I was at the library the other day with my boys (at 2 and 4, they’re now into books on bugs, dinosaurs, and, yes, birds!). They’re running around the library’s plaza afterward, chasing the pigeons around. Normally I would say something along the lines of, “Boys leave the birds alone, please.” However, these pigeons looked rather plump, no doubt from a bounty of bread crumbs tossed their way, so I thought a little exercise would do them good. There was one that stood out from the crowd, a smaller, white pigeon. At first I thought it was simply a random genetic mutation. But then my bird instincts kicked in. There was no way this pigeon was part of the flock. Aside from the fact that it was way smaller, it also was a little distanced from the rest.
I asked my husband to hold the kids back so I could get a closer look without the birds taking flight. Sure enough there were not one but two leg bands, one on each leg. Not too long ago, I read a “Dear Abbey” column about dove releases at weddings, funerals and other formal occasions. Readers responded to a previously printed letter that called such releases cruel, that the birds were left to fend for themselves. A professional who did bird releases wrote a reply saying that doves aren’t the ones actually releases. Petite white doves are shown in decorative cages, but when it comes to the actual release, larger white homing pigeons are substituted, and those in attendance apparently are none the wiser by the switch. The person pointed out that a responsible bird release company only uses homing pigeons, which then fly back safely to their homing loft.
So, back at the library, I felt compelled to find out this bird’s story. He had a blue band on one leg. I tried to get closer, but with each attempt, he flittered to the opposite end of the plaza. My brief illusion that I would catch this pigeon, take him in and either locate his loft or create a magnificent pigeon coop in my own backyard was soon tempered by the fact that this bird wasn’t one to step up upon request, and hello … I don’t carry around a net in anticipation of catching wayward pigeons. Nevertheless, I tried one more pigeon call, “coo, coo, coo,” which, much to my embarrassment, caught the attention of a mom’s playgroup. The pigeon paused briefly before doing an about face and waddling off in the opposite direction. I left hoping that maybe he was taking a walk on the wild side before flying home to his loft, perhaps with or story or two to tell his flock.