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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi! We rescued a 3-week old pigeon from a kestrel. Now she is 8 weeks old (we are not sure of gender though). We experimented with a soft-release this past week, but after her first night outside, she started coming back every evening and wanting to be inside at night. We are happy to keep her as a pet, and just got her a big comfortable cage for the evenings. We have several questions.

1. Is it okay to keep letting her out every morning? She loves it and expects it, is a strong flier, and seems to have a healthy fear of predators. It also seems the best approach to give her exercise, because I have two cats and can't let her fly around the house much. Her biggest issue is that she is really comfortable with us - I would hope she wouldn't approach a human for no reason, considering all her needs are met with us, but I'm not sure.

2. She eats a pigeon seed mix, drinks plenty of water, and we spray her for external parasites weekly. Anything else we should be doing to keep her healthy, especially now that she spends her days outside with wild pigeons (some of whom are of questionable health)? Pigeons are considered a pest in my city (Seville, Spain), and as of now I haven't found a vet that will treat her.

3. About a week ago (just as we were beginning to let her outside), her voice started changing and she started getting in really feisty moods a few times a day. Usually it is when she is perched, if our hand approaches her she pecks at it hard and makes her strange new noise that is part coo, part growl-whistle. Is this normal and ok? What is she trying to tell us? That she wants to be left alone or that she wants attention?

4. Will she leave when she is ready to mate? (In four months or so?) Would it be better to get a mate for her? Especially considering that I probably will move at some point? If I move in a year or two, and she is still coming back to her cage at night, should I take her with me or plan on finding her a new owner in the same area? What is more important to them, their people or their location?

Thanks for any help and advice!
Leah
 

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Sounds like you have done a great job rescuing this bird. She is getting feisty because she is reaching puberty. People here can advise what preventive meds you may want to consider if she is going outside. If you move I would take her with you. You may want to consider getting a mate but am not sure if you have a female or male. We couldn't tell with Fiona until she laid eggs! You can put a mirror in with her and supposedly the two genders behave differently with a mirror. Am not sure whether she will find a mate and leave. Ours live inside and we let them out inside because our home is surrounded by Hawks, both large red tailed and smaller red shouldered and also Cooper's hawks, so we are taking no chances. Would love to see a photo of your bird! I love pigeons as everybody here does. Not sure if people are more important or place to homing pigeons. Our first and beloved pigeon Phoebe was a nonreleasable feral who was totally bonded to us. Fiona seems bonded to people more than place. Lucy we have only had a few months and she is a racer who was never released by the breeder so isn't sure where home is. Our new not yet named pigeon definitely is bonded to people and gas never been outside.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply! Here's one picture of her (I have a lot more but the files are too big). We call her Squabba the Hutt.

She actually has a mirror. She snuggles up next to it, puffs up, and moves her beak a little. Does that sound like male or female behavior?

As far as predators, the only one I have seen is a small kestrel (that got her when she was little, we saw it happen). It seems to only go after the babies, the adults don't even get out of the way when one comes. There are a few stray cats, but she is properly scared of my house cats so I think she knows to watch out. I know it's always a risk letting them out, but she really seems to love it, I would feel bad keeping her from.

Thanks again for all the other info, really good to know that the biting is normal. We'll keep trying to get her sexed by a professional so we can get her a tame mate, one that will stay with her if we move in the future.

If anyone has info on meds for indoor-outdoor birds would love to hear.
 

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She/he is very pretty. It really isn't safe letting him out alone, especially a white bird which stands out so much. There are more predators there than you know. Hawks are everywhere whether you see them or not. There are vaccines for birds for a few of the things they can get ... PMV, Salmonella/Paratypuoid, Pox. But not for many other things they can catch from other birds, and they really cannot be medicated just in case.
It's a domestic bird, so should be kept inside, as it really doesn't know how to live as a feral. She was kept by you at a young age, so never learned how to survive outside. I doubt that her parents were feral, but probably owned by someone. If you can give her an enclosure where she could exercise outside would be good, and get her or him a mate at some point. If you keep letting him out, eventually you will lose him.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Okay, thanks a lot for all the advice. I'd like to give you all a little more info and see if you still feel she should stay indoors always. I really appreciate your time and trust your judgment. Its just that I will feel bad not letting her go out so want to be really sure it is the right thing to do. I will also need to convince my partner, who really wants her to be able to fly outdoors (and is less protective than I am).

