Pigeon Flies Out the Door

Six weeks ago, Pearl, an oriental roller pigeon, arrived with three other birds from Michigan.  She was the first bird I took out of the shipping box.  I remember how she lay in my hand while I slid my other hand over her glossy black feathers.  She wasn’t in a hurry to get away, and I was enchanted by her calm nature and by the pearlescent rims around her black eyes.

Pearl, a black oriental roller pigeon hen.

She quickly settled into the new loft and began setting “up house” with one of the cock birds.  They were the first pair to make a nest in one of the 12” x 12” boxes I placed in the loft.  The mate she chose I named Arundel after a small medieval town in England.  I liked the way the name sounded — air-un-dell.

Arundel is an almond colored bird.  In the pigeon world blue is the most common color.  The mottled whitish or tortoiseshell coloring of almond is produced by a genetic mutation.  A fancier doesn’t usually have many almonds in the loft, because when two almonds mate, the result is a blind bird that often dies shortly after hatching.  But, to have a few of these striking colored birds in the loft is a treat.

Arundel, an almond oriental pigeon cock and Pearl's mate.

I wanted to wait until Pearl had raised a few babies before letting her out to fly so that I would have progeny from her in case she became lost or was taken by a hawk.  But this wasn’t to be, because today after I fed the birds and was walking out of the loft, she flew out the door with me.

Pearl surveying the barnyard from the loft.
Pearl eating alongside another cock named Cameo.

She landed on the gravel outside, and my heart sank.  Of all the birds in the loft, I would be most disappointed to lose her.  I had become used to petting her while she lay on her eggs in the box.  The other birds scattered as I scraped shelves, but when Pearl wasn’t on her eggs, she stayed nearby me, so, consequently, she was the bird I’d talk to while I worked around the loft.

And here she was outside her safe loft, and I wasn’t sure how to get her back inside, for I had not taught her or any of the other birds how to re-enter the loft from the outside.

She flew up onto the loft roof; she made one circle in the air around the loft and fluttered back to the roof.  Then she landed on the platform near the trap door the birds would eventually use to re-enter the loft.

View of landing platform and trap door from the side.

I went inside the loft and removed the board covering the trap door.  The trap is a rectangular hole cut into the side of the loft.  It has lightweight aluminum tines hanging down from the top of the rectangle.  If a pigeon presses on the tines, they slip aside, and the bird can easily come inside the loft.  But the birds need to be trained to know how they can strike the tines to give way so they can enter the loft.  For thirty minutes Pearl walked around on the platform.  And I went about my work hoping she would figure out how to come inside.  But although Pearl approached the tines, she never pressed on them, so she didn’t realize she could get inside.

Although I could have lifted all the tines of the trap from inside the loft, this would have presented a gaping hole allowing the inside pigeons to fly outside.  I needed a way to let her in and not let the other birds out.

View of trap door with the lighweight aluminum tines. The board on the inside of loft is still in place; the trap is closed.

I lifted one of the tines, and Pearl immediately noticed the gap.  She pushed through the narrow space created from the lifted tine, and stood facing me inside the loft.  We looked into each other’s eyes. My hands were still on the trap, so my arms were on either side of her. Pearl ran up and across my right shoulder and flew to her box.  She jumped inside and joined Arundel, and they began to coo and nuzzle.  I was so relieved she was back inside, but I was also amazed for I’ve never had a pigeon walk over me.

Pearl is an impulsive and friendly pigeon; I have mixed feelings about her lack of fear.  I recognize her “tameness” as a possible problem when she begins to fly, spin, and roll in the open air.  I’m not sure how it will play out, but she may be less wary of lurking birds of prey.  This has happened to me before when I raised Portuguese Tumbling pigeons in Alaska.  I remember a lovely and gentle red and cream bird named Francis who stepped up onto my hand and allowed me to pet her at any time.  Unfortunately when a migrating hawk came through, she showed no fear as she flew, and the hawk came upon her from above and quietly grabbed her with its talons and took her away.

