Once upon a Pigeon: A Bird’s Eye View of Ecuador


Forgive the pathetic pun.  I’ll ask that up front.

But today I’m writing about the most commonly seen bird in Cuenca, Ecuador, the mountain town spouse Sara and I now call home.  These friendly fowl are, for that  matter, the most ubiquitous bird in many cities, the world over.  Wherever you live, you may know them all too well.

Yes, you guessed it.  Today’s post honors the poor and, too often, under-appreciated pigeon.

Not only do these birds, also known as doves, mate for life–about 5 years–they manage to live almost everywhere.  They flock in the manicured parks of el Centro, the colonial heart of our city.  They perch on roof tops, preen one another on drain pipes, and patrol the sidewalks of Totoracocha, the suburb where Sara and I live.

I know they aren’t the most exotic of birds.  Heck, they’re not exotic in the least.  They poop a lot.  Some say they’re dirty, carry disease, remain a general nuisance to the proper maintenance of urban order.

I happen to disagree.

But mostly because I have a perfect view into pigeon paradise just outside my studio window.  And since we’ve lived in this house for the past three months, I’ve watched the mama and papa pigeons come and go from their nursery under our neighbor’s eaves.  I’ve watched them refurbish and freshen nests, feed their young, and raise two sets of babies to near adulthood.  I’ve held and fed the little ones who’ve flown the coop too soon; I’ve even learned to climb high enough and then balance babies on the end of a broom to return them to their nest.  Not only that, but I’ve gotten to know our neighbor, as well, a little boy who loves them even more than I do, and I’ve taken more pigeon pictures than I can count.

So, if you’re a pigeon-prejudiced person, please forgive my silly pigeon post.  I hope some of you will enjoy the fowl photos Sara and I have taken over the past few months.

Mama pigeon

Mama pigeon

Papa pigeon

Papa pigeon

First pair of pigeon chicks we watched mature

First pair of pigeon chicks (squabs) we watched mature

At three-weeks-old pigeons look almost identical to their fully grown counterparts, but they’re still learning how to fly.  If they get down from the nest too soon, they sometimes can’t fly high enough to return.  This was the case with the chick below.

Pigeon chick at 3-weeks-old

Pigeon chick at 3-weeks-old

Rescuing pigeon chick from potential cat attack

Rescuing chick from a potential cat attack–

Our dogs love the pigeons almost as much as we do.

Our dog Ralph keeps an eye on rescued chick.

Ralph baby-sits the rescued chick.

Ralph and Lucy watch pigeon with me.  Lucy has found a perch of her very own.

Ralph allows me to watch with him. Lucy supervises from a perch of her very own.

Until I figured out how to return the chicks to their nest, I fed them a warm cereal, of sorts–a porridge of dog food and water.   This seemed to confuse our canine companions, who tried to claim it was their meal time.

Preparing to feed the rescued chick from a syringe.

Preparing to feed the rescued chick from a syringe.  Ralph and Lucy “help.”

Since our second set of chicks has grown to about three weeks, as well, our nine-year-old neighbor Ariel has knocked at our gate, indicating that one of these friendly-feathered toddlers had wandered into our living room.  My Spanish not being what it could be, I assured him I had not brought the baby inside.  But Ariel was insistent.  Finally, I understood.  He didn’t think I’d taken it in on purpose.  He was merely indicating that it WAS inside.  When we looked, there it pecked and waddled, exploring the corner behind our newly-upholstered green chair!  Thank God for good neighbors!

Neighbor Ariel with chick from our second set of babies.

Neighbor Ariel with the chick found in our living room–

The infant in the final photo below is tiny.  I don’t know where Ariel found it.  But he brought it to me–the Chick Whisperer, I suppose.

I don't know where Ariel found this chick he brought to me.

Call me the Chick Whisperer!

So it seems, we’ve moved all the way to Andes, and I’m writing about the most common, most disliked bird on the planet.  Leave it to me take up for a global underdog.

Oops, wrong species, but you know what I mean.  Right?

Have you ever rescued wildlife of any kind?  Would you?  Are you an animal lover, a “whisperer” of anything, perhaps

66 thoughts on “Once upon a Pigeon: A Bird’s Eye View of Ecuador

    • That’s a great idea. I’ve tried to encourage our little neighbor to name our pigeons, but that’s not happened yet. I may need to name them myself. Thanks so much for stopping by. Loved your post on chaotic, first drafts!

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  1. Well of course you are the perfect one to nurse these little ones back to health and get them back where they belong. Love the picture of you with the dogs watching out the door! Great post—I felt like I was right there with you. Pigeons can definitely be dirty but you showed me a totally different perspective–thank you!

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    • Aren’t the dogs a hoot?! I’m amazed neither of them has been aggressive with the little things. I guess they sense their vulnerability. They are, indeed, dirty. That is also true. I’ve found that hand-washing and changing clothes has helped me get past that concern. So glad that you, too, can now see them in a new light! Great to hear from you!

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  2. THE CHICK WHISPERER – I love it!

