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Barmy Blue's Bland Blog

The Cautionary Tale of Little Nik

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the Pigeon

Part 1

Ah. It's been a week now. Seems so long.
Our tale begins late one night. Monday night to be exact. It's 11 something pm and a lazy woman takes her aged husky for a walk so that it doesn't leak urine in the house. Regular walks/a quick out and back in help reduce this issue.
She picks the snails from her crops (the tale of the endless snail war is for another time) and sets out with her companion. The dog pees. And they continue on their way. The woman notices a pigeon feather on the floor. She thinks she would pick it up if the tip weren't missing. She comes to a house where she frequently meets a well dressed admirer (he is a tuxedo cat. He loves catnip, feathers and being made a fuss of). Tonight he is not there. Oh well.
The dog stops. The dog sniffs. Huh. Can she smell a cat or something? The dog is quite interested, well as interested as the aloof old creature can be. The woman looks down. There's a thing there. Oh it's a wing.
****ing hell it's a dead bird. She pulls the dog away and now she can see clearly. It IS a bird. It IS a pigeon. But it is NOT dead. If it were it would not be standing. It is a live pigeon perched on the step by the gate of this house. On the FLOOR. This is not good. This is VERY not good.
This is not the first time this woman has seen a pigeon alone like this. This time of year and this time of night. Last time was a few years ago and it was perched on a fence. She took it a dish of food in case but it preferred to sleep. Hopefully it would fly if it sensed a cat coming. She left that bird alone.
THIS bird is in a similar situation but VERY different. This bird is on the floor where a cat does not live but frequents very often. It is a key part of his territory AND to make matters worse will usually come from that area to greet the woman of our story. He could come by any second in fact because this house is at the end of the street and backs onto another garden where the cat can come from the shadows, strut along the wall and survey the street.

The woman is not always smart but neither is she completely stupid. This bird is a fledgling. You should NOT pick up a fledgling unless you know for CERTAIN that the parents are dead/have DEFINATELY abandoned it or it is dying or in IMINENT danger. I really cannot stress how much you do NOT pick up a fledgling.
Spoiler. The woman did pick up the bird. She did not do this right away. She pondered the situation and even asked her mother for her opinion (though her opinion was possibly a little flawed as the woman had to wake her up from her armchair slumber to discuss the pigeon and by that point she'd mostly already decided and was mainly looking for confirmation of her decision)
Why did the woman decide to pick up the bird even though she knew she shouldn't?
-It was clearly a fledgling so too young to fully understand the situation. An experienced bird would never roost on the ground unless it wanted to die
-It was not at all sheltered and although not out openly in the middle of the street it might as well have been
-Not only are there many cats in the area but she KNEW a specific cat that lives in that area and is always out at night. She has played with this cat with feather toys because he likes them and has seen him stare down animals he sees such as other cats, foxes and her dog which must be five times bigger than him. At some point he WILL find that bird. We just don't know exactly what he'd do with it
-It's not just cats in the area. There are also young foxes
(the last two concerns were actually pretty justified as she went back out with her dog afterwards and the cat in question DID appear and after that she saw a young fox heading in that direction too)
but the thing that decided it was the bird's reaction to the dog sniffing it. The dog, although not energetic in it's actions, was not shy about sniffing the bird. It even touched it's nose to the bird. And in all this the bird barely stirred.
We know why. If you don't move then maybe the thing pestering you won't eat you but the downside is that if you're not ready then you can be got before you can react.
One reason for the bird's lack of urgency, the woman noticed, was that one eye was permanently shut. If the bird is blind or just partially sighted then it can't see danger.

This decided it. Taking the dog back inside and bringing out a nice sized box, with her mother trailing behind, the woman went to catch the pigeon.
Some back story.
This is not the first time the woman has caught a pigeon. She has caught two.
The first I can't recall so well but was probably a fledgling. They took it in for the night and she let it go in the morning. Well it was a test to see if it could fly but the bird wedged itself in a tricky area and refused to come out. At the time our idiot pigeon catcher couldn't hang around. She had to go to either school or university. can't exactly remember. As the bird was now sheltered from cats with the added protection of overgrown thorns she felt more confident leaving it. This was before they had the dog.

