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Returning home from a holiday can be very stressful. Especially when you have been away from your animals for a week. You dread to think in what mental and physical state they will be in. Thoughts that run through your mind: “Have they missed us? Did they like the pet sitters? Have they lost weight? Did they eat properly?”

The only way to have peace of mind is to find someone who you can trust and rely on to care for your animals as you would. We found two pet sitters to care for Elmo, Georgie and Hugo while we were away. I find that our animals fare better (e.g. less stressed and eat well) if they stay at home and have someone visit instead of putting them in a cattery and cage elsewhere. This way they are in familiar surroundings with only a “stranger” visiting, instead of being in an unfamiliar place where they may be worried all the time.

I still worry, though, which is natural, since I am far away from my dear animals. When we returned home yesterday Hugo cat was visibly glad to see us. He started drooling profusely, which he only does when he’s very happy. Elmo danced about and cooed his little head off, while Georgie girl was a bit more reserved. Only after I had sung to her did she realise it was me (her “mate”) and replied in kind (Georgie’s favourite song that I hum to her is Mmm mmm mmm by the Crash Test Dummies, I kid you not).

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Hugo gives us THAT look.

After the initial show of delight and excitement at our return, our animals settled back into their normal routine. Elmo headed to Hugo’s water bowl and promptly had a bath (much to Hugo’s disgust), Georgie plonked herself next to me on the sofa for a snooze, and Hugo meowed at the back door to be let out to eat some grass and sniff where the neighbour’s cats had been. It was as if we had never been away. :)

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Georgie pigeon relaxed by my side.

I’m delighted to say that despite our animals having missed us they were in good condition and spirits when we returned, so I know they had been cared for properly. Having such unusual pets as pigeons made looking for a pet sitter interesting – as some people are not comfortable with birds, what to speak about pigeons! But once they meet my pigeons, their misconceptions or misgivings are usually won over by our characterful birds. Elmo is such a clown that he makes most people smile with his greeting song and dance, and Georgie is so pretty and delicate that all can admire. … Not that I’m biased at all with this opinion. :D

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Elmo after a bath.

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Elmo having a bath.

When my husband and I were in Tampere, Finland, visiting my family we saw a newly wed pigeon couple at an underground car park. The lighting was bad so I wasn’t able to get a good photo, and I didn’t want to disturb them too much with my flashing lights (like a paparazzo!), but I watched the male pigeon call his mate up to where he thought was a suitable spot to nest: in the wiring that ran along the ceiling of the car park. He cooed and cooed with determination and I thought, “His mate will reject that spot for sure,” since the ceiling was low and the wiring not very solid. Later that day when we returned I saw the female sitting in the wiring and the male pigeon flew over to her with a stick in his beak. It seemed that the place had been approved and the nest building was in full swing.

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Feral pigeon settling into her new nest.

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The male pigeon flies away to gather more nesting material.

At another underground car park I heard the unmistakable squeaks of baby pigeons and found a nest with two little babies begging for food from one of their parents. The other parent was sitting a few meters away on a post (its chest a bit wet from a recent feeding). As soon as they noticed me looking they went quiet to show me their disapproval of my intrusion, so I left them in peace. Oh how I would have loved to have stayed to watch the family for that day!

 


We recently saw an adult badger in our garden, much to our delight! We hadn’t seen one a very long time (last time: Garden views). I wasn’t able to take a photo of the badger because of the poor light (it was night) and I didn’t want to scare the badger away with flash photography. The badger was munching away at the food the neighbour had left for the fox family and as we were watching him we could see two little fox cubs peering through the hedge looking at the badger. They didn’t have the courage to chase the badger away.

In the morning we heard a commotion as the feral pigeons kept flying away from the big breakfast I put out for them. We soon saw the reason for the noise:

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The fox cubs were chasing the pigeons away and proceeded to eat the peanuts and seed that I had put out for the pigeons. Cheeky little things!! :)

With the sun shining so warmly lately the pigeons have been enjoying a bath in the garden and a good sunbathing session too.

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The feral pigeons often search the ground for things to eat but as you can see the grass is too long for comfort so I mowed the lawn to let the pigeons peck at the ground with ease.

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Halfway there!

While the ferals are mostly on the ground in my garden the woodpigeons like to forage in the trees and bushes. They are quite dexterous for such large birds. You’d think they wouldd have trouble standing on the thin branches but these woodies know how to get to the best bits of the plants without much trouble.

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PigeonsAsPetsAppreciationDayBanner

HAPPY PIGEON APPRECIATION DAY!!

The purpose of Pigeon Appreciation Day is to spread the word that pigeons are wonderful birds that don’t deserve the dislike and hatred they often receive.

Pigeons are amazing. I could list down all the amazing things they can do and have done - such as saving peoples lives in WWI and WWII. Thirty-two pigeons received the PDSA Dickin Medal for their life-saving action in conflict! - but I believe the list would go on and on since there are so many wonderful things about pigeons.

