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My pigeons feel very vulnerable when they go through their annual moult. Elmo in particular. He’s looking very disheveled and I’m sure he feels that way too. It must be uncomfortable also. They’re preening a lot and pulling out all the old feathers and unsheathing the new ones. To be honest, Elmo is acting in such a way that I can only describe as “I’m feeling ugly. Leave me alone”. He’s very moody towards me and doesn’t want me around him. :(

Georgie is being a bit nicer to me but she’s now in the later stages of her moult and possibly wanting reassurance from me. I don’t know if birds in the wild feel the same as my pigeons do but I imagine they must also feel vulnerable during a moult. It takes energy and time to grow new feathers, and when they don’t have a full compliment of feathers they may be more vulnerable to predators.

As I’m writing this Elmo is on the sofa falling asleep. I want to go over to give him a kiss to reassure him that he’s loved but I’m not sure he’d be happy about that. Usually when I nod my head to Elmo he’ll respond with a nod and then run to his nest to coo to me. But lately he’s not been responding to me and simply stares. … I guess I’ll just have to wait until he’s feeling pretty again before he’ll let me cuddle him.

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Elmo

The above photos shows the few feathers on Elm’s left wing that he tries to preen but only succeeds in fraying and breaking. This may be because of the angle that he’s not able to reach them properly (since Elmo has coordination and mobility problems).


I’ve decided to start up a new business: making pillows stuffed with pigeon feathers.

I’m sure I have enough to stuff a pillow, what with the amount of feathers that Georgie has dropped in the past few days in her moult. Elmo also likes to join in and so we often have feathers stuck to our clothes, hair… even food. :)

I have to pick up all the feathers before Georgie flaps and scatters them into the corners and under the furniture. I hate to think how many have already made their way into those inaccessable places. When the time comes to move house we’ll probably find another pigeon under the sofa. :D

What I wrote last year about Elmo’s moult: Feathers EVERYWHERE!

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Feathers in Georgie's cage.

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Feathers on the floor!

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Georgie moulting


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)

Elmo cannot perch. He just doesn’t know how. It may be because he hasn’t got great balancing skills or possibly because he simply doesn’t think he’s a pigeon (people don’t perch!). If you place Elmo on your finger he’ll flap about and turn around, trying to get a footing, and in the end he’ll flutter down to the floor. He won’t stay still enough to perch like a proper pigeon.

Georgie, on the other hand, is a star at perching. She will hold onto your finger with all the grace and ease of a proud pigeon. I think she does it to show Elmo how it’s supposed to be done. She’s got the upper hand. She’s the queen of perching!

:D

One day I noticed something about pigeons – something that I knew before, however, it didn’t really hit home until I saw it first hand. Pigeons have a lot of feather dust on them. More than you may realise.

I watched Elmo preen himself while he was in the sun – and you know that in sunlight you can see dust particles perfectly – well, it was like watching someone empty a vacuum-cleaner bag: dust everywhere!! Dust plumed from his body with every movement he made as he ran his beak through his feathers. And it didn’t seem to stop. The longer he moved the more feather dust escaped and rose into the air in twists and swirls. A veritable dust cloud!

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from any allergies, however, with the amount of feather dust a pigeon sheds maybe it’ll one day get to me. I hope not. I rather like living with my two pigeons (not that I would get rid of Elmo or Georgie if I ever became allergic to them).

More pigeon observations to come. :)


This is what greeted me when I came home from work yesterday:

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I didn’t expect it at all, so when I slowly opened the door all these feathers started moving out and I got a fright from seeing so many! My first reaction was that something had happened to Elmo. That somehow a sparrowhawk had gained entry into the house and had plucked him. Silly thought, I know, but I had just seen a dead pigeon at work that had been eaten by a sparrowhawk, so it was still fresh in my mind.

Elmo was fine, of course. He came running out of the room with his usual joy and excitement. There were more feathers behind the door:

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So Elmo is moulting. This morning we were covered in feathers. The flat is full of them. I’m surprised Elmo has any left on him by the rate they are falling off. He was preening himself last night and kept pulling loose ones out. Then he’d get scared of them and run away. Like I’ve said many times before, I don’t think Elmo knows that he’s a pigeon. He’s afraid of feathers!

Here’s a photo of him looking at a feather he’s not sure about:

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This is one side of keeping pigeons that can be a problem: feathers everywhere when they moult! But, it’s a small price to pay to have them in our lives! :)

(More about moulting: The facts about moulting)

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So what’s been happening lately in our lives. Well, Georgie laid an egg, but only one! Pigeons usually lay two so I was very surprised that Georgie hadn’t laid another one. But I guess since she’s had such a big break from the last time she didn’t have the energy or inclination to go all out. Anyway, Georgie is happy at the moment and busy with her incubation.

Although she’s still not pleased with me disturbing her for a photo. Here’s Georgie about to wing slap me:

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I have to admit that I’ve been missing cuddling up to Georgie. I’m giving Elmo more attention, much to his displeasure! :) I think George is upset with me because I’m not pulling my weight, i.e. I’m not doing my part in incubating (both the male and the female pigeon incubate – they take turns).

