meet baby the pigeon

Home Up baby's blog

overwhelming charms, combined with a certain 
"je ne sais quoi" LOL 

 

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Baby was born on Wednesday May 26, 2004. It was a sunny day, much like any other days at the El Torito restaurant. People came in for happy hours, unsuspecting of the nest right above their heads, on the ledge of the restaurant's roof. 

Baby was starting to feel quite confined in his peaceful round abode, so that afternoon he started working on his break out. In his head (maybe), Jim Morrison's famous line "break on through to the other side"... Yeah, it would be a good day to get out. So he did. He pecked and pecked and fussed and in the end (but boy was it hard work!), the shell gave in and out came Baby's head. It slowly emerged both out of the egg and from between his father's feathers and Baby took his first look at the world. "Woaw! He thought, kinda bright out here!".


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Well, the weather was mild and birdy friendly that week and Baby was a happy little bird in deed, feeding off the milk secreted by both his parents who took turns, Mom at night and Dad during the day, at sitting on both the hatchlings and keeping them warm. Life was carefree and sweet and it seemed no harm could ever come to him, while mother and father were here to protect him.

But life had other plans...


That's when the creatures in white showed up. Huge, loud, smelly and also incredibly ugly with their bold skins and lack of feathers. They climbed their way to the roof and started making a heck of a ruckus, moving large cylinders around that soon started to smell real bad.... Baby experienced his first nausea as the horrible smell dispersed in the air.

"Ah, these painters finally made it, he?" said the restaurant manager to the hostess. El Torito's facade was getting a little face lift that day and getting a (much needed) coat of fresh paint! 

As the painters worked their way up, paint layer after paint layer, they got closer and closer to the nest. But Baby was not worried, see, his Dad and Mom would surely peck these unwelcomed intruders away. So imagine his surprise and shock when suddenly, a huge unidentified 'thing' (a brush tied to a pole) came straight at him and both his parents took off in a surge of panic. He opened his beak in horror as his mother's left foot got entangled in his wing and he found himself being dragged out of the nest and thrown off the ledge.

It was a long fall. Long and real, real scary, but not nearly as scary as the impact of the hard ground. Baby blacked out. He had instinctively flapped his meager little wings with all his might, hoping to fly, but the only direction he was able to go was DOWN. Still, this furious flapping had slowed his fall some and saved his life. He tried to move but his legs would not carry him. He flapped his tiny wings but nothing happened. He cried and cried but no one came. So there he was, alone, scared and helpless, in front of the El Torito restaurant. 

A customer, who had a bit too much to drink that Thursday, came out and inadvertently almost stepped on Baby. He knew nothing about birds and certainly did not desire to take one home with him that day, but somehow he felt sorry for the hatchling and picked him up and placed him in a planter near by.

"Don't want anyone to step on you now!" he said, as he walked away.

In the planter, Baby got a false sense of safety. Maybe things were going to be alright, he thought. Or maybe he was going to become crow dinner, two large crows thought. They perched on the tree nearby and watched, salivating, waiting for a quiet moment to cease the opportunity for a fresh meal. But happy hours was there to save the day. As more and more customers showed up and went in and out the restaurant, the crows had to wait. Soon night came and they flew off, on an empty stomach. It was a cold night for Baby, alone in his planter. He could see his parents up there on the ledge and kept hissing to get their attention, but they did not help him get back in the nest. He felt a bit resentful about this. Maybe they just liked his brother better, he was after all, larger and better looking than him... This thought haunted him as he tried to close his eyes to catch some sleep...

It was going to be a sleepless night. Strange noises, rodents and large unidentified bright lights (always flying in sets of two) zipped by him on and off with a strange roaring sound which he remembered hearing while in the nest (what he did not know then is that he was only but a few feet away from Canoga avenue, a large busy street with much car traffic). Finally, at dawn, things became somewhat quiet. He dosed off for just a moment, but then woke up in a start, thinking "It was just a bad dream, I am going to wake up and everything will be like it used to be, my brother will be against me and my parents will be watching over me and feeding me and...". A painful empty feeling in his stomach provided a much needed reality check. And reality did sink in. He would never be with his family ever again. He was alone, helpless and most of all STARVING. He would probably not last another day.

The grim day slowly unwound. A notable improvement was a small paper plate placed by a large creature full of good intentions (but lacking in knowledge), with bread and water on it. Baby looked at it, but did not know what to do with it. The thought that this could be food for him never even crossed his mind. He was so hungry and weak he hardly could call now, yet he gave it all he had, hissing on and off for help...


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saved!
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about a week after rescue and 
almost double in size!

What he didn't know then was that help actually was about to be on its way :))) !!

