Skylar & Pancho: A Love Story
Skylar, a baby king pigeon barely 4 weeks old at the time, was released with a bunch of others on 9/11 at Crissy Field in SF. It's not likely that the person who set these white birds free meant to murder them but that is what the result was for most. On 9/12, Stacy, a Good Samaritan and MickaCoo supporter who works in the area, found baby Skylar pacing frantically in the road next to the squashed body of another baby king pigeon that had been run over. Stacy rescued baby Skylar and sadly noted several piles of white feathers in the park, the evidence of hawks eating the helpless king pigeons.
And the city animal shelter, SFACC, had five baby kings that others had rescued. Four of them were housed in two cages as pairs but this baby whom I named Pancho, was the youngest, the most beat up and all alone.
MickaCoo was full with no room for all these rescued king pigeons but I was on my way to meet Stacy and check over Skylar and decided to bring Pancho with me. I couldn't bear to leave him there alone and, if Stacy couldn't care for him, I planned to bring him home to my already over-full foster case load.
But Stacy said yes and Pancho & Skylar instantly hit it off (as baby pigeons almost always do). They were both thrilled to have a friend and Skylar reassured and welcomed Pancho who was frantic at the sight of a friendly face.
Stacy fostered Skylar and Pancho until they were grown up enough and strong enough to join the grown up birds in an outside aviary. The two were childhood sweethearts and very bonded.
I was surprised when, after only a couple of days in the aviary, Skylar was seduced away from her BFF Pancho by grown-man pigeon Peppermint. (He had recently become single because his mate Sparkle has reproductive health issues and needed to be moved to a lady-pigeons only aviary.)
Pancho, just a boy compared to Peppermint, couldn't compete but I was still surprised that Skylar left him. I can't fault her though. She certainly welcomed and nurtured him and loved him when he needed it most. And Pancho's doing fine. He's a young bachelor and is holding his head up high. He let Skylar go with grace.
We're all rooting for Pancho and looking forward to the day he meets his mate.
SPECIAL GUEST POST FROM STACY:
When I found Skylar -
I work in one of the old army barrack buildings on Old Mason/Marina Blvd in Crissy Field. We have an incredible view of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge from across the street. And, lots of green grass and trees. Over the past few months, there had been an increase in white king pigeon sightings in the park area across from my office. One of my coworkers, an avid birder, told me that the birds were spotted often after one of the ceremonial releases at the Palace of Fine Arts. Weddings, graduation ceremonies and such - where a flock of white "doves" would be released, however - many of the "doves" were actually baby king pigeons, who could barely fly and did not get the homing thing with the other birds. When these white, barely flying birds would end up in Crissy Field, they looked like marshmallows in the grass - super easy to spot, and relatively easy to catch. The hawks and other local predators would have a field day, and I would find patches of feathers where the kill had taken place. I rescued one sickly pigeon, named her Puff - and unfortunately, she only lived for about a week before succumbing to a respiratory disease. But, I got great help from Elizabeth Young, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know better when by serendipity she gave a talk at my office (the Exploratorium) on pigeon fostering and pigeon intelligence.
So it was about two or three months after Puff had died that I found Skylar. I was leaving work, when a co-worker on her bike called me over to witness a very sad scene. On the sidewalk, across from our office, a white pigeon was pacing back and forth. In the street near her, was the just smash flat body of another white pigeon. She was trying to figure out why her sibling/pal was not getting up. I knew that this bird was not going to make it on her own in Crissy Field too. I ran inside and grabbed a filing box with a lid, then went across the street to pursue this bird. It only took about 10 minutes before I was able to grab her and put her in the box. She rode home with me on MUNI and when I got home, I gave Elizabeth a call. Elizabeth arrived, with medicine and food - and another cardboard pet carrier. "I have a way to guarantee the health of this bird, but I need for you to trust me on this," and she opened the box. Inside it was the saddest looking, beat up white baby king pigeon I had ever seen. Not only was he missing feathers, but he had black grease all over, and caked blood under his wings. His legs were bruised, like he had been carried by his feet in a really rough manner. "This guy is called Pancho, we think he escaped a butcher and then ended up getting banged around on the streets before someone rescued him." Elizabeth and I cleaned his wounds and gave him medicine. She gave the bird I found meds too, and asked me what I would call the bird I found. Well, I heard the name "Skylar" in my head when I was riding on MUNI, and it fit. Elizabeth but Pancho into the pet carrier I had with Skylar in it. Immediately, he went to her and started begging like a baby, he was hungry. She gently lead him over to the bird seed and water bowls, and kept trying to get him to put his head into the seed bowl. Wow, I said to Elizabeth "what a trip! She is actually trying to teach him out to eat on his own!" It worked, and he scarfed down seeds like crazy, and drank like a guy who had just crawled out of the desert.
So, for the next few weeks, we got into the routine of me cleaning out their carrier twice a day, fresh water/fresh food/fresh bedding - and in the evenings, both pigeons had time outside the cage, in the bathroom. I put an old roasting pan with warm water in it, and they would climb in and splash around. On the weekends, the carrier was outside in the backyard, where they got sunlight and could see and hear all the birds in my neighborhood. Pancho's feathers started to grow back, and Skylar was getting better and better at flying. The two were very affectionate with each other, lots of kissing and cooing and snuggling together when they slept. However, Pancho's right wing started to droop, and he could not stretch it out. Plus, his poop was watery and white. It was clear that something was wrong, so Elizabeth started a round of anti-viral meds. We did not know if he had parasites or something else going on. Eventually, it became obvious that Pancho's wing was not getting better. He also was pretty cranky, pecking hard at my hands when I would clean the carrier and feed them. It could have been his getting macho around Skylar, to show what a man he was (!) but I could not help but think it was also because his wing hurt. And, his initial experience with people was fairly negative, I had not proven to him yet that I was a huge improvement over what kind of humans he had dealt with earlier. One other thing had also begun - both birds had started to loose their baby voices, they did not make that light, peeping sound anymore, but instead made deeper cooing and laughing sounds.
Elizabeth decided that Pancho needed closer attention, so the birds were packed up, and moved to Chez Young - Elizabeth's home. It was sad to see them go, but I could not give them more room or attention then what I already had.
We learned that Skylar was considered the new babe in the coop, and it was sad that she no longer needed her first, teenage love anymore. Poor Pancho could not keep up with the grown male pigeons, and recently widowed Peppermint eventually won Skylar's heart. Pancho was given ramps to walk on, making it easier for him to get up higher and eat with the other birds. I do hope he continues to get stronger, and finds his own mate. Mostly, I hope neither bird ever experiences human cruelty again. I am very grateful for the work that Elizabeth and Micka-coo provides. I have a huge appreciation for feral and tame pigeons now.
San Francisco, CA
Pancho wooed the king pigeon hen named Elizabeth (and who I call Betty) and was with her for a couple of weeks before he fell ill. He's lost weight, has no appetite and has polyuria. He's been brought inside for supportive care but Betty was very restless indoors and has since been returned to the aviary. Pancho is responding to sub q fluids and hand feeding and has an appointment at the vet 2/23.