June 13, 2016
by Elizabeth
0 comments

Sunshine- A Pigeon’s Tale of Life, Love & Beating The Odds

Guest Post by Laura Lee

Sunshine by Laura Lee 060416

Sunshine invites you to help pigeons & doves today!

Please donate to support Palomacy here now for +50% Bonus Match & more!

Sunshine first introduced himself to Palomacy during last year’s big GlobalGiving Bonus Match fundraiser. Sunshine wanted to find a way to say thank you to the kind man who rescued him. Sunshine hoped that if more people learned about pigeons, then even more birds would be rescued. And Sunshine dreamed that somehow and some way, his rescuer Bob, would know how thankful a tiny yellow squeaker was to be saved. Sunshine was rescued during an ice storm on a frigid Canadian 2014 winter morning. Bob is the reason Sunshine just celebrated his second birthday. In fact, without Bob, there would have been no Sunshine at all. Sadly, Bob passed away soon after saving the tiny yellow baby. Bob never had the chance to see the result of his rescue. Sunshine joined Palomacy’s GlobalGiving fundraiser last year to say thank you to Bob and all the other courageous, dedicated birdie lovers and rescuers. And supporters of Palomacy made Sunshine’s wish come true! (See Sunshine Makes a Difference!) Sunshine wants to continue to pay forward the love and friendship of his rescuer Bob and his wife Debbie- by once again joining Palomacy’s GlobalGiving fundraising campaign Wednesday 6/15. Sunshine hopes this year the supporters of Palomacy will continue to prove ‘one pigeon can make a difference’.

Please mark your calendar & set your alarm for 6AM PT Wed. 6/15/16!

Please set your alarm for 6AM PT Wed. 6/15! First 45 donors get a special thank you from Sunshine & friends!

A lot has happened in this last year. Sunshine took up a new hobby of collecting colourful zipties. And Sunshine celebrated a special milestone in every pidgie’s life… Sunshine fell in love. This is an unlikely love story but it follows true that the most unexpected painful trials in life can lead to beautiful things.

Sunshine Henny Penny by Laura Lee image_3

Sunshine in love

Henny Penny defied great odds of survival. She was a tiny white dove found laying in her own blood with clumps of red splattered feathers carelessly strewn about the cold, hard, and still wet-from-the-rain ground. Was she even breathing? Her legs were in that all too familiar ‘stiff’ pose. Her eyes were partially closed. There is a point at times when a bird rescue mission slips with heavy silence into the ‘just keep her comfortable’ reality. Henny Penny was clearly mauled by a predator. A helpless domesticated white dove, she had no business being outside alone and unprotected. I am ashamed to even be human at times like this. To know it is always people letting animals down. I took Henny Penny home expecting the worse but hoping for the best. Heartbreaking.

Henny Penny took up residence in my hospital room. My home has a constant din of dove cooing and canary song. And I have one pigeon. Henny Penny started to perk up when she heard the company of my other birds from her isolated hospital room. Especially one bird in particular… Over the next month, Henny Penny basked in the sun of my window sill healing more and more each day and exchanging gusty coos with the most unlikely of birds: Sunshine.

Henny Penny recovering with a friend

Henny Penny recovering with a friend

After a month, Henny Penny was ready to join my soft bird aviary of retired breeder birdies, doves with special needs and cheerful canaries. I opened the door for her to fly in herself but instead she scooted backwards, scampering into the room Sunshine calls his own. This would of been the first time Henny Penny ever saw Sunshine in person. Before that they just knew each other from exchanging coos. Henny Penny acted like she knew Sunshine and continued to scamper towards him- but I quickly whisked her away because it is too dangerous to have a super-sized pigeon around a tiny white dove.

During the week, Henny Penny managed get into Sunshine’s room three times while I was changing waters and cleaning up. After the third time I decided it was no coincidence. Henny Penny deserved some supervised visits with Sunshine. It was visably noticeable how happy Henny Penny was when she was with Sunshine. Her coos became softer and she gently preened Sunshine’s feathers.

Sunshine Henny Penny by Laura Lee image 2

Sunshine & Henny Penny, in love

I feel it was the exchanging of romantic coos behind the walls that placed the motivation in Henny Penny to fight beyond her injuries. Once Sunshine and Henny Penny met it was love at first sight from the way these two cooed and greeted each other.

Henny Penny with her Sunshine

Henny Penny with her Sunshine

Our friend Bob rescued Sunshine against all odds in 2014. Sunshine rescued Henny Penny with only a promise of love and birdie-snuggles from behind the walls in 2016. Even years after Bob rescued Sunshine, his dedication to helping birds is paying forward. And I am confident this will always continue as Palomacy’s supporters reach out to help more and more pigeons and doves. One pigeon can make a difference thanks to the tireless efforts of bird rescuers & advocates such as Bob, his wife Debbie, Elizabeth and all the many big hearted people. Sunshine sends many feathery-helicopter spins and coos to all the generous donors of Palomacy.

My flock has an active presence on Palomacy’s Facebook page. And it seems there is special birdie that has a lots of fans … Sweet Potato! Sweet Potato has a genetic condition caused by crossed genes of selected breeding. Double Fizzle, Porcupine Bird and Super Silkie are some names of the condition Sweet Potato has. I read once it was something to do with the S1 and S2 genes but I don’t know what that means. What I do know is birds like Sweet Potato are euthanized because of their appearance and by misinformed people seeing them as unhealthy or suffering. Nothing could be further than the truth. Sweet Potato was adopted into my family in 2012. He is a bundle of energy, confidence and affection. No one plays with their jingle bells like Sweet Potato!

Sweet Potato by Laura Lee image-15

Sweet Potato says Hi!

Sunshine and Henny Penny and Sweet Potato have inspired a big surprise for Palomacy supporters during their GlobalGiving Bonus Match Fundraiser this Wednesday, June 15th. We have teamed up with an actual Marvel artist! Supporters who donate while Bonus Match funds last will be entered in a raffle to win either this super portrait of super Sunshine by Marvel comic book artist Veronica O’Connell or this hand-painted plaque by artist Shane McCormack and the first 45 donors will each receive a very special Thank You from Sunshine & his friends!

Sunshine by Veronica O'Connell image-3

Sunshine by Veronica O’Connell

Sunshine Plaque Shane McCormack image-3

Sunshine by Shane McCormack

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Special Thank You postcard from Sunshine & Friends

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Sunshine worked very hard on his special Palomacy thank-coo-coo card!
It features a double sided full colour postcard of Sunshine & his friends.
The first 45 donors will receive his beautiful keepsake postcard.
Your address will be written on the tummy of a white dove!

Sunshine’s gift included all printing and postage expenses.
Donations made to Palomacy go 100% to the birds!
The artwork was created and donated by Veronica and Shane and shipping costs will be covered by Sunshine!

