The Hawk, The Pigeon and the Studio

Originally Published 2.20.14 - Republished 11.16

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I can't wait for warm weather, I mean, I REALLY can't wait.  It has nothing to do with the flowers blooming or the warm sunlight or the ability to step outside wearing less than if you lived in the arctic circle, as a matter of fact I hear it might even be warmer in Alaska.  It's all about a story of the hawk, the pigeon and the studio which happens to have once been mine.

One crisp cloudy day this past October I was reading near a large window, when a fast movement caught my eye.  GASP!  NO!  The uncontrollable predator hawk population of my rural neighborhood was at it again, despite my best attempts to overrule them.  A Red Tail swooped down with lightening speed and swiped a poor unsuspecting pigeon right off the feeder!  Now, I recognize the natural food chain process and all, but I've established a few ground rules here.  Except I was the only one paying attention.

First, I declared my small rural yard a no-fly zone for hawks.  This is enforced by going outside and despite looking somewhat crazy, yelling at this humongous predator perched high above me, as if it would make even one bit of difference.  I can assure you it does not, but it does affirm the fact I am willing to look somewhat insane in public. Apparently the hawk community has my feeders on GPS and did not get the no-fly zone memo.

Second, my feeders are covered with a special screen grid, large enough for birds of medium size to get in and out, a side opening cut to enable squirrels and on occasion, a very insistent raccoon, but making it impossible for raptors to scoop their meals off with ease.  Unfortunately there was still one feeder that had not been converted.

So back to this October day. Hawk grabbed unsuspecting Pigeon and and I engaged my usual crazy-lady ritual of running outside yelling and clapping my hands demanding immediate release of the hostage.  This never works.  For 23 years this ritual has taken place and for 23 years the hawk gives me his or her version of an obscene gesture and flies off into the sunset, baby bunny or bird dangling helplessly from its talons.  I spend days with the vision etched in my mind, trying to accept this brutal fact of nature and about the time I can put it aside, it happens again.

Except this time, the hawk dropped the pigeon!   OMG, OMG, now what!  It had not occurred to me I might actually win a round, much less what to do if I did!  I ran inside, grabbed an old towel and retrieved the pigeon who was obviously traumatized but sitting upright in the grass.  There was no sign of blood, I brought her inside and sat back down in the chair to, well, rock the pigeon.

I could feel her breathing and her rapid heart beat within the towel, after a few hours it finally slowed, and she began to make small movements.  Still no sign of blood I peeked in and whispered softly, assuring her she was in a safe warm place and congratulating both of us on our success.  It wasn't until then that I realized I had no idea what I would do next with her, the hawk was still circling above wondering where his lunch had disappeared to, and I wasn't about to give her back up until he at least had the courtesy to disappear.  I put her carefully in a crate with a weighted screen on top and began to make some calls.

I was told the best thing was to wait a while, and as she became more alert I should carry the crate outside, remove screen, step back and within 10 minutes she would indeed fly out on her own. When the skies seemed to appear as an "all clear" from large nasty pigeon-eating birds, I dutifully followed the cruel advice of release.  However while I did my part she did not do hers and after 10 minutes I peeked inside, and she was contently huddled within the safety of her towel.  I told her "Lucky bird, today is not your day to be breakfast, lunch or dinner, and you may stay one night to regain your strength and tomorrow you will fly free."  That was the plan, a good compassionate one I thought.

Tomorrow came and she looked well, we replayed the same scenario.  Exactly the same actually, including the part about her not leaving the crate.  I insisted, picking her up within the towel and as I went to release her into the grass she backed into the towel as if i were again sending her into the savage inferno of wildlife.  She simply would not fly the coop.

So back inside and some more phone calls, a trip to the local feed store where I was advised to seek medical attention for her.  I invested in a used bird cage and called the recommended vet and made an appointment.  I've had a dog all my life but never a bird, this was new territory for me.  In checking in I needed a name, uh....well, how about "Lucky Bird," and so she was.  The sum of the examination revealed the talon holes on her tummy, a loss of feathers and some god-awful bruising. 

She was friendly and happy, proudly perching on the arm of the assistant, standing like a champ on the scale, enjoying this attention and pampering.  I learned how to administer antibiotics and pain meds to a bird and was told to return in a week for a follow-up.  She was quite comfortable being handled and cuddled that week, so much so that she was scanned for a possible microchip in the event she was a lost pet, as she seemed quite domesticated.  With no chip and a clean bill of health, we were sent on our way.

I had a large black wire kennel thing that I set up in my studio and lined it with shredded stuff, tree branched for perches and evergreen boughs for a natural setting.  I mused over the pros and cons of releasing a possibly domesticated pet into the wild, knowing the outlook wouldn't be good.  She passed her weekly check-up with friendly flying colors, and I decided to give her another week to eat some healthy pigeon food as she was slightly malnourished, and then make my decision....do I release into the wild what may be a domesticated pet, or keep a wild bird that befell unfortunate circumstances and ended up with the name "Lucky?"  Except then the weather began to hint of the frigid polar vortex winter about to come, she had begun her moulding process and the idea of releasing a slightly malnourished somewhat naked bird into the chills of winter seemed absolutely heartless.  I couldn't do it, and decided to wait out the winter with my new studio mate, Lucky Bird.  "How bad could that be?" I thought.....Love to All!

To Be Continued......