Save Domestic Pigeons and Doves From Euthanasia

 
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Truffles, Fluffball & Speckles at the shelter
Truffles, Fluffball & Speckles at the shelter

I first met fledgling King pigeons Donut, Fluffball, Truffles & Speckles in the back room at San Francisco Animal Care & Control on May 20th. They weren't in adoptable condition. Donut had been found as a stray on May 18 at Broadway & Columbus. The other three had been rescued from Baker Beach on May 15 at 9:30 PM. (Who knows how many squab had been purchased from a live poultry market and "released" or used in a ceremony there. I can pretty much guarantee that others were killed by hawks, gulls, ravens, etc. before Animal Control Officers arrived on the scene.) 

All four youngsters needed more care than the shelter can offer. Adult pigeons are hardy but these babies, only 4 weeks old and so already frail, were also traumatized and weakened by the rough handling and high-stress predicaments they endured.

While some rescues triage to save the strongest, we prioritize those that need us most, whose lives hang in the balance. We do our very best to help the injured and sick, no matter their chances. But we were full up. Our expert fosters were maxed out. 

Ever since we started in 2007, the demand for our services has exceeded the resources we have available. When we had capacity for 8 fosters, we were full. When we grew our capacity to help 40, we were full. Our caseload has grown to be more than 100 birds at any time and we are still always full with a waiting list. But how do we tell birds, stranded sick in a shelter or found injured and stray, that we are full?

I contacted a newly-ready foster family, to see if they might be willing to take on the extra challenge of fostering these frail babies and, very bravely, they said yes. The next day, I picked up the foursome and delivered them to their new family, along with meds, heating pad, a crate for indoor nighttime fostering, etc. 

We spent hours examining, spraying, weighing, assessing and pilling the babies. For their part, while the birds weren't thrilled with all the scary handling and procedures, their little pigeon faces were lit up with pleasure at feeling sunshine and fresh air and having the space to stretch out and explore. Jane's family has impressed me with their ability to absorb this crash course in pigeon rescue. Eleven year old M says, "It's very fun and so amazing to watch the birds grow up."

Instead of taking on the incredibly low-maintenance, ready-for-adoption, pair of adult pigeons they had been expecting, they had opened their hearts and home to four frail, needy, high-risk youngsters. These birds required multiple trips to the vet, daily meds and weigh-ins, and lots and lots of follow up. Their foster family never complained. They rose to every challenge and did an amazing job- better than I could have hoped. And the babies loved their spacious aviary, their cozy heating pads, the sunshine and tender care. 

But tragically, heartbreakingly, despite all of our best efforts including avian vet hospitalization, Truffles and Speckles died. Their immune systems were too compromised and we could not save them. They had some really good days and they came so close to living happily ever after...

What we do matters. Many of us came together to give four weak, unwanted squab their best and only chance. For Fluffball and Donut, the future is promising. They are continuing to grow stronger, their foster family is ready to adopt them and, when the time is right, another pair as well. For Truffles and Speckles, their time in the sun was too short. But they will never be forgotten.

It is a constant challenge to sustain enough support to care for all the birds for whom we are already responsible, to respond to all the new requests for our help and to not over-stretch to the breakdown point, harming birds, volunteers or the organization along the way. It is your generous support- your time, talents and donations that enable us to do this life-saving, culture-changing work. Thank you.

P.S. Today, June 13th, is Pigeon Appreciation Day! Please know- the pigeons appreciate you everyday!

Speckles is lovingly welcomed into the family
Speckles is lovingly welcomed into the family
Happy birds!
Happy birds!
Jane
Jane's family built a beautiful pigeon aviary
Fluffball & family volunteering at Adoptathon
Fluffball & family volunteering at Adoptathon

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The fledglings, Daisy, Max & Sparrow recovering
The fledglings, Daisy, Max & Sparrow recovering

When the Good Samaritan arrived at my house on Friday night, he had two boxes taped shut with a total of ten pigeons inside. SFACC shelter staff had tried their best to persuade him to bring the birds to them the night before but nothing they said could convince him that they would help rather than kill the pigeons.

When we had spoken on the phone, I had offered to pick up the pigeons he was surrendering but he didn't trust me either and wanted to see where they were going. I appreciate that concern and wish that more had it. Too often people blithely hand over their birds with very little knowledge of where they are going. But I was not at all happy that ten pigeons, including three sick squeakers squeezed in with angry adults, were in the small, filthy boxes. 