 That day Mr.181 decided for some reason to stop by El Torito on his way home and stood right by the planter to call me (cell reception long story LOL). So here we were, on the phone, when Baby suddenly chirped. I heard Mr.181 ask someone:

"What's THAT? Is that a bird in the planter? That's a big baby bird, what is it?" I immediately jumped in: "Bird? What bird? Where? How? When? Why, etc...". Cole described Baby in the planter with his plate of dry bread and water and asked around to find out if it belonged to anyone. Meanwhile I was getting restless on the other end: "Don't leave the bird alone Cole! Stay there and keep guard, I am on my way". Quick, I grabbed one of my many critter keepers and head off.

When I arrived on the scene of the crime ;), Baby was still in the very same spot. He looked big but I could tell (from my years of experience breeding and raising canaries) that he was only a few days old (about 8 or so). I looked at his beak and it looked like a pigeon to me, yet I had never seen one so young so I was not sure. I reached out for him and Baby did not attempt to even move. He chirped at me, hoping I was the bringer of some food for him, but no such luck (just yet). I gently picked him up and examined him and noticed he did not seem to have injuries. Wings were good, legs operational and although he had lost weight, he seemed to be healthy. One quick feel of his chest indicated the bone was sticking out a bit, so I concluded he had not eaten in a while. A passer by said the nest was disrupted by painters two days ago and the bird had fallen out and had been here since. It was obvious that a small hatchling so young would have zero chances of surviving in this planter, for starvation, a cat, rat, crow, dog, hawk, car or, worse yet, a drunk LOL would surely get it. So I placed Baby in the critter keeper carrier and off we went, straight to Petco to hunt down some grub for him. Since we did not know for sure what kind of bird he was (and here I am asking Petco employees of all people LOLOLOL - I should have known better LOLOL) and since he was large, it was suggested that mealworms were the thing to feed him (which I later came to find out is NOT pigeon food, but guess what? He LOVES it). 

Baby immediately took on me (and me on him). The first feeding was difficult at best, for he did not know how to pick something up in his beak and expected me to regurgitate food for him (as if!). He wanted to stick his head inside something to eat, so I soon figured a trick to simulate the throat cavity of a pigeon parent: I would make a circle with my thumb and index finger and he would stick his head through that circle and on the other side of it he would find a worm (which I would hold with tweezers). Well the first few days it took forever to feed him, as he could not zero in with accuracy on the worm, and most of his attempt to grab it would result in the mealworm falling on the floor. So I would have to pick up each mealworm about 6 to10 times and offer it again before it would be successfully consumed. Yet, Baby immediately showed me just how smart he was (which took me by surprise), for by day 3 he had it down and by only day 7 he had learn to pick up his own food from a little bowl (held at an angle so Baby's neck would point UP and not DOWN). I was impressed. 


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Baby's little wings - age 2 weeks and a half
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same wings, not so little now - age week 5
  

Some true facts about pigeons:

bulletPigeons are very smart
bulletPigeons when raised and kept by nice people like me, may live about 10 to 15 years (as opposed to 1 to 2 years max in the wild). There are records of pigeons in captivity living as old as 35 years (don't tell that to Mr.181 LOL)
bulletPigeons have been around for over 20 million years (longer than us, humans)
bulletPigeons can fly as fast as 50 miles per hour! And as far as 600 miles a day!!!!
bulletPigeons have only 37 taste buds (you have around 10,000) - most pigeons that is. I think Baby has about 37,000 LOL cause he is the PICKIEST eater I have ever seen!!
bulletPigeons, contrary to most beliefs, do not carry dangerous diseases anymore than hamsters, dogs, cats and many of the dates you've had, do LOL.
bulletPigeons mate for life :) (people should learn)
bulletPigeons only have two chicks when they breed (bettas should learn LOL)
bulletPigeons help humans in many ways! For example, pigeons carry messages, films, documents back and forth. Pigeons also find people lost at sea (yop). Last but not least pigeons saved many men's lives during war, especially WWI (see further down the touching story of "Cher Ami" the war hero pigeon.

 

I spent quite a bit of time daily in the company of Baby, taking him out daily to get some air and sun (of course always keeping him in my hands so nothing could get to him). The memory of Baby's parents soon faded and he became convinced I am his very own mother. Well, maybe I am not as pretty as a pigeon, but to him I am the next best thing ;).

At around 3 weeks of age, Baby started to want to get out of his man made nest (a bowl lined with paper towels). A few days later, I found he was able to walk around now! Another week passed and Baby lost all his down, while his tail grew longer and his wings grew wider (the feathers that is) and he now was able to perch. At week 5, Baby was flying (with much excitement if I may add). 


