Save Domestic Pigeons and Doves From Euthanasia

 
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Natalia & Snezhok, by Elisabeth Millay Young
Natalia & Snezhok, by Elisabeth Millay Young

Please vote for us today in GlobalGiving's 2015 Photo Contest!

When Natalia saw the nervous, hungry white pigeon looking so lost on a busy San Francisco sidewalk, she knew that the bird needed help. It wasn't until after the fact that she learned the King Pigeon she rescued and named Snezhok (snowball in Russian), was only four weeks old, a survivor of both the squab industry and an inhumane "release" and completely unable to survive in the wild.

Domestic and defenseless, Snezhok was incredibly lucky to be rescued into a loving family and given a home. Natalia writes, "Snezhok has the most loyal but at the same time independent spirit. Surprisingly for a bird, who has no means of defense and does not fly very well, she is not afraid of anything and faces challenges fearlessly: from the streets of San Francisco, where we found her abandoned and starved but her spirit still unbroken - to living with humans and adjusting to other pets."

We created Palomacy to help birds like Snezhok and people like Natalia. There was a deadly gap in the animal welfare community so, while domestic (unreleasable) pigeons were going in to animal shelters, they weren't getting out.

The shelters didn't know who these birds were, they didn't post them to their websites nor include them in events. People didn't know they existed and they didn't get adopted. Yet all the other animals had at least some hope of getting adopted or rescued. Just not the pigeons. Strange.

Pigeons are among the most commonplace of animals in our lives. Our cities have flocks of wild Rock Pigeons. There are countless pigeon breeders, hobbyists, fanciers and squab producers hatching millions of domestic pigeons in the US alone every year. Plenty of people are seeing pigeons but somehow they aren't really seeing pigeons.

But those of us who have seen the beauty, the intelligence, the soulfulness of these earthbound angels, we know they deserve compassion. 

And so, we are super excited to have not only Natalia & Snezhok's photo by Elisabeth Millay Young selected as a semi-finalist in GlobalGiving's 2015 Photo Contest, but also a portrait of pigeon-racing survivor Indy as well! This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to show who pigeons really are.

Pigeon-racing survivor Indy, photographed by Kira Stackhouse, is an incredibly gentle, sweet bird. As a racing pigeon, he was bred to be a "champion", taken hundreds of miles from his home and "tossed" with thousands of other pigeons to begin the desperate "race" to find his way back home. Despite flying their hearts out, most never do. Indy was lucky in that, when he was grounded with both a broken wing and broken leg, he was found by a well-meaning person rather than a hungry predator, but he wasn't out of danger. He was kept unprotected in a backyard, given no vet care and he likely would have died there if he hadn't been rescued by Palomacy. Now he has a happy life ahead of him.

Please vote for your favorite photo (shot pro bono by professional photographers who support our work) and invite all your friends to vote for us in the GlobalGiving Photo Contest! First prize is $1000 for the rescue! Voting has started and the photo with the most votes this Friday at 9 AM PT will win $1000. (Only your first vote will count and email confirmation is required.)

Please help people to see who pigeons really are. Pigeons are worthy of our compassion.

Thank you for all of your support!

Pigeon Racing Survivor Indy, by Kira Stackhouse
Pigeon Racing Survivor Indy, by Kira Stackhouse

Links:

Fleetwood 6/11/15
Fleetwood 6/11/15

On 4/1, a brown & white Persian High Flyer pigeon with a startling injury approached a kind person in Sacramento who took him to Wildlife Care Association (WCA). The bird's upper beak was entirely gone, torn from his face. Brianna of WCA took care of his immediate needs with pain meds, antibiotics and supportive care and reached out to us, Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions, for his long term care. Brianna named him Fleetwood. We were able, with the help of a volunteer from Mickaboo (our big sister parrot rescue), to get Fleetwood transported to our avian vets at Medical Center for Birds.

Aside from the disabling wound (which included a punture into the lower mandible as well), Fleetwood was in surprisingly good condition. The wound was recent. His injury was such that his beak would never grow back and, because there was not even a stump left for attachment, he is considered a poor prospect for a prosthetic beak. Now he needed to heal and relearn how to feed himself with only half a beak.

Fleetwood's sort of injury is frequently seen among pet parrots who have fought and wounded one another with their incredibly strong-biting beaks but is much less common among pigeons. The best we can tell from the wound, he was attacked by an animal, likely a rat, racoon or cat. He had no marks anywhere else on his body and he may have been injured through chicken wire (something that is commonly used but which is totally inadequate for protecting against predators). Whatever the case, Fleetwood was very lucky to survive the attack.

