Posts Tagged ‘Wood Pigeons’


Posted: May 2, 2015 in Chat
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One evening in October 2014, it was still quite warm; I was putting some rubbish out.
There in my gateway stood a young bird. My first thoughts were: It’s too late to be out, and It’s too young to be out. So I walked quietly, slowly, towards the young bird, and it ran. I watched it run across the grass at the side of the house; it kept fluttering its wings and kind of jumping. Nothing was happening though.

Time for action. We caught the bird, and I put her in a tree; I was hoping the parent birds would come and find her and take it from there. We left her there. I kept watch, though: my side window looks out over the grass and tree. It was getting dark, all the birds had gone to their roosts for the night. No, I couldn’t leave her there – if she happened to fall, there was no saying how well, or strong, she was, and then… well, that area is ‘cat alley’ at night.
So I brought her in.

She was no longer a fledgling, but still had the remnants of chick feathers: a yellowy fluff on her feather tips. V1Her tail was bedraggled, so she must have been on the ground quite some time, wandering probably. So she must be hungry, thirsty, weak and unsure. I kept her in a quiet place, with subdued light, and warmth. We left food in front of her. Nothing doing.
It was going to have to be feeding by hand.
We had the necessaries, and the knowledge. It meant every two or three hours throughout the day, every day, we would have to feed her until she showed she could feed herself.
Her quiet demeanor and lack of markings suggested a female bird. A wood pigeon.

It was a few days after this we discovered she had throat canker. She had an initial assessment at the Vet, and passed that. They did not look in her beak, though. There is excellent medication for canker. It was completely gone in a few days, bad as it had been.

I was keeping her, at this time in a cat basket at night, with a warming pad. By day I eventually tried her on a window ledge for the light, and to see outside. She enjoyed that. I would groom the chick feathers for her.

Wood pigeons are notoriously nervy birds: you cannot change your clothes in any big way or they’re off. Being near a window she would throw herself at it. It was covered in insulating film which broke the impact luckily.

She graduated to a large dog cage at night, with a perch and tree leaves and woody bits. It was covered up to keep her dark and warm. By day I took her into the hall and the side window overlooking the grass and tree. She sat on a plant pot looking out. The problem was she was showing no inclination to fly. To spur some development I would hold her away from the plant pot and let her flutter to it, and bit further away each time. Each time she managed well, fluttering but not flying. Eventually I got her so she could fly around a corner and land properly. She was eating herself by then. Even so, without my prompting she would not fly around the room, or do anything other than sit. Other birds we have had have been off around the room whenever they could, for the joy of it.

We would leave her for periods by the window, knowing she could eat and drink when she wanted to. WE heard a noise one day: she was batting the window with her wing, quite ferociously. There was a small hawk – kestrel?- outside, clinging to the window ledge trying to get her. She was bravely fighting it off!
All this period she never made a sound. Only gradually and over a period of time did soft ‘peep’ sounds start to be heard.

We began to suspect something was not right, fundamentally with her. That meant long term care. Not what we wanted – we wanted her to go free – but we had no choice then. To send her to a sanctuary would not work: they do not take wood pigeons, she would have been ‘put down’.

So our care of her changed, she became part of the family. I had her on another window ledge – we were trying to get her to fit in with two pigeons. She was getting her colours by this time: the distinctive white band was appearing round her neck, the breast feathers were colouring up, she was getting the lovely graded tones.

She would eat fine brassica leaves from my hand, tearing off the leaves. She ate quite a lot of green leaf. This is one of the many ways wood pigeons differed from ordinary pigeons. Temperament was another big difference. They were intrigued by her, but eventually decided on a No attitude. Which meant constant supervision: she needed other birds to learn from, and there was no other room than that one.

A knock at the door, a delivery. I was out five minutes. In that time they took their opportunity. When I came back in they had chased into the window; stunned as she was, unable to walk, she had dragged herself and hidden her head in a cloth while the ‘boys’ hammered her back from behind.
Daddy was not best pleased! Daddy is still not pleased!

She couldn’t/wouldn’t walk, was tipped onto one side – but there were no injuries. We suspected brain damage from the collision. The Vet agreed, but said they heal sometimes. And prescribed a pain killer, just in case.
The pain killer gave her a bad reaction: it went straight through her. So, a medication to slow that down, and help heal what appeared to be ulcerations the medication had caused; and to prevent infection there.
She could not stand still. Eventually it got better, she would stand for periods, but could not walk. Flying was out.
Too much medication.

She was very loose, then nothing was coming through. What was going on? She was impacted in her colon: liquid paraffin usually shifts it. Ok, it seeped through but didn’t shift the blockage. She was still taking food and water by hand, but nothing was coming through.

She was getting sicker and sicker. The Vet said, You know what I would do! (Euthanise).  Do you think she is in pain? I asked. The Vet didn’t know. I asked Do you think her life is unhappy, miserable? The Vet didn’t know. But: You know what I would do!

I kept her, and looked after best I could. She grew weaker, but seemed to appreciate the care. On the last day, she lay gasping. I held her for hours. She would sink, then shake herself and rouse herself; the times she rallied!
In the last minutes I took her to the outside she had seen from the window, near the tree, grass. Sick and weak as she was she struggled to get down in the open air. I lay her on a towel and sat with her in the open, the breeze playing, birds singing evening songs. She lay gasping. Eventually I held her, supported her head, and she died quietly, gently. With such dignity.

We all die the same, the last gasping for breath, the body struggling against the lack of oxygen, then the relapse.
It was April. Six months.

I hope I die with as much dignity as that little bird.
And when a blackbird is singing.