Wow! We had such a wonderful get together on Saturday for our No Place Like Home party! It was truly a gift to have so many of our amazing supporters together in one place! We work through a lot of tough situations together and, because we are spread across such a large territory, we rarely have the advantage of getting together, face to face, to celebrate this amazing work and the birds that we do it all for. And how lovely it was to be in such a luxurious setting as Leftovers Home Consignment! Plus we raised a much appreciated $3126 to help support our rescue efforts! The event was a giant love-fest and even though many of you couldn’t be there with us (and we missed you), you were very much there in our hearts.
Christiana infused the party with her magic
Max (with Dylan) & Noreen welcomed our guests
Barna served up his extra special microbrew: Pepe’s Weissbier
Clare & our food team nourished us with amazing vegan treats
Julia & our ambassadors made lots of new friends for the birds
We had fantastic treasures for sale
Tina Trachtenburg’s art pigeons raised money for living ones
Leftovers donated their space and gorgeous auction items too
Our host & the owner of Leftovers, Kelly, donated a penthouse weekend for auction too!
Our people- our volunteers, fosters, adopters and donors- are what bring Palomacy to life. Together we are doing something special and important. We are making a difference. Every day, birds that otherwise would have no where to turn, are helped thanks to you.
Shae, Gina & Doug
Cheryl & Molly
Rob, Julisa & Jill
Halina, Christiana & Robert
We received so much help from so many! I could never thank you all enough for your generosity, your energy, your talents and time and amazing support! Thank you!
Kelly Hensley & the Staff of Leftovers
Clare Malone Prichard & Bob Prichard
Max Bonstin & Noreen Bonstin
Steve & Santana Anderson
Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery
Pet Food Express
Creative Bird Toys
The Bird Boutique
Our guests & donors
And, in all the excitement of the night, we forgot to give you your special edition No Place Like Home button!
Please email us your mailing address so that we may send them to you.
We have special No Place Like Home buttons for you!
Thanks to a very generous donation from Virginia Donohue & Mark Klaiman of Pet Camp, Palomacy has a big, beautiful & safe Palomacy-approved aviary available for sale! (Note: A predator & rodent-proof bottom such as mesh-lined wood or cement pavers is required.)
Virginia Donohue & Mark Klaiman, founders & owners of Pet Camp
This hexagonal, powder-coated aviary is 8′ in diameter and stands nearly 8′ tall. It is in nearly new condition and we even have a volunteer team who will transport and assemble in the SF Bay Area!
It is suitable as a home for 4-8 pigeons, 10-20 doves or could house parrots, finches or canaries.
Aviaries like it retail for $3000 and we are selling it for $1700 (and all proceeds benefit the birds of Palomacy). Contact Elizabeth with questions and to purchase. But hurry- we only have one!
Learn more about the joys and how-tos of having an aviary here.
This information is provided to show more about aviaries like the one we have
These specifications are similar but may not be exact for the avairy we are offering
Santana proudly shows off the aviary that we have available (roof included but not shown)
Volunteers Steve & Santana will transport & assemble!
Dylan & all of us at Palomacy thank Virginia & Mark for their incredible generosity!
I had the privilege of witnessing a truly heroic act yesterday. When my big dog Ruby and I entered my bird room on our way to go out the back door, Ruby happened to come between special needs King pigeon Freddie and her mate Freckles. Ruby’s very good, she doesn’t approach the birds, and she was stopped with Freddie between her and the back door, but she is still scary to the birds (some more than others). Freckles was safe. He was behind Ruby and had the whole length of the bird room behind him to retreat to but instead, he made an incredibly courageous choice to forgo his own security to rejoin his mate Freddie. He is a big, heavy King Pigeon and he launched up from the floor, sailed over Ruby (barely clearing her head) and came down in the “danger zone” by his mate Freddie’s side. It was an awesome moment to witness. It was an heroic act. Ruby and I backed up and went out the garage way instead so as to leave this devoted couple together undisturbed. As I left the bird room, I watched Freckles escort his hobbly mate back to their cage and they spent the whole morning snuggling. Freckles chose to risk his life to protect Freddie’s.Love is strong.
If I had my way, there would be no pet pigeons, amazing as they are. They would all be wild and free. I don’t believe that birds should be domesticated, bred and used by people for any reason. But, because people do breed, use and lose unreleasable pigeons, there are a great many that are found lost, injured, starved or all of the above. I’m writing this for those birds and the compassionate people who help them.
Get Help from a Pigeon-friendly Expert
Pigeons are easy to care for but my first bit of advice is to always connect with a pigeon-friendly expert to get help assessing the bird’s condition. If you have rescued a juvenile Rock Pigeon (wild rather than domestic), he needs to get to a pigeon-friendly wildlife rescue! Don’t keep that wild child and make him a captive pet nor think you’re well suited to prepare him for release. You run a very high risk of ruining that baby’s chance to live as a free and wild pigeon (and there are already too few homes for unreleasable pigeons). You can find help by contacting wildlife rescues, avian vets or bird rescues. Ask if they are “pigeon friendly”. Some will be, some won’t (Rock Pigeons and domestic pigeons are non-native and unprotected so many institutions kill them as “nuisance animals” rather than help them). Here’s a map of just a few of the pigeon-friendly rescues in the US. (There are more out there, we’re just starting to populate this map). Too often, despite good intentions, pigeons that we are trying to help, suffer and die because their needs, injuries or illness went unrecognized, untreated or mistreated. You can find lots of great info and resources on Pigeon Talk and I highly recommend connecting with pigeon rescue groups on Facebook such as Pigeon & Dove Rescue International and ours- Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions. Post photos of the bird, your location and questions and you’ll get fast help. People often contact me saying, “I found a pigeon, she’s so tame and calm” and that tells me she is very likely weak, emaciated, injured or all of the above. Please- get the benefit of some expert guidance to help you help the pigeon!
