Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Baby Pigeon Saved My Life Today--Tuesday Journal

As soon as we arrived at the Wellness Center to begin warm-ups for our workout, we noticed, just outside the picture windows, an unusual bird walking aimlessly on the frozen-snow-covered grass. It was the size of a full-grown robin, maybe larger, but it had the fuzzy small feathers of a baby bird. Soon, other people gathered around the window as if at a maternity ward incubator. No one was sure of the type of bird it was. Too large to be a sparrow, too small and too early to be a goose….it had a beak like an albatross, and a skinny, bald neck.

All he wanted was to come in. He walked toward the window, peered inside, and tried to flap his way into the warmth, tumbling back each time as his pointed beak hit the window.

A sibling bird that must have fallen from the same nest, somewhere on top of the building or near a heated vent, lay lifeless on the grass.

It was a very cold late afternoon, and fortunately I was wearing my sweat pants (not shorts as usual) when I went out with my towel to bring the poor creature in. Mark made sure the door remained unlocked as I followed the (now frightened) bird around the yard. This bird almost outran me, and I had not even hit the track yet.

I gently laid the towel over the bird’s head and scooped it up in both hands, creating a warm “nest” for him to lie within, and so his head could stick out.

My first impulse was to take him home. Then I realized that I was deficient in my knowledge of the type of bird he was, and the appropriate way to nurse him. Mark remembered a local feed store and animal sanctuary nearby that would take in orphaned animals--Animal Feeds and Needs. We both tacitly agreed, and as I held the creature, drawing curious onlookers and sympathetic comments, Mark got our coats from the lockers.

The attendants at the front desk assisted us by providing us with a cardboard box to place the swaddled little bird inside for the brief car ride.

Mark drove and was sensitive to slow down on curves and avoid bumps in the road. In the car, the bird and I regarded each other easily. I spoke softly, looking back at the one black beady eye that faced me. He chirped softly at times, and soon stretched his neck until I thought he would try to escape. Instead, he began to preen the terrycloth of the white towel wrapped around him.

The Animal Feeds and Needs people welcomed Mark and I and our little boxed passenger. One of their employees happened to be a wild bird expert. Jeff removed the critter from the towel and lightly examined the beak. It was a baby pigeon. He was happy to take this bird into his care, and raise it along with his pet blackbird. He would name our pigeon friend, “December”.

I felt less stupid then, for not knowing the type of bird he was. Pigeons are by nature cliff-dwellers, and in our “urban” environment, they build their messy nests of twigs and mud on top of tall buildings. Females lay only 2 eggs at a time, so this mother’s entire progeny were lost to her prematurely. Female pigeons are usually very good mothers. It is extremely rare to see baby pigeons (or squabs, to the gourmets out there).

We left the shop to return to our workout, already missing the little guy we bonded with, and who would have adopted us as his caregiver if we held him any longer---pigeons, if raised by hand, become tame, and make nice pets. (When they mature, they can actually attempt to mate with their human caregivers.)

“December”, the little pigeon, was placed in my life today. I was stirred by an instinct to care for this helpless bird…I gave it no thought…. When I find my life in free-fall, these small incidents provide purpose, energy, and I see then where my value as a person lies.

I was quite emotional on the drive back to the gym. I reassured Mark that I was not upset. Although I mourned for the one I couldn’t save, I rejoiced that, small and insignificant as December’s life seemed, Mark and I helped save him from pain, and cold death.

Wherever my life takes me, or whatever changes I choose to make, I am reassured that to remain close to the creatures that need us so badly provides me with one of my life’s transcendent satisfactions.

(For more information on caring for fledgling pigeons, see these articles by Hannah Holmes and
Frank Mosca)


  1. What a heart warming story! Thanks for reminding us that we can make a diffence in this world.

  2. Touching story. I'm always glad and reassured that there are folks like you and Mark that care like I do for other forms of life like the animals and birds. Good job guys!

  3. Tom, the depth of your love for animals can never be fully measured, and this great story about the baby pigeon is yet another example of that. It's always a pure joy to read your animal stories because they are written with such tenderness and care for your animal subjects. Great work, Tom!

  4. I followed up with a phone call to the Aninal Supply store that took this critter in. They said he was eating well and doing fine. I'm pleased to be in the company of all of you animal advocates!

  5. Nice story! Thanks for sharing, Pigeons are delicate creatures. Baby pigeon care and their development need special attention. It is not an easy job.