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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have five ferals that all came to me as injured "squeakers." Four of them are ready to be released, but I need some advice on who to release when. (This is actually more complicated than you may think.)

The pigeons are named Luke, Leia, Buzz, Flash and Ripley. When they first met each other Luke and Leia fell in love and were inseparable. After Buzz came along, though, Leia decided that she liked him better, so they've been an item for a couple of months now. Luke was pretty bummed out about this and kept hanging around Leia trying to win her back. When Flash came along, Luke decided he would distract himself by reminding the little guy every five minutes where he fell in the pecking order.

Leia and Buzz are still a couple, but they have the occasional fight. Both of them mercilessly harass Luke and Flash, chasing them away from the food, water, and perches. Luke and Flash have their own little struggle for dominance going on as well.

Ripley is the youngest, and she is not yet ready to tackle the urban wild. In fact, I'm probably going to end up putting her up for adoption, since she seems to like spending time with me at least as much as with the other pigeons. She actually asks to be petted, and, when she's with the other birds, she pretty much just sits back on a high perch and watches everyone else fighting. She has stood up to Flash a few times, and they were being kind of friendly toward each other for a while, but I'm still not sure if she wants to be a feral or a pet.

Ok, now that we've covered the pigeon soap opera, here are the choices that I've been considering:

1) Let Luke go first (since he gets picked on so much) and give him a few days to establish himself in the local feral flock, before Leia and Buzz come back into his life.

2) Let Leia and Buzz go first so that Luke and Flash can have a break to build up some self-esteem before they get sent out into the cold cruel world.

3) Let all four go at once and assume they'll stick together in the face of external social pressure from the flock.

4) Let Luke, Leia and Buzz go, but keep Flash for a while to give Ripley a chance to decide that she really is a pigeon after all.

I don't know anything about the social dynamics of pigeon flocks, so any suggestions would be welcome. (There are about 70 to 100 birds in the local flock.) Maybe I'm making this harder than it needs to be, but I'm just trying to give all these little guys the best start that I can in their new lives.

Also I'm in Tucson, so I've just assumed that its not too cold to release everyone. (Current highs are in the 70s and lows in the 40s.) Am I right or wrong about that?

Thanks!
 

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As long as all 4 are ready to be release, my suggestion would be to release all 4 together into the already established flock.

Cindy
 

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Wow :eek: Yes - as a general idea - release all together. BUT you are leaving something out ! - jm2000 - if you haven't - you have to study up on SOFT RELEASE. You can't just take 'em to a flock and open the cage door. The process is going to take at least one week. lt involves bringing them to the vicinity of a flock, feeding the flock, allowing the youngsters to observe and copy the flock foraging, spooking the flock, allowing the youngsters to observe a flock fleeing, allowing them to copy the flight-danger response, and then repeating this over and over again until they seem to 'get it' and react quickly. Anything less, and seriously, you would be lucky if even one of them survives. You cannot just rely that their instinct is gonna kick in. ln the wild, pigeons learn from their parents and flockmates. SOFT RELEASE method tries to mimic this learning on an abbreviated scale. lt works well too ! Do some reading up on it ;) Also as far as weather - sounds good - maybe acclimate them to the colder evenings for a few days beforehand, though.
 

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Jaye said everything perfectly and he really knows what he is doing. I love hearing your soap opera. It sounds like you really cared for them and love them. So I'm sure you want to do what is best for them and have the best chances of survival when released. Can't wait to hear more of the soap opera. I'll tune in tomorrow at 6:00 for another show. lol, min
 

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Jaye is right. soft release = at very least 1 week. i would recommend a little while longer though.
haha, it sounds like you have quite a pigeon loft soap opera going on there;):D. its so funny listening to people tell us about theirs and watching and sharing ours:D.
 

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The more you can release together, the better their chances. Soft release is really the only way to go. Watch them as they learn from the flock, and mimmick them, then you will know when they are ready. You want to give them the best possible chance for survival, and making sure they are ready is important. It could take longer than a week. But until they are ready, I wouldn't release them. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, I actually released Buzz, Leia, Luke and Flash yesterday morning, before I saw Jaye's post, but I think they're OK.