There’s not much to report about Elmo. Just that he’s a little git! :) Loving Richard, hating me. His feathers have grown completely in his bald patch, however, he now needs to preen the feather follicles off:

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And once again it has snowed in this part of the world. I’ve got to clear a spot in the garden so that the wildlife can be fed (and not sink into the snow!). I saw our local fox walk up our stairs and through the fence into the neighbours garden this morning. He looks very healthy. I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of him.

The ferals and woodpigeons have been down to eat the seed I put out for them. We haven’t had much problems with the feral pigeon flock since we feed them sporadically, however, when it snows I put out food more regularily to help them out. It can be tough for the wildlife when there’s a sudden snowfall.

And lastly, we had a pleasant surprise when opening the beer box:

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Last week Elmo panicked when he couldn’t find his human mate, Richard, who had gone into the kitchen. For some reason Elmo didn’t look in the kitchen, rather he went into the bathroom and flapped about in a panic. Hearing the commotion Richard quickly went to Elmo and calmed him down, however, he found a clump of feathers on the floor. It seems to us that Elmo might have plucked them out in his panic. The only other explanation is that they fell out from the stress. Poor boy!

Richard found the bald patch on the side of Elmo’s chest and we were very surprised to see how big it was! Thankfully, new feathers are growing in the bald spot and we hope this incident doesn’t happen again.

Photo of bald patch taken on the 3rd Dec:

Photo Dec 08, 18 02 06

And the new feather growth on the 8th Dec:

Photo Dec 08, 18 02 24


This morning we took Georgie and Elmo to see their new vet (since their previous one retired). It was just a quick ‘meet n greet’ to get a feel of the new exotic animal vet and let him meet our pigeons. Georgie threw up a few times on the 30 min journey – poor girl, but Elmo was fine. He doesn’t get car sick at all.

So there we are at the new vet centre and wondering what the vet will be like when out comes this huge, long-haired bear of a man – clad in what looked like a Hawaiian style shirt – with arms as thick as tree trunks! To say we were surprised is an understatement. Our first impression was that he looks like a beach bum.

However, as the well known idiom goes: “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we quickly realised that our impression was erroneous. The new vet is perceptive, knowledgeable and insightful – as well as being a very nice man. He handled Georgie with care (his hands nearly covered her completely when he held her!) and checked out her eyes. He asked us about her condition – whether she had had any discharge from her eyes (- None at all) and he applied some drops to see if there was any ulcers in her eyes (- None found! Phew!). After I said that her right eye had cleared up over the past 2 years, the vet said it may be worth a try if some eye drops would help clear them even more. This is something we are keen to try since it would be wonderful if Georgie could see better. When I mentioned that another vet had said she had glaucoma, he said that she didn’t have any of the signs or symptoms of glaucoma. This is something we had suspected a long time ago and were happy to hear it confirmed!

The vet seemed impressed with Georgie’s behaviour – she was very calm and stood tall, pecking at the air with content. He said she is in good body condition and was happy with her health in general.

So then it was Elmo’s turn. We were a bit worried how Elmo would act since he’s all broody – and on top of that – he’s moulting!! There were feathers EVERYWHERE this morning in the bedroom. We woke up to see the floor covered in them and were a bit surprised to see Elmo on the bedside table fully feathered – that’s how many feathers were on the floor!! So with Elmo being moody about his eggs and feeling sensitive about his moulting, we weren’t sure if he’d behave himself with the new vet.

Elmo was placed on the table and he took one look at the burly, loud-shirted man and didn’t seem very impressed. He didn’t coo or dance at him at all – just stood still (shaking slightly) as the vet examined him. Good body condition overall – which is good. The vet checked his ears after we said that we think he’s a bit hard of hearing – but initial examination came back clear – which is also good. Elmo behaved himself but did not show off like he would normally do – so the vet didn’t get the full Elmo show. Pity.

All in all, the trip was a success and we are very happy with the new vet. It’s always good to have a good exotic animal/avian vet on hand because they have extra training and more experience with birds, reptiles and amphibians. A regular cat and dog vet might not be able to help with bird enquiries and problems – and I certainly would not feel comfortable with taking Georgie and Elmo to a non avian vet.


Over the past week or so we’ve discovered a number of pigeon feathers in the garden – not enough to indicate that a sparrowhawk has attacked but more feathers than a regular moult. We were intrigued. What’s happening?

Then, a few days ago, I looked out the window into the garden and saw an adult magpie chasing a juvenile pigeon away, grabbing onto its tail feathers and pulling them out as the pigeon flew away. Mystery solved!

We’re not worried that the magpies will do any serious harm to the pigeons, they’re obviously just chasing them away so they can have a chance to eat the peanuts we throw out there. Everyone gets a chance: the pigeons, squirrels, rat, magpies, jays, foxes and badgers all enjoy the peanuts.

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Visiting jay


Today, as we enter our home after a long day at work we are confronted with feathers – everywhere. On the floor, behind furniture, on the walls. And one scruffy looking pigeon in her cage. You guessed it, it’s moulting time for Georgie!

A few times a year both Elmo and Georgie moult their feathers and grow new ones, making them look like they’re a badly stuffed pigeon. The feathers are of all sizes, from their small down ones to the big flight feathers, and at one point we collected them all to make a pigeon pillow.

So out comes the vacuum cleaner and the attempt to suck up all the stray feathers. Georgie doesn’t seem bothered by our exasperated looks as she preens herself and drops more feathers on the sofa. I contemplate sticking them back into her.

:)