A Pigeon Finds You

What to do if a baby pigeon huddles in your window on a cold and rainy winter afternoon...

First you notice that he's just a little guy: he has a baby’s big beak and there’s yellow down on his head. He's soaking wet and watching you through the window. When you open the window slowly, he doesn't fly away. When you touch his wing, he still doesn't fly away. Hours go by. It gets dark out, he's hunkered down on the rail and you realize he's there for the night, and his flock has left him on his own.

You decide to bring him in for the night. You prepare a cage from a plastic crate with an oven rack for a lid, and line the bottom with an old clean towel. You open the window and gently offer him some seeds and nuts on a little tray. He pecks a bit. You gently take him and put him in the cage. You hand-feed him some peanuts, and then he gobbles down a big pile of them by himself, as if he hadn't eaten in days. He takes some big long slurps of water, drinking hungrily. He settles down on his tummy, counts his pigeon blessings, and goes to sleep.

The next morning, restored, he's ready to check out. Alas, you detect a broken tail and a raw tail bone, and it's going down to below freezing that night. The bird is not going anywhere soon.

You settle into a daily routine. Pidgie wakes up when you do, assumes a Samurai Stance, alert and ready for breakfast, followed by an escape attempt. At this point you are no longer his savior, you are his captor. He snorts and wing-slaps you when you give him food or clean the cage. Eventually Pidgie concludes that you are not going to butcher him, but on the contrary, you are the Source. He wriggles his wings and squeaks when you feed him, and gradually his voice changes and deepens, and he starts to coo at you. He loves getting his beak gently tweaked.

Leftovers from meals are eschewed, and must be removed before the next meal. You learn to clear away all food from his cage about an hour before you feed him, just to make him appreciate the next meal more so that he eats better.

When you clean the poop out of Pidgie's cage, he gets out of your way, like a teenager in front of the TV who lifts his feet so you can vacuum. He spends hours preening himself for the Mr. World Pigeon Beauty Contest. In the evening, he watches you, dreamy-eyed, biding his time until you turn out the lights and go to bed, and you start going to bed earlier so the pigeon can get a decent night's sleep.

Gradually the weather gets warmer, Pidgie’s yellow down disappears, his tail feathers in, and his time comes to fly out the way he came in, through a fourth floor window and to the pigeon life that awaits him. You leave the window open so that Pidgie can return and leave on his own, if he so desires to.

And that's what you do with a pigeon who huddles in your window and makes goo-goo eyes at you on a cold and rainy winter afternoon. And you love it.