1. The parents are definitely wild. I'm in Seville, Spain, and there are a ton of wild pigeons here, and the majority are white (though there are some gray with wing stripes and some mixes). There are about eight wild white pigeons that live on an abandoned balcony next door to my apartment, and that's where she hatched and spent her first 3 weeks of life.

2. She only lived in our living space (our office) for her first week with us, when she was recovering from a small wound. After that she lived on our enclosed balcony, right next to the balcony where she started out. Although she couldn't interact, she spent plenty of time watching the other birds. She is used to humans, but she wasn't in our living room the whole time or anything like that.

3. I have been watching her closely when she is out. Her first few days it seemed like she wasn't being accepted and every time she landed with a bird it flew away. The last four or five days, every time I see her out she is with at least one other bird. Also, when the other bird or the group startles and flys, she goes with them.

4. The reason I think she is wary of predators are because (1) the day we rescued her she (at 3 weeks old) escaped from the kestrel herself. We saw the kestrel and startled it, and she hid behind the exterior blinds of a door. (2) The whole time she lived on our enclosed balcony, my cats were really interested in her. Even though she seemed to understand that they couldn't get her through the glass doors, she startled everytime they approached.

5. I'm not sure if she is accepting her new cage. We just bought it Saturday, it has toys, a mirror, a makeshift nest, and two big wide platforms for her to sit on - I researched a lot before I bought it. She liked it at first... but yesterday we didn't let her outdoors because the weather was bad. We gave her a couple hours of free time outside in the apartment, but still, she was going nuts by the end of the day, pacing in and pecking at her cage, etc. In the end we had to clear out the balcony again for her so that she would calm down. She slept on top of the cage but wouldn't go in it. But she can't live on our balcony forever. If she stays with us, she will need to be in her cage a lot of the day because we have 2 cats.

Does it still sound like she'd be better off indoors always? If so, what do you recommend for helping her be happy with that? With living in a cage and being free in the apartment 2-3 hours per day? I think that is realistically the best I could give her, considering my current living/pet situation. I live in a building and can't build her an aviary or anything like that. Maybe in a few years, but not soon.

Also, I should clarify that I'm not worried about 'losing her' in the sense that she becomes happy outside always and stops coming back at nights - I want whatever is best for her. But if given all the additional information you all stilll think she is really vulnerable and should be inside always, I would like to know.

Im posting a few more photos. One is from this morning, from the balcony next door where she started out as a baby. She is the middle of the 5 birds. Another photo is of her cage, in case you have any advice.

Thanks a lot for your time! I really appreciate it.
 

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Others might disagree, but I would give her her freedom. She know's she's a pigeon and will soon start looking for a mate.

But there might be a day when she won't come back and then you will always wonder what happened to her. Still I think rather a couple of years living as a free pigeon and doing what nature intended her to do than spending 20 years in captivity.

Good luck with the decision, I hope it all works well for her.
 

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Wow! You have all those white ferals there? Are they on your balcony a lot with your bird?
If that be the case, then like Marina, I think she may be okay outside. I think she will probably mate up with one of the males eventually, if there are any in that group. She may eventually leave of her own will, and as part of the flock. As long as she goes into a flock, then she can follow them and learn from them. But I would always provide the shelter, food and water for as long as she needs it. I think she just may be okay. As Marina has said, the free life is a shorter life, but longevity is not everything. Quality of life matters more I think. Thank you for giving us the missing info. It does change things. I hope you will come back on and let us know how she is doing, and if she ever does choose to leave and go with the flock. Beautiful bird. Wish you the best of luck with her.
 