Rescued pigeon youngster Whimsy had a respiratory infection and needed expert help
If you’ve just found the bird and don’t know where to start, see What to Do if a Pigeon Needs Help. If you can catch the pigeon, it pretty much needs help of some sort.
Domestic pigeons are at risk outside. This basic set up can save a pigeon’s life.
Pigeons as Pets: Indoors or Outside?
Pigeons do great indoors as family pets. They can also live outside in a predator & rodent-proof aviary but I would never make a single pigeon live outside alone. They are flock birds and to be outside alone is stressful and lonesome for a pigeon. A single pigeon living indoors adopts the people as flock members. Please note, if your pigeon is going to be outside (even temporarily), she must be in a predator-proof cage. Most birds cages are designed only to keep birds confined indoors and they are not predator-proof outside. (To be predator-proof, the cage must be sturdily built, have very narrow spacing between bars and a raccoon-proof latch.) Please see How to Choose a Cage for Pigeons or Doves for detailed and important considerations regarding putting a bird in a cage and see How to Create an Aviary for Pigeons or Doves for the same regarding housing birds outside.
A lost survivor of pigeon racing inspired the creation of this beautiful aviary.
Caring for a Rescued Pigeon as a Pet In Your Home
Many domestic pigeons do what I call “self-rescue”. They have been dependent on people and often, when lost, injured or starving and in trouble, they approach people for help. Once you’ve gotten some expert help to determine your rescued bird’s medical needs, here is an introduction to the basics of what you need to know.
This little Birmingham Roller was lucky to find a human to help him
This lost survivor of pigeon racing is begging to come in the house
Pigeons eat seeds and grains and you can buy pre-mixed blends called pigeon feed at feed stores (and you can see our feeding recommendations here) but, until you can get that, you can feed them wild bird seed or dove & quail mix which are usually readily available at pet supply stores.
Pigeons eat seeds and grains sold at feed stores as “pigeon feed”
If your rescued pigeon isn’t eating, he’s either too weak, sick or injured or is, like the youngster in this video, too young to self-feed. (If your pigeon makes any kind of peep or squeak, it’s a juvenile.) Please get expert assistance ASAP in either case.
The bigger the cage the better and length or width are more important than height (pigeons don’t climb like parrots). We recommend a minimum cage size of 42″ wide, 27″ deep, 30″ high for one or two (compatible) pigeons. The cage needs to be up to the task of protecting the pigeon from the predators that have access to the cage.If you don’t have cats or dogs in the home wanting to reach in through the bars, wide spacing like that of dog crates is fine for pigeons. If you do, you’ll need a cage with narrow bar-spacing (.5″ max).
A large dog crate makes a good pigeon cage indoors (not safe outside!)
To be pigeon-friendly, the bottom should be covered with something flat and easy to clean such as wood, linoleum, plastic or a yoga mat cut to size. (Pigeons should never have to stand on a wire cage bottom. It is uncomfortable and unhealthy for their feet!) You can buy (or make) paper bird cage liners for easy clean up. You put a whole stack in the cage bottom and then take up the top one every day, leaving a clean cage liner right there where you need it.
Rescued King Pigeons Minnie & Mighty in a double-flight cage with paper cage liners for easy clean up
There is a lot of misinformation about pigeons and disease. They actually pose almost no risk to humans and you’re more likely to contract a zoonotic disease from dogs or cats than you are from pigeons. Pigeon poop is easy to clean up and apple cider vinegar works great. If you want to have your pigeon out and about in the house without pooping on stuff, you can put pigeon pants on them. (They’d rather go naked but they adjust really quickly. Pigeons are extremely adaptable and very good sports.)
Shadow shows off her pirate pigeon pants
The cage should include some shelves to offer destinations to fly or hop to and hang out on. (Perches are less useful for pigeons- all you can do on a perch is stand or sit. Shelves offer more options including strutting, courting, lounging, napping, etc.)
This parrot cage has been modified with shelves to provide more floor space and be more pigeon-friendly
Include a nice big mirror and a basket (weighted so as not to tip) or nest box. Use heavy, ceramic flat bottom, straight-sided crocks for food and water (I get them at thrift stores).
Flat-bottom, straight-sided ceramic dishes are best. Get a double set so it’s easy to replace used dishes with clean ones.
A 12 x 12 x 12 chicken nest box sold at feed stores makes a great pigeon nest box
Pigeons really love mirrors. It’s like TV for them (and they are proven to self-recognize).
Provide a casserole dish or big plant saucer for a bath tub. Healthy pigeons are very fastidious about keeping their feathers clean. They love to bathe. I leave bath water out for my pigeons all the time so they can bathe whenever they feel like it. If your new pet pigeon hasn’t tried out his bath tub, he may not be feeling well and need some expert care. If your pigeon is healthy and hearty but still not bathing, you can inspire them to preen by misting the air above them (not directly at them). Being damp will trigger preening and should eventually lead to bathing.