Sunshine took a photo of his thank-coo-coo postcard to keep everybirdie a sneak peek!

A huge round of big wing hugs to our professional artist friends for donating their time and talent to help the pigeons and doves! Sunshine has crossed international waters by having artwork created by an Irish professional photographer and artist – Shane McCormack, and Marvel professional artist Veronica O’Connell originally across the pond as well. Sunshine is proud to be the first Canadian Pigeon Palomacy Ambassador. Love of doves and pigeons knows no boundaries!

Each person who makes a Bonus Match-earning donation to Palomacy will get their name in a raffle draw! Sunshine will pick the winners!

Sunshine and his friends want to express our love and appeciation for everybirdie who supports Palomacy’s pigeon and dove rescue. This all began with our friend Bob who rescued Sunshine during a frigid Canadian ice storm in March 2014. And now even more people from all over North America and beyond are celebrating their love and appeciation of pigeons by helping Palomacy inspired by Sunshine’s story! Thank-coo for helping Sunshine’s wish come true. Thank-coo for proving one pigeon can make a difference. Special birdie kisses for Bob’s wife Debbie as Sunshine expresses his gratitude for him and all other birdie rescuers and advocates. And an extra big wing hug to Elizabeth at Palomacy! We are so thankful to be included in Palomacy’s fundraiser. Thank-coo for teaching the world about the love pigeons and doves! So many birdie lives have been saved because of Palomacy. And so many people adopted and share joy with unreleasable pigeons and doves because of Palomacy’s presence in the global community.

Thank you!

Laura Lee & Sunshine & Henny Penny & Sweet Potato

Please donate to support Palomacy here now for +50% Bonus Match & more!

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June 13, 2016
by Elizabeth
0 comments

Pigeon Appreciation Day 2016

We appreciate pigeons every day- for their gentleness, their loyalty, their courage. Let’s share our love of these birds with everybody on Pigeon Appreciation Day- June 13th, 2016!  Pigeons are the angels among us and they deserve a lot more appreciation than they get! You can always make a donation in support of pigeon rescue here. Please use #PigeonAppreciationDay in your tweets, Instagram & Facebook posts!

Holly Conrad Pigeon Appreciation Day 2016

Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day from Holly Conrad & Feathers!

Pigeon Appreciation Day by Leda Chung Hosier 2016

Pigeon Appreciation Day by Leda Chung

Pigeon Appreciation Day by Elsa Chang

Pigeon Appreciation Day 2016 by Elsa Chang

Christiana Reed Pigeon Appreciation Day 2016

Here’s what Christiana did to celebrate International Pigeon Appreciation Day with her work colleagues – pijucational material, sweetened with cupcakes, brownie bites, and homemade vegan shortbread pigeon cookies.

Photo by Ingrid Taylar

Photo by Ingrid Taylar

Indy Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day (Photo by Kira Stackhouse)

Indy Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day (Photo by Kira Stackhouse)

Opal Says Nice Kitty! Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

Opal Says Nice Kitty! Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

Daisy Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

Daisy Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

Shadow Says Appreciate the Pigeon! (Photo by Jill McMurchy)

Shadow Says Appreciate the Pigeon! (Photo by Jill McMurchy)

Violet Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day!

Violet Says Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day!

Selfie with Lopez by Jaclyn Alderete

Selfie with Lopez by Jaclyn Alderete

Valiant Says Appreciate the Pigeon!

Valiant Says Appreciate the Pigeon!

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June 7, 2016
by Elizabeth
2 Comments

The Truth About “Dove Releases”

Guest Post by Kristi Craven

When I was a wedding and special occasion singer, I would often see a “dove release” as a part of the ceremony.  How breathtaking and awe inspiring it was to both myself and the other attendees to watch these majestic birds fly high up into the sky, circle around and then fly off to some unknown destination. Each time I witnessed it, I became more intrigued and wondered what was involved in training these birds to perform so magnificently. I was determined to find out and see if I too, could possibly do the same and be able to add this  to my repertoire of services  to make additional money at these events.

I decided to speak to the trainer at the next ceremony I performed.  The gentleman said it was pretty easy to train the birds, but it involved a lot of time and dedication.  I felt I could do this and if successful enough, quit my day job and make it my full time career.  This same gentleman sold me a few squabs and adult birds and I hired someone to build me a loft. The first thing I discovered was that these birds were not doves at all, but white homing pigeons. The word pigeon immediately strikes negativity to some people and since they are a member of the Rock Dove family, this was more pleasant to the ears of potential customers. Still, they were beautiful and intelligent and I became quickly attached to them.  I decided the best way to get all the latest tips and strategies was to join a group of like individuals who were all doing the same thing. This brought me to the NWDRS. (National White Dove Release Society) At first, I was thrilled to find this group. The members were full of advice on how to keep the birds healthy and strong, and how to avoid predators both on the ground and in the sky and how to raise the little hatchlings and squabs.  The two adult pairs I had immediately started laying eggs and raising young so I was encouraged.  I acquired another pair and before I knew it, I had a loft of 40 birds.  We were ready to train!

Kristi's flock of white homing pigeons

Kristi’s flock of white homing pigeons

We started with exercise around the yard and then a few blocks from the park to home. Everyone was accounted for each release and things were going well.  On the 4th trial, two birds ended up missing. I searched and searched for them and finally found one of them shivering on a rooftop a few blocks from home. Her mate was missing and she looked like she had been traumatized and feathers were missing. I brought her home and put her in isolation.  She seemed to be doing well the first few days, but died on the third. I was heartbroken. I went to my friends at NWDRS who were all sympathetic but let me know that these things happen and not to grow too emotionally attached to the birds. I found that difficult to handle as I was already attached to them. I had named them all and tagged them so I would know who was who. The other members warned me that they are not pets, but commodities. I didn’t understand why they could not be both but tried to put those events behind me and move forward.

A few months later, I was surprised to find that two of my all white birds gave birth to a multi-colored baby.  He was mostly grey with salt and pepper markings.  I again asked my friends how this happened and what should I do with this little guy.  This was the first time I heard the term “cull”  I had no idea what it meant, but it soon became very clear. I was advised that this bird would “ruin the flock” and needed to be removed from the loft so not to breed with any other. (Incidentally, his nest mate was pure white like it’s parents and all the others). I was told ways of killing this bird including snapping his neck or smothering him in a plastic bag with alcohol. His parents took care of him and when he became old enough to eat on his own and his parents were no longer feeding him, I removed him and decided to make him my special mascot. He sort of imprinted on me and began following me around like a little sidekick. He was named Kemo (for Kemosabe in the Lone Ranger series) and quickly became a beloved pet.

Johnny the baby homing pigeon

This baby homing pigeon, the sort bred to be used as “wedding doves” was found at a trash dumpster, most likely dumped as “unfit” for the “dove release” business because of his markings. He was lucky not to be culled (killed) & to be found by a kind person before he was killed by a hungry animal. He was rescued by Palomacy & has been adopted. His name is Johnny.

