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
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
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
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
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
"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...
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
"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
Baby's little wings -
age 2 weeks and a half
same wings, not so little now - age week 5
Some true facts about
|Pigeons are very smart
|Pigeons 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)
|Pigeons have been around
for over 20 million years (longer than us, humans)
|Pigeons can fly as fast
as 50 miles per hour! And as far as 600 miles a day!!!!
|Pigeons 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!!
|Pigeons, contrary to most
beliefs, do not carry dangerous diseases anymore than
hamsters, dogs, cats and many of the dates you've had, do
|Pigeons mate for life :)
(people should learn)
|Pigeons only have two
chicks when they breed (bettas should learn LOL)
|Pigeons 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
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).
look at my new
I wonder what's
I'm cool, I'm WAY cool!
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
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!!
my own swimming
looking a bit
look at me mom, I'm a big bird now! (a big WET bird, that
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):
hanging out on
let the other
pigeons see me like this!
maybe I could be in a movie?
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.
story of "Cher Ami"
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!!
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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.