Pigeons need a shallow bath tub. Casserole dishes work great.
Pigeons love to bathe. They splash a little but not too much.
Locate the cage in a well-lit area (they have poor vision in low light and even bright homes are dim compared to the outdoors). They’ll also need safe access to sunshine unfiltered by glass or avian-safe full spectrum lighting. Locate them where they can be near the family (for companionship, socializing and enrichment). Pigeons adapt quickly to living in human households- even with dogs and cats (as long as they are protected). Don’t worry about drafts- that’s a non-issue, the more fresh air, the better. Do study up though on true household hazards for pet birds such as using Teflon-coated pans, smoke, scented and aerosole products, open windows or doors, hot stoves, ceiling fans, etc. (See Top Ten Household Dangers to Pet Birds and Bird Proof Your Home, though they recommend clipping wings and we don’t. Please note: Clipped wings only prevent birds from flying while indoors. Clipped-wing birds can and do get airborne and lost outside all of the time!)
The biggest risk to a pet pigeon is getting outside and being killed by a predator before he can get back in to safety. Wild pigeons derive all their security from being part of a flock that stays alert watching out for predators and knows what to do (and has the education and physiology to do) what is needed when under attack. A pigeon alone is extremely vulnerable. A domestic pigeon outside alone is in imminent danger. It is unsafe to take a pet pigeon outside unprotected. They need to be in an aviary or in the house (or flying with a flock at the very least).
This stray King Pigeon was very lucky to be rescued before being killed by a hungry predator
Making Friends with a Rescued Pigeon
Pigeons are very intelligent, emotional and social. They are flock birds that hatch as twins and snuggle sweetly with their nest mate while being fed and cared for by both mom and dad until they fledge at about 5 weeks of age (or are “harvested” at 4 weeks if they were bred for meat as King Pigeons are). They want and need a special friend!
Baby pigeons spend their first 5 weeks snuggling together in their nest. These are 2 weeks old.
Once out of the nest, they are single for a brief couple of months and then court and marry a mate. Pigeons mate for life and are completely devoted to their mate and young. The thing pigeons care about most is their family and being home with their family. (That’s how pigeons are used to deliver messages or for “dove releases” or racing. They are taken away from home and then they fly their hearts out to try and get back. You can learn more about the cruel sport I call “kidnap racing” and see some rescue stories of racing pigeons here.) If a pigeon can’t get home to his family (or his home isn’t a safe place to return to), he needs a new family. Pigeons are very emotionally intelligent and though it takes time and patience, you can earn their trust and they can become very closely bonded to you.
Ragweed is a rescued Birmingham Roller and an amazing pet
Ragweed (wearing pants & harness) and his people volunteering at a Palomacy outreach event
It takes time and patience to win the trust of a pigeon. The more time you spend with him, the more he gets to see you and interact with you, the more your friendship will develop. If your rescued pigeon is really shy, sit down (standing can be menacing) and put your hands behind you (hands are threatening) and speak softly. You can coo to him or just sweet talk him. They are super smart and learn quickly. Pigeons need and want a BFF. If you have the time to be that for your pigeon, he can be very happy. If not, he’ll need a compatible companion. You can learn more about having a mated pair of pigeons here: Pigeon Family Values. (If you’re wondering about egg-laying, that article has info for you too.)
Of course- there’s lots, lots more to learn about pigeons and what amazing pets they can be. Keep reading and join us at our page on Facebook. Thank you for being a friend to pigeons. They are angels among us.
If I had my way, there would be no pet pigeons or doves. They would all be wild and free. I don’t believe that birds should be domesticated, bred and used by people for any reason. But, because people do breed, use and lose unreleasable pigeons and doves, there are a great many in need of rescue and homes. I’m writing this for those birds and the compassionate people who save their lives through rescue and adoption.
Adopter Kelly found a beautiful and spacious cage for her four doves
This article is focused just on cages. You can learn more about pigeons as pets here, more about doves here and more about how to create an aviary here.
Pigeons and doves do great indoors as family pets. They can also live outside in a predator & rodent-proof aviary but I would never make a single bird live outside alone. Pigeons and doves are flock birds and to be outside alone is stressful and lonesome. A single pigeon or dove living indoors adopts the people as flock members. Please note, if your bird is going to be outside (even temporarily), she must be in a predator-proof cage. Most bird cages are designed only to keep birds confined indoors and they are not predator-proof outside. (To be predator-proof, the cage must be sturdily built, have very narrow spacing between bars & raccoon-proof latches. If in doubt, get expert guidance. Your birds’ lives depend on it.)
A large dog crate is a good indoor cage for 1-2 pigeons but because of the wide bar spacing is NOT SAFE OUTSIDE!
Rescued or adopted indoor pet pigeons and doves need an appropriate cage as their home base and safe place if they are living in the house. They also need safe, daily out-of-cage time in the house to exercise and socialize. Learn about pigeon pants here. (It’s unsafe to free fly domestic pigeons and doves outside in a wild environment. They are easy prey for predators including hawks, ravens, gulls, cats, dogs, raccoons, etc.)
Rescued pet pigeon Pete takes flight
Molly with foster pigeons Ajax & Theo (wearing pigeon pants)
The bigger the cage the better and length or width are more important than height (pigeons and doves don’t climb like parrots). We recommend a minimum cage size of 42″ wide, 27″ deep, 30″ high for one or two (mated) pigeons and 32″ wide, 32″ high and 21″ deep for one or two doves.