It was becoming obvious that these birds were more than just commodities to me. They all had their unique personalities and idiosyncrasies and were all named accordingly. I found myself pulling further and further away from the NWDRS and their opinions but still participated in some of their events, particularly the 9/11 releases.  These, of course, were dedicated to the victims of the tragedy and the birds symbolized the hope for world peace. On the 10 year anniversary, I pledged 10 birds to be released from a nearby park. No sooner did I release them when a hawk appeared out of nowhere and grabbed one of my birds in flight. I was horrified as I watched helplessly as my poor Big Kahuna struggled to get away. That was the end. I told myself, I’d never do another release again and just let my birds enjoy retirement as I couldn’t bear to see anything like that happen again. I was further encouraged when the next day, Kahuna made it home.  I don’t know how he got away, but it  didn’t matter. I was never going to be the cause of peril for him or any other bird in my care again.  I also decided to not breed my birds anymore as it is hard on them to raise their young.

Homing pigeon Big Kahuna survived a hawk-strike

Homing pigeon Big Kahuna survived a hawk-strike

I dropped out of the NWDRS knowing I was defeated. Despite warning, I became too attached but could not see myself as using any living thing as a trophy for my own pleasure or anyone else’s. I was discouraged how most of these people only cared about what the birds could do for them, ignorant to the fact that they are very affectionate, gentle and trusting creatures. I could not judge their worth or value by deciding which ones live or die based on their appearance, performance or pedigree. I guess I am just not a top breeder and that’s okay with me. I have remained an educator including commenting on blogs pertaining to dove releases including the disastrous one with the Pope a few years ago when he released a bird, only to have it immediately attacked by two other birds. Nature does not respect our idealism that these birds represent peace, love, hope and joy.  They do represent all those things to me right in my own home, however.  These birds are not wild, but domestic and are not at all prepared for the dangers that await them in the open skies.

I now have both white homing pigeons and ringneck doves as pets and constantly use them to show people the difference between the two species as these poor little ringnecks usually end up dying from starvation or an attack from an animal on the ground like a dog or cat if ever released. I used them as display at a wedding a few times, but never as release birds. They are much smaller and not very good flyers at all. They are all members of my family now and I can only be sorry for my previous ignorance and hope I can use that experience to make a difference.

Kristi Craven

Dove release survivors

These three Ringneck doves, now named Nikki, Sage & Jordan were all found injured and stray in San Jose. They are the lucky ones- survivors of a do-it-yourself “dove release” that killed who knows how many. They were rescued by Palomacy & B2L House.

Note from Palomacy Director Elizabeth Young
Please speak out against “dove releases”. Whether done by professionals using trained white homing pigeons as described above or by do-it-yourselfers who tragically buy and “release” white King pigeons or white Ringneck doves, it is animal exploitation that risks the injury, suffering and death of the birds used.
What Happens When Doves Get Released
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May 31, 2016
by Elizabeth
2 Comments

Baby I’m a Star! The Story of Prince

On Saturday, April 23rd I got a frantic call for help. A vet tech named Tania, who loves animals, was desperately searching for someone to help a badly injured baby pigeon. He was barely three weeks old and had somehow survived being attacked by an animal. He was beat up, his beak was broken (top and bottom) and his wounds were infected. She saw his curiosity and liveliness and the will to live in his bright eyes and she had stopped the euthanasia process that had been initiated upon his arrival. Everyone she called had said they too would euthanize. But I said we would try to save him. Our motto is: We don’t have to start with euthanasia.

Prince on intake 4/23/16

Prince on intake 4/23/16

Tania knew from the person who had brought him to her at the vet clinic that Prince had been living on the ground at a gas station for at least a week before his rescue. His parents continued to feed him (and his twin) that whole time and somehow, he had survived the attack that had ripped out his tail feathers, hurt his elbow, left him cut and scraped around the neck and head and broken both his lower and upper mandibles. But he needed more help than they could provide.

Prince's mother, twin & father at their gas station home

Prince’s mother, twin & father at their gas station home

So Tania drove 30 miles one way to deliver the baby pigeon to me. When she got in her car, the song When Doves Cry was playing on the radio and so she named the little bird Prince in honor of the beloved musician who had died two days before.

Tania with Prince, the baby pigeon whose life she saved

Tania with Prince, the baby pigeon whose life she saved

When Prince arrived, I could immediately see how full of life he was. He was in a bad way but he didn’t act it. He squeaked and begged to be fed like every pigeon child does, despite all his certainly painful injuries. The biggest concerns were fighting the infections (including trich) & trying to save his broken mandibles. A pigeon’s beak is so important! They use it to eat, to drink, to preen themselves and their mate, to kiss their mate, to gather and assemble nest materials, to feed their babies, to defend themselves and fight rivals… We have a pigeon fostered in our care, Fleetwood, who came to us missing his upper mandible (lost to a predator attack) who I have handfed every day for more than a year. He is very happy to be alive but I see what a disadvantage his half-beak is for him.

Prince was bright, alert & full of energy despite his injuries

Prince was bright, alert & full of energy despite his injuries

When he first arrived, I wasn’t sure if he’d survive but we were lucky and things went really well. I had to tube-feed and medicate little Prince and it was scary. I was terrified I would further damage his fragile and unstable mandibles. Our vet is closed on Sunday and so we were on our own till Monday morning. Holding my breath and opening his fragile beak as carefully as I could, I got his medicines and baby bird formula in and he squeak squeak squeaked for more. He was hungry! The antibiotics started working immediately and his infections began to resolve. He lounged in the sun watching pigeons through the window, preened the feathers that hadn’t been yanked out of him when he was attacked, tried to persuade Dolly, another foster pigeon living in the house, to be his mama bird (she declined) and snuggled with me.

Right elbow also injured

Right elbow also injured

Prince & Dolly hanging out

Prince & Dolly hanging out

Prince chillaxin'

Prince chillaxin’

Prince is such a vital and charismatic little pigeon! In the car for the hour and fifteen minutes it takes to get to the vet, he busily preened and looked out the window as if he took road trips all the time. Once at the vet’s, he won everyone’s heart with his courage and charm. It was decided that the best thing we could do for him was continue what we were doing… antibiotics, pain management, and lots of careful tube feeding to help him heal and grow. His mandibles were too unstable and surgery too risky. I was relieved to take him back home with me knowing we were on the right track but there was still a very real risk he could lose one or both of his mandibles.

Preened up a storm on ride to vet

Preened up a storm on ride to vet

Prince at Medical Center for Birds

Prince at Medical Center for Birds

Drs. Fitzgerald & Speer consult

Drs. Fitzgerald & Speer consult

Over the next few days, waxy caseous material built up in pockets in his beak creating pressure and threatening his recovery and that Friday we returned to the vet. Dr. Speer sedated him and was able to clean out a lot of debris while still preserving the delicate bits of tissue that were keeping his mandibles attached. I was as thrilled to bring him back the next day as he was to be back.

