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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


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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? :)


For quite a while now I’ve had the feeling that Georgie would like to have a pigeon mate.

As many of you know Georgie has distorted and limited vision because of the scarring on her eyes which is why she was hand-raised and is therefore very tame. Georgie is bonded to myself, however, she does react to Elmo’s cooing and often approaches him when he’s calling out lovingly to Richard (never to Georgie! Elmo cannot stand Georgie and is completely imprinted to humans and loves my husband, Richard).

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Georgie on my lap

Georgie responds to my voice and will dance and coo when I call her name or sing to her. She’ll also often present herself for mating when I talk to her. In this way, I know that Georgie thinks I’m her mate and hears what she wants when I talk to her (whatever I’m saying to her is lost in translation). When I see Georgie responding to Elmo’s pigeon talk, I know that she understands him and mistakingly thinks that Elmo is talking to her when he’s in fact cooing to Richard.

So I’ve been wanting to find Georgie a pigeon mate to give her the full pigeon interaction that I cannot give her (e.g. preening, proper pigeon cooing). However, previous experience has taught me that other pigeons don’t know quite how to react to seeing her eyes and her slightly non-pigeon behaviour (Georgie’s movements and reactions to other pigeons is different because of her limited vision). Both Dora and Minnie tried to peck Georgie’s eyes at first.

At one point I was worried that male pigeons wouldn’t be attracted to Georgie because of her eyes. I needed to know how other male pigeons besides Elmo (who doesn’t think he’s a pigeon at all anyway) would react to Georgie, so we took her once to Dora’s aviary to see what would happen. Most of the male pigeons came down to dance and coo to her. Whether it was to say they liked her or to show her who’s boss, I don’t really know. One male was quite insistent and pushy (he kept bumping his chest against her), and in the end Georgie told him to back off with a swift peck!

So what am I getting at here? Well, a few weeks ago a feral pigeon came to my work who I thought might just fit the bill for Georgie. He is disabled (dislocated/broken wing), tolerant of people (he had been living with the couple who found him for about 8 months), and is desperate for a mate. When I heard that this pigeon, called Button by his carers, needed a mate and a new home I thought he would be a perfect match!!

I brought Button home last weekend and couldn’t wait to introduce him to Georgie, however, I knew that I had to take things slowly and not force the situation. Richard and I put up a small room divider to keep Elmo from attacking Button (which is Elmo’s first reaction to any pigeon intruder) and we let Button get used to his surroundings.

Here’s the handsome boy stepping out of the travel cage to explore:

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Button takes his first steps

And here’s Button on top of his travel cage cooing his head off:

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Button cooing

A lot happened that weekend, however, it’s getting late now so I will write about it another day.


It is very weird to think how far my husband and I have come in just a few short years. 4 years ago we didn’t know anything about pigeons, especially on how to look after disabled ones. So how did we end up with two special needs pigeons?

Well, it all began when I fell in love with feral pigeons, especially the babies, after I began to care and interact with them at work (a wildlife rescue centre). I was able to see up close and personal just how wonderful pigeons are. They are truly remarkable birds. However, I never thought in a million years that I would one day bring home a young disabled pigeon. Just a few months before we received Georgie, Richard and I were talking about adopting a cat (at that time I also worked part time at a domestic animal rescue and was falling in love with the elderly unwanted cats). However, those plans were quickly scrapped when a young pigeon needed a home. Georgie had been hand-raised at my work (after she was found on the ground as a baby) and was resisting all attempts for her to integrate into pigeon society. We knew she had sight problems and were trying to get her to live in the disabled pigeon aviary, however, Georgie was having none of it. She didn’t know how to eat seed (that ability came much later) and she didn’t like other pigeons. She only wanted to be with people.

One day, and I’m not quite sure how the idea came into my head (remember, at that time I had no knowledge of anyone keeping a pigeon as a pet), I decided to take Georgie home with the hopes that she would be happy living with us. That day has changed our lives.

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with George. Everything she did filled us with wonder and joy. Georgie opened our eyes and enabled us to even consider providing a home to another disabled pigeon. Without Georgie we most likely would not have Elmo. Because Georgie’s need was clear and evident and I saw her every day, I was able to see what it was she needed in order to be happy. It was only because my boss knew I had George at home that she was able to say, “Yes, I know of someone who will be able to give him a home,” when she received a phone call with the story of Elmo.