He was hospitalized for a week. In the beginning, even though he was being tube-fed, he tried diligently (but unsuccessfully) to self-feed from the various types of dishes the clinic staff provided. After a couple of days, his efforts petered out. They cut back his tube-fed meals in order to increase his appetite and re-invigorate his efforts to self-feed but it didn't help. 

I picked Fleetwood up on April 9th. After a week locked indoors in a hospital tank with all kinds of piles of food that he couldn't eat, he was very depressed. I brought him home and he brightened up at seeing other pigeons. He needed to regain lost weight so I increased his meal size and, though he hated tube-feeding, the extra nutrition seemed to also lift his spirits. 

It doesn't take a lot to make pigeons happy. Pigeons are very easy going and good natured. There is a saying about them: Pigeons bloom where planted. I have found this to be very true. They are expert at making the best of a situation, no matter how bad, and they are incredibly stoic about enduring hardships. Even so, they have their needs. Pigeons need companionship (preferrably other pigeons but if not, a really devoted person willing to learn some Pigeonese), they need sunshine, they need space to move, they need to be able to eat...

I was able to offer Fleetwood most of these. I found that his favorite place to be was outside in the aviary with the flock. Initially I was concerned that he was not strong enough to manage out there (especially with only half a beak to defend himself) but I could see how much he preferred it. I saw he would scamper away when another pigeon accosted him. And Indy, a bachelor pigeon racing-survivor I foster, courted Fleetwood and spent a lot of time shadowing him so he had a buddy and bodyguard of sorts. (So much so that I thought Fleetwood was female for the first five weeks I cared for him.)

Amazingly, though I was tube-feeding Fleetwood big, filling, weight-gain-intending meals thrice daily, outside in the aviary, he continuously pecked (unsuccessfully) at the pigeon feed all day, every day. He wanted to eat! He was relentless and spent all his time peck peck pecking. He never altered his technique, just kept trying the same thing over and over. It was heartbreaking and encouraging both. 

When I brought him indoors after a day in the aviary, I returned him to a cage full of pigeon food in deep bowls that, if he plunged his face into, he likely could have self-fed from, but he wouldn't. He only wanted to try and eat seeds from the ground in the aviary. Ideas and suggestions poured in and I tried everything we could think of to enable him to self-feed. I tried hand-feeding, feeding gruel in a baby-pigeon feeding-type tube, different types of food in different types of containers...

Seeing how committed he was to pecking at the ground, I had what I thought was a stroke of genius. I filled the bottom of a plastic box one inch deep with all kinds of bird seed- large pigeon feed grains as well as tiny canary and budgie-size seeds. I put him in sure that the "feeding box" was the solution. He could stand in the seed, peck peck peck away and, because there was only seed an inch deep, never miss! It seemed, at first, like it was going to work. He did peck at the seed and I think might have even got a couple in. But being in a box, even a clear one that he could hop out of when he wanted to do, seemed unsatisfactory. He only tried pecking in it a couple of times. Eventually he would completely ignore the lush carpet of food at his feet when I put him in and I finally put the box away.

As the weeks went by, Fleetwood was slowly regaining a little of the lost weight but he was still very thin and he hated- hated - being tube-fed. It was the thing that we both had to do every day that we both hated the most. Some birds warm up to being tube-fed, appreciating the full crop it delivers, but not Fleetwood. And because he hated having it done so much, I hated doing it.

I rarely see problems for which euthanasia is the solution but I was beginning to wonder if that might be what lay at the end of the road for poor Fleetwood. (Some had suggested it right away but my theory is, we don't have to start with euthanasia, it will always be there as an option.) He wasn't happy. He couldn't eat. He wouldn't even drink water though it was always available to him. I even made a point of offering him the chance to sip from a water cup whenever I handled him (something most pigeons appreciate) but he always recoiled from it.

We count a few especially talented pigeon people amongst our supporters, people who have an uncanny ability to befriend and soothe even the most challenging birds. I had scheduled an upcoming weekend, 5/22, for Fleetwood with one of ours. I hoped that together they could have the feeding breakthrough that we were not. 

Then, on 5/13, Fleetwood had his own breakthrough and took a bath in the aviary for the first time! (Pigeons love to bathe and most do it nearly daily so it's always really encouraging to see a recovering pigeon decide it's time to bathe.) I was very happy! He gave me a lot of new hope with that bath.

And then, all of a sudden, on 5/15, as I was about to feed him for the 105th time, Fleetwood and I finally had our big feeding breathrough!

I had brought him in for his afternoon tube-feeding, something we both dreaded, and, for the first time ever, rather than fight my fingers, he nibbled at them! Little 'feed me' nibbles! Oh my goodness, I was so excited! I immediately dropped the tube-feeding stuff and instead got pigeon feed that I could finger-feed him. And it worked! When he wanted me to finger-feed him, it was easy and fun! (Previously, when he resisted, it was basically impossible.)