To be pigeon and dove friendly, the bottom should be covered with something easy to clean and flat such as wood, linoleum, plastic or a yoga mat cut to size. (Pigeons and doves should never have to stand on a wire cage bottom. It is uncomfortable and unhealthy for their feet!) The cage should include some shelves to offer destinations to fly to and hang out on. (Perches are less useful for pigeons and doves- all you can do on a perch is stand or sit. Shelves offer more options including strutting, courting, lounging, napping, etc.) Include a nice big mirror and a basket (weighted so as not to tip) or nest box. Use heavy, ceramic flat bottom, straight-sided crocks for food and water (I get them at thrift stores). Provide a casserole dish or big plant saucer for a bath tub. Locate their cage in a well-lit area (they have poor vision in low light and even bright homes are dim compared to the outside). They’ll also need safe access sunshine unfiltered by glass or avian-safe full spectrum lighting. Locate them where they can be near the family (for companionship and entertainment). Don’t worry about drafts- that’s a non-issue, the more fresh air, the better. Do study up though on true household hazards for pet birds such as using Teflon-coated pans, smoke, scented and aerosole products, open windows or doors, hot stoves, ceiling fans, etc. (See Top Ten Household Dangers to Pet Birds and Bird Proof Your Home, though they recommend clipping wings and we don’t. Please note: CLIPPED WINGS ONLY PREVENT BIRDS FLYING INDOORS. CLIPPED-WING BIRDS CAN AND DO GET AIRBORNE AND LOST OUTSIDE ALL OF THE TIME!)
The cage needs to be up to the task of protecting them from the predators that have access to the cage.If you don’t have cats or dogs in the home wanting to reach in through the bars, wide spacing like that of dog crates is fine for pigeons (though not for doves who can fit right through).
Shelves are easy to install and provide destinations & hangouts. Pigeons need daily safe out-of-cage time to exercise & socialize. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
An enclosure with wide spaced bars is not safe outside though- not even for short periods of time. (Predators are hungry, alert and strike fast!)
Predators such as cats, hawks, ravens, raccoons, rats, gulls, etc. kill pigeons kept outside in crates or cages with widely-spaced bars. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
If you do have dogs and cats in the home, you’ll need more-closely spaced cage bars to keep pets’ paws and snouts out. (Note that while indoor cages like this are usually adequate to keep pet birds safe from well fed household pets, they are too lightly constructed to protect against hungry, wild predators!)
A double-flight cage (64” l X 21″ w X 36″h) is a great indoor cage for 1-2 pigeons or 2-4 doves. This one needs shelves installed. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
This large flight cage has narrow bar spacing to keep cats & dogs’ out, small doors are zip-tied to guard against clever cat paws and includes shelves as destinations. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
This cage is OK indoors (good height and length, not wide enough for a big pigeon like this King) but not set up well for a pigeon. Pigeons prefer shelves to perches and should never have to stand on bare wire. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
A double-decker bunny condo can be a good indoor cage for 1-2 pigeons or 2-4 doves (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
A large double-decker small animal cage can be a good indoor cage for 1-2 pigeons. Note the good pigeon furnishings including a shelf, mirror, ramp, basket & bath tub. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
This flight cage makes a great indoor cage for 1-2 doves provided they get daily, safe out of cage time to exercise and socialize. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
A parrot cage can make a nice home for 1-2 doves but this is NOT SAFE OUTSIDE because of the too-wide bar spacing. Also doves shouldn’t have to stand on bare wire. Cover their cage floor with wood, linoleum, a yoga mat trimmed to fit, etc. (Something easy to clean and comfortable for their feet.)
This cage was reinforced with carefully attached hardware mesh to be safer. Is it safe?
Don’t assume enclosures sold for outside use are safe! Without the addition of a predator & rodent-proof bottom and raccoon-proof latches on all the doors, this could be a death trap for any animal housed inside. (BUYER BEWARE)
Take care to ensure that all latches are raccoon-proofed! They are clever, motivated, dexterous and deadly.
This lost survior of pigeon racing was rescued and his finder purchased this small animal hutch as emergency housing, trusting that since it was designed for outside use, it would be safe. It’s NOT OUTSIDE SAFE. They immediately modified it to make it safe and then set to work building an aviary.
Aviary built to be pigeon-friendly and predator & rodent-proof for rescued racing pigeon & friends. (SAFE OUTSIDE)
This dove avairy was built to be predator & rodent-proof and is so long as the latches are always closed with raccoon-proof locks or carabiners. SAFE OUTSIDE
Though sold for use outside, the too-wide bar spacing makes it unsafe (unless modified) for outside use. It would be a good size for 4 doves and it is sturdy. (NOT SAFE OUTSIDE)
This flight cage, designed to be used outside, is predator & rodent-proof and a good size for 2 pigeons or 4 doves. SAFE OUTSIDE
While this cage is safe outside (sturdily built, narrow bar-spacing, raccoon-proofed latch) it is not big enough to live in without being brought indoors for safe out-of-cage time. SAFE OUTSIDE
This flight cage is built for outside use (sturdy with strong bars, narrow bar spacing, an attached floor, no gap larger than .5″ and a raccoon-proof latch) and is approved as SAFE OUTSIDE
We are always on the lookout for kindred spirits with which to work and so we are thrilled to be connecting with the wonderful folks of the The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary. Their motto of “Teaching Responsible Behavior Towards All Animals” is one that we fully support.