Oriental rollers are known for their unique abilities to evade hawks, but all the twirls, rolls, and nose dives won’t help save their lives if they don’t recognize danger.  I can do several things to help, but I can’t change the nature of an individual bird.  First I can teach the birds how to reenter the loft, and second I can make sure I fly the birds when they are hungry, so that they take short flights and come back into the loft quickly.  These steps will help Pearl and the other birds survive.  Only time will tell if Pearl’s trusting temperament gets her into trouble.

A pocket full of oriental roller pigeons.

14 thoughts on “Pigeon Flies Out the Door

  1. As usual, your writing style is wonderful–draws you in and “holds you”, leaving you waiting for the next installment. I was fascinated reading about Pearl. I had no idea! I will treat all pigeons with more respect!

    1. Hello Joan! Thanks very much. One of my goals in writing about pigeons is to help the ordinary person know more about what it is like to raise and fly birds. Feral pigeons are usually disdained because they do damage to property, and city dwellers want to get rid of them. That is one story about pigeons most of us are familiar with. But there is more to know…thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. Ohh, my goodness, Sher, what a beautiful story, so well told. I’ve never had a close relationship with birds before, so I cannot imagine how magical it must feel to have bonded with Pearl, and to have her walking over your arms. Wow… I am so relieved to hear she is safely back inside her loft.

    1. Hi Reggie:
      I forgot to describe how incredibly soft their feathers are. It is so neat to experience animals up close – to have hands on experiences with them. Thanks for your comments.
      I have always been interested in birds. I had a blue front amazon parrot for many years. He sang opera in the shower with me!

  3. I’d Keep her Locked Up As A Breeder personally – Just because that’s what I’ve always done with birds that weren’t born in My loft – I raise babies from them and let the babies fly – for along while I will do this but there is the thoughts of one day allowing every bird I have even My breeders – just letting them go and letting them fly free as they should – but I also realize if I’m going to do that I’m going to have to trap train them and let them see the outside surrounding area – and not feed them before releasing them – but one day I will as that’s where birds belong , ” Up in the skies – Soaring Free ” – Nice writing Sher – Glad to hear You’ve been bitten ‘ by the Pigeon Bug again – Enjoy and Take Care !! Mike

    1. Mike: You hit the nail on the head–dealing with the birds is a mixed emotion. I know what you mean about wanting to protect them, yet wanting to let them– see them– fly in the open air. It’s always been a challenge to perfectly express the many mixed experiences and emotions that happen when we raise animals. Thanks so much for your comments.

  4. Glad you got Pearl back Sher! That tameness is a big advantadge when the birds have to be handled in or out of the loft, I got two of my young ones back this year because they were tame enough for a neighbor kid to hand catch them when they showed up at their bird feeder after an over fly from big wind.
    I think you will find the OR’s will do right well at recognising a threat, it’s the young ones just learning to fly that are most vulnerable! Thanks for the story and the pictures!

    “Semper Fi!”

    1. Thanks Roy! I had not thought of this positive aspect of Pearl’s tameness. Wow. I guess that is true, and we do get some spring winds here. Thanks for giving me another perspective.

  5. Beautiful birds Sher, no wonder you are entranced by them! The golden photo of the cluster makes we Alaskans yearn for warmer climates! Robert Burns night is behind us & soon the Wearable Art Show, then the Seattle Garden Show will warm us up & remind Spring is coming!!!
    Hope your wrist & fingers are fully recovered so you are able to play the guitar but not wash dishes! :)!! Happy New Year!!! Peri

  6. Hi Sher,
    As usual, I loved hearing another installment about your life on “the farm”. I have always enjoyed birds and your story is touching and interesting. Your birds are lucky to have you looking out for them. What a sweet bunch…I’ve thought of you often since you left Ketchikan and started your new life in the Dalles. I just had to write and say hello!

    1. Thanks Deb! And I have thought of you too. I am wondering what you are cooking…? I appreciate your comments and thanks for checking in. I hope it warms in Ketchikan soon.

    1. Thank you Gigi for your comments. Sorry not to respond right away– as we have spent the weekend getting clippings of sagebrush and other shrubs. Bruce is potting his clippings and preparing for the big restoration project. 🙂

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