Peck’s pick


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  • In one of my first columns, “Broadway Baby,” I wrote about how I’d rescued a baby pigeon who’d fallen out of his nest in Manhattan in 2001, and raised him as a pet. That was 15 years ago, and Peck, I’m happy to report, is alive and well. But after reading that pigeons can live up to 19 years in captivity, I began to regret that this bright little bird had never experienced being with his own kind. When an acquaintance who keeps her own flock of pigeons in a large, walk-in coop, offered to take him, I agreed. Singing choruses of Born Free to hearten my resolve, Peck and I made the 10-minute journey (so convenient for visiting!) to my friend’s house. There, to my surprise, I realized her pigeons weren’t like Peck, your basic New York grey and blue iridescent beauty. These gorgeous birds looked more like pale Parisian fan dancers. Cream-colored, with beautifully splayed tails, this flock of about 14 took flight at Peck’s entrance, retreating to the rafters. There they stared down at this intruder, as bewildered by him as poor Peck obviously was by them. I hesitated. Was I doing the right thing? After 15 years, would Peck understand that I wasn’t deserting him, but finally giving him the chance to socialize with his own species? Here he’d be safe from hawks, have more room to fly and, if he was lucky, might even find someone to literally take him under her wing. Who was I to deny him this last chance at romance? After assuring myself he wasn’t going to attack or be attacked by his new feathered friends, I left, telling Peck I’d see him soon. My friend assured me she’d look after him and that I could visit any time to see how he was adjusting to his new “senior residence.” The reality of my literal empty nest hit full force when I returned home. The silence from the room off the kitchen where Peck would call to me was deafening. Glancing at his empty cage, or thinking of how he’d sit on my head, my shoulder, answer to his name, caused actual sobbing. Somehow I made it through a whole week before visiting him, and saw he was still separate from the rest of the brood. He did manage to squeeze in when the flock was fed, and no one attacked him…but no one was befriending him, either. When I called his name he actually came to the door of the coop, climbed up its entire length until he was face to face with me, and, clinging to the wire, looked as if he was saying, “Why? Why did you leave me here?” That did me in. Now I was certain I’d been wrong, and this feeling was validated by two bird experts I called that night. One, from a successful store for birds of all varieties, said that birds often bond more with a human owner than with their own kind, especially from an early age. And the other, the very avian expert from our local bird sanctuary who taught me how to raise Peck, agreed. “Go get him,” they both basically said. “He obviously prefers your company to those other birds.” So, gentle readers, that’s what I did. My friend couldn’t have been nicer about me taking him back, and, judging by his appetite when he got home, Peck was starved for more than affection by those other birds, so he is actually happier as an only child. Even better, my research about tame pigeons revealed they can actually live for 30 years, not just 19, so Peck may still have his best years ahead of him. I’m just so happy he’s chosen to spend them with me!



IN ONE OF my first columns, I wrote about how I’d rescued a baby pigeon who’d fallen out of his nest in Manhattan, and raised him as a pet.

That was 15 years ago, and Peck, I’m happy to report, is alive and well. But after reading that pigeons can live up to 19 years in captivity, I began to regret that this bright little bird had never experienced being with his own kind. When an acquaintance who keeps her own flock of pigeons offered to take him, I agreed.

Singing choruses of Born Free to hearten our resolve, Peck and I made the 10-minute journey (so convenient for visiting!) to my friend’s house. There, to my surprise, I realized her pigeons weren’t like Peck, your New York grey and blue iridescent beauty. These gorgeous birds – cream-colored, with splayed tails – looked more like pale Parisian fan dancers. The flock took flight at Peck’s entrance, retreating to the rafters, as bewildered by this intruder as poor Peck obviously was by them.

I hesitated. Would Peck understand that I wasn’t deserting him, but finally giving him the chance to socialize? Here he’d be safe from hawks, have more room to fly and might even find someone to take him under her wing. Who was I to deny him a last chance at romance?

After assuring myself he wasn’t going to attack or be attacked, I left, telling Peck I’d see him soon. My friend assured me she’d look after him and that I could visit any time.

The reality of my empty nest hit full force when I returned home. The silence from the room off the kitchen where Peck would call to me was deafening. Glancing at his empty cage, or thinking of how he’d sit on my head, my shoulder, answer to his name, caused actual sobbing.

Somehow I made it through a whole week before visiting, and saw he was still separate from the rest of the brood. He did manage to squeeze in when the flock was fed, and no one attacked him…but no one was befriending him, either. When I called his name he actually came to the door of the coop, climbed up its entire length until he was face to face with me, and, clinging to the wire, looked as if he was saying, “Why? Why did you leave me here?”

That did me in. Now I was certain I’d been wrong, a feeling validated by two bird experts I called. One said that birds often bond more with a human owner than with their own kind, especially from an early age. The other, the same woman from our local bird sanctuary who taught me how to raise Peck, agreed. “Go get him,” they both basically said.

So, gentle readers, that’s what I did. My friend couldn’t have been nicer about me taking him back, and, judging by his appetite when he got home, Peck was starved for more than affection by those other birds, so he is actually happier as an only child. Even better, my research about tame pigeons revealed they can actually live for 30 years, not just 19, so Peck may still have his best years ahead of him.

I’m just so happy he’s chosen to spend them with me! DEBORAH GUARINO




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