DONALD - Part 2
Donald continued to thrive over the next two weeks, and took it upon himself to be overseer of any orphaned nestling that I brought in. He visited every one and would stand close to them and exchange a few vocal noises, neither of which would understand, but the comforting reassurance conveyed, was accepted by all.
He had gained extra privileges as he was an 'introduced' species. An exotic. A feral pigeon. He didn't come under the wildlife carers' licensing rules of the protected native animals/birds. Many carers wouldn't have kept him, but I was interested in learning as much as I could about any bird species, and I was willing to keep him until a suitable release site was found.
As with any young chicks, I was careful not to imprint on or tame him, both being detrimental to their chances for survival in the wild.
During week three, Donald feathered nicely and mastered walking, with the addition of jumping and getting stuck in hard-to-reach places. Generally though, he developed a definite independence and a complete aversion to anything relating to a routine...such as settling down at night. I didn't really mind anything he did though, as the important thing was that he'd survived.
Near the end of that week, I had a call from another carer.
"I've got a present for you," she said, in a tone we used for each other when one of us had a nestling that could be matched with any the other had in care. "I found a pigeon nestling at the shops. People were nearly stepping on him. Do you want to put him with Donald?"
She didn't have to ask again, I had an hour before next feed time and I headed over to her house. An hour later I was back home, carrying in the new arrival as a surprise for Donald.
There isn't much room in wildlife caring for sentiment, but if anything ever deserved being labelled "love at first sight", it was when Donald set his eyes on Mickey. Both chicks seemed to bond then and there, and the still-so-very-young Donald became full time guardian of the quiet, gentle newcomer.
What also happened from that meeting, was that the ONLY time I could approach Mickey, was if I was carrying food for him. They were both dependent on me for that, neither yet self-feeding. Mickey also hadn't shown much sign of being active, but as his appetite was good, I wasn't too concerned.
They spent all of their days together, and anytime I was near them, outside of feed times, Donald would stand as tall as he could, and flap one of wings at me, in a direct warning to "back off". And so I would, and continued to respect this gesture until they were both ready to move into my large, flight aviary.
Around the time they were about three months old, Donald gave me the biggest surprise I'd had for some time. "He" laid an egg, and Donald became Donal.
Twenty four hours later, Mickey laid an egg too, and became Mikki.
And both girls, in turn, 36 hours respectively, after their first eggs, laid a second.
I called a pigeon club and was assured this was par for the course. The pigeon adaptation of acting like chickens.
All went well for a number of weeks. I'd decided to give Donal and Mikki a permanent home, as the only strong colony of pigeons I could find, was also a constant attraction for hawks. And then, another unexpected situation developed, which made my decision not to release the pair, a correct one.
As weeks passed, the pair fledged, and gained their skills but I noticed an occasional limp in Mikki's walking. As more time passed, her legs began to 'bow', and although she'd learned to fly well, it was on the ground when movements became difficult for her.
This was a very slow process, but it also provided a reason why she may have been ousted from her nest in those early days.
"Survival of the fittest", is a reality in the natural world and often, what may seem to us to be cruel, is merely the act of continuing bloodlines in the strongest way possible for a species' survival. And "cruel" is our word imposed on another world's reality. It really shouldn't apply.
The rejection of newborns or hatchlings happens. And even more astounding, is the ability of parents to KNOW that a newborn or hatchling has a genetic fault, which may not be visible for some time to come. Throughout the years I cared for wildlife, Mikki was by no means the only chick that I received because of this same, unfortunate circumstance.
Over the next few years, Mikki gradually worsened. She suffered no pain, and was happy being with Donal, and Donal was devoted to her. Until a time when she suddenly seemed to lose enough strength to stand, and I took her inside for what I thought could have been her last days.
There was a man nearby wanting to re-house some of his pigeons, and I paid him a visit, with the intention of choosing a new friend for Donal. The man had been desperate to find homes for his birds, and I went home that day with four of them, instead of one.
By some unseen force though, Mikki rallied, and I returned her to Donal and the new friends they'd acquired.
A few more weeks passed, and Mikki's health failed again. This time she didn't survive. Donal said her goodbye, as many birds do, and also as many birds do, chose a new special friend from amongst the newer arrivals.
There's really no incentive for looking back, in a bird's world. Understanding death, and accepting it, is a part of life.
It's just how it is.