By Bill Willis, Angelia Dickerson, and Molly Comins
August 14, 2018
Although pigeons are not very popular among many, they are a rather interesting bird. Being related to the now extinct dodo, pigeons may have been the first domesticated bird. They’ve been bred for centuries, both as a food source and for their navigation abilities. They even served in the military as messengers between forces. They are good mothers, with a strong instinct to care for and protect their offspring.
Occasionally a bird might get into a situation that requires help or intervention from humans. This is an account of just such an incident. It was reported to the Health and Safety Branch that a pigeon appeared stranded on a third-floor window ledge. The reason was unclear and there was concern that it had collided with the window. The Comparative Medicine Branch (CMB) became involved when it didn't respond to human presence. Opening the window seemed to be the only way to reach the bird safely. Gently, the bird was lifted off the ledge and examined by members of the Veterinary Medical Section. A preliminary evaluation by the Veterinary staff didn’t reveal any physical injury, although it did appear dehydrated and lethargic. As a precaution, the Squab was monitored overnight and was provided with fluids and food.
The next morning the bird was resting quietly but alert in the cage. The veterinarian’s final evaluation was positive and the bird seemed fine. The conclusion was that this was a juvenile that was not prepared for flight. Another bird with similar markings was observed outside of Module A that might be a parent. The bird was taken to the Module A loading dock so that the two could be reunited.
As seen in the accompanying photographs, mother and youngster found each other and began normal interactions like feeding and cooing. The juvenile pigeon was also observed flying a short distance between two lower levels by the end of the day.
A thanks to all employees that took the time to get involved to help wildlife that might be in distress. The outcome ended happily with the reunion of mother and squab and the eventual fly away.
Nice work, NIEHS!!