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when to pick up fledglings? (sorry, long post)

1350 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  ninagi
I live near a street corner that has stores with awnings on all sides, and many pigeons nest there all year round--I wish they wouldn't, because it's not the safest corner in terms of human activity and traffic; I see dead ones in the street all the time... Anyway, every couple of months at least I will come across what may or may not be an abandoned fledgling. I've picked up a few, but it's always a struggle, because I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing. If their parents are around, of course I'd rather leave them be; but I can't bear the thought of walking away from one and just leaving it to die.

I'm just wondering what people's rules of thumb are in terms of picking up youngsters. I was told by a rehabber that often the parents are in fact around even when fledglings appear to be on their own. But I'm worried about lots of human activity on the ground in this particular area keeping the parents from returning for their offspring.

(My latest example was this morning: a fledgling had fluttered into the subway entrance at the corner and was walking around this intermediate platform one flight down from the sidewalk--the actual subway entrance is the next level down. The youngster seemed unhurt--I'm guessing about 4-4.5 weeks old or even older, in the early stages of flight. I didn't approach it at the time, but stopped back again two hrs later on my way home to check. It was raining, so I wasn't sure whether chasing him up to the sidewalk was the best option. I eventually spotted him outside, near the subway entrance, on top of a phone booth, sitting slightly fluffed out against the rain--no clue if he flew out there or if someone brought him back up; I kind of doubt the latter, people here aren't so friendly with pigeons. It seemed like a pretty safe spot, definitely out of reach for other animals and barely visible to humans. I have no clue what his flying skills are, but decided to just leave him, hoping his parents are watching out for him. I realize he may not be able to fly in the rain, so may have to wait it out; he's sort of half under the awning, half out, but hopefully at least semi-sheltered. To me this seems like a pretty obvious case of leaving the fledgling alone-- but I really have a hard time knowing for sure.)
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Thank you for your concern about our noble feral youngsters. I'm sure it is difficult has got to be a difficult decision in many cases, but necessary in others. The odds don't help when the nests are directly above areas of extreme traffic, by foot or car.

I think if they are in immediate danger, or soon to be danger-it is obvious of course, they should be removed. It also would depend on how far along they are in maturity and their flying skills,and their health... and take into account if any predators are close, whether human, animal or bird and inclimate weather. Also, if you are able to come back, to check again makes it easier to leave them. I would go by my gut instinct and also when in doubt...I would take them to safety.
thank you Treesa...
I guess there simply are no hard and fast rules, and no way to tell with 100% certainty if the pigeon has been abandoned or not. Using your gut makes sense.
But yeah, sure seems really tough in some cases.
Feral pigeons can fly when they leave the nest, usually they follow the parents and are fed by them until they are about 7 weeks old when they become fully independent. However, some lose their parents before fledging.

If I see a fledgeling pigeon on the ground and it is unable to fly then I will take it home and keep it until it learns how to feed itself and is flying.

There is an extremely high mortality rate among young pigeons , one source stated that 90% die in the first year.

My approach is if I can pick it up with no difficulty then it is in trouble.

Thanks Cynthia--so actually their flying skills might be the best gauge then, it seems... wow, I had no idea the mortality rate was that high! (and yeah, part of me also thinks I need to accept they may die, but it's harder to accept when they are subject to all these human-made pitfalls; doesn't seem like just nature taking its course) Honestly, if there were a humane way of keeping them out of these areas, I'd be all in favor. I asked a wildlife rehabber once what she thought of birth control, but she felt this hasn't yet been vetted properly and might be too dangerous...

A follow-up question, in case anyone has an opinion on this: What about putting a fledgling that may still be under parental care out of harm's way? how good are the parents at locating their offspring, if they aren't in the exact same spot they left 'em? (e.g., say, around the corner and 5-10 yards away from where you find them; on a ledge or other elevated area; etc.) One fledgling I found hiding by the subway entrance (and ended up taking home) I was seriously tempted to pick up and move across the street to a traffic island (with trees and park benches and generally safer and less frequented by humans); the baby seemed to be drawn to this area, and actually at one point tried to walk across herself, because she could see there were other pigeons there... but conversely I had heard the parents will occasionally "stow" their non-flying babies in specific spots and come back to look for them there...?
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