DONALD - Part 1
After a lengthy love affair with a 1976 Fiat Mirafiori, I succumbed to the needs and constancy of wildlife caring and bought a 1984 Suzuki Carry Van. In fact I bought it without even seeing it first, and when it arrived, I loved it instantly.
A bright yellow high dome, made Rufus distinctive and so easy to find in crowded carparks. And despite his size, he was like a truck to drive.
On the first night of his arrival, I left for the city business district, after receiving an 11:30pm call from the night concierge of an apartment block. He said he'd found a bird in the parking lot, and when I asked what kind of bird it was, he said, "Kind of like a pelican."
A few things came to mind...(1) pelicans aren't known to be night flyers, but as the call came from half a mile away from a lake, night occurences and disturbances are always possible.
(2) My biggest cage was for cockatoos. Much too small for a pelican, and even the door was going to be too small to put the bird through.
(3) Should the bird be able to recover, I definitely had no appropriate food for it, even though I would contact Conservation Rangers who kept facilities for large species at their headquarters.
First things first though, and with fingers crossed for the bird not having injuries too serious for recovery, I set off on Rufus's first pick-up, 12kms away, in a sleeping CBD just on midnight.
I parked at the main entrance and went inside to find out what size the bird actually was, and something about its condition.
The concierge wasted no time in disappearing to get the injured party and when he came back, carrying a box that had once held a 100cm television, my heart sank. No way was the cockatoo cage I'd loaded into Rufus going to be big enough.
"Here it is," he said, and I walked over and peered inside, only to be peered back at by two bright eyes on an almost naked little body, nestled into one corner of the box.
Definitely not a pelican, but a pigeon hatchling -- fallen off a totally unsafe nest site, as pigeon hatchlings tend to do.
After finishing the paperwork, I left with the bird in a much smaller carrier, and drove to a nearby 24hr vet clinic to have him checked for internal injuries, thus saving another trip the next morning.
While I waited, a man there said, "That pigeon, it'll die. You can't raise them, they stress too much." He then went on to suggest what food to give it anyway. All of this had me thinking I wouldn't succeed with this bub, and determination set in.
The vet check was fine, and back home I settled the little one into a warm place and left him. Come morning, first food offer proved to be more difficult than with most new arrivals, and I ended up with more of the mixture over me than what the bird had taken in.
For an almost featherless, unattractive, podgy-shaped little bird, he certainly put up a struggle.
A couple of later attempts though, were more successful, and he and I met halfway in what was a two-way operation -- me, on one side, supplying the food and he, on the other, making up the rules about how much of it, if any, or all, he was going to swallow.
This small victory for me was all I was concerned about for now. Nourishment being an absolute must in so young a chick.
Gradually though, after three days, I noticed a decline in his manner and his appetite began dropping, which wasn't good at all.
I stood nearby and watched him, and I took into account the surroundings he was in. Firstly, he wasn't walking yet, and I'd 'nested' him in a carrier which had all sides enclosed but constructed so that the occupant had a full view everywhere around him.
There were a few other chicks in other similar carriers, and wide, double windows in one wall, gave them all a view of the many trees in my backyard, along with the sounds of wild birds which frequented the garden.
I looked back to the pigeon chick and his eyes were focusing on the greenery through the windows. He barely moved, unlike the others, who could be quite vocal and who had begun moving around and testing out what their legs were for.
Not so, the pigeon. He was stressing. He was beginning to 'give up'. I followed his gaze once more, then went over to him, took him out of the carrier, and set him down near the floor-length windows.
Little miracles are something carers treasure, and one took place there in front of me.
Donald, as I'd come to call him, rolled a bit, but soon found his legs and made his wobbly way over to where he could see the view outside. The 'miracle', was the immediate change in his eyes, his face, his behaviour, and from then on, he became livelier and more attentive to all others in the room.
So, Lesson 1 with baby pigeons is: understand and compromise. Lesson 2: Never contain baby pigeons. They need to be free.
In my next blog, DONALD Part 2, Donald surprises me.....and I surprise Donald.