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look at my new tail!!
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I wonder what's back there?
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I'm cool, I'm WAY cool!

Baby was moved out of the bathroom to a large cage placed in the back yard, just outside the kitchen sliding door. He's got to be the most spoiled pigeon on this side of the Mississippi LOL! He has a bandana, three bowls, a water bowl, his own bath tub (see below), a shelf to sleep on, toys, and several assigned Baby spots in the house. Every morning when I get up, I open his cage and let him out and we wander around the yard a bit, him following me around like a puppy dog everywhere I go. Then we both go into the house, me walking in, him walking in behind me LOL. He flies on the stool and then from there on his shelf where he will hang out for hours. If I am watering the garden or doing gardening, baby hangs out with me, checking out what I am up to and pecking at misc items on the ground, none of which he deems worthy of his taste buds. I know they say pigeons only have 37 taste buds, but not THIS pigeon (no way!). This bird is driving me nuts because he will not eat ANYTHING except the one thing that he is not supposed to eat: (you've guessed it) the MEALWORMS. (??????). Baby would kill for a mealworm. Actually I think Baby would speak Russian if it got him a worm. Or solve a complicated mathematical equation. Or ?? I don't think there is anything this bird couldn't (and wouldn't) do for a worm (now if only I could get him to do my betta water changes for me hehehehehehe). The only other thing he will eat is my Baby mixture, which I raised him on (along with the worms), which is a hard boiled egg and some dry bread which I grind down to a soft moist powder in the blender. I also include the egg shell (for calcium). That he will eat. But nothing else. So far I have tried no less than 4 pigeon/bird feed, prpared many different ways, but to no avail. Bread crumbs, seeds, corn, I tried it all. This morning I even tried a small piece of noodle that looked the same as a mealworm. He promptly grabbed it but immediately looked at me funny "?? what the hell is ZAT?". Couldn't fool him!! Hahahaha! (but I guess a girl's gotta try anyways).

Well, I read somewhere that pigeon LOVE bathing, so I immediately got Baby a nice dish just for that purpose. Again he amazed me when I showed him the plate and used my fingers to show him what I expected of him. He immediately followed my fingers in and soon started fooling around in the water. Got a bit carried away though and became quite wet!!


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my own swimming pool!
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looking a bit silly
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look at me mom, I'm a big bird now! (a big WET bird, that is)

In about a 10 min session one afternoon I trained Baby to fly onto my hand on command. How cool is that? Of course he is too smart for his own good and he also quickly figured out flying on my hand was a lot of work and not really worth the effort unless I have some of them wormies there for him. How he knows when I do have them and when I don't remains a mystery (are pigeons psychic?) but somehow he can tell, even if I am holding my hand up high and he cannot see my palm!!!!! 

Last week end, I made baby a bandana. And not any bandana mind me, but a vintage 1940's one LOL made with vintage fabric :).  He tolerates it but it bugs him. I guess it will take some time getting used to it, and I only put it on for a few minutes at a time and only when he is supervised. Here are some cute shots (yeah, OK, I know, I'm losing it):


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hanging out on the hammock
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please don't let the other
pigeons see me like this!
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maybe I could be in a movie?

 Well, it's only been 4 weeks and already I have grown so attached to Baby that I actually miss him when I am away from home (weird, but true). I look forward to coming home everyday and walking up to his cage and hearing him greet me with his chirpy hisses. He will run to me and stick his beak between my fingers and push down hard, leaning on me. He will let me pet him just about anywhere, even close to his eyes. He likes having his chin, neck and cheeks stroked gently and oftentimes will close his eyes and seem very happy. he'll play with my hair, peck at my freckles (not edible?), peck at my necklace, bracelets, anything out of the ordinary.

As time passes and life unfolds, I will post more photos on this page and share more stories (hopefully happy ones) about Baby and me. So far the only one to share is the hawk that has magically appeared and commandeered the high tree across the street for many days, WATCHING. I didn't even know it was there. I heard a bird making a hell of a ruckus so I came out to see what all the fuss was about. It was a mocking bird and boy was he pissed!! Something was in his tree. I was curious, so I grabbed my binoculars, came out to the front of the house and investigated, only to find out that a huge bird of prey was hanging out in the foliage. Yikes!!! I had never seen it before. What was he watching? I went back to the backyard and stood by Baby's cage and looked again to see if the tree was in sight. I found that the hawk, from this high viewpoint could see Baby's cage (and Baby) very well. Double yikes!!  As a result, I have learned to "listen" to wild birds calls and recognize the alarm call of the mocking bird as well as that of the crow. Both birds live in or near that tree and will let me know when the hawk is there. I have to keep a very close watch over baby at ALL times when I let him lose in the garden and never allow him to be more than a few feet away from me. So if that hawk wants to eat Baby, he's going to have to eat ME first (and DIE trying) hehehehehehe.