Dead tissue & wax-like pus built up

Dead tissue & wax-like pus built up

Prince meets & charms Jill

Prince meets & charms Jill

I had to leave Prince at the vet's

I had to leave Prince at the vet’s

Those first days after his wounded beak had been debrieded were very scary. While the wound was better, it looked worse, so raw. The little piece of tissue holding his upper beak on was so fragile. Prince never complained though and celebrated being back by napping in the dish of seeds that he always had available (but couldn’t yet eat).

Prince right after procedure

Prince right after procedure

Dr. Speer very happy with Prince

Dr. Speer very happy with Prince

Cleaned up & ready to heal

Cleaned up & ready to heal

Celebrating

Celebrating

In the weeks since, Prince has steadily improved. The swelling and infection in both his elbow and lower mandible disappeared. The little bit of tissue holding his very crooked (nearly torn off) upper mandible healed up and my fear that he would lose it diminished. (A crooked beak is better than none.) He’s grown in a whole bunch of new feathers to replace his missing tail and wing feathers and to fill in the many bald spots. His appetite is huge! He came in weighing only 190 grams and now weighs more than 300. I tube fed him 20-30 ccs of baby bird formula (with applesauce and mixed veggies baby food mixed in) three times a day and he learned to eat mush (mostly by slurping it up with a lot of tongue action). He’s a very eager and messy eater and gets it everywhere!

Mush face!

Mush face!

Putting on weight

Putting on weight

Snuggly

Snuggly

Helping me work

Helping me work

Learning to self-feed!

Learning to self-feed!

Tania gets frequent updates about Prince and she and her mother came to visit him. Tania writes, “Thank you so much to Elizabeth and Palomacy for existing, for helping little Prince out and saving his life, and all the other pigeons and doves’ lives that people just seem to disregard. I have a whole new respect and love for pigeons and now carry bird food with me in my car.”

Tania & Prince reconnect

Tania & Prince reconnect

Tania & Prince & her mom & pups

Tania & Prince & her mom & pups

As he’s healing and growing up, he’s started spending time outside in the aviary with the big pigeons. Supervised at first but now he’s strong enough to hold his own with the flock. He’s been eating lots of mush (with small seeds mixed in) every day and still being tube fed too. He’s had a few check ins back at our vets and just recently I took Prince to be an ambassador at his first outreach events and he made a whole lot of new friends for pigeons.

Prince loves his mush

Prince loves his mush

Showing off his wings

Showing off his wings

Dr. Fitzgerald loves Prince

Dr. Fitzgerald loves Prince

Dr. Hernàndez loves Prince

Dr. Hernàndez loves Prince

Post-bath aviary time

Post-bath aviary time

Making new friends

Making new friends through outreach

A great ambassador

A great ambassador for Palomacy

Prince, with his funny face, is a star on our Facebook & Instagram pages and his determination inspires a lot of people. Tania had seen right away that, despite his terrible condition, he wanted to live and she was so right. This little pigeon is full of joy and doesn’t let his crooked beak hold him back. On May 29th, Prince taught himself to eat pigeon feed! It isn’t easy and he must make multiple attempts to get one seed but he’s doing it! (He needs a deep dish of seed and extra time to eat.) For the past 36 hours, he has been completely self-feeding (seed only, no mush) and has actually gained a couple of grams!

Prince will never be releasable. He’s too tame and his crooked beak would be too great a disadvantage if he was trying to make it on his own as a wild bird. (Surgery to straighten his beak has a high risk for failure and a low chance of success and we don’t see a prosthetic helping.) He will though live a happy and full life as a cherished pet- either indoors or outside in a predator-proof aviary. And Prince wants to live. That is a fact.

No more need for mush!

No more need for mush!

Thank you for helping us to help birds like Prince. We couldn’t do it without you.

Prince & Elizabeth

Prince & Elizabeth thank you!

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May 14, 2016
by Elizabeth
2 Comments

Happy Rescued Ringneck Dove

Guest Post by Janie Krag

Introduction by Elizabeth Young, Palomacy Director

This is how the story began. On 5/13, I received this email from Janie:

Stray, domestic Ringneck dove living on borrowed time

Stray, domestic Ringneck dove living on borrowed time

I was just referred to you by the Wildlife Center.

Attached is a photo of a bird, which might be a Eurasian Collar Dove. It has been in my backyard, eating birdseed, for the past week and a half.  It is very tame and allows me to approach to about two feet from it. It seems to spend a lot of time cooing in a nearby tree.

I’ve been worried that it might be someone’s pet, but the Wildlife Center said these are feral birds, even though they can be kept as pets.

It has no band on its legs, that I can see.  I’m also very concerned that it will become an easy meal for the hawks that frequent this area in Los Gatos, or a loose neighborhood cat.
I would like to know what would be best for this dove ~ whether your organization could capture it and give it a safe home as a pet.

Thank you for your help!
Janie Krag

I responded:

Janie- you are right and I’m sorry to say that Wildlife Center is wrong.

This is not a wild Eurasian Collared dove.

It is a domestic Ringneck dove and yes- it needs to be rescued and given a safe home ASAP. (You’re absolutely right- hawks, gulls, ravens, cats, raccoons, rats, dogs, etc. are all threats.)
Please lure him indoors to your home or garage if you can with food… once inside he’ll for sure be catchable.

Or if you can catch him outside, that’s great but be warned that if you miss the first time, it will be much harder after that. (see this article for more info- http://www.pigeonrescue.org/resources/in-case-of-emergency/ it is written about pigeons but all the same applies for doves).

Once he is caught, we could teach you how to care for this clever, self-rescuing dove as a pet. (We’re very full up but will squeeze him in if we have to.)

And please- follow up with the Wildlife Center and fill them in. This is an easy one- this pied coloration is ALWAYS domestic, never wild.

If you really need help catching him, I’ll try to connect you with a volunteer who can try and help.

THANK YOU Janie, for advocating so tenaciously for this poor little dove. He is living on borrowed time and you are saving his life.

Elizabeth

The next day, Janie sent this:

Jill arrived with all the rescue gear and I am enormously thankful for her kindness and bird expertise.

Palomacy volunteer Jill brought a kennel and her own pet dove Fava (caged inside) as a lure to bring the stray dove down from the trees

Palomacy volunteer Jill brought a kennel and her own pet dove Fava (caged inside) as a lure to bring the stray dove down from the trees

I sure couldn’t have accomplished this feat on my own!   I am so relieved that this bird has been saved from being hawk, crow, or cat dinner.  It’s amazing that it survived for five days last weekend when I was out of town and unable to provide seed (it had appeared two days before I left town and I didn’t have time to figure out this new twist in my life and I actually thought it was just an albino mourning dove, if such a thing existed, and hoped it would still be in my yard upon my return), plus it somehow wasn’t seen by the frequent hawks and crows flying around my neighborhood. And thank you, Elizabeth, for responding so quickly to my email yesterday.