I first had the pleasure of visiting the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary in April when I met with Animal Care Director (and a pigeon rescuer from way back) Jill Lute-Faust. I brought along diplomats Dylan & Indy.
Jill with pigeon-racing survivor Indy & Dylan (a rescued King)
The Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary “differs from traditional zoos and is more like a sanctuary in the way the animals are acquired and the care they receive. Though the facility allows visitors like a traditional zoo, the animals are not bred, sold, or traded.” Quoting from their website, they “provide for animals that are not able to be released back into the wild. Some have been “pets” that proved to be too wild or were confiscated as illegal. Many have suffered injuries that would make life in the wild impossible. Some were captured as “problem animals”. All are treated as individuals and offered the best environments for their needs. None of the animals are bred, sold or traded. Once here, these creatures will be given the best care possible. The animals always come first and they will be loved and supported their entire lives.” Kindred spirits for sure…
All kinds of lucky, rescued animals call the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary Home including tigers, cougars, bobcats, feral cats, bears, coyotes, wolves and wolf-hybrids, donkeys, pigs, monkeys, snakes, ravens, parrots, eagles, owls and more.
My next visit was on September 14th and I had the honor of presenting our slideshow All About Pigeons to an awesome team of Docents. I brought Dylan again and Mr. Vivian- a survivor (just barely) of pigeon racing who is new to outreach but who even so proved himself to be a talented diplomat (as pigeons so often do). You can read his rescue story here: Feather & Bone)
The Docents loved learning about pigeons & Palomacy
And we had fun meeting with staff as well!
I also had a very exciting opportunity to see an aviary in which we hope to soon foster Palomacy pigeons! Pigeons are so common that people think they know them but most of what people know about pigeons is wrong and often leads to harm for these smart, gentle, innocent birds. Having a mixed flock of adoptable unreleasable wild Rock Pigeons and rescued domestic pigeons such as Kings and racers would be such an incredible educational opportunity. As a home and backyard-aviary based rescue, we have very limited opportunities for the public to meet our birds but the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary has more than 100,000 visitors annually! Can you imagine?
Manager Jocelyn Smeltzer & the potential foster aviary for pigeons!
Needless to say, we are thrilled about this opportunity and we are very much looking forward to partnering with the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary so that they may include pigeons amongst the many lucky animals they are helping. Please stay tuned!
On Monday, September 7th I received a message from Palomacy’s founder, Elizabeth Young. She was asking for help to find and rescue six baby King Pigeons that had been abandoned at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park and I happened to be just minutes away. It was around 8:30 pm and pitch black. We had limited information on the vulnerable birds’ location sent in an email from a pigeon-loving 7th grader named Elma who had seen the baby birds huddled under a certain bench an hour earlier. All we knew was, “There were two pure white ones, one white with light gray, one white with dark gray, one gray and brown, and one white with brown. They were standing under a Stow Lake park bench dedicated to John P. Swenson.” Elizabeth and I somehow managed to run into each other while searching and then split up again in order to cover more ground.
Golden Gate Park is full of raccoons and we had already seen them out and about. After walking by many benches and checking each, I finally found the bench that had been mentioned in the email.
As I approached, I saw a raccoon scurry off into the darkness. No birds were immediately visible near the bench that the six baby King Pigeons had taken refuge under, nor in the bushes directly next to them. However, as I looked around with my phone’s flashlight, I noticed some movement behind a rock that was half-submerged in the water of Stow Lake. Approaching the rock, I saw the head of a pigeon pop up and then disappear. I was very glad of my previous experience with rescuing pigeons (having rescued over 35 pigeons, the majority with my bare hands) as I crept up to the rock. I memorized the location of the pigeon, shut off my flashlight to ensure that the baby pigeon would be unable to flee my attempted rescue and made the grab. The baby was easy to catch and I soon had her in both hands, pressed against my shirt. The baby was drenched in foul-smelling water and I noticed some blood smeared on her beak and some superficial claw wounds underneath her left wing. I called Elizabeth immediately, and she began making her way to my location. Although I’d already surveyed the immediate area prior to finding the soaked baby bird, it was only at this moment that I spotted a rock covered with the blood and feathers of a less fortunate pigeon.
My heart dropped as I looked to the right of the rock and discovered the partially-consumed body of another baby King Pigeon laying motionless in a crevice. I realized that when I had approached the bench, I had interrupted the raccoon’s meal. Though both Elizabeth and I had known that the six babies were extremely vulnerable and unlikely to survive a night alone in Golden Gate Park, it was at this point that the threat to the baby pigeons became painfully clear. Elizabeth arrived with a carrier and we secured the found baby to continue searching for the other four.
We searched in ever widening circles around the bench, pushing aside reeds, walking through vegetation, trying to find the pigeons based on a few feathers (one brown and white pigeon in particular provided unmistakable feathers), and bringing Elizabeth’s car up to the site to illuminate the area with her headlights.
Because it had been clear that the surviving pigeon had flown into the lake to escape a raccoon attack, we were worried that one or more survivors could be hiding along the lake on the other side of the reeds, invisible from land. Elizabeth, being the dedicated and brave individual that she is, entrusted me with her phone and keys and waded into the filthy waters of Stow Lake, walking and slipping along up and down the shore multiple times.
