A few hours ago, the boyfriend came in from the kitchen and said, "There's a pigeon dying on our windowsill."
Now, as some of you might know, I kind of have a thing for pigeons. I know they're not the cleanest of animals, but I love watching them, and I think birds in general are fascinating.
Above and beyond all that, though, is the fact that this is, after all, a living being, just like me, and the boyfriend, and our cat Ali (who hadn't been on the kitchen counter in a while and thus hadn't noticed the pigeon). I went to have a look. The pigeon was frail-looking, with an overlong beak, and greasy feathers. His long-toed feet were caked in pigeon shit. Not an appealing sight. He squatted, quite still, on the wide windowsill.
When you live in a city, if you look closely, you will from time to time see dying or dead pigeons. I've always admired the way I've seen pigeons die, settled down on the margins of a busy sidewalk or square, quiet, observing, still. They die in the midst of what their life was, not closed up in a hospital or nursing home, isolated from what they knew.
This pigeon was definitely in that position, but something was strange. He was blinking frequently, and his eyes didn't look like those of any pigeon I'd seen before: they seemed to have a sort of cat's second eyelid, a membrane that closed over the black, bulging orbs.
The eyes and his thinness made me think he had some sort of sickness, maybe a cancer laying waste to his body.
The fact that he might be sitting there, incredible pain running through him, made me start to cry. I'm notoriously clumsy, but the boyfriend isn't. I asked him to put some crumbs out, and a little disposable plastic container full of water. At least if the pigeon needed to drink or wanted to eat in his last moments, we could give him that.
The pigeon didn't react much when the boyfriend put out the crumbs and water bowl, which convinced us more than ever that he was going to die. After a few minutes, I couldn't help myself; the boyfriend had put the water a bit far from the pigeon, and I wanted it to be closer to him, in case he was too weak to move much. I gently opened the window and slowly scooted the bowl towards him.
To my utter shock, the pigeon flew away.
I moved back inside, smiling. I had hoped this would happen. A part of me had seen all of those seemingly bad signs, but I'd also noticed that, unlike many pigeons here, this one had all of its toes. (Thanks to a recent post by Myriad, I've finally learned that pigeons lose their toes due to a painful disease.)
In addition, like bright sparks of hope, I'd seen that he had a few traces of yellow feathers on his head. A few years ago, a baby pigeon hatched quite unexpectedly in a flowerpot outside our window. The chick had been very ugly, as well, with those same yellow feathers all over it, and an overlong-seeming beak.
Could this just be a young pigeon, I wondered?
I did some research and think he might be a young-ISH pigeon, recently out of the nest. I was surprised and relieved to learn that his black eyes were probably a sign of his youthfulness, since adult pigeons have orange eyes.
I don't think this is a baby pigeon who's helpless and been left to die; I think it's a young adult trying to make his way in the world. He's now found a shelter in a little bricked-off corner of our building's courtyard. I just went down there and put out the water container and crumbs. He didn't fly away when he saw me, but he did seem afraid. He is moving and seems alert.
This little pigeon is in a bad place, because the rest of the pigeon population here are fat, somewhat mean and very spoiled birds, regularly fed by our building's inhabitants (including me -I like pigeons and Ali likes to watch them, so everyone wins!). When I'd put out crumbs for the pigeon when he was on our windowsill, two bossy birds had swooped in seemingly from nowhere and I'd had to shoo them away.
I can't help but worry a little about the guy. Maybe I relate, I guess. Sometimes life feels like that, no matter how old you are: there you are, the weakest one among forces you're powerless against.
I guess what I want to know is, if you know a thing or two about birds,
1. Does this one's behavior seem normal?
2. Is there anything I can do - or, rather, need to do - to help him?
Here's a picture I just took of him in the courtyard. The shit seems to have disappeared from his feet, and he now has a feather (one of his own, I think - a few flew off him when he fluttered off our windowsill) stuck to his beak. Really quite a hapless fellow:
I know some of you guys might think I'm a little bird-brained to be making such a big deal about this pigeon, but I just think any being that might be in trouble should be something to care about.
...Okay, maybe I'm a liiiitle crazy.....
UPDATE: I posted this about four hours ago. Since then, I've regularly checked from our window if the pigeon was still in the spot he'd chosen in the courtyard. He was for a while. Then, it started to get dark - and to rain, and when I checked just a few minutes ago, he wasn't there anymore. There aren't any predators in the area, so I assume he took flight, and hopefully found shelter from the rain.
Thank you all so much for your comments and advice and support. I'm so relieved that my impression that this might be a young bird seems to be right, and that many of you seem to think he looks healthy. I'll let you know if he comes back - but I hope he's fine and is now a free bird enjoying an exciting pigeon's life in Paris.