Caring for Injured Birds (Pip the Pigeon’s Story)

Pip the Pigeon Rescue

Pip is my pigeon, so it might sound hypocritical when I start this article off by stating that birds should not be bred, sold, and kept as pets. So, how did someone who’s staunchly against keeping birds end up with one? Well, the answer is “by accident”. I never intended to have a pigeon, but a combination of chance, circumstance, and choice on the pigeon’s part mean that I now have a permanent pigeon companion. When I found Pip, he was around one month old, but had clearly left the nest a little too soon and had been attacked by a dog. He was in shock, in a vulnerable location and unable to fly or feed for himself, so I took him for a quick check up where I was told that he was not injured or in pain, but was underweight and (being unable to fly) wouldn’t last long alone in the wild. Before Pip came along, I had a disabled baby crow named Poe who was successfully rehabilitated into the wild with other crows, so considered myself capable of rehabilitating a relatively healthy pigeon too. I took him home with me and gave him some special care in the form of comfortable shelter in my shed, soft petit pois and night time hot water bottles to replace the warmth of a flock. When he started eating standard pigeon corn, foraging for grit, moulted his baby feathers and eventually learnt to fly, I thought that would be the last I saw of him. But that wasn’t the case. When evening came around he returned back to his shed to sleep and has done every evening since. He spends his days where he pleases, flying where he wants and he has even befriended a wood pigeon who visits our garden relatively regularly.  I have inadvertently made myself a free-flying feathered friend who seemingly prefers his bachelor pad and regular clean supply of food and water to the lifestyle of your standard city pigeon.

Pip the Pigeon Rescue

I’m going to follow this up with a few bits of information that I wish I had known when I first came across a bird that needed rescuing. I am by no means an ornithologist, so am only speaking from my personal experience. However, if any of this information lends a helping hand to just one person with an injured animal, it will definitely be worth the effort of writing.

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If you see a vulnerable young bird out of the nest, it’s generally best to observe for a little while before doing anything.

There will generally be two reasons for the chick being on the ground. The first is that the parents have thrown the bird out; this generally happens when the bird is disabled, sick, or not developing as quickly as expected. While this may seem harsh, the parents will prioritise the wellbeing of stronger chicks. After all, why provide food to a chick who is unlikely to survive alone in the wild when it could be used to strengthen the others? Alternatively, the young bird has fallen. In this situation, parents are unable to transport the bird back to the nest, but if it isn’t injured, they may continue to provide food in hopes that their young will survive. However, it tends to be the case that predators will reach the young birds before they are capable of flying away.

If a young bird on the floor doesn’t flee when approached, has visible injuries, or visible deformities, now is the time when you should remove it from its current location.

If the bird isn’t fleeing from you, it isn’t going to flee from a predator. The easiest way to remove the bird is to place a jumper or blanket over it and scoop it up as gently as possible. Birds will generally stay pretty still once they’re in the dark. Take it to a secure location where you can monitor it while you carry out the following plan of action.

Do not bother calling the RSPB (or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). They are not a wildlife rescue charity and will not be able to help you. While you could in theory call the RSPCA (or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), they also won’t be much help. Their focus lies more in the rescue of pets that are being abused and if they do turn up for the found bird, it’s highly likely that they will simply put the animal to sleep.

You can take the bird to your local vet, as wildlife treatment is free. However, again, the majority of the time the animal will be put to sleep. As the treatment is free, it doesn’t make financial sense for private clinics to care for wildlife and the cost of euthanasia is almost definitely going to be lower than providing the bird with accommodation, food, monitoring, medical treatment, rehabilitation and release. It’s tragic, but that’s the capitalist society we live in. As the bird is not your pet, the vet also doesn’t have to ask permission before euthanising.

Your best bet is to take the bird to a specialist rescue sanctuary.

Rescue sanctuaries that provide facilities for birds will be able to give them a complete check-up, identify whether the animal is in pain and decide on the most appropriate course of action. This is generally the best option for the bird, as they will have guaranteed care, comfortable living space, the right nutrition, and will be released back into the wild if possible.

If you do intend to rehabilitate the bird yourself, make sure that you have the time, money and right environment to do this properly.

You may be reluctant to hand the bird over to someone else. This is understandable, but you will need to check the animal up with a vet to determine any health conditions, medication, and treatment that the animal may need. Find an avian specialist where possible. You will also need a suitable place for the bird to rest. A shed with a window will generally do, but make sure that it is secure and no predators or rodents can get in. You will have to spend a lot of time researching the species’ needs, as they vary drastically from one type of bird to another. You will need the right type of food to sustain the animal during its recovery, as a general seed will not cater to all. If the bird is particularly young, you may even have to drop the food into their mouth directly as a parent bird would. You will have to allow your bird out first thing in the morning and monitor it while it learns to forage in the garden and fly. One moment away and a cat could take it. You will also spend a lot of time cleaning up bird poo. For species with liquid faeces, this is particularly messy. As you can see, this will be a lot of effort. It’s practically impossible if you do not work from home. You will have to sacrifice your social life for an undetermined period of time. Your life will begin to revolve around the bird and chances are that you’re going to have to say goodbye to it once its learnt to fly.

