happier note, Birdie’s feathers are growing back so she should look like a proper pigeon soon. :)

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)
  20. BIRDIEfemale - feral pigeon (single)
  21. TUXfemale - feral pigeon (paired with Burko)
  22. BURKOmale – feral pigeon (paried with Tux)

Many people don’t know what a baby pigeon looks like. This is not surprising since pigeons usually nest in secluded spots away from human sight (read Invisible babies). What is surprising is how many people, when finding a baby pigeon, think that the squab is a… wait for it… duckling.

Now please excuse me if I offend anyone, but even if you are a city dweller and have never been on a farm before, you should surely know what a duckling looks like! Ducklings are everywhere: on TV, in childrens books and on toys and clothing. Usually ducklings are depicted as all yellow, however, wild ones are generally yellow and brown or black.

When queried as to why they thought the pigeon squab was a duckling, the usual reply is, “It has such a big beak.”

Ok, fair enough, the beak in a squab is large and out of proportion (especially in woodpigeons), however, people are overlooking a very important factor of the make-up of a duckling: webbed feet!

All ducklings are born with webbed feet. So if the bird you find hasn’t got webbed feet, then it isn’t a water-bird.

I will post a few photos so you can see for yourself how a pigeon squab looks nothing like a duckling. I apologise if I have offended anyone with this little rant, but I’ve been so amazed by people’s lack of knowledge. We had one man say to us, upon hearing that the “duckling” he brought us was in fact a 5 day old woodpigeon squab, “Oh, I’m glad I brought it to you then. We were thinking about putting it onto the lake to join its mother.”

And now I must apologise to all the pigeon lovers out there, but another important distinction between a duckling and a pigeon squab is people’s reaction to them: People react with “aaahs” and “how cute” when seeing a duckling, but more often than not, when seeing a pigeon squab, they say, “oh, how ugly”. (For the record, I think baby pigeons are adorable looking.)

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MALLARD DUCKLING - notice its webbed feet!

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COLLARED DOVE SQUAB - notice its feet: no webbing!

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MALLARD DUCKLING

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WOODPIGEON SQUABS

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MALLARD DUCKLING

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FERAL PIGEON HATCHLING

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SHELDUCK DUCKLING

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FERAL PIGEON SQUAB


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We now have a curtain obsessed pigeon. Georgie girl has taken a liking to pecking the living room curtains and hiding behind them. I have no idea why and cannot think of a reason for this behaviour.

One day I couldn’t find Georgie, she wasn’t in the usual spots. Then I saw a pair of feet:

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Perhaps Georgie is playing hide-and-seek? If so, she’s not very good at it because now she always hides in the same place. :)

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Elmo is moulting and so there are hundreds of feathers in the flat, making their merry way into every nook and cranny. I predict a major house clean today!

As the sun started shining through the window onto Georgie I realised that I haven’t spent as much time this summer out in the garden with the pigeons. Not sure why (have we had bad weather on the weekends here? I truly cannot remember), but I thought I better rectify this immediately so I grabbed the bird harness, quickly slipped it around Georgie and went out with her to lay in the sun. Georgie is always a bit unsure about new surroundings so she stood still for quite a while on the grass but once she was reassured that she was safe she slowly crouched down, spread open her wings and basked in the sunshine. Gorgeous!

When I later brought her back in I put a dish of water down for her to have a bath in, however, Georgie wasn’t yet done with sunbathing. She found a spot by the window and had an extra 10 minutes of sunshine (although without the goodness since the window filters out the much needed UV light that helps vitamin D production).

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Georgie sunbathing

Then, when she heard my fingers splashing the water in the dish, she was ready for a bath to cool down. And as always, Elmo came over to shiver and shake in anticipation of his turn. He even made these little adorable grunts which I’ve never heard him make before. I think he was very eager for a bath!

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Elmo enjoying the water

With Elmo so wet I could really see the new feather growth on his head. He’s been looking a bit scruffy lately with the moult (we were afraid we’d have a bald pigeon on our hands! :) ).

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New feather growth on Elmo's head

I love how the feathers are growing in a neat row!

Once our two pigeons have soaked themselves sufficiently, they flap about to expel the excess water (thus soaking us instead) and go sit quietly on the sofa to dry. We get wafts of smelly wet pigeon drifting over to us.

I admit that I’m repeating the same experiences here. But when Elmo and Georgie have a bath they always do the same thing so there’s nothing new to write about. :)

I’ll have to start thinking of new material. Maybe I’ll teach Elmo to dance the can-can!! :D


Baby pigeons are brought to my work for different reasons: human interference (e.g. building or tree work), cats taking them out of their nest, or bad weather causing them to fall out of their nest. Sometimes the babies are unharmed and only need to be hand-fed until they are old enough to feed for themselves, other times the pigeon squabs are injured and need special attention.

