Guest Blog Post by Adina Olivares
Early in November 2013, while sitting in our truck parked at the grocery store, I noticed a crowd gathering around a woman. I saw that she was holding a bird- a pigeon. She was throwing her arms up, whilst holding the bird, as if to throw it up in the air. My husband, knowing how I am, said, “you better go help her”. So I walked over and learned that the bird ‘fell out of the nest, nearly 20 feet overhead’, and the good-intentioned woman meant to hurl it back up to the nest! Knowing this would not be successful and that likely the bird who fell (or was pushed) out of the nest would plummet back down to the ground, I interceded. I volunteered that I had rescued wild birds in the past and would gladly take the pigeon off her hands. This is how Homie, the WunderBird came into my life.
On the way home, I noticed Homie (short for Homero) was very hot in my hands and knowing that birds either fall or get pushed out of the nest, oftentimes because they are sick/injured I was worried. This was the first of many times, my ignorance in the world of pigeons would come to light. So I took Homero home, who I fully believed was a young adult as he was fully feathered, no yellow beak/red dot, none of the characteristics I have seen in other not-fully-fledged wild birds. (How wrong I was.) Anyway, when we arrived home, in a spare cage Homero went and in the garage he sat. It was too cold in the garage but I just knew he was ill and I did not want to introduce him to my pet birds in the house. So while he waited, I went upstairs and readied a spare bedroom to keep him in while I figured what to do. Up he went to his new bedroom, covered and away from my birds. I then set up a medium dog crate, and in the interim provided him with parrot seed and water. He looked fine? But that temperature was worrisome. So I did two things- went to the pet store for pigeon food and went online to research pigeons. Struck out at the store, so he had to settle for dove food. Found one really interesting fact about pigeons- they have a very hot body temperature (106). So now he went from 100% ill, to maybe/maybe not (why else would he be kicked out of the nest I thought)?
Anyway, fast forward a couple of weeks as I will not bore you with the multiple times we attempted releasing Homero into the wild. By now you might wonder, Homero? You named a wild bird? Well let me tell you, everything has to have a name at our house, even when we had a snail come into a pond he had a name: Slo-Poke. (I never said we were brilliant with our naming convention.) So I did my best not to bond with Homero, wanting him to get back to nature, his nature. I even took him out of the cage and had him exercise and do test-flights down the hallway to ensure he could fly. But none of our releases were working, each time we took him out, after doing Pij-Recon to find the perfect spot, he would simply walk back to his cage, look up at us as if to say: Hi, nice visit to the park, huh?
So on the fifth and final release, the weekend after Thanksgiving, we went to this great place! Ok, so it was not in the best part of town and we were a bit worried the police would be called, but there was evidence of pigeons having been around (poop!), lots of places to roost, and we thought, Success is Ours! We put Homero on the ground, my 6ft husband chased him around a bit, clapping his hands, trying to get Homero to fly! Homero thought walking was good and sauntering even better, so that is what he did. Husband running, clapping, Homero sauntering, me trying not to laugh, out loud, too much. I have successfully released many sparrows, scrub-jays, etc. over the years but I was learning just how very much I did not know about pigeons.
Anyway, as we spent an hour waiting for Homero to fly away to pigeon happiness, I happened to look down the path and there was a hawk sitting on a telephone line. You can guess the rest and for this I will forever be sorry and guilty. Before I could yell to my husband to snatch up Homero, the hawk took flight, and my husband who was less than 5ft from Homero, got to him last, after the hawk. We picked up a bleeding, screaming, head-tilting Homero, wrapped him up and had a horrible ride home. Both my hubby and I are in Healthcare, so we did a physical exam, a neuro-check, there did not appear to be a head-injury, no obvious fractures, and the bleeding subsided. So we supported Homero as best we could that night and let him rest, letting the Great Spirit decide his fate, and if he was there in the morning, we would take it from there
Anyway, the next morning, my WunderBird was still alive! He could not lift his head, he could not stand, so then began the ‘Pigeon-ICU, 24 hr care’. (I am an RN and used to work in the ICU, well those skills came in handy I tell you.)
Side Note: In contrast with many of our healthcare colleagues and friends, we don’t often seek medical attention, believing we can rely upon our knowledge, good sense, medical experience and Nature to heal us. I have ICU/Trauma Nursing experience and my hubby has EMT and Emergency experience. Also, my initial experience with our local Wildlife center had me convinced Homie would have been euthanized.
I provided hourly feeding, cleaning (he pooped himself) and company. Out the window went the ‘not going to bond’ and instead was the promise, that if Homero made it through this, he would have a Forever Home with us. As time progressed, Homero could stand, kinda, as he wedged himself against the side of the cage, which we adapted so he wouldn’t fall through.
