Ava and Jenny are my adopted pigeons. Both of their rescue stories have been chronicled here before. Recently, however, Ava had an adventure that I would like to tell you about as a cautionary tale.
We recently moved to Brisbane, California, just south of San Francisco where we had all lived together for two years. Ava and Jenny lived in their double flight in the living room with “out” time. Our new housemate (and landlord) said it would be okay to build an aviary on the deck in the garden. I thought the pij would be happier outside with more space, so a friend very kindly built a beautiful aviary for them. Unfortunately, the wire mesh (hardware cloth) that I bought for two sides of the aviary had holes just a little too large for safety with a blind bird (Jenny) who might back up against it and stick her tail or wings out to be grabbed by predators. Elizabeth, of MickaCoo, suggested putting them in a cage inside the aviary until extra wire could be added and Cheryl, a MickaCoo super volunteer, loaned me a large dog crate so that Jenny and Ava would have lots of room.
Jenny and Ava quickly got used to being outside, though Ava was clearly anxious to make use of the whole aviary. She actually had grander plans, but I didn’t know that yet. That Sunday, I went into the aviary to let Jenny and Ava out for supervised time in the larger aviary. I made the mistake of opening the dog crate door before I had fully closed the aviary door. Ava shot out over my shoulder through the door and circled around over the garden before she landed on the roof next door. I pleaded with her to come down and offered treats, but she was looking out at the wonderful view and the next thing I knew, she was flying off toward San Bruno Mountain. I was both taken by the beauty of her in flight, particularly given that she was almost entirely paralyzed when she first entered Elizabeth’s care at MickaCoo, and fear that I would never see her again. I wasn’t even sure if she knew how to get back home. We had been here such a short time. Also- which home would she seek? She had had several including her pre-rescue home in Marin, 30 miles north.
I contacted Elizabeth in a panic and she told me to get signs out and that my instinct to go looking around the neighborhood for her was good. I wanted to be home if she came home, but everything I read suggested that, if she was going to come home, she would do it later in the day. My housemate suggested that I call the police, which, having lived in San Francisco most of my life, I thought would only bring mockery, but the Brisbane PD took my lost pigeon news very seriously. I really appreciated that. I sent emails to SF ACC and San Mateo County ACC and posted on Craigslist and various lost bird sites that people recommended. I, then, went out in the heat and bright sunlight, crying and taking my sad little posters around town to post them in case anyone found Ava.
I was supposed to go to a play with a friend that afternoon, but I explained that I needed to stay home in case Ava was found and needed me. The friend said that she would come over and wait for Ava with me. She did, which was incredibly kind of her. She also got more ink for my printer for flyers and picked up some dinner, which we ate while I watched the sun lower in the sky. I had just about given up hope of seeing her that day when she landed on the roof next door. I just happened to look up and there she was. She flew over to the roof of our house, but I couldn’t reach her and she was either too tired or disinclined to come down yet. When the sun set fully, I took Jenny inside to sleep where she could hear me and not feel so alone. She was clearly pretty upset about Ava being away, though.
The next morning, I got up about an hour before dawn to return Jenny to the dog crate and open the aviary door to try to woo Ava back home. Elizabeth suggested that I run some water out of the hose (pigeons know and love the sound of water) and put food down, trailing out of the aviary door. I did both and, when it was light, I could see Ava still on the roof. When she saw me, she bobbed her head in greeting, but still wouldn’t come down. She flew around the house and came back to the roof. In retrospect, I think she wanted me to come get her. Elizabeth, who I had been texting in between attempts to encourage Ava, thought that Jenny might be the best motivation, so I held Jenny very tightly, even though she is unlikely to fly away, I wasn’t taking any chances, and brought her out where Ava could see her. Ava immediately flew down to the garden fence and then sort of stumbled into the middle of the path. I grabbed her- Ava was home.