Guest Post in 2 Parts by Mallika Upadrasta & Melne Murphy
PART 1 Mallika Upadrasta: I was getting out of my friend’s car in a hurry to catch the train at Ashby BART station. I saw him land on one of those huge concrete flower planters on the side walk. Even as he was flying down I knew something was wrong with him. He sat uncomfortably, bunching up his feathers. He got up and started limping around, pecking for food in the dirt. That’s when I saw that one of his legs was missing. Most of the feathers on his back were missing. He flew down from the concrete planter to the side walk and sat there, unable to move too much. Passersby would walk close and see him on the ground but nobody had the time to stop for him.
I tried getting closer to him but it only scared him more. So I tried to stay at a safe distance and kept a watch on him, all the while trying to reach rescue centers. It was almost 5 in the evening and almost all the places were closed. Nobody was available after business hours. I got an email address from one of the automated messages. Totally not expecting a response, sure that nobody looks as much at emails, I sent an email to Adoptkings@gmail.com with a picture of him. I got a response in half hour, directing me to keep him safe and ask for help from passersby to catch him while she tried to find a volunteer to come help. My phone battery was dying and I knew my family would get worried. I had already tried to grab him many times in those two hours but it was impossible. His reflexes were way faster than mine. I tried feeding him my leftover lunch and he liked that. I got closer to him and started moving my hand close to his beak so he would trust me but I guess it doesn’t work that instantly as he flew off to a far planter when I made my final attempt to catch him. In despair, I walked to the train.
I felt so guilty leaving him there. While on the train I got a call from a lady asking about the pigeon. It lifted my spirits! I texted his location hoping he would still be there. He was! I got a text back with his picture after the rescue. All this while, Ms. Elizabeth Young was communicating over the email with me. The lady who rescued was Melne Murphy! I couldn’t be more thankful to them. I have been getting updates about him. Melne took him to the bird hospital the next morning and, because he only has one leg, he will need a forever home. I was asked if I could take him and I am excited about fostering him! We named him Captain Jack after Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean. Like him, our Jack is brave and has a limp just like a pirate! Our little fellow is very curious and quite friendly for a pigeon.
Thanks to Melne, Elizabeth and the doctors who are treating him. They are amazing!
PART 2 Melne Murphy: Moe and I arrived at the Ashby BART station, and an inital scan of the large planters outside the station where the bird had last been seen showed nary a bird. We compared the planters to the photos we’d been sent to insure we were in the right place. We were, but no birds. It was nearly 6:30, and the remains of the day were steely grey with the an unseasonal rain storm. Knowing that with the fading light the birds are beginning to think more about roosting than foraging, I began to think that we’d have no luck finding this one bird.
With no birds on the upper level, we proceeded down to the BART entrance to below the road level to see if we had any sightings. We spied a couple of pigeons all tucked in for the night high above our heads on a ledge, and that served to reaffirm my thought that we weren’t going to find this one bird. As we walked along, we picked up and disposed of 6-8 hair extensions that were laying on the ground– items like human hair or hair extensions are one of the prime reasons for pigeon stringfoot injuries.
Nearing the BART entrance, I spied a flock of pigeons on the far end, and quickened my pace to scan for our little injured guy. I almost immediately spied a limping pigeon headed with intent toward a small gap between the station wall and another structure, about 5″ wide. That was the bird! I signaled for Moe to hurry with the pet carrier, removing my coat to free up arm mobility.
Just as I neared, the bird slipped into the gap. I heard an angry “COO!” eminating from the recesses of the gap, and peered in to see our target– but deeper in, a rather angry pigeon who was all about defending his space from the intruder. I reached in, and the bird scurried away from me, but then he was faced with his angry peer, pecking and cooing with gusto. Our bird faltered and ran back toward the exit, despite the evil human hands there. I made a grab for him, and, perhaps with not the most graceful catch, caught him nonetheless. He struggled mightily, and after a failed attempt to get him in the carrier backwards, we turned him around (head first works best!) and popped him into the carrier.
Awaiting him in there was a big handful of delicious seeds, and by the time we had walked back to the car, the bird was busy stuffing his beak. (NOTE- What we did here was wrong! We let him eat a handful of seed, and seeing he’d eaten it all, gave him another handful. When I dropped him off at the veterinarian the next morning, the vet commented that his crop was HUGE! He informed me that a starving bird (or any other starving creature) needs to use some of its depleted store of energy for digestion, and if you feed too much right away, it can actually lead to the gastro-intestinal tract shutting down. I will remember this in the future, and only feed a small amount at first. The bird will be fine, but I could have caused it worse problems by offering it an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord.)
The very next morning I took our little charge out to Medical Center for Birds, and the doctor informed me that the bird lost a leg due to injury, and said the leg had not completely healed, so the injury was fairly recent. He also was missing two toes from the other foot, and a lot of feathers on his back, including his entire tail. And, since foraging on one leg is inordinately difficult for a pigeon, he was extremely thin. If I were to posit a guess, I’d say the bird had been struck by a car.
The doctor said this pigeon will not be able to return to the wild. The missing leg makes it too difficult for him to forage effectively, so he will be looking for a forever home. The good news is, the doctor said that during his exam, the bird was extremely calm and displayed a great disposition, and will likely make a very good companion pigeon. Anyway, that is the story of the rescue of this little sweet bird, thanks to Mallika, an observant BART rider who took the time and had the tenacity to find this little pigeon person some help.
Melne is fond of all birds, wild and domestic, but ever since befriending a flock of pigeons in downtown Oakland, she has found a special kinship with Columba Livia. She is a volunteer for Palomacy, and currently lives with three pigeons, Bowie, a dark checker feral male adopted from Medical Center for Birds, and two Palomacy birds–his mate Carlita, a Budapest Short-faced Tumbler, and Palomacy foster bird Banano, a fancy female Roller, plus two Green Cheek Conures, Cheeky and Sage.
Moe discovered a love for pigeons by interacting with a flock in Oakland, and has assisted in numerous feral pigeon rescues, with a keen eye for finding nestlings in trouble. He now has relationships with three different flocks across the East Bay, and appreciates their understated beauty and amusing antics. He has volunteered for Palomacy fundraising events and Aviary maintenance.
Note from Elizabeth: Thank you to Mallika for all she did to ensure that poor little Captain Jack got the help he needed. She saved his life by reaching out and persisting till she found help for him and thank you to Melne and Moe for dropping everything to rush out and rescue him. Please support the work Palomacy does- donate, volunteer, foster and/or adopt!