I'd already read Trees Gray's sticky on "To Release Or Not To Release?" quite a while ago, and have a slightly modified version of that technique "built in." When I try to help injured pigeons I keep them in a small 6 foot by 6 foot basement room that is a couple hundred feet from the alley where I feed the flock. The room has a window opening to the outside. I installed a wire mesh in the window and mounted a "shelf" right below it, so the birds can sit there and look outside through the wire mesh. I also put food on the "shelf." The smarter members of the local flock have learned that they can "land" on the wire mesh window and hang there (parallel with the wall). Then by "walking" down the grill, and hanging there sideways, they can reach the shelf and steal the food that's there for the "inside" birds. Also, on any given day, I usually end up with a dozen or so members of the local feral flock hanging around outside the window (since they can see the food in there) and I often toss them a handful of seeds. So the "inside" birds grow up from day one watching the "outside" birds eating, being startled, flying away, etc. Since this is the same flock they will be released into, they also get "acquainted" with some of the more frequent "mesh walkers" by trying to run them off when they're stealing food. (It's actually pretty funny to see the "inside" birds try to peck at the "outside" birds through the holes in the wire mesh -- the "outside" birds have learned long ago that they can ignore these "attacks" but it gives the "inside" guys something to do during the day.)

The downside to this is that the "inside" birds can come to take for granted the startled flights of the "outside" birds. I've used the feeding-them-in-a-cage method before, and it works better in that regard.

For yesterday's release, I threw a bunch of seeds outside the window to get a couple of dozen pigeons from the local flock in attendance. I put Ripley in another room where she's been playing at nest building and then just opened the window for the other four. The outside birds started coming inside to peck up seeds on the shelf (they were actually pretty excited to be able to finally get inside after looking through that darn wire mesh for so long). Leia, Buzz, Luke and Flash sat around on their usual perches watching the "invasion" and then Leia and Buzz perched on the top of the open window for a while trying to figure out what was going on. Leia has always been the most adventurous member of the group, so, as expected, she flew outside first to join the "outside" birds who were eating nearby. I had to give Buzz a little encouragement, but he joined her a few minutes later. When I startled the "outside" birds a little, about half of them flew off, and Leia took right off with them. Buzz just crouched and looked around. I startled them again and some more birds took off and this time Buzz went with them. He and Leia came back a few minutes later and then took off together.

When I went outside to throw down some more seeds, Flash came out and joined the "outside" birds, and he flew off with them, the first time I startled them.

Luke was a bit of a problem. If you remember from the "soap opera" he was the poor guy who was constantly getting bullied by everyone else. He kept looking around inside for Leia, Buzz and Flash, then he'd look outside, then inside, then outside again. I tried shooing him out a few times, but he wasn't going to have anything to do with that idea. I went outside and threw out some more seeds and looked around for Leia, Buzz and Flash but they were nowhere to be seen. After a few more minutes Luke finally came out, landed, did the pigeon "happy dance" (you know, where they flap a bunch and turn around in circles) and then he flew off.

I checked periodically throughout the day, and I hung around at sunset, but nobody came home. So I'm hoping that all four are now living happily-ever-after pigeon lives. I'll check back at dawn and dusk for the next few days and see if anyone comes straggling back with any problems. I am a little worried about Buzz -- he's never been very bright, but he is a pretty big bird. I think Leia will keep an eye on him and help him through any rough spots.

Of course, Ripley is lonely now, since she's the only one left. She spent most of the day looking out the window, and I tried to spend some extra time with her. Like I said in my "soap opera" post, she's still too young to go free and probably too domesticated. She's likely destined to be someone's pet. She didn't eat very much today, so I think she's sad and misses the other birds. I'll have to put her up for adoption soon, so that she can have some more pigeon friends to hang out with.
 
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