Jill’s bird, Fava, was the “bait.”

 

Pet dove Fava caged inside the kennel/trap to serve as a lure

Pet dove Fava caged inside the kennel/trap to serve as a lure

The lost dove is in the large tree.

Dove Rescue Scout 051416 IMG_6686

Scout, my dog, was entertained with our antics. Jill said it’s tradition for the person who initiated the rescue to name the rescued bird, so I named it Scout because my dog was so calm and patient during this entire 3-hour adventure!

Scout Dog Scout Dove Rescue 051416 IMG_6689

Fava enjoyed being outdoors and watching the Titmouse birds eating black sunflower seeds nearby.

Scout Dove Rescue Fava 051416 IMG_6691

We waited for hours as we watched the to-be rescued bird above us and he watched us, while he preened and coo’d.  We even played Ringneck Dove Cooing videos on YouTube, hoping to encourage him to visit Fava!

We couldn’t take photos of the actual rescue (thankfully, Scout was snoozing on the grass) because we were afraid to leave our posts to grab our phones and then scare the dove. Here he is in a plastic container we used for transport.
Scout Dove Rescue 051416 IMG_6695

He was very calm once inside the house. Jill retrieved him from the dog cage and gently held him.  He then posed for photos with Jill, Scout and me. So happy for a happy and safe ending to this story!

Scout the dog, Scout the rescued dove and Jill the heroic Palomacy volunteer!

Scout the dog, Scout the rescued dove and Jill the heroic Palomacy volunteer!

Success!!!  Jill and Fava (her Ringneck dove) captured “Scout” in my backyard in only 3 hours!  We got her bird into a critter trapping cage, put that inside her dog crate, poured birdseed inside, set it on the deck and waited while the lost bird preened, coo’d and watched us (watching him) from the large tree in neighbor’s yard.  Then we decided to move the “bait” bird and cage to the lawn so he could see it better, and Jill was super creative as she attached string to the cage door in hopes of being able to pull it shut once lost bird inside.  After 3 hours he finally flew down to my deck and displayed to sign of walking over to the lawn, so we tiptoed the cage back to the deck where he was near the bird baths.  Since the lost bird is real tame and used to my presence, he didn’t care that we were within 3 feet of him.  We placed the “bait” cage where it had been previously located and made a trail of seed leading to the open cage door. Jill relocated to the other side of the deck with the end of the string while I stood six feet from the cage, waiting.  This bird is very curious and spent about 15 minutes walking around the cage, checking it out. Finally he hopped inside, eating the birdseed. In a couple minutes he got to the end of cage and then Jill discovered that the stringed door wouldn’t move, so I stealthly tiptoed over to the door and closed it. The newly christened bird, Scout, fluttered a bit but was easy to transfer to a smaller plastic container (after we punched holes it the top) after taking celebratory photos of the new Scout, and my dog Scout who waited so patiently with us on the lawn!

Thank you to all who contribute their time to this wonderful organization!
Janie
Scout joins our flock of rescued Ringneck doves fostered at Andy's Rescue pet Shop

Scout (shown here with Azuki & Kozmo) joins our flock of rescued Ringneck doves fostered at Andy’s Rescue pet Shop

Scout is available for adoption through Palomacy

Scout is available for adoption through Palomacy

We need more volunteers to help with all the requests we get for rescue, coaching & support. Please join us! Learn more about volunteering for Palomacy here.

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May 6, 2016
by Elizabeth
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Community Initiatives’ Unexpected Visitor

Guest Post by Amanda Scheper

Amanda & an Unexpected Visitor

Amanda & an Unexpected Visitor

Amanda Scheper is Palomacy’s Program Services Specialist at Community Initiatives as well as a pigeon lover. She works in their office in downtown San Francisco where they serve more than 100 charitable causes, including Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions, and “sponsor initiatives for the benefit of communities in service to social change”. Palomacy uses their address for mail and on March 16th, 2016, that led to an unexpected visit.

Community Initiatives recently had an unexpected and unusual visitor stop by the office. A pigeon!

About a year ago, a baby pigeon was found and raised by a woman named Leonor. The little pigeon quickly became part of Leonor’s family. Unfortunately, Leonor was recently told by her landlord that she would not be allowed to keep her pigeon. It’s unfortunate that people don’t understand that pigeons are loving, clean and quiet pets; they are perfect little companions, especially in San Francisco’s smaller homes.  Given how close Leonor and the pigeon had become, this was devastating news. This led Leonor to researching Palomacy and then bringing her pigeon to Community Initiatives to surrender her. Leonor didn’t realize that Palomacy doesn’t have a shelter, that all their rescue work is done in the homes and backyard aviaries of their foster care providers.

So, Leonor’s little pigeon was brought to our Community Initiatives office in the hopes that Palomacy could care for her and help her find a forever home. My colleague Andrea and I had the pleasure to meet with Leonor to understand her situation. The little pigeon stood on Leonor’s shoulder and listened as she shared many sweet stories such as how every day when Leonor came home from work, the little pigeon would do a ‘welcome home’ dance at the front door for her! It was immediately clear to me that having to choose between her home and her beloved pigeon was extremely painful for Leonor. In a city like San Francisco, tenants don’t have many options and no one should have to choose between their loved ones and their home. As we continued to talk, the little pigeon decided she wanted to take a self-guided tour of the office. She flew off to our finance department, startling some of our team while also re-filing some of their paperwork.

Leonor has a fly-about

Leonor has a fly-about

Once the little pigeon was done flying around, hopping on desks and heads, Leonor and the little pigeon said their goodbyes to each other. Although already at capacity, Palomacy had responded immediately and we arranged that I would bring the surrendered pigeon home and Elizabeth would pick her up that same evening.

The sweet little bird was named Leonor in honor of her beloved person. After a few days of helping Elizabeth in her office, Leonor the pigeon was transferred to a loving foster-to-potentially-adopt family.

Leonor helping

Leonor helping

About a month after parting from Leonor, little Leonor has settled into life with her foster family, Leda and Derrick. Understanding how hard it is to lose a little feathered friend, Palomacy and Leda coordinated a reunion visit at Community Initiatives for Leonor the person to visit with Leonor the pigeon and Leda her foster volunteer. The visit was so sweet and wonderful! Palomacy is an amazing organization. Not only do they consider the needs of birds, but they also are cognizant of the needs of those that love the birds.