Well, before I let you go I want to share an amazing story about an amazing pigeon 'Cher Ami' with you. Rread it, you won't be sorry.

The story of "Cher Ami"

Cher Ami.jpg (66582 bytes)In World War I, a pigeon saved the lives of many soldiers in the "Lost Battalion" of New York's 77th Division of the U.S. Army. This pigeon was Cher Ami. His name means "dear friend" in French.

During a battle in France, the American soldiers found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Then they found themselves being fired on by their own side! They tried sending a message to their fellow troops by pigeon. The first message said, "Many wounded. We cannot evacuate." The pigeon carrying the message was shot down. They sent out a second bird with the message, "Men are suffering. Can support be sent?" That pigeon too was shot down.

One homing pigeon was left-Cher Ami. His message was, "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven's sake, stop it!" The men of the Lost Battalion saw Cher Ami fly up-and then saw him shot down. Yet soon Cher Ami was airborne again. Hopes soared. Cher Ami's leg was shot off and and hanging from his ligaments was the message capsule. He also was hit by another bullet through the chest. Still, this bird kept flying. Cher Ami finally got through. The shooting stopped, and many lives (at least 200) were saved.

Cher Ami regrettably died in 1919 as a result from his battle wounds, and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for his heroism. He was then inducted into a hall of fame and received a gold medal for his service to America. He is on display at the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, in the Armed Forces History Hall. 
(see photo above).

Well I hope that the next time you see a common street pigeon, you think of Baby and cher Ami and of everything that is special about these birds. After all they do deserve a little more respect.

Come back next months for more stories and updates!!

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more cool facts about pigeons

When the first Olympic games were held in Greece in 776 BC, how did people find out who the winners were? Pigeons carried the news! Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome more than 2,000 years ago, used birds to send messages back home from battle. Pigeons were used as war messengers as recently as in World War II. In fact, until the invention of the telegraph in 1836 and the telephone in 1875, the fastest way to send any kind of news was by pigeon. The first reconnaissance missions were actually done by pigeons with cameras fitted to them.

Pigeons are still sometimes used as messengers. For example, medical workers on an island in France put blood samples into the tiny pockets of a vest worn by a pigeon. The pigeon then flies the blood samples to the mainland. In many parts of the world, news photographers use pigeons. When they can't leave their spot or don't want to get caught in traffic, they attach their rolls of film to a pigeon. The pigeon carries the film to a developer in time for the next issue of a newspaper or magazine.

Because pigeons have better eyesight than humans, they have been used to help in search-and-rescue missions. Pigeons have been trained to spot the orange life jackets of people lost at sea. The pigeons are carried by helicopter over the ocean. When they spot a life jacket, they peck a keyboard, which sets off a light. Then the helicopter moves closer and more slowly over the waves until the humans are able to see the life jacket.
Nobody knows for sure how pigeons are able to find their way back home from hundreds of miles away. Scientists think that pigeons can detect the Earth's magnetic fields. This means that their brains work like a compass to figure out North, South, East, and West. Scientists also think that pigeons can tell direction by looking at the position of the sun in the sky.
So how does a homing pigeon know where to go? Despite all of our modern advances in science, no one can truly say exactly how homing pigeons know where to go. 

Common theories are:

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magnetic navigation: pigeons possess a magnetic substance called magnetite in their brains. It is suspected that pigeons can detect the Earth's magnetic lines of force to aid in their navigation. This would be similar to using a compass to aid you on a journey.
The Japan Times Online published an article (May 12, 2001) on the subject of iron found in the ears of birds.

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astronomical navigation: A sailor using a sextant and a watch can regard the position of the sun in relation to the time of day and make a determination of his geographic location. Perhaps pigeons can do the same internally, without the need for a physical sextant or clock.

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smell and/or hearing: This theory states that pigeons can hear sounds much too low for people to hear. It is thought that every area has its own unique sound, and the birds have the ability to detect the sounds over a distance. Others think that pigeons can smell their home area from a great distance.

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non-local consciousness/psychic navigation: Rupert Sheldrake, among others, believe that pigeons have some sort of non-local consciousness connection with their home, owners, or mates. (Could it be that I am psychically connected to Baby? :P  )

It's worth noting that experiments show that pigeons do not seem to rely exclusively on any one method of navigation. Experiments on pigeons in which they were outfitted with frosted contact lenses still showed that they could get very near their home loft. Similar experiments with magnetic fields showed the same results. So the questions of how pigeons home still remains largely unanswered.

 


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