In a former life, I raised pigeons.
My early teenage years were spent breeding pigeons to fly in racing competitions. Their unique ability to find their way home from long distances amazed me.
Fast-forward to March 2008: Mark and I were sailing a short trip from Woody Point to Sandgate in his unusual-looking trailer-sailer for a meat pie at Doug’s Cafe. On the way over I noticed something floating in the water ahead. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I asked Mark to navigate towards it anyway. It was a baby pigeon!
Only a beak and a bit of a tail was left above the surface. The chick was in distress and completely exhausted. My best guess was that it fell from the nearby Hornibrook Highway (They nest between the structures underneath that support the road above) and fell while trying out it’s new wings.
Yes, it was no longer a chick but a toddler learning to walk.
Baby pigeons aren’t perfect on their first flight. They mess about in the air, staggering about just like a toddler swaying on their feet. Land-based pigeons have the choice the crash on the ground when they get it wrong. Pigeons hatched above the water haven’t that luxury.
She still had all the yellow down feathers attached to her new adult flights. She still squeaked. Her eyes hadn’t changed from baby-pigeon-grey.
Like I said, she was exhausted and did not have the energy to stand. Droopy wings and a floppy neck told me that she wasn’t in good shape. I expected her to die within minutes… but she hung on.
We got to our destination and I filled her crop with fresh water. We ate fast and sailed back so I could take straight her home. By 7pm she could hold her head up again but I still expected to wake in the morning to a dead bird.
A little weet-bix mixed with water and a tiny bit of glucose was pushed down her throat and she took it. A day later, she was standing again. I was very surprised!
Older babies eat what their parent feed them (regurgitated seed and water) so two days later I took a chance and switched to seed by filling a drinking straw with it and inserting it right past her throat, directly into her crop. Margo was watching and freaked out about how much straw disappeared into her birdie body!
As I said, I’d once raised these guys and was confident that we were heading in the right direction.
The pics below were taken six months later. At this point we would put her away at night and let her roam during the day. She became a good friend and looked out for me all the time. Margo would feed her but when she saw me she’d come across to say hello. You can see in the sequence that she left her and landed on my head to eventually take food from my hand.
A few months later, we stopped putting her away and let have a life of her own.
She is still out there in Dayboro (near the Uni Vets and the Scout Hall) mixing it up with the local doves. Perhaps she found a mate at the local school.