We cannot imagine our lives without Elmo and Georgie. I spend my evenings with Georgie on my lap and feel very blessed to have her. Elmo fills us with such joy (he’s such a clown!) and love – it is amazing.

So back to the beginning, when we first got Georgie. There we are, two people and a pigeon (and two geribls). Panic. I know nothing about pigeons. What does that behaviour mean? Why did George do that? What does that cooing noise mean? etc, etc. I began searching the internet for answers. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found forums and websites about pigeons as pets!

The first one I found was Pigeon-Talk and I quickly logged on and made some enquiries. Reading back on them I find my posts quite funny. You can clearly see that I knew nothing about pigeons. :) While I don’t claim to be an expert in everything pigeon, I do claim to be an expert when it comes to my Georgie and Elmo! I’ve learnt a lot in a short period of time. Later, we found the Pigeon Angels forum and met some lovely pigeon people. I learnt a lot from them too.

It was Richard’s idea to start this blog. He created it and then urged me to start writing every day (since he knows how much I love to write, although I’m a lazy blogger). It’s wonderful to share Elmo and Georgie with everyone around the world. The negative perception of feral pigeons needs to change, and the more pro-pigeon websites out there the better!

Thank you for reading my posts and I hope Elmo and Georgie have melted your hearts! :)

* * * * * * *

I have to make an apology now: although we have accounts with Flickr, Twitter and YouTube, I don’t really use them that often, only to post photos and videos. Please don’t take it personally if I don’t reply to a “friend” or “contact” request on those sites. I don’t really know how to use them and I prefer to use this blog and our Facebook page for all interactions (otherwise I feel rather thinly spread). Although I love keeping in contact with all the wonderful pigeon people out there, I find it hard to keep active on forums because of the constant stream of new posts. However, I do check in every now and then to see what’s going on.


The newest disabled resident pigeon has a name! :)

I spent some time in the aviary at work and watched him with the other pigeons and one name kept popping into my head. So a big THANK YOU to Dawn for the name suggestion of “Rudderford”!! :D

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Rudderford the handsome!

I think it suits him a charm. He has a lower back/pelvic injury that makes it hard for him to perch easily since he cannot lift his tail feathers for balance. So he tends to stick to the ground and flat hutch-tops that are easy for him to sit or stand on.

He came to us as a young pigeon and couldn’t stand at all. Unfortunately, his injury seems permanent but he has a home for life now and will hopefully pair up with one of the single girls in the aviary.

Rudderford isn’t tame and doesn’t like people coming close to him, however, with time he’ll soon realise that we won’t harm him and I’m hoping he’ll calm down.

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Standing on a flat surface is easy for Rudderford.

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Clinging onto a hutch top. Rudderford's tail feathers are tatty because he tends to lean back on them for stability.


Georgie still isn’t talking to me (she’s on her “eggs”) and Elmo thinks I’m the perfect person to practice his latest karate moves and pecks. I have a very long scar on my hand from his kicks!

So I’ve been getting all the hugs and cuddles I can from the pigeons at work. :)

Dora was actually nice to me today – I managed to get a cuddle from her without being pecked to bits. She was obviously not feeling territorial nor possessive over her nest and mate. It’s nice for a change.

I spent a little time in the pigeon aviary at work with the fancy, tame and disabled pigeons. I love watching all the “pigeon politics” that go on.

There’s nothing quite as peaceful and serene as being amongst pigeons. I simply love it.


Big Bob

Big Bob

This year we sadly lost another resident pigeon at work. Big Bob was an older, disabled feral pigeon (he had a broken wing and couldn’t fly) and had been living in the resident aviary for many years. One day in February we noticed that he was hunched and shivering. He was brought into the heated unit for observation and care, as well as to receive medication. Sadly, a few days later he died. He will be sadly missed.

We kept an eye out for any signs of illness in the other pigeons in the aviary, and thankfully, none of them showed any signs of illness or have died. We believe that it was simply Big Bob’s time to go. He had a good life with a mate (who sadly died in August last year) and was a real sweet pigeon. He wasn’t tame but he tolerated my presence whenever I went into the aviary to talk to Dora and Pidge.

