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Pidge

1993 – 2014

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Rest in Peace

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Pidge on the 11th June, 2014, at the age of 21. In the past year Pidge’s health had deteriorated but he remained in good spirits and was cared for with love and devotion by his mate and the staff at Folly Wildlife Rescue. In the last months, as he was unable to walk very well, Pidge spent his days with his original carer, Annette.

Pidge was the first feral pigeon hand-reared and cared for by Annette (my former employer) at Folly Wildlife Rescue. He came to her as an orphaned baby in 1993 and she fell in love with him. Pidge lived as a free-flying pigeon for many years until he had a close-encounter with a sparrowhawk, after which it was decided that he would be safer in a large aviary with non-releasable pigeons.

All the staff and volunteers at the rescue centre fell in love with Pidge. He had charm and character and would entertain us with his behaviour all the time. Pidge would strut and coo to anyone who visited him. He LOVED people! He had such enthusiasm! Without fail, Pidge would fly over to me to greet me when I would enter his aviary to feed and clean. You couldn’t help but laugh and greet him back with joy. I believe he was the first pigeon that I met that opened my eyes to how wonderful pigeons are. It is possible to say that without meeting Pidge I may never have adopted my own pigeons.

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Pidge

Pidge wasn’t only interested in people, he also found love with a resident pigeon, Dora, and was very devoted to her. They were definitely the “celebrity couple” in the aviary, being so pretty and outgoing. Dora stayed by Pidge’s side when he fell ill, defending him from intruding hands (staff members who tried to clean the cage they were in) and giving him lots of cuddles and affection when he was unable to move about easily.

I can say for certain that Pidge will be greatly missed. He was a wonderful pigeon. Rest in peace, dear boy.

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If you would like to donate to Folly Wildlife Rescue in memory of Pidge, please visit their website: www.follywildliferescue.org.uk

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You can read more about Pidge on my previous posts: Pidge and the resident pigeons

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Pidge with his mate, Dora:

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The subject of predators is always a touchy one. Many people don’t like to see animals being killed by others, especially when it isn’t a quick, clean kill. However, the fact of life is that there are species born to be predators and species born to be their prey. And pigeons and doves are definitely a prey species.

Witnessing the attack, or aftermath of an attack, of a predator on a pigeon is traumatic, especially if it is one of your own. No one wants to lose their pigeon in such a horrific manner. When I worked at a wildlife rescue centre I saw the results of such attacks, and thankfully we were sometimes able to mend and rehabilitate the victims. But each case was heartbreaking and people would often say to me how cruel predators are. I actually disagree. I don’t see animals as being cruel to one another when they are hunting for food. They do what they have to do. Doesn’t mean I like to see it happen (or the results of an attack), but I don’t hate predator species.

There are many species that predate on pigeons and doves. Birds of prey, such as peregrine falcons and sparrowhawks, are the main ones, however, domestic cats, foxes, rats, corvids, snakes and dogs can all do their fair share of harm. If you have an aviary that isn’t predator-proof, then you only have yourself to blame if a predator gets in. It is the responsibility of the animal carer to ensure the safety of their animals. So please don’t blame the fox when it breaks into a flimsy chicken wire cage and kills all your chickens or pigeons. By containing birds in a small enclosed space you’re essentially taunting the predators with what they must view as a box full of goodies. Of course they are going to attempt to eat those goodies. Predator proof your aviary!!

Of course, many will state that most domestic cats don’t kill to eat anymore and therefore are cruel, however, cats are still a predator species. They may not have the need to kill for food, but most cats definitely have the urge to hunt. It is in their DNA. Simply domesticating a species doesn’t necessarily change that. However, for some reason cats often get off lightly when they kill birds. Is it because so many people love cats and have them as pets? Sparrowhawks, on the other hand, are usually the target of hatred, particularly here in the UK and certainly amongst the pigeon racing clubs.

Last week I watched in horror as a sparrowhawk chased a feral pigeon in the air, catch it then drop to the ground right in front of me! I was in my car, driving slowly down my street, so when this happened I stopped. The sparrowhawk and I stared at each other for a second. Before I could get out of my car the sparrowhawk released the pigeon, who flew away quickly. He didn’t look injured but I knew he would have some painful puncture wounds on his body from the hawk’s claws (I’ve held sparrowhawks before and had one sink its claws into my hand so I know from experience how painful it is), and it upset me that I couldn’t help the pigeon further. I have to hope the wounds heal quickly. The sparrowhawk flew away too, most likely to hunt another bird.

Now, I’ve never actually seen the chase and capture before so it was a shock to witness it (both birds flew incredibly quickly). There was no way I was going to allow the hawk to rip open a pigeon right in front of me. I know that it has to eat but I don’t want to see it happen. I will always stop it from happening if I can – and I’ve interrupted a few sparrowhawks from killing pigeons and doves in the past (there was one that visited the rescue centre every now and then to have a go at the local birds) – but it doesn’t make me hate sparrowhawks. Even after everything I’ve seen from injured birds, I still don’t dislike birds of prey. They are beautiful, skillful and amazing birds. They are built for speed and agility. And do you know what? Pigeons are also built for speed. Pigeons are amazing flyers and can escape from the chase of a sparrowhawk. In fact, predators usually have to hunt many times a day in order to get just one kill. Most of their prey escape, therefore predators have to try harder.

Of course, certain domesticated pigeons, e.g. fancy pigeons, do not stand a chance against predators, what with their unusual feathers or body shape. Erecting a pretty white dovecote with pretty white fantail doves in the garden is simply asking for trouble. Fantails are not good flyers and will be easily killed by most predators.

Free flying pigeons are also going to be targets of predators. Hand-reared tame pigeons are more vulnerable because many lack an awareness of the threat of predators (especially if they have been hand-reared with dogs and cats). So if you let your pigeon fly freely then you have to accept the fact that a bird of prey may one day attack. It will be up to you to decide whether the risk is minimal compared to the gains and joys of freedom and make the choice that you feel comfortable with. My choice is easier to make since both my pigeons cannot fly properly anyway, so they stay indoors and any time outside is heavily supervised.

I have hand-reared, cared for and rehabilitated many bird and mammal species at the wildlife rescue centre, both predator and prey species. I have fallen in love with the warning clicks of a baby owl, the adorable look of a baby magpie, the insistent squeaks of a baby pigeon, as well as the stubborn, defensive glares of a sparrowhawk chick. Ultimately, all baby species are adorable so for me it was inevitable to fall in love with them. :)

A few photos of sparrowhawks cared for at the wildlife rescue centre I worked at. They have piercing stares, even the juvenile one!

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Juvenile sparrowhawk

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Adult sparrowhawk

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Adult sparrowhawk


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


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)

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


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


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.


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.


I looked for “New Year pigeon” and “New Year dove” on the old YouTube site, and here’s what I found:

And a few random videos simply for your viewing pleasure:

I must admit, I really cannot get enough of the voice of these doves! They crack me up! :D


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.