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You have a tame pigeon. I personally would not let her out of your house. I have two house pigeons, and I have house cats. My two pigeons come out for play time every day, and I just lock up my cats in a room while the birds are out. There is a good chance that since she is so tame someone could hurt her while she is outside, plus she could catch a disease. My biggest fear would be her going to someone who would hurt or kill her, there are many people who HATE pigeons, and she would be a easy target. If you move, yes you would have to take her with you. She keeps coming in and wanting to be with you, so I think she is not self sufficient. She knows she is a pigeon, and knows freedom, but I don't think she knows how to survive on her own. It is a tough position to be in. I would keep her in, and get her a mate. I think she would settle and be happier if she had one of her own kind with her. That may be why she was aggravated when she would not settle in the cage the time you let her free fly in the house, she wanted to be with another pigeon. This is a difficult position for you to be in, and I think most of us will have different opinions about it. Ultimately I believe you will do what you think is best because you know her better then any of us. One thing we can all agree on is that we wish you the absolute best of luck with her.
 

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Lots of people rehab pigeons, and then they release them into a flock. If they join the flock then they should be okay, They will wild up again. They are usually much happier living the life they were meant to.
 

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Lots of people rehab pigeons, and then they release them into a flock. If they join the flock then they should be okay, *They will wild up again. They are usually much happier living the life they were meant to.
* Yes, pigeons are quite adaptable to change.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Hi everyone,
Thanks a whole lot for reading and responding and explaining why you think what you do. It's a huge help.

We are still deciding for the long-term. It looks like, judging from your replies and our observations, it will depend on if she is accepted into one of the groups of birds in our neighborhood. We are still not sure with the birds on the balcony next door. She is trying really hard to fit in, but yesterday they seemed to bully her an awful lot. Luckily we have some vacation time and can observe her. Of course we'll absolutely give her food and shelter as long as she wants. We love having her. If it doesn't work out with one of the groups (there is another one out back and one across the street too), we will get her gender confirmed, adopt a mate for her, and make her an indoor bird.

I'll let you know when we finally make a decision for the long-term, and thanks a lot for your help!

Leah
 

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Bullying a bit is normal in the beginning. As long as they don't really hurt her, let her be. If it seems as though she is going to get hurt, then bring her in.
 

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If the feral flock doesn't adopt her, I'd consider giving her to a pigeon fancier that has pigeons that are allowed outside to fly during the day. Then she can have her flight time and "freedom" in the relative safety of a flock. She looks sort of like a white homing pigeon anyway.

But I don't think she wants to be an indoor cage bird - and with your cats and the fact that you are in an apartment, it makes that option even more difficult.
 

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If the feral flock doesn't adopt her, I'd consider giving her to a pigeon fancier that has pigeons that are allowed outside to fly during the day. Then she can have her flight time and "freedom" in the relative safety of a flock. She looks sort of like a white homing pigeon anyway.

But I don't think she wants to be an indoor cage bird - and with your cats and the fact that you are in an apartment, it makes that option even more difficult.

I agree with this post.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Squabba the Hutt Update

Thank you again for the advice everyone! Squabba the Hutt seems pretty well integrated into the pigeon community here. She is low in the pecking order and still gets chased away by bigger birds when we throw them seeds, but there is another young new bird who gets treated about the same way, so I think she's okay. She is most often with the group on the balcony next door in the front of our apartment, but we also see her with a group out back and another on a nearby building. She prefers to sleep outside now, except when the weather is really nasty. She also broadened her eating preferences and has learned to eat the bigger corn and soy seeds that she used to peck around. And also bread, which is great because a lot of people throw bread to the pigeons here.

As much as I would have loved to keep her and protect her from everything forever, she has made it very clear that she wants to be wild. If she is not quite self-sufficient yet, she is well on her way. Now that I know how cool pigeons are, if/when she stops coming back, I'll see if I can find a bird or pair to adopt that can't be released and needs a home. If anyone knows any resources for adopting birds in Seville, Spain, I would love some info.

I'm attaching some pics from the past week. In the big line of birds, she's the 2nd to farthest on the railing. In the trio, she's the one in front with a colorful new visitor in the middle. And there is a photo of her with the birds in the back, and a photo of a quick visit/meal.

Thanks again for sharing your knowlede/thoughts with us!
 

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