Written by Eve Gotch of Ohio
One day my husband was on his way to a meeting when he noticed a pigeon crouched in a pothole near the highway on-ramp. He removed his shirt, collected the bird in it and brought it home. After calling around to many rescues, we were unable to find one that accepts “non-native” birds in our area. The only advice we received was that our unresponsive fragile friend was probably in shock and possible concussion from being hit by a car, so we kept him warm for a night in a blanketed plastic bin and waited for morning.
The next day, our visitor was wide awake and in obvious pain. Luckily, a nearby vet clinic (within a Petsmart no less!) had a doctor on staff who specialized in birds and was not biased to breed… so I took him there right away. The doc checked him over thoroughly and told us that his wing and jaw were broken and he’d likely not fly or eat again. Still, his wing was set and bandaged, I was advised on how to feed him blended birdseed with a syringe and give some antibiotics with pain medication.
We took him home, gated off a corner of my son’s room, carpeted the corner with newspaper and gave him some room to roam. Several times every day for three weeks, I fed him blended birdseed with a syringe, always offering fresh seed, grit and water nearby. My sons loved to sit quietly nearby and sometimes softly touch his feathers. I’ve never seen my 5 and 2-year-old be so gentle and kind. They named him “Compass” after the pigeon in the Curious George cartoon. One day, I looked in on Compass and saw he was eating seed on his own! I was as happy as I’d ever been at the sight and quickly called my husband and friends to share the news.
My children loved having him around and would sometimes let him wander around the living room pecking at puzzle pegs and other seed-shaped objects. He also seemed to enjoy seeing himself in mirror.
A week later, we took him to get his wing bandage removed. The vet gave me instructions on how to help him stetch his wing. So that day we took Compass home and built him a house on our screened-in porch where he could practice flying again at his own pace.
I worked with him diligently every day, gently stretching his wing while he winced with reluctance. Taking our time, he finally was able to acheive nearly full expansion. Then, the flying lessons! Compass didn’t particularly like human contact, and when I perched him upon my hand and held it up in the air, I didn’t know what he would do. I thought he might fly toward his house to take refuge from his rehab and he tried to actually, but ended up flying in an unintended circle and landing on the ground off target like a bowling handicap.
Daily rehab and weeks later, I began leaving the screen door propped open to see if he would be drawn to freedom. Some days I found him pecking around the yard, but upon my approach he would flutter to his ramp and run for the cover of his house. Several days passed and when Compass had been with us for nearly two months, I went outside to see him perched upon the roof of the storage room outside. He had obviously flown up the nearly 15 feet. Nervously, I approached and tried to coax him down. Instead, he meant to show me that he was strong and ready and flew himself in a big circle around two trees in our yard, landing on the same roof again.
I was so excited for my little friend. I managed to retrieve him and tucked him into his porch house for the last time.
The next morning a small pile of preened feathers greeted me on my way out to check on him. The screen door remained propped open and Compass was gone. I didn’t get to see him fly off personally but was so glad for his showy performance from the rooftop the day before.
I heard that pigeons mate for life and I imagined Compass flying back to his favorite hang out with a group of other pigeons under the overpass near our highway exit ramp. Every time I pass by that spot I still look up carefully to see if I can spot him, although all of the pigeons look very similar from far away. I imagine that he has reunited with his mate and may bring her back someday to our house, where he knows he’ll find food and the screen door is always propped open. MORE PHOTOS
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Photos courtesy: Eve Gotch
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