Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Bald Pigeon With My Name

My second pigeon rescue two weeks ago made me remember that the account of my first pigeon rescue somehow never got published.  Time to rectify that oversight!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011
It started out like any other laundry day.  I loaded my dirty clothes into the grocery cart we New Yorkers use to transport anything too heavy to carry and pushed the cart across the street to the laundromat.  As I entered, I noticed a young pigeon huddled at the side of the step. After loading my clothes into the washers, I went back to the doorway to see if the pigeon was still there.  Indeed it was, and the little thing just didn't look right.  It had some scabby-looking patches on top if its head and, although nervous, it seemed unwilling or unable to fly to a safer location.  The laundry attendant claimed it couldn't fly because an elderly woman had run over it accidentally with her cart.

I hate it when I happen upon situations like this, because I know that no one else is going to do anything.

Having no clue what to do, I came back home and googled "pigeon rescue NYC."  Google fetched NYC Pigeon Rescue Central.  Within 20 minutes, someone named Anna returned my phone call and gave me clear and calming instructions.  So back to the laundry I went.  I picked up the bird (who did not resist at all) and put it in my cat carrier along with some bird seed.  I added a small container of water after the picture was taken.


Next, I called the number Anna gave me for Animal General, requesting for an appointment the next day (Monday) to see Rita from The Wild Bird Fund.  (The Wild Bird Fund works from Animal General at certain times during the week.)

Monday, May 16, 2011
During my appointment at Animal General I met Rita McMahon, a New York State Wildlife Rehabilitator who runs The Wild Bird Fund.  First, she cleaned the dirt and dried blood off the pigeon's head which revealed that the skin had been peeled off.  Yuk!  The poor little thing had actually been scalped!!

Rita weighs and examines the injured pigeon

In the course of her examination Rita noticed the little pigeon had various other health issues. The middle toe on its right foot had been broken.  Rita said it was an old wound and wouldn't be a problem in the future.  The odd angle of the pigeon's right leg was a little more worrying.  Rita also cleaned up the pigeon's right eye which was crusted shut, probably with blood from the scalp injury. Rita said they would keep the squab (that's what you call a pigeon chick) at Animal General to check the wings and the leg and to see if the scalp could be reattached.

Rita also informed me that the bird would be called Linda -- regardless of its sex -- since The Wild Bird Fund has a custom of naming each bird after whoever rescues it. Rita also said this little one was probably about 4-5 weeks old. 

So... here's how Linda looked the last time I saw her -- scalp covered in ointment, crooked leg and broken toe, but with both eyes now open.  Despite looking a little silly, I think she knew she was safe.  She didn't struggle or show any fear.

Saturday, June 18, 2011
At The Wild Bird Fundraiser held at the Hudson River Boat Basin in Manhattan, Rita informed me that my Linda-bird was much improved. She had sustained no wing damage.  Her leg was ok too.  Her scalp could not be reattached, but new skin had grown over her skull and had healed nicely.  No feathers had yet appeared in the new skin on her head, but the pigeons she lived with didn't mind her baldness and were educating her on how to be a pigeon.  (Pigeons need pigeon role models, it seems.)  She was being fostered in Brooklyn, where she would undergo a "soft release."  In a soft release, young birds are kept in a place where feral birds can come and go at will.  The youngsters gradually become integrated into the flock where their education in pigeon life skills can be completed.

At the end of this very positive report, Rita said the folks at The Wild Bird Fund had taken to calling "my bird" LindaHood -- all one word -- because, really, how could you not use the word HOOD when naming a bird with a head injury!

I thought that was probably the last update I would receive because, with a soft release, no one would invite me to witness LindaHood's release.  It would happen gradually as described above.

Friday, August 19, 2011
In a serendipitous Facebook exchange, I read that every morning a bald bird is one of those being fed by someone else who follows The Wild Bird Fund on Facebook. Now I ask you, how many bald pigeons can there be out there?  I mean, have YOU ever seen a bald pigeon?  "Baldy," as this woman calls her, is in all likelihood the one and only LindaHood!

Three months after I picked her up, LindaHood is flying free -- but yet she's seen every day by a follower of the Wild Bird Fund.   How cool is that?

In summary, I am thrilled I was able to help this bird, and in the process I learned many things about pigeons and about the Wild Bird Fund.  Here are some links to illustrate what I've learned:

Pigeon chicks change dramatically as they grow up
Pigeons are really, really smart.
Handling pigeons will not make you sick
  • Pigeons are safe for most people to handle.
  • "The New York City Department of Health has no documented cases of communicable disease transmitted from pigeons to humans." - Dr. Manuel Vargas, New York City Department of Health. (quote taken from Urban Wildlife Society.)
  • Pigeon Lady from Tribeca, by Harry Peronius and Jewelene Maraget.  A photo essay about the friendship between the pigeon Petel and two lovely people who rescued him as a baby bird. Petel has live his entire life, 15 years, with Jewelene and her partner Rey.
You CAN do something for pigeons who need help.
  • For birds with string tangled in their feet, call the FOOT SQUAD.
  • Does that baby pigeon (called a squab) actually need rescuing?  Read THIS.  
  • If you are about to rescue a squab, call NYC Pigeon Rescue Central (212) 873-6030 Additional instructions are on their website.
  • If you are caring for squab, read THIS PAGE so the bird doesn't end up in your care forever.  (This is a real danger -- read the link!!)
  •  How to rescue a bird that has hit a window.
The Wild Bird Fund is amazing.
  • They help all NYC wildlife, not just birds.
  • The are planning to open the only wildlife rehab center in Manhattan.  Click HERE to read about it. 
  • "Like" The Wild Bird Fund on Facebook so you will see the fabulous bird pictures they post and read many interesting facts about NYC birds.
  • Consider tax-deductible donation -- Donate Here
  • Consider volunteering.  Email   

© 2012, Linda Mason Hood
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