One million domestic King pigeons are bred annually in California for meat (squab). A few wind up in rescue rather than as the dinner on a fancy plate they were intended to be. With your support, Palomacy helps these and other lucky survivors get adopted rather than euthanized. With your help, we are closing a deadly gap in the animal welfare community. Every one of these birds is an individual. Here’s the story of three: Patch, Alfred and Bert.
Instead of being butchered when they were four weeks old, Patch, Alfred and Bert were purchased live from a poultry market. We don’t know how many were “released” (either in a misguided effort to liberate them or for ceremonial use) but we do know how many were rescued- three.
The Good Samaritan who found the three baby pigeons huddled together in a park on June 20th, 2016, knew they were out of place and so he gathered them up and brought them to the San Francisco SPCA. Though they don’t usually take in birds, their Humane Education team, already fostering four of Palomacy’s pigeons in the Summer Camp program, made an exception for them.
All of our foster homes and aviaries were full up (we always are with usually 120+ pigeons and doves in our care plus a waiting list) and so the extra help from the Humane Ed team was critical. I went to check on the pigeon youngsters that afternoon and they were sick. While adult pigeons are hardy, the youngsters, their immune systems undeveloped and exposed to so much stress through the “harvesting”, transport and sales/”release” process, are frail. We got them settled in and started on antibiotics. They had eluded the butcher and survived an inhumane “release”. They were very lucky to be alive.
Everyone fell in love with the strikingly marked black and white pigeons. As if they weren’t eye-catching enough, Alfred and Bert’s feathers were stained with pink food coloring- something that the poultry sellers do to mark batches of birds. Unfortunately, despite all the loving care of the SF SPCA team and the best efforts of our avian vets at Medical Center for Birds, Patch, the sickest of the trio, passed away on July 11th. Necropsy revealed the extent of his infection which affected multiple organs as well as the lack of immune response.
Time went on and Alfred and Bert grew to maturity. The four adult pigeons fostered in the aviary with them, Rose and José and Hannah and Oakley, had been tolerant of them as youngsters but as puberty set in, tensions arose with the flock. Bert who had been a confident and bossy bird (despite his crossed beak) began to get bullied and to decline. He lost weight, needed to be separated from the flock and required repeated vet visits to treat multiple issues. Maggie Amiano, Humane Education Department Manager, went so above and beyond helping to not only care for and transport Bert many miles back and forth to vet visits but also contributing very generously towards his considerable vet expenses. Maggie writes,
“Having the chance to rescue the baby pigeons last summer had just as much effect on my staff and me as is did the pigeons. They had a new chance at life, but we gained the chance to teach nearly 1000 kids about kindness, empathy, and compassion for living things- especially when they need it most. Our camp counselors, campers, and volunteers bonded with these wonderful birds, and we are still continually talking about Alfred’s updates on Instagram. We were truly the lucky ones!”
Eventually, I took Bert into my foster care for additional support with his medical issues and Alfred went to try living with a pair of Palomacy supporters, Aria and Julie, who had gone to the trouble and expense of moving out of their apartment and into another just so they could adopt a pet pigeon.
For Alfred and Aria and Julie, it was love right from the start! Alfred is home, adopted. She (yes, she we now know) really blossomed in their care and Alfred is one of the happiest, most beautiful pigeons ever! She loves her people and all the ways they dote on her including giving her free range of their apartment, minced veggies and fresh greens, on-demand sink showers, a special cozy after-bath lounge, coconut oil foot rubs, all the charger cords she can steal for nest-building, etc. etc.
Alfred even has her own awesome Instagram account and now she has a mate too- a very lucky and charming unreleasable Rock pigeon named Pirate has joined the family!
Aria writes, “I never thought a pet pigeon could be like this – of course I have always thought they were funny and cute but it was not until actually spending time with Alfred that I realized how incredibly complex and emotional of an animal a pigeon is. She tells me so much just through her eyes, gestures and actions. I think many people would be shocked – I know my friends were – to find out a pigeon is much more like a cat or dog than a passive pet. She lands on my head, she gives me kisses, she sits with me for long periods. She tells me when she wants sticks or food. The companionship is amazing and it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love once this is discovered. I could not be happier – happier than I thought we would be. Yes it feels amazing to rescue this amazing girl and give her a wonderful life, but even for myself – the joy I get from seeing here everyday is unquantifiable. One of the best decisions I ever made.”
Bert is still fostered with me, still getting eye drops every day in order to defeat the persistent pseudamonis sinus infection once and for all. He is a very handsome and loveable bird, no longer pink but forever with his crossed beak. I’ve been told by more than a few people that he is their favorite.
Bert’s a great ambassador and lots of fun to take to outreach events. Bert has come a long very way from the squab plant where he was bred to be meat. Bert’s ready to romance a lady pigeon, to be adopted, to go home. Are you ready for Bert?