Don’t believe me? Well have a look at the videos of our two disabled pigeons, Elmo and Georgie, and see how lovely pigeons are: www.youtube.com/PigeonsAsPets

So please don’t dismiss the humble feral pigeon. They are intelligent, caring, and loyal birds. They are also full of character – as anyone who has had close contact with a tame pigeon will testify!

There are many, many people around the world who, through rescuing an injured or orphaned pigeon, now have a wonderful companion living by their side. We, at Pigeons as Pets, have personally received emails from many of these people telling us their story and sharing photos and videos of their pet pigeons. We feel privaleged to see into their world.

I believe that by celebrating pigeons on this day every year for years to come we all will help dispel the myth that pigeons are dirty and diseased. Humans once loved pigeons – they were used for food and as messangers, and their faeces were highly prized as fertiliser – and I think we will learn to love pigeons once again! (But hopefully not to use them for food anymore.)

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Two feral pigeons

A good way to show your appreciation is to support a pigeon-friendly charity, sanctuary or organisation. Here are a some suggestions:

Last year there were many posts about Pigeon Appreciation Day, so I think we need to keep up with the good publicity and promote pigeons!! :D

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Celebration time!

Our previous years posts: www.pigeonsaspets.co.uk/category/pigeon-appreciation-day

Finally, Elmo and Georgie both want to thank you for all the suppport and love!! It is so nice to hear from you, especially when you share photos and videos of your wonderful pigeons!


There are many pigeon friendly organisations, sanctuaries, vets and rescue centres that will help you if you find an orphaned, ill or injured pigeon. There is also a lot of information on the internet on what to do as the first step, such as this post: Pigeon Rescue: what to do with injured, ill and orphaned pigeons

For a world-wide list please visit this forum: Matilda’s List

For a UK list: Pigeon Friendly Rescue Centres in the UK

Organisations that can help:

Websites and forums that have good information and advice:

There are also many Facebook groups of pigeon friendly people who can advise you on all things relating to the pigeon (you must have a Facebook account to see these groups):

All the above organisations, websites and centres can help you with your query if ever you come across an injured, ill or orphaned pigeon. The best thing to do is to rescue the pigeon, keep it safe and warm, and immediately contact your nearest pigeon-friendly rescue centre or organisation who can take the bird from you to give it the medical care it needs.

Editors note: I am also able to give advice, however, please don’t rely on me in an emergency as I may not be online every day. Thank you.


I’ve acquired a few more pigeon books to my little collection. The first was given to me by a friend, the second I found in a charity store, and the third, a little booklet, I ordered online. The three books are: Pigeons by Carl Naether (1984), Doves by Michael Gos (1989) and Feral Pigeons by Richard F. Johnston (1998).

Although these publications are old, they all favour the pigeon and dove, and therefore are worth a read.

An excerpt from “Pigeons”:

“Pigeon keeping is a delightful, educational activity for young and old alike. In this hobby, you deal with lovely, live birds which you can easily tame, and whose life cycle, from the eggs to the full-grown birds, you can observe at close range day in and day out. This affords you an excellent opporutinity to learn at firsthand how one of the most popular domesticated creatures propagates and maintains its kind.” (page 8 )

A little excerpt from the “Doves” book:

“Doves may be one of the most misunderstoon creatures in the animal kingdom. Throughout history, man has never allowed the dove to be himself. Instead, doves have always been a symbol of something else. … Perhaps it is this symbolism that makes a dove an attractive house pet to so many people.” (page 8 )

The first two books are more manuals on how to house, feed and care for pigeons and doves. The feral pigeon booklet is a more scientific read about the life of these birds in the wild, touching on the origins of feral pigeons, plumage variation and selection, breeding and reproductive data, as well as their relationship to people. I found these two quotes honest and important to note:

“Humans are responsible for creating domestic pigeons, and by extension also for the existence of feral populations. Humans have an obligation to treat all these pigeons in a humane manner.” (page 13)

“Pigeons are also elegant creatures of style and grace aloft, and are otherwise beautiful to watch. Our world is brightened by them.” (page 14)

Booklet

If you would like the booklet you can either read it on their website: http://www.emporia.edu/ksn/v45n2-december1998/index.html, request to have one posted to you (email them with your request) or click on this link for an downloadable copy: Feral pigeons PDF.

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Previous posts about my pigeon book collection: My pigeon books, Pigeon books on order and Pigeon breeds – book


Some of you here in the United Kingdom might have seen the fourth episode of Winterwatch on BBC Two last week where Adam Rogers, the creator of The Feral Pigeon Project, spoke to Chris Packham about feral pigeons and their colour diversity. This episode was greatly anticipated by many pigeon people (word spread on the net) and it was wonderful to hear a positive message about feral pigeons – since there are so few programmes on TV that concentrate on these amazing birds.