After such a sad depature we had some pigeons that were waiting to join the gang in the resident pigeon aviary, being unreleasable for one reason or another: One is fancy, others are disabled, and two are racing pigeons that needed a new home after their owner had passed away.

To see all the pigeons in the aviary please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pigeonsaspets/sets/72157623805901094/

Please welcome the following pigeons to live with Dora and her mate, Pidge:

Lumi

Lumi is a white pigeon that had been caught by a cat when she was a baby. She had extensive injuries and her left eye is shrivelled. She became very tame due to her long-term care. Lumi means "snow" in Finnish.

Turk

Turk is a Turkish Takla breed. He does backflips when he flies.

Mousie

Mousie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Gertie

Gertie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Speckles

Speckles is a feral pigeon. She had a broken leg and broken wing, which have healed, however, she has limited flight.

Davey

Davey is a white feral pigeon. He has a broken wing and cannot fly.


Saw this story posted on facebook and I just had to share it!

A pigeon perch for two

March 7, 2011 : 8:55 PM ET

By Ted Brewer
One of the pigeons is, neurologically speaking, a bit challenged. The other is kind of peculiar looking. And though they were once ostracized by their respective flocks, they have been inseparable since meeting each other.

Christy and Slippers have both been at Wild Friends for well over a year, but the two had never laid eyes on each other, at least not until they both wound up in quarantine together.

Christy and Slippers
Christy and Slippers

Wild Friends is home to approximately 100 adoptable pigeons who live in two separate aviaries. Christy lived in the aviary reserved for what Wild Friends calls its “special needs” pigeons, a small number of birds whose physical limitations prevent them from thriving in the larger pigeon aviary.

Best Friends took Christy in because of a neurological problem that causes her to hold her head to one side and lose her balance easily. She is normally able to roll over and get back up when she falls, but one morning she was found lying on her side, with her head pressed into the dirt, unable to right herself.“It appeared the other pigeons had been picking on her,” says Best Friends’ wildlife rehabilitator Barbara Weider. “It may have been because Christy was sick.”

Barbara and Wild Friends’ manager Carmen Smith realized Christy was sick when they brought her in that day. They weighed her and found she was severely underweight. She was not eating enough to survive. So Barbara and Carmen had to feed her by tube for several months while treating her for coccidia, a type of parasite. They feared Christy might not make it.

In the meantime, Christy stayed in quarantine, where she could be more easily monitored and not exposed to the outside elements. At the time, temperatures were falling well below freezing at the Sanctuary.

“Some pigeons do very poorly in temperature extremes,” Barbara says.

Like Christy, Slippers doesn’t do well when the weather turns cold. And again like Christy, he’s a loner, perhaps because he has an unusual array of feathers on his legs and feet, which make him appear as though he’s wearing slippers (hence the name). He has no physical problems and lives in the main pigeon aviary, but instead of staying warm with the other pigeons inside their heated nest area, he often preferred to stay outside at night. The caregivers noticed he was fluffed and shivering in the mornings.

Knowing Slippers wasn’t fitting in and was freezing at night because of it and considering that Christy was probably feeling quite lonely in quarantine, Carmen and Barbara decided to try a little experiment. They placed Slippers in quarantine with Christy — just to see how they would get along.

The experiment could not have been more successful. The two bonded almost immediately and now cannot seem to get close enough to each other.

“They are always smashed against each other,” Barbara says, laughing. “They are always cuddling. And if they hadn’t both had health problems at the same time, they never would have met.”

Since they united, Christy’s health has been on the rebound, and she is finally eating enough on her own. Barbara and Carmen no longer have reason to fear the worst. Far from it.

Can’t get enough Wild Friends? Click here for more from the wild side of the Sanctuary.

The special care that the Sanctuary is able to provide is made possible by people like you! You can help create these happy endings by sponsoring one of the residents at Wild Friends. Click here for more information.

Photos by Molly Wald

(Article from: http://news.bestfriends.org/index.cfm?page=news&mode=entry&entry=C437065E-CC9B-0E00-A9FA035BC6087E21)


A friend posted a link on facebook about a man who rescued a feral pigeon in distress 16 years ago and who still has the pigeon living with him. Whilst reading it I was so surprised to see the similarities of Bernie the pigeon to our Elmo. The emotions and interactions are the same. It’s uncanny.