The second pigeon was found by her mother (well more specifically the dog) during walkies. It had a limp wing and had hidden itself very well in a tight little hole in a wall. In fact, had the dog not sniffed it out, gone in and come out with a mouth full of feathers, no one would have known it was there. She hurried home to her daughter (our idiot pigeon catcher) and told her the tale of the bird. She pulled the pigeon out, stuffed it into a box before it could escape and took it home. It stayed over night in an old cat carrier with food and water (just as the first one had) and her mother, having to go the the vet the next day anyway inquired about the bird. The vet said to bring it in later and so she did. They were lead to believe the pigeon did well.
Both of these pigeons had one trait in common. They could be considered feisty and seemed able to eat solid food (though looking back we may be mistaken about the first, but the second MUST have been able to feed itself)

When catching the first two birds out idiot pigeon catcher had used an old tea towel to catch the birds.

THIS time she couldn't really be bothered to dig out an old on that was clean enough (some work done several months ago left the kitchen, and by extension the house, EXTREMELY dusty. The common areas were dealt with but areas such as "here's an old tea towel we don't use for dishes" were left for later and never dealt with), and the bird seemed VERY subdued so she decided to go barehanded to grab the bird. It was not at all difficult. They put it in the box, folded over the lid flaps and hurried inside. The cat box was dug up and quickly cleaned (it too had been neglected not just since the "dust cloud" but quite some time before, since the last pigeon in fact) The bird was lively enough in the box and transferring it to the cat box gave the chance to confirm that one eye would not open and that the other did not look beady enough for a pigeon. It may have been unwell of maybe too young to have the full pigeon face. It had all it's splendid feathers but a somehow immature beak. if that makes any sense to you.

The plan was simple. Keep it overnight with food and water and release it in the morning back to it's parents or to take it's chances in daylight.
The woman looked it up. Pigeons are exclusively a day bird so the youngster should not be missed until morning. Any and ALL research says to leave it to it's parents because they are best suited to care for it. (oh how right they are. Sigh)

Although hoping to get the bird out as daylight broke the woman overslept a little and did not wake until her mother left for work. Why is this a problem? The RSPB tells us NEVER to pick up a fledgling. But if you do PUT IT BACK within two hours. Two hours seems to be important. If you are unsure leave it and watch from a distance for two hours for the parents to come to it. If they don't ONLY THEN can you think of taking the bird. If it has been more than two hours since you took it then get help/look after it (depending on how well suited you are for the job)
It's 9am ish. Hopefully this will still work. What time do pigeons get up anyway?
So she prepares to release the bird. It's quite lively in the box. Let's check those eyes first.

Oh no! BOTH eyes are crusted shut. What to do? Research tells that a one eyes pigeon can do well enough but a BLIND pigeon no way.
She CANNOT release it.
Well at least feed it. She has bird seed and dried meal worms but might need to imitate a mother bird. She arms herself with tweezers.
To cut a long story short, trying to feed the bird does not work out.
She sets about looking up what to feed it. It's varied.
Isn't "pigeon milk" a thing? (basically pigeon vomit)
Do NOT feed them bread (wasn't going to anyway), seeds actually make up a minority of their diet (who knew?) insects (of course) fruit and vegetables (interesting).