Family reunion

Family reunion- Xochitl, Leonor & Leonor

Leonor & Leonor

Leonor & Leonor

Love is strong

Love is strong

Foster volunteer Leda brought Leonor to visit with her first family

Foster volunteer Leda brought Leonor to visit with her first family

Who knew our Pine Street office would be a safe haven for domestic pigeons? It may have been an unexpected interaction, but we sure had fun supporting Palomacy in this unexpected way. Leonor the pigeon is now in a safe place and is lucky to have so many people who love her dearly.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 3.53.40 PM

Post script by Leonor’s foster volunteer Leda Hosier: Leonor is such a joy. She absolutely LOVES company and will follow you from room to room. She’s got a lot of spunk in her and she’s been very entertaining to have around. She’s a great little bird!

Leda & Leonor hit it off right away

Leda & Leonor hit it off right away

Leonor loves to help!

Leonor loves to help!

Leonor is already a talented ambassador

Leonor is already a talented ambassador

Leonor

Leonor

UPDATE: 5/15/16 It’s official! Leda & Derrick have adopted Leonor. She’s been renamed Olive & she is home!

Leda & Olive (formerly Leonor)

Leda & Olive (formerly Leonor)

 

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March 30, 2016
by Elizabeth
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On Writing The Pigeon Man

Guest post by Joel Edward Stein, author of The Pigeon Man

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00088]

Pigeons, by and large, have been misunderstood. This comes mostly from ignorance. Too many people are unaware of how amazing these birds actually are. I have heard stories of surrogate pigeon parents feeding orphaned baby birds. I have read research that investigated the intelligence of these birds and their marvelous ability to navigate hundreds of miles to find their way back home. I have heard about the strong bond they form with their human caretakers. And, of course, there are the stories about the incredible homing pigeons that saved countless lives in wars throughout history. Yet, somehow there are those who still demonize pigeons. They say, pigeons are ‘dirty and spread disease’. Research shows this to be untrue. Thus, we have the stark dualities of ignorance versus knowledge, kindness versus cruelty; both of which continually play out in human to human interaction.

There is something about pigeons; something about their ability to adapt and survive; something about their resilience; something about their courage under fire and how their gentle, docile character often attracts people who are just the opposite. Something led me to place a pigeon as a main character in my book ‘The Pigeon Man’.

The association between people and pigeon has been a long one; at times, reflecting both the best and the worst behavior in people. The cruel decimation of the Passenger Pigeon at the hands of human beings is one disgraceful example of their poorest character. While current rescue efforts throughout the country to save savagely mistreated birds displays the better and more humane side of people.

The Pigeon Man attempts to tap into both the dark side and bright side of human nature by using the pigeon as its purest example of gentleness. And the traits that characterize the pigeon also mirror and drive the other characters; Danny Simon, a young Holocaust refugee and Mike Delaney, a hardened WWII veteran.

In the story, Mike Delaney keeps a pigeon loft on the rooftop of the apartment building where he lives and works. The loft is a sanctuary for him where the gentle cooing of pigeons put him at ease and helps him to forget certain things that haunt his memory. Danny Simon lives in the same apartment building. Strangely, it is a pigeon that brings the two of them together.

Danny Simon, taken in by an aunt and uncle he never met, lost his family to the Holocaust. He must learn to adapt to a strange place with a new set of unforeseen problems. While walking home from school Danny rescues a pigeon being attacked by other birds. He sees much of himself in the pigeon and rushes to help. When he tries to take the bird home neighborhood bullies attack him. Mike Delaney sees this and intervenes. He scatters the bullies and offers to bring the pigeon to his loft. Thus begins the relationship between a young Holocaust victim, a WWII veteran, and a wounded pigeon; each, in their own way trying, to help one another heal; each with major obstacles to overcome.

The Pigeon Man rings timeless in its message of universal tolerance and understanding.

Joel Edward Stein

Note from Palomacy Director Elizabeth Young

Thank you to Joel for his appreciation of pigeons and of Palomacy! I have ordered his book and look forward to reading it. As I told Joel when I invited him to write a guest post for our blog, We pigeon people need to stick together.

The Pigeon Man is available here.

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March 16, 2016
by Elizabeth
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Commander Holly to the Rescue!

Lt Birb and Commander Holly

Commander Holly and Bluebirds

Internet sensation, Twitch TV star and superhero Commander Holly is a special friend to the birds and Palomacy every day. She helps support and promote Palomacy in all kinds of wonderful ways and today she is doing an extra special live streaming fundraising drive to help us in the GlobalGiving Bonus Match event!

Commander Holly Helps the Birbs 031616 Bonus Match

Commander Holly adopted her first pigeon, Lieutenant Birb, from Palomacy in 2014 and has since rescued 44 more. Commander Holly writes, “I would have never known about the plight of domestic pigeons if it hadn’t been for you guys! So many pigeons are abandoned, abused, and injured because people see them as just vermin or don’t understand them. Palomacy is invaluable in spreading the word about what wonderful, thoughtful, and beautiful pets these pigeons make, and encouraging kindness for all animals.”

Thank you Commander Holly and Lieutenant Birb for all of your help!

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March 14, 2016
by Elizabeth
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Rescue Group Program Assessment Volunteer Survey Results

Page 1 of Rescue Group Program Assessment

Full report below

In February, thanks to a joint project of the Humane Society of the US and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Palomacy volunteers had the opportunity to participate in the Rescue Group Program Assessment. (See the story here.)

The Rescue Group Program Assessment (RGPA) is designed to help rescue groups run more effectively by surveying volunteers and making specific recommendations to improve the rescue based on the anonymous survey results. Feedback from this survey will be used to identify both core strengths and areas that we will target for improvement. Our goal is to use the voices of our volunteers to directly improve volunteer experiences and the overall effectiveness of the rescue group. 

 

Clare, shown with Violet, is our Palomacy Leadership Team Chair

Clare is our Palomacy Leadership Team Chair

On March 8th, I had a phone conference with our liaison, Jessie Lynn Olien, a doctoral student in the Organizational Science program at UNCC, and I am thrilled (and a little surprised) by how “healthy & highly functioning” the assessment indicates Palomacy is. Jessie said that we received some of the highest satisfaction scores she’s seen. Yay!!!

And there is consensus on ways that we can improve via “Greater participation of volunteers in rescue group leadership, decision-making, and information sharing.”

I have attached the full summary report as well as the findings report provided for us by Jessie through her work with the Organizational Science department of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC) and in partnership with The HSUS and pasted key excerpts below.

It will take time and volunteer involvement to apply and benefit from these findings.

Speaking of which, I’m very happy to say that Jessie is going to stay connected with us as a volunteer! She has lots of experience, expertise & information that can help us to thrive.

Cheryl was MVP for this tricky aviary assembly!

Cheryl was MVP for this tricky aviary assembly!

Rescue Program Strengths

OVERALL 

Healthy and high-functioning rescue group, that has a strong mission/vision and is comprised of committed, dedicated, and passionate volunteers. 