We had one such latter case last month. A little woodpigeon that not only had a hole in its crop but also a scalped head (with the scull showing). :(

Poor little thing. He was very hungry and begged me for food. We feed baby pigeons on Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula in a liquid form, however, if there is a hole in the crop then all the liquid food pours out. So we had to switch to emergancy feeding: defrosted peas and sweetcorn and balls of Kaytee Exact. Being solid, the food thankfully stayed in the crop. It does depend where the hole is, though; if it is further down in the crop then the food will fall out, however, if it higher up then the food has a chance to stay and be digested (as was the case with this little woodpigeon).

At first we thought we’d ask our vets to stitch the hole up, however, after assessing the size and location of the hole, we decided that it wasn’t necessary and that it would be better for it to heal naturally. The vets were concerned about the scalp injury, however, we reassured them that it wasn’t a problem at all and that it would heal quickly (we’ve had quite a few scalped birds before). We decided to take photos of the woodpigeon because it can be quite dramatic to see the quick healing.

Dermisol cream was applied every day to the hole as well as the scalped head. Antibiotics were given to fight off any infection. The crop hole healed up nicely and we were able to switch to liquid Kaytee Exact. I didn’t take photos of the hole because it was too hard to keep the pigeon still. Trying to take a photo of his head was hard enough! He kept “beaking” my fingers for food and flapping about (which is why my hand is in the photos – to try to keep him still for a second).

And here they are:

27th July – 2nd day with us:

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28th July – With the dermisol cream on his head:

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2nd August – Skin regrowing:

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3rd August – The scab fell off:

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9th August – The skin has grown back over his scalp:

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15th August – Completely healed, needing only new feathers to grow back:

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This little woodpigeon is now ready to be in the aviary for flight practice and muscle toning. :)

We are of course so happy for his speedy recovery and happy that there is such a good cream as dermisol cream to help with healing!


The internet can be an amazing thing. One day you make contact with like-minded people and before you know it you’re packing the car with pigeons and bags to visit them! :)

Yes, Elmo and Georgie decided they weren’t going to miss out on visiting a Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven in Norfolk on the Haven’s Open Day (see also their facebook page: www.facebook.com/wingandaprayerhaven).

Getting to Norfolk wasn’t going to be a problem (only about a 3 hour drive) but would we find a pigeon-friendly hotel or bed & breakfast? Some hotels allow pets but after enquiring what species they allow we find out that “pets” really only means cat or dog, pigeons not allowed. :(

However, with the help of our new friend in Norfolk we make contact with a bed & breakfast that sounded perfect. Richard makes the call, asks about availability (yes, they have a room available), and then crunch time; the question we know may cost us the deal (conversation goes a bit like this):

Richard: “We have two pets. Would that be a problem?”

B&B lady: “What sort of pets?”

Richard: “Um, well, pigeons.”

B&B lady: “Pigeons?!” (she said with surprise in her voice) “We have all kinds of animals; hens, sheep,  goats. They’ll love it here!”

Richard: “Ok, great!” :)

The lady at Hengrave Farm was so nice, we couldn’t believe our luck in finding a pigeon-friendly bed & breakfast. So with a room booked, travel plans made, we couldn’t wait to be on our way.

My only concern was how Georgie would feel on such a long journey, since she gets motion sickness. Yep, you heard me right: motion sickness! You wouldn’t think birds could but they can, just like any other animal out there. (Does this mean that some birds are afraid of heights?) Since we want to take our pigeons with us on holidays to Cornwall and possibly a drive through Europe, we really need to sort out Georgie’s motion sickness. So the trip to Norfolk became a test to see how Georgie would handle a long drive.

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All pigeons ready in the car! (Georgie is hidden on the left)

Elmo doesn’t get motion sickness and was fine in his carry-cage as long as he could see us. We strapped the cages to the backseat and off we went (it always amazes me how some people let their dogs stand unrestricted in the car, sticking their heads out the window. Imagine what would happen if the car crashed into something). Sure enough, we soon heard Georgie vomiting. Poor girl. She seemed to have emptied her crop and then stood still for the journey. A few times Georgie had a little preen, which might indicate that she was feeling ok.

When we arrived at the Haven we took Elmo and Georgie with us in their carry-cages. A few people thought we were bringing them in to stay, so at one point I thought it would have been a good idea to put a sticker on the cages stating them as our beloved companions (next time I’ll have to remember to do this).

Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven is a wonderful place, full of welcoming, nice people and beautiful birds (both free-ranging and ones in the large aviaries). Being the pigeon fanatics that we are, we honed in on the pigeons at the Haven, but they also have different owl species, chickens, ducks, rheas, corvids and songbirds.

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Free-flying pigeons sitting quite happily on an owl aviary

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Disabled pigeon aviary

The people at the Haven were happy to meet us, especially Elmo and Georgie, however, I think our pigeons were a bit reserved because of all the new faces (there were lots of people visiting on the Open Day). So rather than skip and hop about in his usual charming self, Elmo stood still and simply looked about. Later on he emerged a bit and did a little dance but I think he held back most of the time. Georgie was quite quiet too, which isn’t unusual, but I think she was still recovering from her car sickness.