"Pigeon milk" is only for the first few days (it's not JUST vomit) after that it's still "pigeon milk" but it's mostly vomit (I say vomit. That's what it would be for a human)
You can try crushing chick pellets (if you have such a thing) with water or this or that. Like I said. It's varied. We have swan/duck food "better than bread". I can wet that she thinks.
Ha. Ha. Ha. No. Numerous attempts fail. The bird will not open it's mouth to eat but it does do an adorable thing of sort of nuzzling (well the beaked equivalent of nuzzling) between her fingers and opening it's mouth a little as if nibbling. She considered that her hands might attempt to imitate a mother's beak so smears the food between her fingers. Still no luck.
She has wondered that to name this little pigeon. She remembers Nikola Tesla had a thing for pigeons. Nikola sounds too much like Nicola (a girl's name to my people). She'd prefer genderless. Nik. Nik the pigeon. That's nice. Simple. Pretty genderless. Yes. Nik the pigeon. Little Nik.
She finds that the bird, when left on the floor, might put it's head down as if searching for something. Maybe put food on the floor. No. She holds the bird, it's wings pinned and points it forward at the water bowl. It puts it's head down and drinks. Yes. At least it drinks. Well done little one.
She puts Nik back in the cat box for safety each time she leaves it, by the way.
More research where she finds out about vegetables because she realized how stupid she'd been. Pigeon milk is a thing. Maybe it needs to be liquid. In looking all this up she finds out about the vegetables and remembers a story book she once read about a girl caring for her father's beloved racing pigeons during lean times (a one point her mother killed and cooked two it was heart breaking). She took some pigeons out to train and they went for a farmer's field. He shot them. It was peas. Apparently pigeons love peas. I have remembered this. We have pea baby food (from when the dog had not pooed for several days. Simple food. What could be more simple and nutritious than baby food?)
Maybe Nik will eat that.
It did not go well. To open a pigeon's mouth you squeeze both sides of the beak. Either I'm doing it wrong or it really doesn't want to open that beak. It would drink but not eat. It might have possibly nibbled a morsel or two but not that I could tell.
Now I notice that it makes a noise. Is it squeaking or just breathing? A close look. One nostril is blocked. I'm able to pick it out but i don't know if it was always like that or if it's recent. Research says that if it won't eat to syringe feed it. I don't have a syringe and even if I did I'm suddenly worried that my trying to feed it might have made it sick. What if I got it wrong and shoved it into Nik's lungs? (I don't think they have lungs as we know them. Breathing bits).
Research also tells me that you shouldn't feed a fledgling in case it's sick. Sigh. What to do? (the answer is look for a vet. Took me a shamefully long time to think of that).
One good thing came out of trying and failing to feed it. Trying to squeeze the beak open at the sides meant I kept accidentally rubbing the eyes and the crustiness started to come off so I switched to eye cleaning. I worried I was hurting Nik's delicate little eyelids. But I got the eyes open. It was livelier and more cautious with it's eyes open. I'd found it very easy to handle while blind and it would perch willingly. I'd put it in the cardboard box for feeding so it wouldn't escape but when I found it incredibly docile I'd perch it on the edge of the box to try and feed it and even my hand. It was blind during this time. Once it could see again it was not so willing to perch but at least it could see the water now so didn't need direction to drink.
Now unblinded I wondered about releasing it. Maybe I could. I'd been in contact with my mum all day about it and had wondered about rescues. It was 5-6pm by this point and it'd decided that this was too much responsibility and to release it and let nature take it's course. But I took the time to flight test the bird and try to feed it again now that it could see. During this time the phone would not stop ringing. But I couldn't answer because every time I handled the bird I would wash and sanitize my hands. EVERY time. Eventually I answered. Mum's been looking up rescues and she's found one. Call them. It's just a mobile number. I don't trust just a mobile number but I'll so it for little Nik.
Flight testing (in the kitchen, it was all in the kitchen. Tiled floor. Very useful) had shaken my resolve. It won't fly. It flaps. It can flutter down. But it CANNOT go up. With questionable eyes, questionable lungs AND it can't fly and it's been a day since it's parents could feed it. There's no way I can let Nik go. It WILL be killed.
I call the number. I think I annoyed the guy debating the RSPCA.
First he tells me to send a picture of the bird on WhatsApp. Don't have it. Just text a picture then (I tried later but my phone is over ten years old. It COULD do pictures but not now) He said to NOT call the RSPCA because they kill pigeons and I (and I have no idea why I decided to do this except that I'd just come to the end of "female time") decided to point out that there's no point telling people that right now because the RSPCA are only responding to emergencies because of the pandemic. (I'd already checked online but tried calling earlier anyway and got an automated response telling me the same thing). He got quiet. I don't know if he was mad at me or just occupied with something else and I just hadn't heard him during my debate so said thanks and hung up and tried to text our information and the picture. I CANNOT text a picture. I tried over an hour or so. In the end I could only do a regular text. I got no response. This is why I don't trust places with just a mobile number for contact.
I'd also called our vet earlier but she said she couldn't take wildlife. I thought that was because of the pandemic but it turns out she can't take wildlife anyway because she doesn't have the space to separate them form regular patients. Our old vet could do it because he did have a space for the pigeon. Sigh. We were truly blessed to have him as our vet for so long. Along with accepting a pigeon he was also just a short walk from our house so no fuss driving.

