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A few days ago I spent a bit of time in Dora’s aviary at work – to check up on the resident pigeons there (a mixture of fancy, tame, and disabled pigeons), as well as to spend some time with Dora who used to live with us at home.

One thing I noticed immediately was that all the nesting pigeons (on fake eggs) were male pigeons, except for Dora! She was the only female to be incubating eggs. I don’t know why her mate, Pidge, wasn’t on duty – maybe Dora is a pushy girl and didn’t trust his commitment? Maybe Pidge isn’t as broody as he should be? Whatever the reason, it was quite funny to see the girl in her nest bowl, cooing away to Pidge while he pranced about on the perch to me (Pidge likes people as well as pigeons).

And as soon as I put my hand over to stroke her, Dora gave me the usual greeting:

Here’s Horatio (paired with Speckles) on incubating duty:

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Horatio in his nest

And the new pigeon, Burko, (paired with Tux) is a very good mate – protecting his fake egg from my intruding fingers:

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Burko in his nest

Rudderford has been through a moult and his new tail feathers aren’t as tatty as the previous ones, although I suspect they will soon fray at the ends again since he has trouble standing up properly (due to an injury).

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Rudderford


There are a few words used by pigeon lovers on the net that makes us smile and tut at the same time when we see it posted: “Oops” babies! :)

These words announce the discovery of baby pigeons that have slipped our birth-control vigilance. We smile because we are delighted to see little babies but tut because we know we should have checked more carefully but somehow we slacked and missed those eggs. Sometimes, pigeons will go to great lengths to hide their eggs from us so the babies remain hidden for a long time (Dora hid under a hutch: Dora’s first babies).

Now why on Earth would I be writing about “oops” babies?! … Have you guessed yet? :)

Dora’s aviary was having a major clean. A hutch was lifted and underneath we discovered these little critters:

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Baby field mice

Ok, so they’re not pigeons but they are sooo adorable! 8 little field mice and 1 big fat mamma mouse! Next to the nest is a big pile of peanuts. After our shock and a quick photo, we placed the hutch back to leave the family in peace. We’ll check on them later when they are old enough to fend from themselves: then the fun begins! Catching them all up and releasing them. I’m not sure if the mother mouse can get out of the aviary since the wire is quite small, however, mice are quite capable of squeezing through small spaces so she may be coming and going easily. Whatever the case, she’s obviously finding life with the pigeons a breeze: plenty of food and bedding around and no predators!

In other news, Teresa (a disabled pigeon) is still not using her legs properly and we have been unsuccessful in finding a cause (read: News about pigeons in Dora’s aviary). I put her back in Dora’s aviary to see how she would cope, and the male pigeons swamped her – cooing and dancing on and around her, making it impossible for her to escape from their unwanted attentions. They stood on her wings and basically penned her down. I quickly removed her and knew that she would not be able to live in the aviary in her condition. So I set up a smaller pen outside and gave her two other white pigeons for company and they are all getting along fine. No fights or unwanted behaviour.

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Teresa (left) and a friend

The other two white pigeons are youngsters that were orphaned and ill, but are now fine and growing up beautifully.

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Teresa (left) and co in their outside pen

Birdie pigeon is looking much better now that her feathers have grown back:

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Birdie girl

And Tux and Burko have decided that they want to nest in the hanging basket instead of the hutch I provided:

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Burko (left) and Tux (right)

Dora and her mate, Pidge, are doing very well. Dora’s sitting on a fake egg and being very demanding. As soon as she sees me (from across the field) she’ll cling to the aviary wire to let me know that she’s expecting me to come over with peanuts. Woe betide me if I come empty-handed!!

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Dora and Pidge

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Dora's aviary


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


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!


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


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! :) ).


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!).


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Button

Yesterday I introduced you to Button, a disabled feral pigeon who is desperate for a mate. I thought he would be a good match for my disabled pigeon, Georgie (read: Pigeon matchmaking – part 1).

