Q: A pigeon has arrived in my yard that is very friendly and apparently can’t fly. It is banded. What should I do?
A: This bird is probably lost from a local (or sometimes very distant) pigeon club. Racing homing pigeons is a very popular pastime in the Northeast, and several clubs in our area get their birds together every weekend during the warm months, truck them out to Ohio, and release them for the race home, where club members have gathered for the event. These events are very well-coordinated with sealed timers at the coop entrance, and in some cases, electronic scanners that monitor and identify birds as they enter the coop. The birds are well-bred for flying, are hand-reared, and often quite tame. It is not unusual for a bird or two to run low on energy on the home flight, especially if they encounter poor weather. In such cases, the bird usually ends up on someone’s doorstep without enough energy to carry on, looking for some food. You can identify these birds right away, as they are usually banded on both legs and appear quite tame. Based on the letter code on the bands, we sometimes can identify the pigeon’s owner, but past experience has shown us that most owners want nothing further to do with birds that can’t make it. We now advise people to offer the bird food (cracked corn, bird seed, cracker crumbs, etc.) and water for a day or so, then release the bird somewhere where there are lots of other pigeons, like a town park or highway overpass, in the hope that it will return to its own coop and not your backyard again. Therefore it is important not to keep it around for more than a day or so, to prevent it imprinting on your yard as its new home coop.