Please read the delightful story, The Charm of a Pigeon, by Raymond P. Buchhol. Those of us who are blessed to share their lives with disabled pigeons will recognise the similarities and identify with many aspects of the story. For those who haven’t any dealings with pigeons or who might be sceptical of what sort of relationship you can have with one, the story will show how wonderful they are and how deep a connection you can have with a pigeon.

I would like to comment on a paragraph from the story:

“Picture yourself, say, on a Sunday afternoon after a good meal, resting on the sofa with this pigeon on your chest, rising and falling with every breath you take. His ash colored eyelids signal all is well. And together you doze. For a moment in space and time, you fold your wings and rest. You gently scratch his head and he grunts that everything is okay. And it is.”

http://www.urbanwildlifesociety.org/pigeons/BerniePijStory.html

I have watched Elmo and my husband in the very same mood and moment many a time. The trust and love is evident. The moment is simply too satisfying that you cannot move. Disturbing Elmo would be a crime. I find it so wonderful that other people have the same sentiments and experiences with pigeons.

Do you think Elmo would love to have a “Passion Cube” like the one that Raymond and his wife bought for Bernie? I do!

Bernie in his Passion Cube

And this photo of Bernie asleep is so like Elmo that they could be long lost brothers:

Bernie asleep


This blog is called “Pigeons as Pets”. I just want to clarify what we mean by this.

We are not advising or advocating taking pigeons from the wild and keeping them as pets in an aviary or cage. Not at all! Healthy, flight-abled pigeons in the wild should be left to live their life naturally.

If, however, you find a baby pigeon that needs hand-rearing then of course this needs to be done (preferably by the experts) – with the aim that it can be released as a wild pigeon when it is ready. This is not always possible, as many of you know. Sometimes the baby is injured and cannot be released because of it; sometimes the baby becomes tame and bonded to humans and therefore unreleasable (especially if it has no predator avoidance instincts). In these cases the baby pigeon would need to be housed in a safe and suitable environment for the rest of its life. This also applies to adult pigeons that are disabled (e.g. blind or cannot fly).

  • Safe environment = safe from predators such as cats, dogs and sparrowhawks. Safe from the elements (e.g. severe weather).
  • Suitable environment = an area where the pigeon can fly (if it physically can), walk about, have suitable food and access to drinking and bathing water. Also, preferably, an area where it can have a mate. Pigeons are gregarious and require company.

Disabled adult pigeons may learn to tolerate your presence or they may become tame over time. Each pigeon is individual in its behaviour and character. The key is to understand what it needs and to not force anything.

  • Feral pigeons are one of the most common pigeons you’ll see and are perfectly capable of living in the wild in a variety of environments around the world. They can become very tame around humans if fed regularily.
  • Fancy pigeons are human bred pigeons and many would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. Some have physical features that make them dependent on humans.
  • Racing pigeons are also human bred but if they become lost and hungry they usually find food in people’s gardens and may even join a feral pigeon flock instead of flying back home.
  • Wood pigeons are a completely wild species and adult woodies generally do not cope well in captivity (there are always exceptions). Hand-reared wood pigeons may remain tame and friendly.
  • Collared doves are also a completely wild species and are in many ways similar to woodies in their relationship with humans.

Since pigeons are largely monogamous, if a flight-abled pigeon bonds with a non-flighted one then it will stay with its mate despite its disability. Some people would be tempted to release the flight-abled pigeon, however, you would then be seperating two bonded pigeons, which I consider to be an unkind act. Most feral pigeons are happy as long as they have a mate, food, water, shelter, room to fly and a place to nest – whether this is in the wild or in captivity. This does not mean that you can justify taking pigeons from the wild – I stand by my belief that healthy, flighted pigeons should live in the wild in their natural state. What I am trying to say is that if you have nursed a flight-abled pigeon back to health but it has bonded with a disabled pigeon then you can keep the two together in a safe and suitable environment.

Then there is the question as to whether you should release a flighted tame pigeon. I think the answer to this is whether the tame pigeon knows enough about predators and has predator avoidance instincts. If it does not then it should not be released since it would be easy pickings. Some tame hand-reared pigeons have no predator awareness – some don’t even know what a predator is.

So what do we mean by “Pigeons as Pets”? We mean tame, imprinted or disabled pigeons that would not otherwise survive in the wild.