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The inevitable happened.

I rescued a pigeon (first time since moving up North).

It happened at a local railway bridge that is home to a pigeon flock. I was walking under it and saw a fluttering of wings across the road. A pigeon was flapping up a fence but fell down to the ground with a squeak. I could see it was a young pigeon trying to go back home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t strong enough to fly back up to his parents, and I knew that he’d either be squashed by a car or kicked by a kid (sorry, I have little faith in some of the children I see). I crossed the road but couldn’t reach the pigeon through the fence. Thankfully the builders nearby were kind enough to herd the pigeon towards me so I could pick him up.

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I felt a bit self-conscious walking home with a pigeon in my hands. I wanted to shout out, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to kill the pigeon. I used to work at a rescue centre. I know what I’m doing.” But I doubt anyone would have cared either way. No one was interested in the little pigeon.

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First thing I did when I got home was assess his condition (I say “he” but I don’t know if it was male or female). No injuries, no signs of illness, no broken feathers – he was in perfect condition. The only problem he had is that he didn’t have the muscle strength to fly his well-fed body up higher than a metre or so. Such a pity since I could see he was so close to fledging. I set up Elmo’s old carrier with a towel, food and water (with Critical Care powder mixed in), and dusted the pigeon with some anti-mite powder to kill any parasites. The pigeon was very well behaved but clearly a bit frightened of my presence and hid in the cage.

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I kept the little pigeon upstairs away from Elmo and Georgie since I didn’t want to risk anything just in case the pigeon was ill in any way. But Hugo came over to investigate the newcomer before I locked him out of the room. He was very interested in what was in the cage, as you can see:

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The next step was to find someone who could care for the pigeon while his feathers grew longer, ready for release. If I had an aviary, I would have gladly kept the pigeon for conditioning, but without the space to let the pigeon flap about, staying with me wasn’t the best option. So I contacted a local pro-pigeon wildlife rescue centre and thankfully they had the space to take the pigeon, so the next day the little fella went to his new temporary home to join other young pigeons being cared for till they are old enough for release.

Good luck little fella! :)


Last night we had an unexpected visitor in our garden. Isn’t he just the cutest?

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We never thought we’d see a hedgehog in the garden since we have badgers in the area so we were very surprised when this guy turned up on our doorstep. We gave him some dinner and he munched on it quite happily even with the light on. :)

I wonder what Elmo would make of him? :D


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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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


I always worry about wildlife when it snows unexpectedly – for them, not so much for us. Although, who knows if they can predict when snow will come? Maybe they are prepared for the cold snap. Even so, I worry. Especially when I look at my two pampered pigeons resting snuggly on the sofa without a care in the world.

This morning we awoke to a white world:

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Our garden under snow

So the first thing I do is bundle up and go put out some fresh food for the wildlife that visit our garden. I can see from the tracks in the snow that foxes and cats have already sniffed about for any scraps of food. They’ll receive their dinner later but for now the birds must get a helping hand.

Peanuts, seed, defrosted sweetcorn and bread are put out for the pigeons, blackbirds, blue tits and robins that frequent the garden. (I sadly didn’t have time to stock up on fat balls and other yummies this week, so I had to raid my cupboard for anything edible for the birds.)

From the warmth of our home I take photos of the birds I see in the snow. I notice some long-tailed tits (occassional visitors) and a rarer visitor, a song thrush!

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Our resident woodpigeon

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Our other resident woodpigeon

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Songthrush

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Our resident robin

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Our resident robin

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Blue tit on the peanut feeder

Previous posts about snow in our garden (with photos of our pigeons in the snow!):


As many of you may know, I work at a wildlife rescue centre. The animals we receive are either injured or orphaned (or both) and need our help to recover and grow up for release. It is hard, continuous work. Feed, clean, feed, clean, medicate, feed, clean and more cleaning. The wildlife in our care depend on us and we have a responsibility to ensure they are clean, comfortable, stress-free and receiving the best care we can provide. The ultimate aim of all this: release back into the wild in tip-top condition for best chance of survival in the big bad world!

Sometimes we receive horrible cases of cruelty: pigeons and doves that have been shot! :( :(

Pigeons (ferals included) are protected by law in the UK. It is illegal to kill any bird unless a licence is held or if the person (or pest control company) isn’t following the criteria of the general licence. Please go to the following websites for more indepth information: PiCAS: The Law and Is it legal to shoot pigeons?

It is hard to see these beautiful birds with shot wounds, knowing that the bird is suffering because of a fellow human being. On the 4th April we received a white pigeon that had a horrific infected shot wound in her chest. The hole was very large! The photo is shocking to look at and I have to admit, I didn’t think the pigeon would live.

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Shot white pigeon - 6th April

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6th April

We immediately gave her medication to fight the infection and relieve her of any pain and kept her in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) for observation and care. Every day her wounds were checked and cleaned and medication was given. She wasn’t happy about the situation and soon became quite restless. She wanted to get out but we couldn’t put her in an aviary where flies could lay their eggs in the open wound. So the dear girl had to stay in her cage in I.C.U.

Slowly, very slowly, the wound started to close up (as you can see in the photos).

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Her wound is dressed - 2nd May

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25th May

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All healed! - 14th July

One day a thin feral pigeon was brought to my work and he was placed in a cage near the white pigeon. The male pigeon started cooing, calling, testing her reaction. They couldn’t see each other easily, only through thin slits at the side of the cages, but they could hear each other and they began to flirt. First the male pigeon said his piece and waited. Then the white female pigeon responded. The male pigeon twirled and cooed joyfully in response to what she had said. You get the picture! Sure enough, the two fell in love. I made the mistake of putting them opposite each other one day and they had an unobstructed view of one another. They cooed and danced all day (no kidding, ALL day!), the little flirts!

