Wednesday, June 16th, 2004

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PAWS Mailing Address:
PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

PAWS Physical Address:
15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98037

Kevin Mack
Fly Like A...
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

On June 2nd, I was sitting in the back yard of a piece of private property in Lynnwood staring at a cardboard pet carrier. I had tilted the carrier onto its side to make it easier for the animal contained within to exit. About 60 seconds had passed since I had tilted the carrier, but there were still no signs of life from the box. After another minute had passed, the box began to move slightly and I heard soft scratches on the cardboard as something made its way towards the opening. The head of a medium-sized dark gray bird appeared, and the animal froze at the sight of me. He had a striking yellow bill with a black tip, and his dark brown eye fixed on me with visible concern. He was a Band-tailed Pigeon, and as such he was much less comfortable in close proximity to humans than his city relative, the Rock Pigeon.

Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon 04-0755 freezes at the sight of a nearby naturalist.

After receiving five weeks of care that he couldn't understand from humans, this particular Band-tailed Pigeon had an extremely valid reason to be nervous in my presence. He needn't have worried. He was finally dealing with a human on his own terms again, and if he wished to rid himself of my presence he only needed to spread his wings.

Band-tailed Pigeon 04-0755 arrived at the PAWS Wildlife Center on April 23rd, 2004. He had been discovered in a Lynnwood driveway, and the homeowner that found him had immediately recognized that the bird needed help. Simply put, he was a mess. When 04-0755 was admitted, he was suffering from multiple puncture wounds and abrasions. His left shoulder was swollen, he had serious bruising near his left elbow, and blood was visible in his nares (the "nostril" slits on a bird's beak). The bird was in a state of shock due to his injuries, and fluid therapy and supportive medications were required to help stabilize him. He looked as though he had been attacked by a predator, hit by a car, or possibly both. The pigeon had clearly been having a bad day, but his fortunes changed when he passed through the doors of the PAWS Wildlife Center.

The day after he arrived, Band-tailed Pigeon 04-0755 was stable enough to undergo further treatment. His wounds were cleaned, sutured, and bandaged by PAWS Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Darlene Deghetto, and he was placed on antibiotics to ensure that he did not develop any infections. Over the next several weeks, he proved to be a difficult patient, refusing to eat for a time and reopening a wound, which required a new set of sutures to repair. In the end, he came around. He began to eat on his own, and his wounds completely healed. After four weeks of treatment he was placed in an outdoor flight pen, and after a week of exercise he was ready for release.

Pigeon

Clearly exhibiting where his species got its name, Band-tailed Pigeon 04-0755 flies towards a nearby tree.

Band-tailed Pigeons are not uncommon, but they are much less commonly seen than Rock Pigeons due to their very different habits. They are native woodland birds, typically feeding and nesting in mixed, coniferous, or oak forests with dense understory. Their diet consists of a variety of plant matter including berries, seeds, buds, flowers, chokecherries, acorns, and the occasional insect. They often feed up in the branches of trees, and are quite adept at scrambling on limbs to access any food that can be found. They will even sometimes hang upside down to access cherries or other dangling morsels. Pigeon 04-0755 was likely anxious to return to his arboreal ways, but as he stood on the edge of the open transport carrier, he was too preoccupied with keeping an eye on me to notice the forest laid out before him. Realizing this, I decided to take myself out of the equation.

I moved around behind the carrier, and stood in silence out of pigeon 04-0755's line of sight. A few seconds later, the pigeon's wings broke the silence as he burst into flight. Gaining altitude, he quickly closed the distance between himself and a nearby tree, and he landed on a branch about 20 feet off the ground. I repositioned myself to get a better look, but the Band-tailed Pigeon formerly known as 04-0755 was tired of being looked at by humans. He quickly walked up the branch, made a quick hop to another branch, and disappeared behind the trunk of the tree. Honoring the bird's unspoken request for privacy, I collected the empty carrier and left him to assess his surroundings in peace.

Wildlife Release tally: May 26th to June 8th, 2004

1 European Starling
10 American Robins
17 Virginia Opossums
2 Eastern Cottontails
3 Band-tailed Pigeons
1 Black-capped Chickadee
5 Rock Pigeons
39 Virginia Opossums
2 Bewick's Wrens
1 Swainson's Thrush
1 Douglas Squirrel
1 House Sparrow
6 American Crows
1 Green Heron


Wildlife Release tally: 2004
248 animals

All rights reserved. 2004 Progressive Animal Welfare Society