There are plenty of animal rescue groups on social media full of individuals who will be able to give you advice or offer a helping hand.

Make use of them. They are generally welcoming spaces full of people who are willing to help. Specialist pages exist for different species, so find the page most relevant to you and request to join.

Don’t start out with intentions to make the bird a pet.

While saying goodbye isn’t easy when you’ve invested so much time, effort and care into rehabilitating the bird, you really shouldn’t intend to make any rescued bird a pet. Wherever possible, the animal should be nurtured back to health and then released to live as wild and free a life as they can manage. I know better than anyone else how difficult this can be, as you bond with the animal. But it’s generally for the best that they take to the wild and live as natural a life as possible. While I am usually completely against keeping birds as pets (they most definitely shouldn’t be bred, sold and kept in cages or aviaries), there are occasional cases where the animal is not in pain and can live a full life, but will not be able to survive in the wild and these are the only cases where they should be taken on as domesticated creatures.

If you have any questions regarding a rescue of your own, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to help or point you in the right direction.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Tour d’Eiffel, 7e Arrondissement

We’re all familiar with the Eiffel Tower and chances are that if you’re heading to Paris you’ll end up there, so I probably don’t need to go into all too much detail. I’d say that both the tower and the view are best at night when the city is lit up and there are fewer crowds and queues. If possible, also go when the sky is clear, as fog will dramatically reduce visibility, especially as you ascend to the top. The tower itself lights up on the hour, so try to be outside and looking at it from a short distance around this time.

Eiffel Tower Summit Paris

Tour d’Eiffel (Sommet), 7e Arrondissement

Bear in mind that there are various types of tickets available, so prepare yourself for the ticket desk. Your ticket will determine whether you use the stairs or the elevator and whether you have access to the first and second floor, or both of these floors and the summit. Always opt for the elevator. The stair tickets may be cheaper but anyone who lacks the thighs of a stallion will deeply regret skimping out. People tend to choose the stairs thinking they’ll be able to take in more of a view, but in reality you’ll be much more focused on catching your breath, wondering how much further it is until the next level and questioning why you thought this would be enjoyable when you actively avoid physical exertion in pretty much every other aspect of your life. Accept your sedentary lifestyle and spend your time on each level marvelling at the view rather than cursing the people who will undoubtedly be taking up space on any available seating. I’d also recommend paying the extra few euros for the ticket to the summit. If you’ve already come this far, you should invest in a view from the top. If you’re 24 or under (or, like me, look young for your age and don’t mind telling a white lie about it) your ticket will be half price.

 

Eiffel Tower Esplanade Paris

Tour d’Eiffel (Esplanade), 7e Arrondissement

If you’re planning on a hackneyed engagement, there’s a champagne bar at the summit. It WILL be windy (and not in the carefully curated photoshoot kind of way), so hold onto that engagement ring, because if it goes over the edge you’re not getting it back. Otherwise, there are food and drink outlets on the esplanade, first and second levels where you can grab a little something to tide you over while you’re up the tower.

The Eiffel Tower is located on Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France. Any taxi driver will know where it is. Alternatively, the nearest Metro is Bir-Hakeim (line 6) or the nearest RER is Champ-de-Mars – Tour Eiffel (line C).

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Shakespeare and Company, 4e Arrondissement

If you’re into modernist and Beat literature, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore has a lot to live up to. The original version of the store was opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919. Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein all passed through its doors. While this version was closed during World War II and a second was set up by George Whitman, I’d still visit in the same way that people visit the Cavern Club despite it merely being a reproduction of the original. But the second store was frequented by a whole other host of later writers I admire too – Alan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Anaïs Nin and James Baldwin – supplying it with enough name drops to secure it status in its own right. If this wasn’t enough to make me romanticise the shop, the fact that they offer almost-free accommodation to aspiring writers in exchange for a few hours of daily work in the store has raised it even higher in my esteem. We all know that having high expectations of a place before visiting can end in disappointment and for a brief moment, Shakespeare and Company did. At the end of the day, you need to remember that it’s a small bookstore operating in a prime location in one of the world’s most expensive cities. If they sold well-loved second hand copies of niche works at a low price they’d surely sink into debt. So bear in mind that the majority of the works you’re going to see in there are going to be brand new standard copies of major works at about double the price you’d be able to find the book for online. Also bear in mind that you’re not going to get any French books in there, all works that I saw were in English. If you imagine the contents of Waterstones with a few pounds added to the price tag arranged into a quaint independent bookstore, that’s what you’re going to get. It’s as pretty as any other independent bookstore, with ladders to reach the higher shelves and what appeared to be a resident cat, but unless you’re genuinely planning to land yourself a free room as a tumbleweed guest or have a day to spend lounging about in one of the reading rooms, try to avoid romanticising it to the extent that most do and appreciate it for its history.

Shakespeare and Company is located at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie in Paris’ 4th Arrondissement. If you stand with your back to Notre Dame, it’s across the road on the left.