The Story of Percy the Orphaned Wood PigeonThis lovely story was sent in by Anne, one of our readers.
September of 2008 a tree was felled locally and it was only when the
tree was on the ground that the discovery was made of two pigeon chicks
and a nest; the chicks and the nest having parted company as the tree
went down. The people whose tree it was placed the chicks back in the
nest and placed it under a hedge - needless to say the parents did not
return, but happily neither did the neighbourhood cats! (I'm sure the
do's and don'ts are self-explanatory).
The chicks were then fed
with bread and milk, one was still alive the next day but the other had
expired. They were probably ten days old at this time. We were then
asked if we could take on and care for the remaining chick, following
which a lot of learning had to be quickly gathered. Thinking how an
adult bird (or in the case of wood pigeons, both parents) care for
their young, is a good place to start. The warmth of the parent bird
had to be simulated with a heat lamp but dimmed by night with a dark
towel (none of us like to sleep in light as it creates stress).
learned that, in the case of pigeons, both parents feed their young.
A natural milk is created by the adults in the crop and the food is
first ingested and then fed with the milk to the young - nature is so clever! The little pigeon was very hungry and most inpatient of our
clumsy attempts to get food into his beak - we used high quality chick
crumbs softened with warm water and a small amount of natural yoghurt.
(Chick crumbs are used when rearing young poultry and are high in
nutrients and minerals). The bird soon taught us that he wanted the
food placed into his crop and would "open wide" to allow this to
happen. We used a small plastic dropper to begin with but after a few
days Percy was happy for us to use a finger and drop the food in!
Between beak fulls, warm water was also given in a dropper to help the
food go down. Feeds were given every two hours during the day and we
relief on the little fellow letting us know when he had had enough
because the enthusiasm would wane. Like babies, they eat and then
grew by the day - the feathers (those yellow stringy things in the
first few pics), became fine plumage very quickly. As the wing
feathers developed, he would practice with his wings, flapping them at
great speed whilst perching on the side of his box. After a few weeks
he had graduated naturally from being fed to pecking his own food from
a bowl and we also supplemented the diet with small pieces of hardboiled egg Also, as the feathers grew we reduced the frequency and
temperature of the heat lamp
This little bird was unafraid of
us from the outset, perhaps that is why pigeons been domesticated down
the centuries. As the ritual of feeding and cleaning became such a part
of our daily routine it was understandable that we became very fond of
the little fellow, but recognised from the outset that he was a wild
bird and needed to be rehabilitated at the right time, and in the right
advice was that pigeons are very accepting of their fellow species out
of mating season, by this time we were in October and the mating season
Such was Percy's tameness that we began taking him out
in the garden and allowing him to fly as and when he wished, but never
'made' him fly as - remember a wild bird would know before we would if
there was a predator around in the form of a bird of prey or even a
cat. Each day he would have time out of doors with one of us around,
short flights to the shed roof and back on to land on a head was a
regular routine. By Percy's choice the time out became longer. We
often saw a very large wood pigeon in the garden over a few years and
guessed it to be the same bird, always alone. One day Percy saw the
pigeon too and - more to the point - the pigeon saw Percy. They would
look curiously at each other in the garden, Percy from his safe vantage
point of the shed roof, but then Percy simply too off and circled the
garden before disappearing into the tree where the wild pigeon seemed
We were delighted, we were worried, and the weather was getting cold. Would he make it?
Spring we have two pigeons in the garden and one is less wary of us
than the other. Was Percy a female?! We had no way of knowing as the
tell-tale signs emerge when the bird is more mature.
A lot of
learning and a lot of love went into that little character, but he was
a wild bird and had to have the chance to live that way. It was a
great shame that the pigeon's chances were do disrupted by the felling
of a tree at a time when birds can still be rearing young.