Feather & Bone

Young emaciated racing pigeon

Starved very nearly to death

This young pigeon, now named Vivian, is extremely lucky to be alive.  She was bred to be used for pigeon racing. Taken miles from her home and “tossed” to her fate, she tried her best to fly home. But she failed. And she very nearly died because of it. I checked on Vivian at the request of Bruce, the kind man who rescued her. She weighs only 232 grams. She should weigh 400 or more. She is feather and bone. She is so emaciated that her body consumed its own breast muscle tissue in the fight to survive, grounding her without the muscles needed for flight.

Emaciated pigeon on scale showing 232 grams

Vivian lost nearly 50% of her body weight to starvation

Thanks to Bruce, she is slowly coming back to life.

Kind man Bruce with rescued racing pigeon

Vivian asked Bruce for help and he saved her

Bruce writes, “The rescue began as I was outside our building in Point Reyes Station, watering plants.  It was about 6:00 pm. I was filling up the watering can & she walked over to me from underneath our car.  She just sat there watching me as I watered.  I knew almost immediately that something was different about this pigeon.  There are quite a few in the belfry of our building. I walked over to her & saw the numbered blue band around her leg. I sat next to her for a bit, and then walked up the stairs to go inside. She followed me up the stairs! I brought down bread for her (she wasn’t interested). I went back upstairs to get Neil & when I returned, she was walking all alone down the street (cue sad, heart breaking music here!). I followed her & she let me pick her up. There were ravens & hawks around, and I knew there would soon be cats. I brought her inside, put her in a box with sesame seeds, wild rice (that’s all we had) & water. Neil went to the market for bird seed. She happily ate everything we gave her. We assembled our pup’s old dog crate, which was perfect. We made a perch & lined the crate, and Vivian went to sleep. She seemed very…relieved. As were we.”  

Exhausted survivor of pigeon racing

Vivian is still exhausted & recovering from her ordeal

Vivian’s successful self-rescue is a miracle. Most of the racing pigeons that get lost, injured and/or starved aren’t so fortunate. Despite their heroic efforts to find their way home, they will, for the “sport” of others, suffer and die.

Racing pigeons, though they look very much like their wild cousins the Rock Pigeons, are domestic birds. They have been bred and raised by people for so long that they are no longer wild. They no longer have the skills needed to survive on their own and so when they are taken away from their home and released to “race”, they are highly likely to die in the wild. Vivian’s approaching Bruce for help is not unusual. Pigeons are very smart and, having been raised by and depended on people for care, will often attempt what we call “self-rescue” by approaching people when they are in trouble. What’s unusual is that Bruce didn’t dismiss her. He saw that she was asking for help and he gave it.

So Vivian is safe now. She has been saved. She has a home and family that loves her and who will not play games with her life. She is a survivor of pigeon racing.

Lucky pigeon in a beautiful family photo

Bruce with Vivian, his dog, his sister and his son

Learn more at What’s Pigeon Racing?

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See our adoptable birds.



  1. Thank you for helping, Bruce.

  2. wonderful person wonderful story lucky smart Vivian

  3. What a wonderful story. As I well know, pigeons will pick their people/rescuers. Give Vivian a cuddle and treat from me.

  4. Thank you for your compassion. We have a similar story (see “Woot, there he is.”)
    It sounds like you rescued Vivian just in the nick of time!

  5. Pingback: The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary | Palomacy

  6. We rescued Cinammon on our Main Street just sitting in the alcove of a store front looking lost. She is the sweetest pigeon and in our bird and orchid room when out of her cage flys and lands on our shoulders sometime our heads. Lol she loves to be petting and neck scratched.

  7. Great stories of rescue and love. Bless you wonderful,people for helping pigeons.


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