I’m sad to say that after nearly an hour and a half of additional searching we found only traces of evidence suggesting the fate of the other birds. I held some small hope that when animal control officers searched the area in the morning they might find a miraculous survivor, but they didn’t.
What strikes me about the situation was how it could have been avoided. Whoever abandoned these baby King Pigeons had bought them live at a meat-market with the dangerous intention of “setting them free”. Palomacy is the very first result for google searches of “pigeon rescue san francisco” and that simple search (or even a related search regarding whether or not these pigeons could survive in the wild), would have almost definitely resulted in a different outcome. Someone saw these helpless, adorable birds being sold live for food, decided to help them without putting any actual effort into educating themselves on how best to accomplish that goal and ended up trading one slaughter for another. I’m happy to say that the surviving pigeon, Elma (named after the girl who made saving her life possible), is now happy, healthy and safe. She managed to survive against all odds while her companions were killed and this incrediblylucky baby King Pigeon will now be able to live a safe, happy life that most pigeons never get the chance to.
Still, I have a hard time forgetting the suffering that Elma had to endure as the result of human carelessness. I’d like to say that I’ve forgiven whoever was responsible for the events described above but the truth is that I would like nothing more than to inform them of the very real consequences of their actions, which they were able to remain blissfully ignorant of by walking away and imagining that everything would work out for the helpless baby pigeons they left in a dangerous environment. I would like to show them the pictures of the bloody rock, the scattered feathers, the body of Elma’s unlucky companion and the great lengths to which we go to in order to save the lives of birds like Elma the pigeon on a daily basis.
The King Pigeon aviary Palomacy built for Animal Place
Look at the amazing aviary you helped to create! Remember the crowdfunding campaign that we organized to help Animal Place begin helping King Pigeons?
Thank You for helping make this dream come true!
Thanks to your support, our efforts have finally succeeded! Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest animal sanctuaries in the nation, now has a beautiful, life-saving, game-changing King Pigeon aviary on site at their Rescue Ranch in Vacaville and they are engaging their expertise and resources to generate adoptions for rescued King Pigeons- survivors of the squab industry, abadonment and overfull shelters.
On Saturday August 22nd, our builders Josette & Luis and volunteers, Ellie, Helen, Diana, Joe & myself, gathered at Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch in Vacaville to assemble the pre-built aviary panels into a gorgeous, safe and very comfortable foster home for rescued King Pigeons.
The pre-built panels are easy to transport
The 16′ x 8′ x 7′ aviary consists of 20 4′ x 7′ panels
Built from 2x4s & 16 gauge, .5″ hardware mesh
It was an amazing day. The weather was mild and the panels, so beautifully built, went together with ease. (Luis & Josette had done the hardest part the day before when they dug out and installed the base.)
Predator & rodent-proof panels attached to treated lumber base
Treated lumber base on store-bought cement piers.
Volunteers Ellie & Helen attach the smooth aviary floor (marine grade plywood) to the predator & rodent-proof base
Ellie & Joe installing the side and roof panels
Throughout the day, the construction was carefully overseen by the patiently waiting pigeons. The aviary is 16′ long by 8′ wide and 7′ feet tall. It is designed to comfortably house 16 rescued King Pigeons but for now, Animal Place is starting with four to get the feel for this new effort.
Pigeons Boo & Maya and Pat & Snowberry watching over our work
Maya & Boo say, Hurry up!
Diana donated to the project, spent the day building it & snuggled Pat
Nancy came to adopt chickens but spent some time learning about pigeons too
Blake, an animal care provider at Animal Place, loving on Snowberry
After the enclosure was up, a half roof & siding to half of the back & one side was added for shelter from weather, shade & security
Finished aviary offers shelter as well as exposure to sun, wind, rain, sky- life!
Shelves & nest boxes were added for pigeon comfort
Ellie & Helen added two ‘swing’ style perches
It was really very exciting to introduce the first lucky pigeons, Boo & Maya and Pat & Snowberry, to their beautiful new (foster) home! They were more than ready to move in and, being pigeons, they of course made themselves comfortable straight away.
Yay! Welcoming Boo & Maya into the new aviary!
The foursome immediately shared supper
Maya & Boo checking out the nest box area (one pox per couple)
Pat & Snowberry waited in the lobby cage at the SF animal shelter for an adopter from March through August
The romance began immediately: Snowberry kissing Pat
Boo & Maya trying out a nest box
The pigeons’ neighbors are hens rescued from battery cages
Jan, Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch Manager, says “The gang is doing great – and seem very happy in their new home” and Jacinda, Animal Place’s Adoption Coordinator, is already working to develop adopters for these beautiful birds.
Making this dream come true was a long process. I sat for awhile just enjoying it.
YAY!!!! Look at this amazing, life-saving & game-changing aviary YOU helped to create! THANK YOU!!! Thank you to Animal Place for partnering with us to help raise awareness about the plight and potential of these beautiful pigeons! Thank you to our donors for investing in this life-saving aviary! Thank you to our builders and volunteers for creating such an important new aviary. I have a feeling there will be many more. Thank you all! Your support for this very special effort means more than I can say.
October 12, 2015 UPDATE:
I am thrilled to announce that, thanks to the efforts of Animal Place, Boo & Maya and Pat & Snowberry are now adopted and HOME!
This is the beautiful new home of Boo & Maya & Pat & Snowberry!
Congratulations to Boo & Maya & Pat & Snowberry! You are HOME!