    “I’ve even learned to climb high enough and then balance babies on the end of a broom to return them to their nest.” Cathy – my hat is off to you!

    I love the photographs throughout this post, and oh-how-fun to have Ariel as a neighbor. I’m confident that you’ll brush up on your spanish fast with that young man around 🙂

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    • Thanks, Laurie. Glad you enjoyed my Chick Whisperer designation. I have to admit, however, that I’ve learned a lot from Ariel. He initially had the broom idea. Smart little boy! And, yes, my Spanish is bound to improve. He doesn’t speak a word of English. I’m so happy you stopped by!

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  3. Cheers to your pigeon rescue … which is a sign of your empathetic heart. 🙂 The interest by the dogs is a hoot! Meanwhile, I don’t know what the words say on this video, but the music and images are wonder.

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    • Wow, Frank, the video is simply amazing! I had NO idea that pigeons came in so many colors and textures. Thanks SO much for sharing it! They are simply stunning! I LOVE it! How do you find these things?

      The dogs crack me up, as well! It’s great to hear from you this morning. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Good for you! Love the pics! Can’t believe the dogs just sat there while you had the chicks in the house. I tried to rescue baby bunnies my cat brought to me — but was unsuccessful. I did, however, save some baby squirrels. Ended up taking them to the zoo, my vet told me they would take them. When I got them there they were placed in a knit hat where other baby squirrels were cuddled up.

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    • How sweet your squirrel story is! I’m so happy you were able to save them. I’m afraid I, too, was unsuccessful saving baby rabbits. I tried as a teenager. Oh, how I cried when they died!

      How great to hear from you today. Hope you are doing well! Take care, my friend!

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  5. I love these pictures! I agree with your assessment of the birds, too. They may be more visible than other birds, but lovely additions to our world anyway. I’ve had a pair of mourning doves return to my yard every Spring for several years now. Thanks, Kathy, for a look into your new world!

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    • How fun that you were able to stop by and see my birds. I love it that you have a pair of doves that return year after year to your home. Their ability to do that is simply amazing. I also love what you say about their being a lovely addition to our world–plentiful or not.

      Hope your week is going well! Thanks for reading!

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    • How funny that you say that, Lisa, as I was just reading what a great source of protein they can be, since they grow to adult size so quickly. Hope you have a great breakfast, my friend. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Loved this .. and that you have a sweet, loving neighbor who has a heart for the underlings, too 🙂 That photo of you & the dogs cracked me up.

    My Dad was the animal whisperer in the family; neighborhood cats, dogs, and whatever you can think of took to him like the pied piper. The reality is he was kind, soft-spoken, and patient. I learned a lot from him 🙂

    MJ

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    • Oh, he is a sweet little boy, indeed! I’m thankful to have him. I still have to laugh at the dog photos, as well. Hard to believe they weren’t more aggressive–aggressive at all, for that matter.

      Your father sounds like such a lovely man, MJ. So glad you had him.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. I love hearing from you!

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  7. I’m not at all surprised by your support for the lowly pigeon…you indeed have a kind heart which we have seen numerous times in your posts…this is a natural extension of the spirit of kindness.

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  8. I’m sorry, I have to admit that I am not a pigeon lover. But I have a very good reason for that.

    When we were living in the Bay Area (we being my parents and I, as I was still in high school at the time), mites from a roost of nesting pigeons invaded our home. The headline from the attached article alone will make you understand why this freaked us out. We had to call in an exterminator, and he set off bug bombs to fumigate the house. I owned a saltwater aquarium with all kinds of exotic (expensive) fish, and my mom didn’t think about leaving my room alone or covering the aquarium to protect it from the chemicals. The pigeon mites weren’t a problem after the exterminator left, but I also had a tank full of dead fish.

    Damn pigeons.

    http://blog.epa.gov/greeningtheapple/2012/06/pigeon-mites-will-feed-on-sleeping-humans/

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  9. I have to admit I have not thought much about pigeons in one way or another. But I enjoyed your post and your pictures (you look great!) But then I saw the flip side of pigeon-dom from commenter Mark above….and think I will just appreciated them from afar…..like Ecuador afar. 😉

    Hugs to you and Sara!

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    • Yeah, that comment had an impact on me, as well. Admittedly, I’ve been very careful, washing hands after touching them, changing and laundering clothes. Still, one can not be too careful, I’m sure. Mark’s experience sounds like an absolute nightmare. Hugs to you and David, as well. I promise, there will be NO pigeon handling when you come to visit!