It was a good day and we were very impressed with the premises and the wonderful team at the Haven. They help all sorts of injured and orphaned birds, and need all the support you can give in continuing their essential work (they are funded entirely by donations).

We later drove to Hengrave Farm and met the lovely lady in charge, who showed such sincere enthusiasm towards Elmo and Georgie that we couldn’t help feel we had found the perfect place to stay. The buildings, rooms and surroundings were so beautiful too!

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Elmo looks about the room

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Elmo (left) and Georgie (right)

Elmo and Georgie wasted no time in exploring the room. The clickety-clack of their feet as they walked around (or ran about as in Elmo’s case) was a nice sound. I do prefer wood flooring to carpeting.

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Road to Hengrave Farm

I didn’t waste any time in going to see the lovely sheep, goats and hens at the B&B, although the ram wasn’t very welcoming so I kept my distance. :)

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Stand-off with Mr. Ram

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Swallows

We had a lovely dinner at a nearby pub (The Hainford Chequers, very large food portions!) with the founders and volunteers of the Haven, and the next day a drive to the coast and a quick lunch was in order (Elmo and Georgie stayed at the B&B). Then, sadly, it was time to make our way back home. Georgie seemed less bothered by the journey down and this could be due to the fact that she hadn’t eaten a lot that day (so less food to make her feel nauseous?) or maybe she didn’t feel as ill this time. I’ll be looking into motion sickness in birds to see if there is anything to give to help alleviate her nausea. If nothing helps then Georgie will have to stay behind when we go on holiday next time, however, I don’t like this idea since she does miss me a lot and doesn’t eat very well when I’m away (she loses quite a bit of weight).

All in all we had a wonderful mini-break and we are looking forward to visiting again next year when the Haven have another Open Day.

A big thank you to everyone who welcomed us and made our stay so enjoyable!!

(I don’t like naming people without their permission, but you know who you are! :) )

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The sea, the sea

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Pebble beach

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Mr. Pigeon tucked in for the night

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Elmo trying to feed Richard. Look at his tongue!

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Georgie is a friend of the Haven!

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Elmo shows his support too!


Birdie

Birdie girl

We want you to welcome “Birdie girl” into Dora’s extended family.

Birdie girl, as she’s named by her carers, was found as a baby last spring and was hand-reared. She seemed to be a slow developer or maybe she was simply so happy with her carers, but she only started eating for herself after 6 months of being hand-fed!! She then began making nests and laying eggs in the usual female way and seemed quite happy in her home, however, a month or so ago Birdie became stressed and started to pluck out her feathers. Her carers thought that it may be a lack of a mate that was stressing her so they contacted my work to see if we could find her one.

Birdie is too tame to be released, and since there are two single males in the resident fancy and disabled pigeon aviary at my work, we decided to give her a home with the hopes that she will pair up with one of the single boys.

And here’s the two boys, Davey (the white pigeon) and Button (the grey feral), cooing and dancing to Birdie on her first day in her new home (the boys stop when Birdie comes close to me):

I hope Birdie likes her new home and finds either Davey or Button a suitable match. I’m sure both the boys will prance about like little clowns to attract her attention. I’ll keep you posted if I see a romance blossoming. :)

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Pigeons eating


So you return home from work, eager to greet your pigeon, and what do you discover? No pigeon. Result: heart racing uncontrollably, panic stations armed and ready to explode.

This is what happened to Richard when he opened the bedroom door (fully expecting Elmo to greet him with joyous cooings). A vacant room. Pigeon missing.

I had been home earlier and when I left I put Elmo in the bedroom. I remember this distinctly because I felt bad in having to leave him so soon after returning home (I was only home for about half an hour). So I know I put Elmo in the room. I know I closed the door. So where’s Elmo?

Richard starts calling Elmo’s name and searching behind the door, under the bed, and then he looks behind the stack of books (that are covered with a cloth) by the radiator. And there’s Elmo, stuck between the books and the radiator, cooing his head off now that he’s seen Richard.

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The space where Elmo was stuck.

Richard shifts the pile of books and retrieves his pigeon. Elmo is very happy to be rescued and starts dancing about. He’s covered in dust and loose feathers but otherwise unharmed. We don’t know how long he was stuck there for (I was away for an hour) nor how he managed to get himself in that situation. He doesn’t usually fly onto the books but I think Elmo got upset when I left him and he flapped about trying to find me and ended up falling by accident. Poor boy. We’ll have to move the books now so it doesn’t happen again (a bigger bookcase is on my “to buy” list so I can have all my books on display).

As you can imagine, Elmo received lots of cuddles and kisses after his ordeal. We too felt the need to recover from the experience and pigeon cuddles does the trick. :)

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Elmo is fine!

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Happy to be rescued.