And there were more. He had saved 20 King & Carneau pigeons from being killed as poultry and had set loose the other ten at a shopping center parking lot the night before. He had mistakenly assumed that because feral pigeons lived there, that these domestic pigeons would be alright. They weren't. He realized almost immediately that he had made a mistake when he saw the pigeons being nearly run over by cars.

I quickly settled the seven adult pigeons in one foster cage and the three sick babies in a crate and then we drove to the parking lot to see if we could save any of the birds he had left there the night before.

We found and caught two and a third, with a broken wing, was rescued by one of several volunteers who had also searched to try and rescue these birds but seven are still unaccounted for and have most likely been killed by hawks if not run over.

We were already full up with 100 birds in foster care but these birds needed our help- immeditately. This was 911. And so now we have 113 birds in our care. The new birds include three fledglings- Daisy, Max and Sparrow. A big, old picked-on and sick adult I've named George (though I think she's actually a hen), broke-wing, poor-appetite Hester (currently sitting in my lap after a hand-fed dinner), a pair of Carneaus I call RedMan & Lucy, and the others yet to be named. Each and every one of these birds clings to their aliveness as much as any other being. They are cheering up and getting better. We need foster homes and adopters for them and of course donations to sustain this work.

YOU saved these birds. MickaCoo is a manifestation of your support and involvement. 

Thank you. Thank you for saving these innocents.

The pigeons were contained in the boxes for 2 days
The pigeons were contained in the boxes for 2 days
Two "released" pigeons that we were able to save
Two "released" pigeons that we were able to save
The adults cheering up & feeling better already
The adults cheering up & feeling better already
Broke-wing Carneau pigeon Hester & Dr. Gillespie
Broke-wing Carneau pigeon Hester & Dr. Gillespie

Links:

Bathing beauty Leo is grateful to be alive
Bathing beauty Leo is grateful to be alive

Thank you for making what we do possible. Before MickaCoo, there was little hope for the hundreds of domestic pigeons and doves that were found and surrendered to Bay Area animal shelters every year. The shelters had no adoption programs for these birds and the vast majority were killed when their time was up. As the only Bay Area organization dedicated to rescuing unreleasable pigeons and doves, we are closing this fatal gap in the animal welfare network and we are saving lives- more than 600 so far.

And if you are reading this, you are helping to bring about this transformation. Together, with your generous support, we are doing something that none of us could do alone. Your donations power MickaCoo. We can't do this without you.

And with you, MickaCoo is able to save the lives of these innocents. Every pigeon and dove that we take in is given the chance to live a full and happy life. Pigeons and doves are gentle, loving birds that form powerful emotional bonds. They are common and often the birds people see the most. Pigeons and doves can be gateways to compassion and that compassion is life-changing, both for those who give and for those who get it.

Together, with each of us doing the part that we can, however big or small, we have formed a compassionate community dedicated to helping these overlooked and underserved birds. Our network of volunteers provides advice to people when they find stray or injured pigeons and doves all over the country; mobilizes to rescue birds timing out in shelters; and works tirelessly to advocate for the birds who previously had no champions.

Please continue to help MickaCoo. 

Thank you with all our heart. It is an incredible privilege to share our unique mission with you. Together we are helping birds that no one else is. Because of you and MickaCoo, unreleasable pigeons and doves now have the dignity of a rescue of their own.


Before & After: Your support rescued Angel
Before & After: Your support rescued Angel
MickaCoo is honored as a Top 7 SF Charity
MickaCoo is honored as a Top 7 SF Charity
MickaCoo volunteers help birds get homes
MickaCoo volunteers help birds get homes
To meet a pigeon is to love a pigeon
To meet a pigeon is to love a pigeon
Thank you with all our heart
Thank you with all our heart

Links:

Gemini arrived a little worse for wear
Gemini arrived a little worse for wear

Rescue work of any kind is overwhelming and daunting and exhausting. And never ending. There are so many critical priorities facing us, so many worthy causes needing support- one has to ask, does pigeon & dove rescue make a difference? 

