Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

August 27, 2014

Ode to Red

I am not sure if I ever gave much mention to Red the Pigeon in my blogs as Pierre is who gets all the attention. But Red was a special bird and has a story of his own.

Red was a stand out bird amongst the flock and with this, I know he was around for over 3 years. I remember him from the days before Pierre who just celebrated his second anniversary with us in July. Even in the Sibley's bird guide, it shows under these common Pigeons (Rock Doves) that Red's coloring is considered scarce. So when Red flew in, he was easily spotted amidst the birds.

And back in the day, even though that was only a couple years ago, it certainly is "back in the day" for a wild bird whose life expectancy is approx 5 years... I didn't like Red a whole lot. Pigeons weren't high on my list of birds as Pierre hadn't shown me how interesting and personable they can be. Heck, even after Pierre flew in and warmed my heart, I still didn't like Red as he was a dominant bird, a real bully to my Pierre and I often referred to him as "The Ginger Pigeon". It was taken from a South Park episode on ginger kids (red haired children).

Red was not coming to my hand in those days, he was a just strutting cock around the yard, and occasionally showing his dominance over my younger Pierre. I get it, that's what animals do, and even some humans too. But I didn't like any bird biting and wing smacking my buddy. I found myself on occasion intervening with this all, stomping my foot and giving Red a scare, having him back off and giving Pierre some space.

I never hated Red, or any of them, but I sure had a disliking to his behaviour some days.

This went on for well over the first year with Pierre.

And then late in the summer of 2013, I started to see Red coming in closer to me with my now two hand feeders being Pierre and little Jesse. He observed from a few feet away for many weeks. Pierre and Jesse got the good stuff (sunflower chips, shelled peanuts), while the ground feeders were left with cracked corn, millet and occasional peanut bit. My buds also got my protection, feeding mostly in peace, rarely having to fight for food.

So, finally, one Autumn morning Red came to my hand. I don't quite remember if Pierre was there at the moment or not. I do know that over the time spent with him visiting, there were mornings I did some great stretches out there on the deck with Pierre and Red, keeping the distance between them as far as possible to eliminate the squabbling. Sometimes all it took was having them not in view of each other and not having to stretch out like I did. See, even I learned something with these birds. I only wish I had photos of these moments as I'm sure we all looked pretty comical, or at least I did. LoL!

Red quickly became one of the special birds from the flock as he bonded with me, and even Angie over time. I spend more time with the birds because of the hours I work. All through the winter, as Angie gets home, these birds have gone off back to their roosts.

And through the brutal winter we experienced in 2013/14, I was happy to see my pals coming in for a feed, no matter how cold it was, and whatever snow/ice and rain fell on us. I gladly put my coat on and joined them every morning.

Red figured out the spot to wait every morning, right outside the back door. I can't say Pierre liked this a whole lot.

And as winter was coming to an end, we took notice to Red having a companion. It was cool to see the birds pair up and look after each other like couples should do. My arm was a wonderful morning perch on those cold sunny mornings. A handful of grub and a safe spot to sit and soak in the rays for a while, as long as I had the time and my arm could stand being extended out for them.

Red became more tolerant of the other birds, not being the dominant force he once was in his youth. It's a zen moment hand feeding my buds and they aren't fighting.

And here's a rare moment with Red and Pierre getting along, hanging out with me while I watched the birds one afternoon. I love this shot because it's the only one I have of my two favorite birds together (wish I was in it) but the moment is in my memory.

Red and I back in May when I was on vacation, sporting the vacation beard.

I remember back in early May, when I was certain we were done with winter and snow, that I finally went and got the snow tires taken off the truck. The garage I use is less than 2 kms away. As I'm waiting, who do I see outside in the Husky service station lot next door, but Red. One can't miss him with his plumage and another physical trait I will make mention of very soon. He was strutting his stuff with some others, and they would fly back and forth from the gas station to the Walmart right across St. Clair Avenue. I thought it was pretty cool to see one of my buds, recognizing them like this, away from the house. Can you spot Red in this mobile photo?

Red had a foot condition which we thought was bumble foot. It looked like a clubbed foot. I never gave much attention to it as it seemed like it was there for almost as long as I'd been feeding him. But he got around with whatever was going on and I chalked it up to life in the city for a Pigeon. It wasn't until one day when I shared a photo of him on a Pigeon Facebook group that someone pointed out it may not be bumble foot but something wrapped around his foot. It was thin black string or rope of some kind. Maybe Pigeon netting people use on balconies to keep the birds away? From further inspections, I could see he had lost a couple toes. The left foot was pretty bad with the material and he did have a little bit on his right. If only he could talk and tell the tale of what happened.

It was discussed on perhaps trying to help him and the argument continued on for days by myself, back and forth in my head. His condition is older, he's getting around with it, and he's not a young bird. I knew he was around for at least 3 years already and who knows how old he really is? What I'm saying is, I always have the fear of catching wildlife and turning them in, as my record with rescues isn't great... 5 of 6 never came out from their rescue. Its nice to know the creatures aren't suffering anymore, but it's never the best feeling to learn the outcome was "humanely put down". Really, from what I could see, Red wasn't suffering. He got around like the others, he ate, he bathed, flew like a champ and in my eyes was a survivor; especially making it through the hellish winter we just had. He evaded all the Coopers and Red-tailed Hawk attacks for another season. So, to me, I thought it was best to just leave him be and let him continue on with his life journey. Of course if I thought he was suffering, showed obvious signs of not being able to care for himself anymore, I would take action. There was a moment through this where I thought I would try and catch him, but the feeble attempt went unsuccessfully and I made the decision then to not do anything like that again unless I had to.

Angie and I just enjoyed our time with Red and kept an eye on him.

It was early June that we last saw him. I see in my photos, this is the last shot I have of him, and this was taken the morning of June 3rd.

Through the month of June I get pretty busy with Peregrine Falcon fledge watches, first at Islington and Bloor, then I help out at William Osler in Rexdale. The watches did go right up into July once again. I was giving my Pigeon buddies as much attention as I could in between work and the Falcon watches. Pierre often showed signs of his disliking to my absence with loud vocals at first sight of me in a week. If I knew Pigeon talk, I am sure his words were "Where the hell have you been? But I am really happy to see you!"

After the watches, it's nice to spend the rest of the summer at home, enjoying our birds. Unfortunately, so far, Red has not been a part of this. One week from now it will be 3 months since we last mingled.

Who knows what's happened? And with these wild birds, I probably will never know. The day will come when Pierre won't be outside our backdoor, and I'm hoping that's not for a long time yet.

It was nice to get to know Red in those last 8 or 9 months. He was a high light to many of my mornings before work. I do hope he's well and just off elsewhere. A friend of mine who keeps homing Pigeons gave me this bit of hope as one of his birds left him for over 6 months before coming back. But if not, he will be remembered as one of the stand out creatures to visit our backyard. Thanks for the memories buddy...

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