I made Nik a little perch, because the floor was damp with spilled water and pigeon poo and I worried about it's feet, from some branches I'd cut a few days before and it seemed comfortable with it. It made it easier to move the bird to change the paper in the cat box too.

The bird had become less lively over the day. In the morning it was flapping in the box and hitting it's head on the roof.

It settled down to sleep in the evening.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday was more productive.

In the early hours of the morning I changed the floor of the box (it had paper the first time but we used it all. then it was puppy pads and kitchen roll then we found my old newspapers that mum's been sneakily getting rid of. THIS is exactly why I've been keeping them around for a few years. For emergencies. And crafts). While sleeping for the night Nik's eyes had crusted shut again but now I knew it was removable I had mum help me. She needed to go to bed for a few hours before work. It was truly amazing to hold a bird perched on my hand during the day and, as it was blind again, I handed it to mum to experience too. I do hope Nik just thought of us as strange soft trees though and not that humans are a good thing. I became terrified that I'd make it tame and un-releasable if I handled it too much. Cleaning Nik's eyes proved an ordeal. Last time the crust came off and the rest was goopy. This time the crust peeled off but left a solid white behind like a contact lens. Knowing it was removable I maybe poked and prodded too much with the damp cotton bud because Nik's little eye lids were so small and delicate but I managed to tease the goop out. Ever had a spot on your face? If you squeeze it when it's big and fresh and angry it might be liquid and spurt onto the mirror. If you leave it a bit it's a little more solid and you can squeeze it out in a clump and if you just leave it alone then it dries up and you can pick it off/out. That's kind of like the goop in Nik's eyes. Hard and crusty or wet and what I teased out then was something in-between. It really did look like a disgusting contact lens and the inside was even rounded to fit Nik's eye. The other eye had a similar spot but it didn't cover the whole eye so I didn't want to risk poking at Nik's actual eye and possibly damaging it. I tried offering food again with no luck.
I did not go to bed. I stayed up doing research. I might have given Nik a breathing problem. The cat box was only surface clean on the inside and it was not very spacious. As daylight came I put the cat box in the garden for fresh air. Nik seemed a little livelier but then so would you if you could see again.
I also leaned that it might have been too cold. It was quite hot the nigh we found it and we worried it would overheat so left the box on the cold floor. Apparently you shouldn't do that. I raised it off the floor when I read about that.
I stayed up a while looking for wildlife vets and found a rescue nearby. They had an emergency number but I wasn't sure if this counted an an emergency. Nik was not obviously injured/dying (though starving to death would kill it eventually. I had been wondering if I should just spare myself and Nik the misery and just snap it's neck already. It should be simple enough. Just pull and twist. Hard. I think. Surely twist alone would be enough but pull for extra measure. I'm glad I didn't have to do that). So I emailed them to ask if they would take a pigeon. I also called a vet (no they would not take a pigeon) and emailed another. Then I brought Nik inside and went to bed. As I was tired and there was no point waiting up to see if I'd get any emails back. I could look into other places when I got up.
While in bed I had an idea to make a better pigeon box.

In annoying announcer voice
And if you want to know how super amazing it is and what happens to our hero Little Nik you'll have to tune in for part 2 of this exciting adventure. Will Little Nik be rescued? Will the idiot pigeon catcher learn her lesson and not be a pigeon catching idiot. All that and more when our exciting tale concludes

Updated 07-31-2021 at 12:53 AM by Bluebiird