On August 12th, I was contacted by WildCare regarding a scalped racing pigeon that had been brought in. (A predator had caught and begun to eat her before she miraculously escaped.) Because she was a banded racing pigeon, she was not eligible for vet care and needed transfer and help ASAP. Thanks to the help of WildCare staff and a Palomacy volunteer, we were able to get her from San Rafael to Medical Center for Birds in Oakley for treatment. She arrived with her skull partially exposed and her scalp taped onto her head.
Blossom upon arrival at MCFB
Part of Blossom’s skull was exposed
The extent of Blossom’s injury required that she be sedated so that her wound could be surgically cleaned and repaired. When she was anesthetizedand intubated, it was discovered that she had a ruptured air sac as well (revealed by the way her body inflated abnormally with breathing support). She recuperated in the hospital for a couple of days, receiving supportive care. She had come in emaciated and, even though her scalp was back in place and she could see again, she wasn’t eating. But she was super thirsty and had polyuria (excessively watery poop). Blood tests came back normal and didn’t reveal any answers. In a couple of days, she began eating and they were able to discontinue the tube feeding. The thirst and polyuria continued.
Blossom looking a lot better after her surgery 8/14
Dr. Fitgerald checks Blossom’s progress 8/15
I went out to Oakley on August 18th to pick up Blossom and as soon as I met her, I realized that the name I had originally given her- prior to meeting her and when I needed something quick for our and the vets’ records- Rex- was so wrong as to need changing (something I hate to do because it creates extra work and potential confusion). She’s a delicate, petite, shy little flower of a pigeon. I renamed her Blossom.
Dr. Fitzgerald and Blossom
Once home and fostered with me, Blossom, on antibiotics and pain meds, was stable and her wound seemed to be healing but something else was going on. Her thirst and polyuria continued.
Blossom 8/21, note her too-watery poop
On 8/25, I did a routine weight check expecting to see that Blossom was gaining weight (she seemed to be eating well) but I was surprised to find that she had actually lost weight. I took her back in to see the vets the following day. She surprised me by eating almost non-stop the whole 54 miles. (She doesn’t seem like the adventuresome type so I hadn’t expected that a roadtrip would spark her appetite but it did.)
On the road, Blossom ate & tossed seeds enthusiastically
Once at Medical Center for Birds, Dr. Speer looked through her matted feathers to reveal what was really happening with her scalp. While a portion of the reattachment was healing well, there were places that had reopened. When I had looked at her scalp, I hadn’t really looked.
Note to self: Look more closely at wounds
Dr. Speer examines Blossom
Close examination reveals only partial healing
Dr. Speer checked the wound for necrotic tissue and infection but found none.
The blood is a good sign & means living tissue
Dr. Speer added a few new sutures to help close the wound and speed healing. She received topical Lidocaine to numb her scalp and was an incredibly cooperative patient throughout the procedure.
Blossom was very calm and brave
Dr. Speer sutures while I hold
Blossom’s new stitches
The vets didn’t see any obvious explanation for Blossom’s weight loss, thirst and polyuria and recommended I discontinue the anitbiotics and Meloxicam in case they were contributing.
Today is September 2nd and Blossom is doing OK. Her weight is back up to where it was (though she is still too thin) but her thirst is, if anything, is increasing. She will drink this entire huge bowl of water in 24 hours. We’ll be going back out to Oakley next week for more follow up. Through all the years and so many pets and so many pigeons and doves rescued, I’ve worked with a lot of vets, many of them truly wonderful, but none more supportive, responsive, helpful, generous and dedicated than those at Medical Center for Birds. They work tirelessly to help us (and so many others) and that’s why we go to such lengths to get our birds all the way out to Oakley to see them whenever we can. They also do everything possible to help us stretch our dollars as far as they will go but even so, medical care is expensive and Blossom’s bill, despite the discounts, is over $1200 already.
Blossom & her extra large water bowl
Blossom, this brave young survivor of pigeon racing, barely six months old, was lost and starving to death before she was attacked and nearly killed by the predator that scalped her and ruptured an air sac. Pigeon racers say, “let the (training) basket and races cull for you“. To them, birds like Blossom, who get lost, hurt or killed while being flown, are worthless. As if Blossom’s life means any less to her than theirs does to them. It breaks my heart to think of all that birds like Blossom endure. They suffer a lot. Blossom is one of the lucky ones.
On Saturday August 8th, I was contacted by a radio producer doing a story about the project to bring Passenger Pigeons back from extinction. She wanted to record sounds of pigeons and interview me and was on deadline to do it that day. I changed my plans and arranged to meet her in the lobby of San Francisco Animal Care & Control. When I arrived, I first checked on the birds and found that a King Pigeon baby had been brought in the day before. She was too immature and sad to self-feed. I brought her downstairs to handfeed while I did the interview.
Found “stray” Washington & Webster SF, CA
I learned early in my pigeon rescue work that it’s pointless to talk to people about pigeons unless you have a pigeon for them to meet. Pigeons are so common that everybody thinks they know them and yet, most everything that people think they know about pigeons is wrong. (For example: Pigeons aren’t dirty though they may be trapped in a dirty environment. Pigeons don’t pose health risks to humans: Petting a dog or cat or eating a hamburger are riskier. Pigeons aren’t stupid, they are highly intelligent.) Radio producer Lucy Kang had never really met a pigeon before she met this one. She was very touched by this vulnerable pigeon child and how eager she was to be comforted. At the end of the interview, Lucy’s feelings about pigeons were different.