As mentioned, the message on this episode of Winterwatch was positive, concentrating on the intelligence and uniqueness of pigeons, and I hope many people feel inspired to help Adam Rogers with his research into pigeon colour diversity. Please visit his website for further information: The Feral Pigeon Project

A little side note here: many of us watching the programme immediately noticed the feet of the ferals and wanted to help. A common question appeared online as to why the ferals feet were deformed, which Adam quickly replied (on his blog): Deformed feet – what is the cause?

Here’s the link to the episode: Winterwatch, Series 1, Episode 4. The feral pigeon part starts at 08:43 (ending at 17:01). I also found the clip on YouTube:

I really hope more positive messages of pigeons get on TV and we can start to dispel the myths spread about pigeons. Maybe Elmo and Georgie should go on “Britain’s Strangest Pets” or something similar? (Although I don’t like the way those types of programmes portray the owners, so maybe something more scientific would be better.)

Online article about the Winterwatch episode:

Cornwall student appears on BBC Winterwatch to promote pigeon project

Friday, January 18, 2013

A zoology student from Cornwall has appeared on BBC Winterwatch to talk about his project to record the national pigeon population.

Adam Rogers, who studies at the University of Exeter’s Tremough Campus in Penryn, appeared on the programme leading a project to investigate plumage trends found in the once-domesticated birds.

When domestic animals return to the wild and breed, future generations usually take on their natural dull colour, yet urban pigeons have retained their brightness and variety of plumage.

The 29-year-old undergraduate wants as many people as possible to spend a few minutes counting the number of pigeons with different plumage patterns in their local high street.

Participants can then report their sightings on the Feral Pigeon Project website, which also contains a handy guide to pigeon colours.

“Pigeons can easily be overlooked as we go about our daily lives,” said Mr Rogers.  ”Yet these seemingly familiar birds have many secrets still to reveal.  The fact that they have been successful is clear, yet the means behind their success is less understood.

“No other creature causes such contention as the wild pigeon – some people call pigeons ‘rats with wings’, others are simply indifferent, but I call them the Super Dove.

“They may not be as glamorous as many of the exotic animals a person could choose to study but take the time to look beneath the feathers and they’re just as superbly adapted as any of the African big five.”

He added that people don’t need to be pigeon experts to get involved in the project, as the various types are easy to tell apart.

Adam is hoping that his research will reveal how pigeons are adapting to human influences, as well as sparking people’s interest in wildlife and nature.  He will examine aspects such as whether breeding habits are changing in towns where feeding bans have been imposed.

The Feral Pigeon Project appeared on BBC Two’s Winterwatch yesterday with a focus on the pigeons’ ability to breed in the middle of winter.  Adam described working with the BBC production team as “eye-opening”.

“Filming with Chris Packham was a fantastic experience, he’s clearly a very knowledgeable naturalist and is truly passionate about opening people’s eyes to the wildlife around them,” he said.

Adam Rogers is leading a project on pigeons

(Article from: http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Cornwall-student-appears-BBC-Winterwatch-promote/story-17894221-detail/story.html)


When it snows many of us pigeon people like to make sure that the feral flocks have enough food to ensure they survive the cold weather.

I do this whenever there is snow and every time the pigeons treat my snowy garden with suspicion. They know what my garden looks like normally, so this change of scenery makes them wary. Last time it snowed I thought it would be better to put the seed on a tray on the snow for the feral pigeons, but the pigeons were suspicious of the tray and wouldn’t fly down. So I had to stomp the snow down to make a flat surface and put the seed on the cold ground.

This year I cleared a small spot in the snow and put the seed on the grassy patch. Did the pigeons come down to eat? Did they?! … No, they stared down at the food and simply waited. Finally, one pigeon flew down and circled the patch in the snow for about 5 minutes, then flew back up to the roof to join his friends, leaving the seed untouched.

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Grassy patch in garden

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Suspicious ferals on the roof

Short of actually clearing all the snow away from my garden, there’s not much I can do to entice the ferals down. It’s their choice, and when they get hungry enough, they’ll fly down for sure. Thankfully the snowy weather doesn’t last very long here.

An hour later and the seed is still untouched by the pigeons, although a little robin has helped himself. Maybe our snow-woman, Gladys, is scaring the pigeons away?

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Gladys, the snow-woman

Previous post about snow: When it snows…

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The hedge


Carrying on from my last post about the feral pigeons in my garden, I noticed a larger and suspiciously “noble” looking pigeon amongst the flock. Upon closer inspection I saw that the pigeon has a white ring around its leg. This threw me a bit since I’ve never seen a checkered racing pigeon before, only blue bars, although I know racing pigeons can come in a variety of colours.