We put a slick surface on the sides, as eventually he would slide-walk around the perimeter of the cage. As he slowly started to heal, we worked on Physical Therapy (as he had a chronic tilt to his head and I worried about Torticollis). We made sure the cage was safe (shallow water bowl, etc.) as he spent a lot of time falling when he eventually tried to walk, er stumble. He would have definitely gotten a FUI (Flying Under the Influence) ticket had he been out as that boy looked 3 sheets to the wind when he tried to walk.
Homero amazed us every single day with the determination he had. Despite rolling and falling and tripping, he would not give up, so how could we. I received great help and advice on the site Pigeon Talk. I was panicky at the thought of shoving a huge defrosted pea down his throat, but was surprised to learn of how much protein they have, how easily he swallowed them and that he actually liked them. Not sure at what point I found Elizabeth and MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue, but here I was provided even more love and support for Homero (and me). I learned how committed pigeons are to their mates and how Homero needed to be around other birds, so we moved him downstairs and put his cage near my two other birds, BB (rescued Peach-Faced Lovebird) to the right and Maya (Gold-Capped Conure) on his left.
In addition I purchased Homero a friend to snuggle with- a baby duck stuffed toy. Up till recently, Duckie went everywhere Homero did, and was snuggled and loved quite well by Homero (until he was replaced).
As the weeks went by, Homero became Homie (he was staying around, so why not get familiar). He was on the same schedule as BB & Maya. Sleep cages at night, downstairs by a big window during the day. Special ‘pea-times’ with Momma and out-of-cage times as he got better and better. Time progressed and Homie was out of the cage every day flying around the house. Navigation skills, so-so. Landing skills needed some improvement, as did eating skills. Targeting abilities were still off a bit. All chair backs/furniture covered with towels, paper-towels at the ready to clean the many, many, many poops. Homie, well loved, enjoyed his bath times and laying in the sun. We tried Pigeon Pants (for Mommy’s sanity), but Homie hated it so we relied on paper towels and cleaning material instead.
I noticed that Homie loved looking at my iPhone and taking pictures and was fascinated by my iPad. Then something struck me, and I turned on a game/app I have called Games for Cats©. (Did I mention that I rescue & fix neighborhood ferals too? Figures, huh… and sometimes those ferals become family, oh well). Anyway, Homie loved playing the Chase the Mouse game and playing it helped his targeting skills. Remarkable! I had to share Homie the WunderBird’s story with the game developers and they were quite touched and appreciative and asked me to post a YouTube video showing Homie in action.
So now, here we are, five months plus after initially rescuing Homie, then rescuing Homie from my ignorance (hawk-attack) and I am happy to say a lot has happened. Homie is about 95% ‘normal’ at this point. He can walk, eat and fly quite well, although when he gets tired, he does stumble a wee bit, and he doesn’t always hit the seed he was aiming for, but he is a healthy, happy bird. We have finished his forever home- a big, beautiful and quite safe aviary in the backyard, about 4’x8’x6’. One funny thing, we took Homie to meet Jill, one of MickaCoo’s volunteers, to have her check out Homie and for me to learn more about pigeons. Jill gave me the Pigeon Birth Control talk, although I just knew Homie was a he (based on everything I had read online!) but Jill thought maybe just maybe, Homie was a she. Well, that night, I put the two wood eggs in his nest and woke the next morning to a surprising three eggs! So there went my assuredness that Homie was a he, as my dear, sweet Homie definitively is a she!
March 10 2014 Update: Elizabeth did a home visit and brought out some friends for Homie- hopefully a mate. Homie immediately took a shining to bachelor Bubba. Bubba however, played very hard to get, despite Homie tugging on his tail and staring longingly into his eyes. But like everyone who comes into contact with Homie, he could not resist her and they fell in love and are now ‘married’! Bubba had a really bad wing clipping (prior to being rescued) and does not yet fly well yet, but lil Homie understands limitations and makes sure she takes care of her man. So that’s the story (Part 1) of Homie the WunderBird!
I would like to end this long story with a deeply heartfelt gratitude and thankfulness for those who helped Homie in her recovery! Without those wonderful people it may not have turned out as well as it did, despite Homie being a truly remarkable, WunderBird and never giving up on herself!
Part 2 Coming Soon!
Note from MickaCoo: For the best outcomes, we recommend that rescuers of baby pigeons find a pigeon-friendly wildlife expert ASAP rather than learn “on the job”. Learn more here.