Radio producer Lucy Kang meets her first pigeon
We spoke at length about pigeons like this baby (who I named Lucy in her honor) and how they wind up in shelters, about wild-living Rock Pigeons and about the Passenger Pigeon de-extinction project. Lucy was surprised that I’m not a supporter of it. I think that when we hunt a species to extinction, even if we could bring them back, we have forfeited the right. We shot Passenger Pigeons by the billions. We killed them all. And we are still killing their relatives at every opportunity. Cruelly. For no reason other than the joy of killing. Pigeon hunting is legal everywhere in the US and every day of the year (“no season, no limits, no rules”). Pigeon hunters set out decoys in fields to lure pigeons in and then blast as many pigeons to death as they can, bragging at the numbers killed and especially prizing killing banded racing pigeons.
More Mourning Doves are killed in the US by hunters than any other animal (estimates range from 20-70 million are killed annually). They’re so small that few bother with eating them. They are shot in the many millions just for the fun of killing. They’re considered “cheap skeet”.
US Hunters kill more Mourning Doves than any other animal
You can hear the program Lucy produced here. And I’ll be writing more about pigeon hunters in a future post.
This story is about baby pigeon Lucy. After feeding her and comforting her as best I could, I left her there at the shelter. I of course didn’t want to but I’m full up. We’re all full up. I had nowhere for her to go.
Fed & left with a rolled towel for company
But I couldn’t stop thinking of her and I woke up in the morning determined to somehow figure out a placement for her. My day was already booked solid but Lucy had become my new priority.
One of the challenges of bird rescue is fitting each bird, according to his and her needs, into the right situation. I call it Pigeon Tetris (doves are involved as well). We have 23 different foster homes caring for nearly 100 birds ranging from big, strong adults through to the old, frail and special-needs birds. A not-yet-self-feeding baby like Lucy can’t just be put in an aviary. Then I had an inspiration. I had a new foster family that was going to be taking in a single young adult pigeon, Swift, that had been waiting too long at the shelter but perhaps I could persuade them instead to foster two birds- blind youngster Henry and delicate baby Lucy. Both were lonesome. Both were young and frail and each needed a gentle, safe companion. It was a hell of a lot to ask of new foster volunteers- to take two birds instead of one, to take on a blind bird and especially, to take on a baby King Pigeon who might not survive after the ordeal she had been through. (These youngsters, bred to be butchered at only 4 weeks old, come in sick, traumatized and without the robust immune system an adult pigeon has. Many don’t make it, despite everything we do to save them.) Incredibly, Cris & Kelly said yes. And so, on Sunday, August 9th, I packed up Henry and headed back to the shelter to get baby Lucy and Swift, the young adult pigeon who had waited so long (and who I could fit into my aviary).
Henry, a blind Rock Pigeon youngster
Animal Care Manager Orlando says goodbye to Lucy
SFACC staffer Naomi snuggling Lucy
Swift- finally on her freedom ride!
I cannot tell you how happy I was to take young Henry and baby Lucy to foster with Cris & Kelly!
Cris with Henry & Kelly with Lucy
As I had hoped, the two pigeon kids made instant friends. Henry, though a couple of weeks older, was still young enough to be gentle with a baby and, isolated by his blindness, grateful for a friend. And Lucy, not even quite old enough to be out of the nest and yet already a survivor of both the squab industry and an inhumane “release”/abandonment, was thrilled to have a new birdy buddy! (Pigeons grow up as twins and are all about having a special, significant other.)
Making new friends
Lucy & Henry
Happy to be together
Cris & Henry
The next morning, I awoke to one of the happiest sights I’ve ever seen since becoming a rescuer: A video text of Henry preening Lucy while she squeaked her pleasure. They were so happy together! I was truly overjoyed.
And the good news kept coming. Just as I had hoped, Henry was teaching baby Lucy how to self-feed!
It’s hard for me to overstate how happy this rescue made me. I was so thrilled for baby Lucy and for Henry and for their foster volunteers and everybody involved. This rescue made me feel like the past eight years were all worth it. (And of course they were.) It was a week of adorable, happy snapshots.
Henry & Lucy snuggling
Lucy loving the loving
Lucy & Henry- BFFs
Except that on Friday, August 14th, baby Lucy didn’t feel well. I was able to get over to see her that night, start her on meds and a heating pad, and we started working on a transport plan to get her either to our vets or our volunteer bird health care coordinator for care. Baby pigeons are frail and when they are sick, things go wrong fast.
Sick baby Lucy on her heating pad, Henry nearby
Lucy 7/7/15 – 8/15/15
Tragically, despite the best efforts of many, Lucy died the next day. She went very quickly. She died peacefully. She’ll never be forgotten.
Henry and his foster family are soldiering on. Henry is, I’m sure, heartbroken. We all are. Cris and Kelly have surrounded Henry with love and comfort. We’re working to find the right new friend for Henry.
Henry & Cris, grieving together
Henry on his shelf
Henry after a shower
I’ll always be so grateful to Cris and Kelly for taking the chance and saying yes to two foster pigeons instead of one, for opening their hearts to a blind pigeon and an at-risk baby, for giving these two angels such a wonderful and happy week. I don’t know how we ever would have rescued Lucy without them and even though she didn’t make it, she was safe, loved, comfortable, happy. She was adored.