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  10. I love pigeons. I also love all your photos of pigeons. I think it’s wonderful that you have a pigeon’s eye view, and can watch the babies as they learn to fly. I’m not a whisperer of anything except, perhaps, dragonflies when I want to take their picture. 😀

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    • So glad you enjoyed the photos, Robin. I think you are, indeed, a dragonfly whisperer of the highest order. I love you pictures of them. In the meantime, hope you are staying cool. It’s great to hear from you. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  11. As you know, Kathy, I am a pigeon fan, too, but unlike you, I’m not a fan of getting touchy-feely with them. I’m a look, but don’t touch type. Debra’s comment brought to mind an excellent post about pigeons that served in WWII written by my bud in the UK, Kate Shrewsday (who I met earlier this month when she crossed the pond). I don’t know why I didn’t comment because I liked that post a lot:

    http://kateshrewsday.com/2013/06/16/a-little-bird-told-me-a-pigeon-post/

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    • Doesn’t surprise me that you not touchy-feely with pigeons. That would mean a close encounter with NATURE! But, yes, I know you appreciate them–at the appropriate distance, that is. I will check out your friend Kate’s pigeon post. How fun that you got to meet her! So glad that things have been a bit cooler for you. When I see reports of heat in NYC, I can’t help but think about you. Stay cool, my dear! And come visit soon. I promise there will be no (too) close encounters with fowl of any kind.

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  12. Kathy, Yikes, I’m not much a pigeon fan, but I’m for whatever suits your fancy. Now, if you come across any hummingbirds, then be sure to raise them well and take lots of photos. I just love the speed, agility, grace and beauty. A work of art, if you ask me.

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    • Okay, well, not everyone is. My friend Mark left a comment yesterday that gave me pause–pigeon pause, I suppose. But we DO have hummingbirds here and Sara has photos of some. I promise I will share them with you! They are, indeed, art in motion! Take care, my friend! Hugs to you those precious pooches of yours!

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  13. Pingback: Humanizing Wednesday: The Pigeon Secretary | Sunshine Factor

  14. The poor maligned pigeon. They have a bad rap here in NYC, but I kind of like them. Your post reminded me a bit of the movie On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. He raises pigeons on the roof of his apartment building.

    I’m surprised that Mama pigeon still looks after the babies even after you handle them. I’m even more surprised that Ralph and Lucy are so patient with your feathered friends. I’m not sure Reggie would go for it! 🙂

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    • I’m afraid to say I’ve not seen the movie, but it sounds interesting.

      And yes, the parents feed them after we’ve handled them. I watched them do it. I was afraid of the same thing, but in the initial situation I didn’t feel like I had much choice but to save the poor thing.

      And yes, again, I’m shocked by the dogs’ tolerance of the birds. They seemed quite intrigued. And Lucy is more known for behaving badly, so I especially thought she’s protest.

      Take care, Jackie. It’s great to hear from you Give Reggie some lovin’ from us!

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  15. Sistas of the Soul, you and I. I’ve been in your crocs more than once, my friend. While my rescues haven’t been winged I have saved from cats two chipmunks, a rabbit and a salamander to be exact. Ralph, my man! I LOVE the pic with you and the dogs watching the pigeon!……..BTW, send pics of the house! That kitchen looks gorgeous!

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    • Thank you so much. I will stop by your blog and refresh myself with the requirements. I appreciate your nominating me. I’m afraid it may take me a while to pass along the honor. Please forgive me in advance and know how much I appreciate your thinking about me!

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  16. Fascinating about the pigeons, Kathy. Thanks for telling their story and for helping the chicks survive. Being a city slicker, I have always taken pigeons for granted, never realizing that they live in such exotic places as Cuenca, Ecuador. My daughter (now grown) and I saved kittens our mama cat gave birth to prematurely — involving bottle night feedings. My aunt (now almost 100 and living in a nursing facility, still of reasonably sound mind) was the animal whisperer in our family. When I was a child, I watched her save many baby birds; and before she went into the nursing facility, I accompanied her while she fed bread to the Canada geese, some brown-eyed, some blue-eyed, nearly as tall as I. I kept a respectable distance.

    Yes, more pix of your house, por favor — I was fascinated.

    And, getting back to your previous blog comments about life interfering with blogging, tell me about it. That’s why my delay in getting back to you. Last week I finally wrote a new blog post — part 1 of probably a 3-part story. So, I’ve left a cliffhanger (or so I hope) that I must write more of. My rationale for not making a new blog post sooner is that, after all, we have to wait a whole year, often, for a new season of some favorite TV series.

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    • Thank God I’m not the only one whose blogging gets side-lined by life! And now you’ve got me wondering about your cliffhanger!

      I love that you and your daughter saved premature kittens. Gosh, there are few things cuter in the world than kittens. And I love that your aunt was an animal whisperer, as well. That’s pretty darn cool!

      Hope you are doing well. I will try to get more photos of house up soon. I promise. Thanks for stopping by. It’s great to hear from you!

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  17. I love that you protect your pigeons! I’m an animal lover and think that most birds are fascinating, whether they are considered a nuisance or not. (I take tons of seagull pictures when we go to Lake Superior, though many claim they are dirty scavengers.)

    I have rescued my share of birds, a few cats, and of course, some very special dogs. (Love the way your Lucy is perched on your back! Silly, cute, little thing!)

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    • I didn’t know that you rescued anything besides dogs. But, gosh, your “puppies” are cuties! Isn’t my Lucy a hoot on my back? You’ve got that right. Sara and I tease that she’s trying to supervise–always–any excuse to give her two cents! LOL Great to hear from you, Terri. Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend!

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