After 6 years and more than 600 birds that we have saved by taking them into our care, my answer is yes

Each of the birds we help reflects a series of choices- Does a volunteer fight traffic, crazy gas prices and her already-too full schedule to pick up an injured or ill bird facing death in an animal shelter? MickaCoo answers yes to that question. But that's only the beginning. Each bird requires care- sometimes for many months or even a couple of years and, in some cases- very expensive care. Each bird puts our tender hearts at risk- MickaCoo prioritizes helping the worst off and most at-risk. Why choose to help these birds when the costs are so high? What difference do the lives of these birds make?

On the night of May 31st, someone found a young King pigeon huddling at the corner of 33rd & Rivera in the heart of San Francisco's Sunset District and got him to SF's open-door shelter- Animal Care & Control. I first met him the following day when a concerned volunteer asked me to come in from the outreach event we were attending outside and do a welfare check on him. He was battered and filthy, scared and shut down but he didn't show any treatable signs. One of the shelter volunteers named him Gemini. I reluctantly put him back into his cage.

The next day, I stopped back in at the shelter to check on him. We were too full to take him in but I was worried and wanted to see how he was doing. I was happy to see that he was feeling better and was relaxed at the front of his kennel- watching the world go by.

I next saw Gemini at our 6/8 This Flock Rocks! Fundraising and Adoption event. He arrived scared in a travel crate with an ACC staffer to join us for the day and represent for the shelter. Despite the party atmosphere that had to be overwhelming, he got happier when we took him out and so we put pants on him and tried him as a brand new pigeon ambassador. Gemini was amazing! He soaked up the attention, charmed everybody and transitioned from his past as factory farmed poultry to a future of show-stealing companion animal in an afternoon. 

Upon his return to the animal shelter, Gemini was promoted to living in the Lobby Cage where he sat in a place of honor presiding over the busy comings and goings of SFACC. Everybody loved him but nobody adopted him. 

Months went by. On August 24th, we were notified that Gemini had been moved into the shelter's sick room and, with that, we chose to squeeze him in to our already overfull caseload of foster birds. A volunteer picked him up that day. 

Happily, while Gemini did seem depressed and he was going through a pretty hard molt, he seems OK otherwise and is doing well now that he is in our foster care. For the first couple of days, he lived indoors where he could be given extra TLC and monitored while also getting increasingly longer visits to the aviary. Now he's living full time in a big, beautiful foster aviary. He is still getting extra attention from his foster mom and he clearly enjoys the snuggle time. We continue to monitor Gemini's health and of course, we need to find him a wonderful forever home. 

So what difference does pigeon & dove rescue make? For Gemini, it is making all the difference. And I believe I speak for all of the folks who have helped Gemini along the way when I say that we are glad that when we had the choice to help or not, we helped; when we had the choice to care or not, we chose to care. 

Thank you for choosing to care. Gemini owes his life to you. He asked me to tell you how grateful he is.

Craig and Gemini totally stole the show
Craig and Gemini totally stole the show
Gemini- molting but happy in his foster mom
Gemini- molting but happy in his foster mom's arms

Links:

Baby King Pigeon Rumi
Baby King Pigeon Rumi

When staff at SF Animal Care & Control shelter contacted us on 5/28 to help a "king pigeon, young, sick", the request did not go out to a network of rescues. It came only to MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue. If not for us, there would have been no resource in place to help baby Rumi. Your support, in all the ways you provide it, is why Rumi is receiving care. If not for you, Rumi would not have had a chance. She would have been shut out from the rescue community. 

Because of you, Rumi matters. She's got a loving foster home and the promise of a safe, happy forever home when she is ready for adoption. Her illnesses are being treated and her fears have been relieved. She is a very sick baby bird (as so many squab are), hospitalized now and fighting for her life. Rumi may not survive but she does matter and that is very important. You are giving Rumi the only chance she has.

There are so many things wrong in this world but here is something that we are making right. We are working together to repair a gap in the fabric of our humanity. And a more compassionate, less cruel world benefits not only Rumi but everyone. Together, we are doing culture-changing work. 

Please never underestimate the impact of your support. You are making a real difference. For Rumi, you are making all the difference.

Dr. Fitzgerald of Medical Center for Birds & Rumi
Dr. Fitzgerald of Medical Center for Birds & Rumi
Rumi thanks you for helping her
Rumi thanks you for helping her

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