That day marked an incredible turning point for Fleetwood. He's never been tube-fed again. The following day, I saw him take a big drink of water (I actually got it on video!) and so that was really good news, too. Now, twice a day, I finger-feed him and we both love it! What had been the worst part of both our days is now the best part. It's hard to express how much satisfaction we both get from it. He still peck peck pecks outside in the aviary all day and sometimes he is actually successful! Sometimes I can feel a small amount of seeds in his crop when I bring him in for his bedtime dinner! I am pretty confident that he'll be able to self-feed enough to no longer require finger-feeding. He may already be at that point (he's put on a lot of weight!) but he and I so both enjoy the finger-feeding that we are not ready to give it up quite yet. 

As soon as Fleetwood started getting finger-fed instead of tube-fed, his demeanor changed. He became so much happier! And he made it clear that he was all male- strutting and flirting and expressing himself with great machismo. 

Fleetwood suffered a devastating, life-altering injury but thanks to all of us along the way- the partners and volunteers and donors, his amazing spirit has won out. Fleetwood has a long life ahead of him. He still needs to meet a nice single lady pigeon and he still needs his forever home but he is here- alive and well, thanks to the rescue community that you support. He is happy to be alive and grateful to you for giving him the chance to live. 

And I thank you for giving me the privilege of leading this amazing community. We are helping animals for whom there used to be no rescue. We are closing a fatal gap in the animal welfare community. We are making a real life and death difference.

Thank you for saving Fleetwood's life and so many others.

Fleetwood at intake 4/1
Fleetwood at intake 4/1
Depressed in the hospital 4/9
Depressed in the hospital 4/9
Thrilled to be spending time in the aviary 4/13
Thrilled to be spending time in the aviary 4/13
Weight check 4/17
Weight check 4/17
Reunited with Brianna from WCA 5/19
Reunited with Brianna from WCA 5/19
Feeling proud 6/9
Feeling proud 6/9

Links:

Injured racing pigeon Josie grounded & helpless
Injured racing pigeon Josie grounded & helpless

It was 5:15 Thursday afternoon and I had just finished up a presentation about pigeons to a youth group at the Marin Humane Society. I checked my email before heading to my next appointment (a care consult for a self-rescuing pigeon named Snezhok) and read this:

"Hi Patricia - thought to reach out to you as you are a close-by bird friend. I'm about to board an airplane out of Oakland airport and came across an injured pigeon in the parking lot. Wildcare in San Rafael will take him but he needs to be picked up and held overnight as they only accept during business hours. Think you might be able to get him tonight? If not I am flying back tomorrow and will look for him. I just thought to reach out in case bc I feel bad for the guy. Please text me if so.  :) thank you and hope I'm not coming across as a crazy person."

Patricia, a fellow bird rescuer and the Budgie Coordinator for Mickaboo, had forwarded this to me an hour earlier. My heart sunk at the low probability of being able to mobilize a successful rescue for this bird but I had to try. I sent out some emails and posted to social media in the hopes of finding someone willing to fight rush hour traffic and search an airport parking lot for an injured pigeon.

I went on to my next appointment and afterwards, with no one yet looking for the pigeon, started making phone calls to give it one last try. When I reached Josette at 8:26 PM, she immediately said yes, she'd go. All the information I had to offer was: "It is in daily parking lot across from the post E4, under the monorail track.  There is a huge black pickup truck sticking out, he is there...alert, just appears to have injured legs." And the heartbreaking photo.

I didn't hear back from Josette until 10:22. (I was about ready to send out a search party for her.) After more than half an hour of searching, she had against all odds, found the injured pigeon. The bird had dragged herself (using her wings) yards away and was crouched under the curve of a car's tire. My heart soared! Josette had made the impossible happen. She had dropped everything and headed out into the night to try and help an injured bird. And she had found her! I couldn't believe that we had actually pulled it off and been able to save this poor, stranded pigeon.

Josie, as this miracle bird is now named, is a one year old survivor of the cruel "sport" of pigeon racing. At least we are hoping she will survive. She was brought here to the Bay Area, hundreds of miles from her home in Reno, NV, and "tossed" with thousands of other racing pigeons to try and find her way home fast enough to win. (Learn more about pigeon racing.)

Instead she was severly injured, likely from colliding with a high tension wire, and has spinal trauma and impaired motor control, a large open wound exposing most of her keel and breast muscle, a broken leg, is emaciated, septic and shocky. Dr. Sanders of Wildwood Veterinary took her home with him to provide the care she needs through the weekend. We have seen badly injured birds make incredible recoveries. (See Ava's amazing recovery.) We are not going to give up on Josie. She's alert, eating and clearly thankful to be safe and more comfortable. Pigeons are so smart. I can't imagine how miserable she must have felt grounded and helpless in that parking lot with no hope in sight. No matter what happens, I am so grateful to be a part of a community that was able to rescue this fellow being from such a terrible fate and to give her the chance to live. 