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Checkered racing pigeon

The racing pigeon looks healthy and strong (and very beautiful!), with no signs of any problems with his flight and I can only speculate that he became lost during a race and decided to team up with the feral pigeons for safety, companionship and intel on the good food locations. I don’t know how long he’ll stay with the feral pigeons before deciding to return to his home. He may never return if he falls in love with a feral. :)

Racing pigeons generally do well in the wild if they join a feral pigeon flock, unlike fancy pigeons that may have some unusual feather shapes that make it hard for them to fly away from predators quickly (please read my post about the welfare of fancy pigeons). This is one reason why you should never release a fancy pigeon into the wild. Racing pigeons, however, are bred to fly fast and strong, and I’ve seen racing pigeons stick with feral pigeons so I believe that they are capable of surviving in the wild. Maybe their genetic contribution to the feral population helps with the overall genetic health of wild pigeons? I have seen feral pigeons that look like they have racing blood in them (it’s often the shape of the head and beak that gives them away: very “Roman nose”).

I wonder: If I go out into the garden and hold some food in my hand, would the racer fly down to me?

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Can you spot the racer?

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology were conducting research into feral pigeon behaviour and colour distinctions/morphs, however, they have now discontinued it. I don’t know what the results of their research is, but I’d be very interested to know. However, this website has taken up the challenge of finding more about pigeon colour variation: Feral Pigeon Project

Pigeon colour morphs:

pigeon color morphs


As many of you know, we feed the feral pigeons in our garden. At one point we had rather a large flock visiting us, and it seemed that the numbers were growing quickly, so we had to stop feeding them so much and as often as we did to prevent the neighbours from complaining about the pigeons.

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Visiting feral pigeons

Richard wrote about our growing pigeon flock in 2010: Pigeon Flock! In 2011 I posted my thoughts on the subject of feeding feral pigeons: To feed or not to feed…? Since pigeons can breed all year round, feeding them regularily can lead to a population explosion and that’s when some people may complain about the numbers. This website has some very good information and points of view: Feeding the pigeons

I now only throw out a few handfuls of pigeon seed in the morning, letting the pigeons go elsewhere to search for food the rest of the day. We have a small flock that flies by in the morning, sometimes with a new fledged youngster in tow, but the numbers haven’t grown much since I don’t increase the handfuls of food. I’ve seen the same pairs of pigeons for the past two years visiting us (they have distinctive feather markings/colours) and on the whole the flock looks healthy and strong. We also have squirrels and foxes visiting but I’m not sure if the badgers come to our garden anymore.

Now, for the main bit of news: We have a large bush full of red berries in our garden by our bedroom window (I’m not good with plant identification so I don’t know what type of plant it is). For the past few weekend mornings we’ve heard something on the windowsill and what sounds like a lot of flapping on the bush. What’s going on? We’ve never heard these noises before. … But the cooing gave the game away! :) There’s pigeons on the windowsill and bush!

Woodpigeons are known to feed on berries but I’ve never seen feral pigeons do so, and yes, the berry stealers are feral pigeons! Of course, when we open the curtains the pigeons fly away, so it’s been hard to take a photo of the spectacle. But I was lucky today – the pigeons raided the bush later in the day, so I managed to take this photo of one clinger:

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Feral pigeon on berry bush

Isn’t s/he a beauty?! :)

The window sticker is there to prevent birds from flying into our many windows (I first wrote about it in 2010: Window strikes). Overall, they seem to work, although a few pigeons have glanced the windows since, but no head-on collisions, which is a relief.

For different sticker designs please have a look at these websites:


Many of you may already know that I work at a wildlife rescue centre, and as a result, I have cared for many injured and orphaned pigeons (in fact, woodpigeons are the second most common animal we have brought in – over 410 this year! – hedgehogs being the first). My love of pigeons was sparked from hand-rearing the orphaned feral pigeons, and both Elmo and Georgie were first taken to my work before we welcomed them into our home. So while I’ve helped rear and rehabilitate hundreds of pigeons, I don’t often find ones that need rescuing.

In the past few months, however, I’ve found two feral pigeons that needed rescuing. One was walking slowly across a road in town and the short steps it was taking caught my attention. I could see that something was wrong, and as I approached the pigeon it didn’t have the strength to fly away. I picked it up and took it immediately to work. The poor pigeon was painfully thin and sadly died the same day. I had found it when it was at the end of its life. It is always sad when a rescued animal dies, however, at least the pigeon was in a safe and warm environment in its last hours.

The second feral pigeon I found was standing one morning by my car as I was preparing to leave for work. It didn’t fly away when I approached it and was clearly in need of rescuing. Once at work, I could see that the feral was thin and had a puncture wound by his right wing. He’s in a warm cage and receiving the medication he needs, and hopefully, in a few weeks, he’ll recover and be released. Fingers crossed.

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The second feral pigeon in need