Birds

Gem & Haiku: Love at Last?

West of England Tumbler and Indian Fantail Cross Pigeons

It’s been exactly a year since I rescued Gem, our fancy red pigeon, from the side of the road. His right wing was both punctured and fractured, most likely from a hawk strike. He couldn’t fly and probably wouldn’t have lasted another day if I hadn’t happened by and scooped him up. (You can find that story here.)

As I was caring for Gem during those first few weeks, I told him that when he was well, we would build him a house and get him a girl. (It was obvious that Gem was a boy from the first time he saw his own reflection in a mirror. He puffed up as big as a small pigeon can, cooing deeply, spinning in circles, dragging his tail. He couldn’t stop his natural instinct to assert himself in the face of his own handsome image, no matter how poorly he was feeling at the time.)

Gem did get well. And we did build him a house . . .

Gem's House | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Then we let him start interviewing girls. Here, he seems to be saying, “That white one looks a lot more interested in the seed than she is in me.” The little black pigeon (who also seems pretty interested in the seed) is Haiku, an Indian Fantail cross. Haiku (named “Eclipse” when we took her in) was such a delicate, gentle pigeon that we all fell for her right away.

Three Pigeons 1 | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Shortly after Haiku moved in, this pair’s story took a surprising turn. (Not to say that picking up a pigeon off the street and all the rest of it wouldn’t seem surprising enough to some folks.) Gem had started courting Haiku right away — but after a few weeks, he changed his mind. He stopped pursuing her and we had no idea why. Maybe it was like Match.com for pigeons: They went on a few dates and it just didn’t work out for him; the chemistry was off.

Poor Haiku! It was obvious that she loved Gem. She followed him around, seeking his attention, but he would peck her away when she got too close. He wasn’t a bully about it, but he was bossy. Haiku wasn’t allowed to get up on Gem’s special shelf, or to use the bath until Gem was finished. Still, this little girl was not deterred. She would come back to him again and again; sometimes she would even sneak up behind him while he was resting and tug at his tail feathers. She was like a schoolgirl with a crush on an older boy who ignored her or pushed her away.

Indian Fantail Cross Pigeon

This went on for the better part of a year. Then, just a couple weeks ago, I decided to start handling Haiku more often, to help her relax with people. She’s always been a skittery girl. Like Gem, she was caught by a predator as a very young bird, so she’s got a touch of PTSD. I started picking her up (she still hates it) to pet her and kiss her. And guess what happened?

Gem got jealous. He saw me kissing on Haiku and then he wanted to start kissing on Haiku. For real! It took less than 24 hours for Gem to start courting Haiku again.

Within a week, Haiku laid her first egg . . .

Haiku's First Egg | Hitchhiking to Heaven

With all those mama pigeon hormones raging, tiny Haiku has become a fierce defender of the nest box. I try to take her very seriously in this role and not laugh at her too much. It’s hard, though. She puffs herself up with such enthusiasm and intensity that she almost knocks her little self over sideways.

Haiku on Guard | Hitchhiking to Heaven

Because of his history of indifference, I was concerned that Gem wouldn’t step up to his new role of papa pigeon. But on the morning after the first egg appeared, I awoke to find Gem engaged in a furious battle with the aviary whisk broom. He was trying to pull it apart to bring bits of straw to the nest. I made it easier by giving him a box of straw all his own.

Here he goes . . .

Gem with Straw | Hitchhiking to Heaven

And look at him fly! That right wing is the one that was broken.

Gem Flies! | Hitchhiking to Heaven

So we have another little family here at home. Of course, I am replacing their eggs with wooden ones, because four pigeons is plenty for us. Plus, if we wanted more pigeons there are many wonderful birds who are waiting for good homes. You can meet them and learn more at PigeonRescue.org, the website of MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Rescue.

Gem Preening Haiku | Hitchhiking to Heaven

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