You are a part of this community. You empower this work. Thank you for your support! Thank you for your compassion! 

This Wednesday, March 18th starting at 6 AM PST, online donations made to Palomacy through GlobalGiving will earn an added 30% Bonus Match while funds last. Please donate if you can. Thank you!

Josie- safe, supported, food & water within reach
Josie- safe, supported, food & water within reach
Josie unable to move but grateful to be helped
Josie unable to move but grateful to be helped

Links:

Baby Dylan
Baby Dylan

Dear GlobalGiving Supporters,

You hold up half our sky. With all that we do to generate support for our work, including the grants we've won, the garage sales we've held and all the rest, it is your donations, made here, that are funding 48% of our work. Thank you! 

Your generous supports makes the life and death difference for the birds we serve. Together we rescued 190 birds this year and helped many more. One of the birds we saved is Dylan.

She arrived at the shelter on September 12th and, unbeknownst to the staff, was too young to self-feed. We were contacted on September 16th and she was starving when I picked her up that night- only feathers and bone. When I opened her cage door, Dylan begged me to feed her as if I was her pigeon parent.

Overfull with more than 100 birds in our foster care already, I had not planned on taking this baby in but I couldn't leave her. I rushed her home and started tube-feeding small, watery meals to restart her GI system. She responded ecstatically, now sure that I was a momma bird.

Dylan's ordeal had an impact. She was an extra needy, clingy youngster. Even after she learned to self-feed, she was constantly begging and acted hungry all the time. I kept her close and spoiled her with attention. Now four months old, she's already an accomplished pigeon diplomat. (See her full story and lots of photos here.)

And, while I'm stretched with 15 foster pigeons and 11 pets (my pigeons, a parrot, a dove and my dog), I'm not going to be able to part with Dylan. I'm going to adopt her. Dylan is home.

Thank you for helping us to do this work we do. Thank you for saving Dylan and all the others. She is, as they all are, a very special soul.

And, if you can, please give again. We need your support. We have just taken on two more medical cases (Bell & Aries) and we have a big new year ahead of us. We've changed our name- we're now Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions- but our mission is the same. 

With heartfelt gratitude, Thank You.

Dylan hard at work
Dylan hard at work
Thank you for rescuing Dylan
Thank you for rescuing Dylan
Happy Dylan
Happy Dylan
Palomacy is pigeon diplomacy
Palomacy is pigeon diplomacy

Links:

Aurora thanks you for saving her!
Aurora thanks you for saving her!

Thank you for being a MickaCoo supporter! We are honored and inspired by your generosity.

Thanks to you, Aurora, the young racing pigeon who survived catastrophic injury and neglect, has been healed. She is safe and loved and grateful to be alive! She is happy to have both her feet facing in the same direction and proud to be able to stand tall and walk! (Aurora's update)

Thanks to you, Blossom, a King pigeon bred to be squab, found sick and stray- struggling to survive the streets of San Francisco, is alive and well. She overcame a life-threatening strangulated hernia and is now adopted! She's married to a feisty pigeon named Mr. Stinker and is cherished by her person and him both. (Awesome Blossom)

Thanks to you, when baby pigeon Dylan, too weak and young to self-feed was facing death at the shelter, we were able to step in and save his life, winning his ardent devotion and loyalty. (Dylan's story)

Your donations mean we are here to help these gentle, sensitive birds whose lives hang in the balance. Every day we help guide Good Samaritans who've found a grounded bird; every week we're called to take on the foster and vet care for injured or ill shelter birds that will otherwise be killed. We coach potential adopters about the plight and potential of homeless pigeons and doves and we empower them to create safe aviaries that provide meaningful quality of life for the birds that others have abandoned. We advocate at every opportunity and we are seeing progress. MickaCoo is creating compassion where there used to be indifference, or worse.

We couldn't fill this gap without your help and we are very grateful to you!

Thank you for supporting MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue.

P.S. Tomorrow morning, Wednesday 10/15, starting at 6 AM PST, is the last GlobalGiving Bonus Match Day of the year. If you are able to make another donation, your gift will earn a much needed extra +30% for the birds. (Please donate early. The bonus match money goes fast.) Thank you!

Awesome Blossom loves life
Awesome Blossom loves life
Baby Dylan was saved from starvation
Baby Dylan was saved from starvation

Links:

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Project Leader

Elizabeth Young

San Francisco, California United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Save Domestic Pigeons and Doves From Euthanasia