The day we could put the two together in an aviary was a very happy day for them. They started kissing and prancing about like the newly-weds they were. They were released together on the 15th July. What a wonderful result!! :D

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White pigeon and her new mate the day before their release - 14th July

Ps. Now you may be wondering why I hadn’t named the white pigeon. I try not to at work for two reasons: 1) the animal is a wild animal and not a pet, and 2) not all the injured and orphaned wildlife live to be released, and since giving the animal a name forms attachment it can be tough on us humans if the animal dies. Sometimes, though, it is hard not to become attached to an animal, and equally hard not to cuddle and talk to the animal, but when it comes to working with injured/orphaned wildlife, you have to remain distant because you want the animal to remain wild so that it can be released (since you cannot release tame or imprinted wildlife!).


The people at the Wild Bird Fund, a non-profit organisation, in New York City do a lot to help feral pigeons and other wildlife in and around the area. It is wonderful to see vets and rehabbers work so skillfully with pigeons. It can be hard to find a vet that knows how to fix broken bones in a bird, and tragically, a lot of pigeons are euthanised because of a broken wing or leg simply because the skills and knowledge – and sometimes other resources (e.g. space and time) – are not there. (And pigeon sanctuaries are hard to come by.)

Please consider donating towards their cause to built a wildlife rehabilitation centre in New York City: Wild Bird Fund

Blog: Wild Bird Fund Blog

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wildbirdfund

These videos show what the Wild Bird Fund is all about:

(Note: at the end of the last video they state that they facilitated “soft release” for the two pigeons in the video. Both pigeons transferred any affections from humans to pigeons prior to release.)


Guess where I found Elmo this afternoon upon returning home from work? … On the window sill!! He hasn’t been on the window sill in months!!

And how do I know this, you ask? Well, I can tell by following the poop trail he leaves. If Elmo spends a lot of time in one area there’ll be a bunch of poops nearby. It’s as simple as that! :)

I had wondered why Elmo had stopped sitting on the window ledge this winter. Did something spook him? Maybe he got bored with the view, but now that spring is around the corner he’s taken an interest in the garden again? I wonder…

Since moving into our new flat we’ve had many different visitors to our garden. I’d like to post some of the photos I took of these very welcome visitors:

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Grey squirrel

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Badgers

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Bullfinch

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Long-tailed tit

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Fox cub

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Brown rat

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Woodpigeon

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Feral pigeons!

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Feral pigeons!

With all these visitors how could Elmo get bored with the views?! :)


Elmo’s blood blister has almost completely disappeared!! Hooray!! :D

In other news, today has been sunny and warm and perfect weather to let our pigeons out into the garden for some sun, however, my lovely husband was strimming the hedge and mowing the lawn, so we couldn’t have them out. So Georgie sunbathed on the floor in a sunny patch (so very cute) and after she felt like a toasted bundle of feathers I put a shallow dish of water down for her to cool down in. She loved it and was splashing to her hearts content, which attracted Elmo’s attention. He slowly walked up to her, shivering and shaking in excitement! He wanted to have a bath too!!

After Georgie had her fun in the water I put her on the sofa to dry off and put Elmo in the dish of water. He immediately started splashing about and didn’t mind my fingers at all as I splashed water on him. Sweet!

Here’s the evidence:

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(Please ignore what I’m saying in the video clip. I was on the phone at the time!)

After the gardening work Richard and I slowly roasted in the sun with a cool drink in hand. We have to enjoy these few sunny moments we get – who knows, this could be the only hot day all summer!! … Now where’s my lollipop?

Ps. I have to share this photo with you because it was so unexpected to see this little fella sitting in the garden. What an adorable fox cub! :)

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Feral pigeon flock

Due to the ever growing number of feral pigeons visiting our garden we’ve been forced to buy seed and peanuts in bulk. What have we done?! First there were 2 pigeons we fed, then there were 6, and now over 16 pigeons are dependent on us. This was not supposed to happen! All of a sudden we have the responsibility to feed the many wildlife we’ve attracted to our garden. Oh well, I guess that’s the tiny price to pay to have lovely animals in the garden. Wouldn’t change it for a thing!

A few weeks ago we ran out of seed and we couldn’t bear to see the pigeons hanging about looking so miserable and hungry at us (I swear they do know how to pull at our heart-strings, the little manipulators!). :)

So off to the garden centre to buy some emergency seed and the pigeons practically mobbed us when we got home (as did the robin!). To prevent the same thing happening again we decided that we had to buy some sacks of seed and peanuts. After a bit of research for quality and price, we ordered from a local feed store and received a 25kg sack of peanuts and a 20kg sack of wildbird seed, which should last a few months!

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Feral pigeon on feeder.

Unfortunately we have to keep the seed indoors due to the badgers, squirrels and rats that forage in our garden. The badgers have broken into a container of peanuts before and eaten all of them so we cannot take any chances. One day we’ll have a garden shed to keep everything under lock and key, however, in the meantime the two sacks have to stay indoors much to Elmo’s delight. He’s never seen so many peanuts before in his life and I do believe he thinks the 25kg sack of peanuts is all his! :)

Now that all the birds, squirrels and badgers are fed the only animal left to feed is the fox. Yesterday I threw some cat biscuits into the garden and at dusk I saw a fox and a cat eating the biscuits almost nose to nose! Amazing! I managed to take a photo of the fox before he ran away:

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Fox in the garden