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
Jane's family built a beautiful pigeon aviary
Fluffball & family volunteering at Adoptathon