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July 27, 2009

45 Days of Pigeon Parenting

I had a visitor a couple of months ago who didn’t come through my front door. She swooped down from above and made herself at home on the small deck of my apartment in a modest high-rise building in Washington, D.C., and she just left yesterday.

The visitor was a mother pigeon, and she decided to make a nest in a pot that itself houses a four-foot tall plant. The plant looked beautiful when I purchased it at Home Depot but I must confess withered a good bit from inattention. Horticulture has never been my forte, and perhaps the mother pigeon thought she had found some beautiful exotic wild-growing plant in the city. She was even more perceptive in selecting a nesting site at the home of the CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

Perhaps she knew there’d be no eviction. We have a robust Urban Wildlife program at The HSUS, so her unexpected arrival is just the sort of wildlife experience we celebrate.

She didn’t make much of a nest—just a thin cluster of twigs. But she produced two fine-looking eggs, and she stayed on her clutch like any loyal mother.

Pigeon with two hatchlings
© benleto/Creative Commons
The pigeons at my apartment
looked much like this trio.

Before long, there were two hatchlings—more scraggly than fuzzy. They would have been vulnerable if there had been a cat, or a person not fond of pigeons.

I decided I’d just do all my work inside for some weeks, and cede the deck to her and not disturb her. Rock doves nest on cliffs, and well, if she thought this was a cliff, who was I to tell her differently.

Mama was with the chicks almost all of the time for the first few weeks, but ventured out periodically as time passed for food-gathering forays.  She’d come back and regurgitate the bounty to nourish them.

They grew fast, and within about five weeks, they looked like full-fledged pigeons. They didn’t move from that pot for weeks, but one day, I came home and saw them walking around the deck.

Each night, if I was in town, I’d come through my door and, as the crow flies, make my way to see them. I was confident they were safe, but was anxious to see their development.

Last night, I came home, and they were gone. I wondered how these neophytes could muster the bravery and take to wing. But I had no doubt that day would come soon.

It’s truly a miracle of nature to see life created, even in the unlikeliest of places.

We here at The HSUS know that life is fragile, but it’s also resourceful and persistent. They messed up my deck a bit, but that’s no matter to me. They’re welcome back any time.

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