Last weekend I brought Button home and we sectioned off a part of the living room (with sections of a wire rabbit run) for him to get used to us and our pigeons. Button is a feral pigeon that was found as an adult unable to fly (from a dislocated/broken wing) and was cared for by his rescuers for 8 months. So although he is tolerant of people he doesn’t like to be approached or touched.

I thought that in order for a pigeon to fall in love with Georgie then they would have to be a friendly or tame pigeon that isn’t imprinted to humans. That way the pigeon wouldn’t be afraid of us but would also not be too interested in us to ignore Georgie.

I could hardly contain my excitment in the pigeon matchmaking. I watched Button’s every movement and curious glances. I let him walk about in his sectioned-off area and had to stop myself from putting Georgie in with him immediately. I knew that Button would be afraid and unsure about his new surroundings – espcially because of Elmo’s advances! Elmo came charging over, cooing and dancing on his side of the fence, basically letting Button know that Elmo is the king of the house and that Button better watch out! Elmo does not welcome pigeon intruders.

After about an hour of Button exploring and getting used to his surroundings I placed Georgie on the floor by the fence and watched with bated breath. Sadly, the “love at first sight” reaction I was hoping for didn’t happen.

Button was not attracted to Georgie. He didn’t respond to her presence for a long time. Only after I started to pet Georgie and she got excited did Button react a bit but not in the excited “Wow, you’re gorgeous and I want to marry you” type of behaviour I was hoping for. So you can imagine my utter disappointment.

However, I knew that I was being too hasty. Afterall, Button had only been with us for a few hours! So the next day I continued to watch what Button did and how he responded to seeing Georgie walking about the flat. I knew that soon he’d find his voice and start calling to her. And I was right. On the third day (Sunday) Button began to coo a lot. He was establishing his territory and calling for a mate.

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Georgie (foreground) and Button in the background.

Georgie, despite her sight problems, knew that there was another pigeon in the house the instant I had placed Button’s cage down. She was very curious and kept walking up to it and when we put the fence up she kept trying to get through it. She knew that there was a pigeon there and she wanted to say hello. So when Button started calling, Georgie came running!

She danced and pranced to his cooing and I was as excited as she was. Here’s the moment, it is now happening: Georgie will have a pigeon mate!

I placed Georgie on the other side of the fence and thought I would see a lovely pairing. I was sadly wrong.

Button attacked Georgie and so I quickly took her away. When Button started calling to her again I placed her back with him, however, all attempts ended up the same way. Button would coo and call to her and when Georgie got too close he’d attack her. I couldn’t let it happen anymore so I seperated them for good.

Button wants a mate but he doesn’t want Georgie. :(

Here’s their first meeting through the fence. As you can see, Georgie is responding to Button’s cooing but he’s not really giving her the proper “come hither” coo nor is he dragging his tail feathers when he prances about. All this shows me that he’s not really into Georgie, rather, he’s just being territorial.

In the end, Georgie also didn’t want anything to do with Button and she ignored him. I was very sad about it because I knew how much Georgie wanted to befriend Button. However, I wasn’t going to let him attack her every time she tried to come close, so I took Button to work on Monday and placed him in Dora and Pidge’s aviary to find a mate in there. There are a few un-mated female pigeons that I’m sure he’ll court and eventually pair up with. So although it didn’t work out for Georgie and Button, I know that Button will be happy and Georgie is still very happy with me as her mate.

Here’s the naughty boy in his new home:

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Button in the aviary

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Button with Davey and Teresa (the white pigeons behind Button)

So my search for a pigeon mate for Georgie continues. I know that one day I’ll find her a suitable mate, it will just take time. I’m not going to force anything though. I don’t want to stress Georgie out by parading numerous male pigeons in front of her. I know that one day a special male pigeon will come by who will be perfect for her.

My criteria now is: a flight-abled pigeon (because he’ll have to be able to get away from angry Elmo) that is friendly to humans but not imprinted. Should I place a lonely hearts ad for Georgie? :)