  • “[Palomacy] can not to any better because the already exceed in every aspect of caring and loving their birds.” 
  • “Profound dedication to the health and welfare of the birds.”
  • “We have a strong sense of communication. Everyone truly cares about these birds. We are persistent.”
  • “Genuine and dedicated; friendly; always go the extra mile.”
  • “Lovely people — truly a joy to work with others in the group.”

Knowledgeable and effective leadership that offers volunteers warmth, encouragement, and support. 

  • “The director is extremely passionate about what they do and they focus on educating the public which I think is extremely important to get the word out.”
  • “Palomacy has an amazing, inspiring & heartwarming leader.”
  • [Paraphrased] “Elizabeth is the strength of the organization. She is extremely knowledgeable about pigeons/doves and is very generous about sharing information, more than any other organization I have volunteered for she makes me feel appreciated even with my small contributions”

Strongest Dimensions:

Rescue Group Effectiveness [98%] Volunteer perceive that the group is fulfilling its mission and vision, and that the group is able to generate effective solutions when problems arise.

Recognition [Percent Favorable: 93%] Volunteers feel that their contributions are valued and appreciated.

Satisfaction with Communication [Percent Favorable: 91%] Volunteers feel that they know what is going on in the organization, that the rescue group goals are clear to them, and that the organization effectively communicates information to them.

Areas for Rescue Group Improvement

OVERALL

Greater participation of volunteers in rescue group leadership, decision-making, and information sharing. 

  • “Too much work is carried by the director.”
  • “Not many volunteers are in leadership positions, creating a communication and decision bottleneck at the top.”
  • “Overworked leaders.”
  • “We need some volunteers who will really commit to sharing more of the organizational responsibility.”

Increasing recruitment efforts to grow volunteer program, and to have “more hands on deck” to assist with tasks and distribute the workload.  

  • “Lack of volunteers. (Though we have some many great ones.)”
  • “Small organization which has to cover a lot of ground.”
  • “Always in need of more people willing to foster birds and accessibility to affordable aviary options.”
  • “Facing so much more need than we have resources to meet.”

Weakest Dimensions:

Perception of Voice [70%] Volunteers perceived that the rescue group could improve the opportunities that volunteers have to share and express ideas and concerns and participate in decision making.

Role Ambiguity [79%] Volunteers expressed that clarity around their volunteer assignments and responsibilities could be improved.

Satisfaction with Volunteer Coordination [78%] Volunteers reported that the coordination of their efforts, information sharing around who to direct their questions to, and the distribution of tasks and responsibilities could be improved.

Suggestions for Improvement

#1: Increasing the number of volunteers who are active in leadership roles, and participate in decision-making and information sharing, has the potential to: 

  1. Increase perception of voice by allowing volunteers to actively share their insights, suggestions, and feedback
  2. Distribute workload so that the effectiveness of coordination efforts can be improved
  3. Decrease ambiguity around how task expectations and volunteer responsibilities

Increasing volunteer participation in these activities could be accomplished through:

  • “Task Teams”: Groups of volunteers that work to solve a specific problem or accomplish a specific goal, and disband after this problem is solved or goal is accomplished.
  • Additional Directorship and/or Coordinator Positions: Where volunteers can take on the responsibility of directing or coordinating specific sets of activities to improve rescue group coordination (i.e., Recruitment Director/Coordinator, Events Director/Coordinator, Adoptions Director/Coordinator, Outreach Director/Coordinator, etc.) for a pre-determined length of time.
  • Regular Volunteer Meetings: where volunteers can come together (either in person or virtually) to address current or ongoing problems and voice their their insights, suggestions, etc. For example, at these meetings a “three questions/comments” policy can be implemented – where a specific number of questions/comments must be asked/stated to close the meeting to encourage information sharing.
  • Providing an online “Suggestion Box”: where volunteers can easily submit suggestions/ideas/etc. for consideration.

#2: Growing the volunteer program through increased recruitment efforts has the potential to: 

  1.  Allow Palomacy to assist a greater number of pigeons and doves by having “more hands on deck” and decrease the workload of current volunteers and leaders.
  2. Provide greater latitude for “backup” or “substitute volunteers” to help ensure that volunteers tasks can be completed.

Recruitment efforts could potentially be increased by:

  • Updating volunteer “job” descriptions: that include specific duties and desirable volunteer skill sets that can be disturbed to potential volunteers and used to evaluate the positions new volunteers would be best suited for.
  • Soliciting support from current volunteers: in helping to manage and oversee recruitment efforts, and actively recruit potential volunteers through word-of-mouth, existing social networks, etc.
  • Partnering with local/regional pet stores, veterinary practices, existing outreach groups, etc. that cater to or specialize in birds: working to gain their help in distributing recruitment fliers, both in person and/or through their existing listservs, twitter/facebook, other social media, etc. While ambitious, down the line perhaps even attempting to advertise and hold educational workshops [or ongoing volunteer training workshops] at these locations that are 1) open to the public [to draw in people who may be interested in volunteering) and 2) where, at the end of the workshop, Palomacy’s mission can be discussed and volunteer information can be distributed to attendees who are not already members of Palomacy.

Looking forward to your help & input as we move forward!

Download the full report

Download the findings & recommendations

Our volunteers save birds' lives

Our volunteers save birds’ lives

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March 14, 2016
by Elizabeth
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In the Friend Zone: Life after Oviductectomy

Guest Post & Photos by Zoe Martell

Zoe & Banano

Zoe & Banano

As the bird health care coordinator for Palomacy, I often receive calls for help when something is awry with one of the many rescues in our volunteer network; this is how I first met Banano, a tame roller pigeon that had recently joined our network of rescued birds.  Banano came into Palomacy’s care in October of 2015, when she was surrendered by the very loving woman who had cared for her for six years after finding her on the street.  Banano was named by her rescuer’s son, then a toddler, who thought she resembled a banana and the name stuck.  Banano was placed with a very loving Palomacy foster volunteer, Debbie, who quickly realized that something wasn’t right.  Banano had arrived thin, wasn’t eating and was losing weight she didn’t have to spare.  We figured the stress of moving might be part of it but I was asked to take her into my care to assess and support her.

Banano 101315

Banano 10/13/15

Banano was thin and frail when I picked her up from Debbie.  She’s a small bird and had dropped weight quickly after she stopped eating.  I used my most sophisticated diagnostic tool – my nose – to examine some droppings, and was alerted to the likelihood of a bacterial infection.  In addition to her droppings having a pungent smell, they were runny, and she was perching with her back hunched up.  All of these signs pointed to a likely gastrointestinal or reproductive problem.  I conferred with our director, Elizabeth, as to what our next steps should be.  As a nonprofit agency, Palomacy is always stretched for funds, but we are dedicated to providing medical care to the birds that we rescue.  Banano was so frail and depressed, however, we worried that she wouldn’t survive being hospitalized without some nurturing and stabilization first, so we made the decision to first treat with a broad-spectrum antibiotic and supportive care. (See River’s Flow to understand more about the impact of emotional support on a pigeon’s well being.)

I placed her on heat, and began tube feeding her and administering antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain medication.  Thankfully, she responded to this treatment, and began to gain weight and become stronger.  She is a sweet, tame bird who greatly enjoys human contact.  She is also very much a hen, and almost immediately she set her sights on winning over my partner, Chuck, as her new mate.  She couldn’t get enough of his attention, wanting to cuddle with him every opportunity she had!

Banano loves Chuck!

Banano loves Chuck!

After several days on antibiotics, she appeared much healthier, and began flying for the first time since coming into Palomacy’s care.  As she perched on my hand, she passed a large mass that didn’t appear to be a normal dropping, after which she immediately seemed much less uncomfortable.  I examined the mass, and discovered that it was many layers of thin membrane forming a ball that appeared to have a blood supply – I knew that this was most likely old egg material, and that there was likely more where that had come from.   Her history revealed that she had laid eggs years before, but had stopped.  I hoped for the best, but knew we’d likely need a vet visit in the near future.  Occasionally, reproductive problems resolve with a single course of antibiotics, but often when a hen passes old egg material, it signals a larger problem.  After passing the mass, Banano immediately stopped hunching her back, and began eating on her own.  We agreed to watch and see what developed next.  I exchanged messages with Lisa, the kind woman who had cared for Banano for 6 years, and learned that she had gone through periods of illness in the past, and had been treated with antibiotics before for similar behavior, though her vet had not reached a diagnosis for what was ailing her.  After hearing this, I further suspected that we might be looking at something more complicated than a simple bacterial infection.

Zoe & Banano 11/20/15

Zoe & Banano 11/20/15

Banano recovered over the next few weeks, gaining weight and strength, and doing her best to steal my partner away as her new mate.  She cooed to him, she circled and dragged her tail, she flipped her little wing-tips alluringly.  He often bowed to her in greeting as he walked by her cage, and she became frenzied with excitement whenever he entered the room.

In January of 2016, I noticed that Banano was hunching up again, and that she was once again losing weight.  It was time for a vet visit. We took Banano to the wonderful team at Medical Center for Birds.  After an exam and radiological imaging, it was clear that there was a mass in Banano’s abdomen.  Her intestinal tract was displaced to the side by something that appeared to be reproductive in nature. She was stable enough and had enough body fat that our veterinary team decided that she was a good candidate for surgery, and she was hospitalized in preparation.  Fearing cancer, the veterinary team operated on her to remove the growth.

Palomacy volunteer Melne transported Banano to the vets

Palomacy volunteer Melne transported Banano to the vets

Diagnosing Banano

Diagnosing Banano

Banano weathered the surgery well, and we were all relieved that the mass in her oviduct did not appear to be cancer.  Instead, she had a build-up of old egg material, and a cystic growth in her oviduct, as well as additional bacterial growth that antibiotics alone had not been able to target.  Her entire oviduct was removed, and her abdominal cavity was cleaned out of infection and buildup.  After post-surgical observation in the hospital, she was sent home with a full course of antibiotics and pain medication.

Banano recuperating on her heated bed

Banano recuperating on her heated bed

Now, we faced a new challenge, and it is one that is all too familiar to many of us; although she had nearly a full hysterectomy and her oviduct (egg gland) had been removed, Banano would still produce hormones, and she could potentially still ovulate.  It is nearly impossible to remove the ovaries in pigeons, because they are adhered to the vena cava, which are large veins leading directly to the heart. If she ovulated, an egg yolk would form, which would need to be absorbed by the abdominal cavity.  If something went wrong, egg material might build up in her abdomen and cause further problems. We consulted with our veterinarian Dr. Brenna Fitzgerald, who advised us to allow minimal touching and affection between Banano and her selected human mate, Chuck.  In Dr. Fitzgerald’s words, Banano had now been relegated to the “friend zone.”  I also consulted with another of our volunteers, who had a hen in a similar predicament.   Friend zone it was, and I suspected Banano wouldn’t be happy about it.

I was right, and her first weeks back home were very difficult.  Despite having just had major surgery, Banano was not deterred in her quest for love, and she did her best to coax Chuck away from me and into her little heated nest bed.  She cooed, she dragged her tail, and she flicked her little wing tips frantically.  Chuck remained the perfect gentleman, talking to her in a soothing manner, but gently handing her to me every time she put on the seduction routine.  It was heartbreaking – Banano wanted his attention so badly, and he had grown so fond of her, it was nearly killing both of us to have him withhold the affection she so greatly craved.  Tame pigeons love to snuggle, but petting and cuddling are often enough to stimulate the reproductive cycle.   We allowed her to fly to his shoulder, and to land on his head, but he refrained from petting her, and refused to allow her to engage in mating behaviors such as sticking her beak between his fingers.  She became frustrated at times, and would peck at me as viciously as a tiny roller pigeon can (I tried not to laugh,) attempting to come between me and Chuck, but we persisted in our efforts, knowing that her life could depend on it.

Chuck & Banano having a talk

Chuck & Banano having a talk

Banano is now healed from surgery, and is greatly on the upswing.  She has moved out of her small, single-room-occupancy dwelling into a large multi-story pigeon condo, and she has her own lighting source as well as bird neighbors and regular housecleaning and room service.  She is housed alone, right next door to a very talkative starling, who provides company but not reproductive stimulation.  She enjoys sitting on her perch and bowing to the starling, who makes a fantastic array of chittering sounds and wing gestures in return.  Banano is allowed regular flight around our large bird room, and is allowed to visit Chuck so long as she stays in the friend zone.  She has made peace with me, and enjoys riding around on my head or shoulder when I’m going about my business.

Banano is doing great

Banano is doing great

Banano will never be able to have a real mate, because it would be too dangerous to her health to allow it.  Even a same-sex pigeon companion is out of the question, as pigeons, like people, often pair up with members of the same sex and mate. Our veterinary team determined that Banano was not a good candidate for Lupron shots or for the implants that suppress ovulation, so we will do our best to make her life happy and social while minimizing anything that could stimulate her reproductively.  We love her dearly, and we want to be sure she has adequate social interaction, while still protecting her health. Thankfully, I think we have struck a good balance, and it also seems Banano’s hormones have also calmed down to a tolerable level.  As Chuck remarked recently, “wow, Banano is acting just like a normal bird now!”  Let’s hope that continues.

Banano helping with the editing

Banano helping with the editing

Note from Palomacy Director Elizabeth Young

We are all so grateful to Zoe for sharing her expert knowledge and care so generously in support of Palomacy birds (and so many others). Rescue work is always hard and Zoe takes on many of our most challenging cases. Without Zoe, Banano’s story would not have had a happy ending.

If you can, please support our rescue work with a donation.

To volunteer with us, please complete our online application.

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