Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and revered as symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, they’ve been used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States and are credited with saving thousands of lives. Charles Darwin relied heavily on pigeons to help formulate and support his theory of evolution. Yet today they are reviled as “rats with wings.” Author Andrew D. Blechman, The Pigeon: The Fascinating Saga of The World’s Most Revered and Most Reviled Bird.
This book on pigeons was published a few years ago providing food for thought about the current state of pigeons in the minds of humans. Granted they can be most irritating when they gather en masse with their leavings marring the recently cleaned patio or porch. They can be bullies at the bird feeder or at the bird bath. It doesn’t matter that their iridescent feathers and unique coloring presents a handsome, strutting bird. Ultimately they still fall prey to the fact that they have the dreaded non- native status. As a result pigeons have a limited following at this point in their history.
If you fall in this category you might decide to re-think your feelings when you learn about Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon and a genuine hero from World War I. As the story goes on October 4, 1918 during the Battle of Argonne, 500 soldiers from the 7th Division had been cut off and were being bombarded from both their own artillery and from that of the Germans. Lacking the current sophistication of today’s communication abilities carrier pigeons were used to send messages back and forth. Two pigeons were sent with messages attached to their legs to the artillery unit asking them to stop the bombardment. Neither made it; both were killed. A third and desperate attempt was made by sending Cher Ami with a message to stop the bombardment. The distance she had to go was 25 miles which she accomplished…no matter that she was blinded in one eye, shot in the breast, and had one leg practically blown off (the leg carrying the message no less)!
She made it alive; delivered the message; the bombardment stopped; many lives were saved.
As a result of her heroism she was returned to the U.S. where she lived until June 13, 1919. Cher Ami now resides in a taxidermy-ed state in the Smithsonian Institution.
I just can’t help but admire this bird….one tough feathered soldier! You might want to read the book now if you don’t mind challenging your current notions. I imagine I am going to catch some flak for this, but I don’t care. I am still impressed….go Cher Ami, strut your stuff.
This Week @ Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 5146.
As we begin to close out the year 2014, let’s remember the reason Liberty is still here after 34 years of serving the community that is Arizona – the wildlife population, the human population, and the environment we all share in this absolutely marvelous state. We – and I mean the outstanding volunteers who give so generously of their time and skill, and the staff who often work far beyond the call of duty, keep doing the rehabilitation thing even though the patients we treat rarely (if ever) show their appreciation for our efforts, as well as the education thing which is equally as important and is actually more likely to bear fruit in the long run in terms of making this state, country, and planet a better place for all of its inhabitants. All requests for programs are considered and honored to the best of our abilities, and all creatures who arrive at our facility are given the best care we can provide, no matter what the species. TW@L wishes everyone reading this a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year!
OK, so lots of people hate pigeons, but read Megan’s essay above before passing judgement. We don’t release non-natives, but we also don’t permit an animal, regardless of the species, to suffer needlessly. This bird came in with string tightly wrapped around its foot and was suffering from it’s entanglement. Med Services volunteers Amyra and Elisa carefully removed the string and allowed the foot to begin healing. Non-native species are transferred to other groups who complete the treatment and place the animals into humane environments.
This mallard had a bad infection in both of its feet. The Med services team wrapped the feet with medicated “shoes” to allow the appendages to heal. As of this posting, the bird has been released.
RTH’s (red-tailed hawks) are among the most common raptors in North America and as such they show up in our facility quite often. This is especially true in the Fall when the young birds are out trying to learn the skills that they will need to survive for years to come. The hawk that found its way into some roofing tar is still with us and will probably be here for some time as it molts into new plumage to replace the feathers stained and damaged by the oil. Another youngster is also in our care and is recovering from unspecified injuries and is now in an outside enclosure prior to being released.
We recently received a California leaf-nosed bat with a broken bone in its wing. Bats can be problematic as they are considered one of the top rabies vector species in Arizona. As such, if anyone from the public touches the animal, it will be euthanized and tested for rabies. This bat had a broken wing and the broken bone was able to be splinted in hopes that it will heal and it can be released sometime down the road. Bats are essential to the health of the environment and we try to educate the public as to their beneficial nature whenever possible.
One of our long-time volunteers, David Gort, returned for a visit this week and got to help the Tuesday Vet Night activities while at the facility. David is currently studying to become a commercial helicopter pilot and is a trained rescue volunteer. Liberty has long been like the Hotel California – “You can check out, but you can never leave!”
A little great horned owl is currently one of our patients. Jan and Dr.Wyman both diagnosed a badly fractured wing but the true extent of the injury was only apparent when the bird was x-rayed by Dr. Sorum. The bird as since been moved to an outside enclosure to better assess his flying ability but he might end up as a new GHO foster parent for the next orphan season.
Last week’s update posted several pictures of Dr’ Wyman applying numerous sutures in an attempt to reattach the patagium to the wing of a small barn owl. This week, the bandages were removed and the stitches had held – at least for now. The wing was carefully rewrapped and will be examined again next week so hope remains that the repairs made to the wing’s tissue will continue to be viable.
A small red tailed hawk came in last week after apparently being the victim of an automobile collision. The bird appeared near death upon arrival and little hope was given for his recovery. But, the Med Services team didn’t give up and went to work. This week, the bird is doing much better and is standing on his own in the cage. This is one more example of how wonderful our volunteers are and the seeming miracles they perform in saving the patients that arrive at our window. He’s not out of danger yet, but his prognosis improves with each passing day.
Each year the volunteers of Liberty Wildlife bring out the single bulbed “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” to symbolize our dedication to hope in the face of overwhelming odds at this time of year. Pain and suffering know no season and take no time off for the holidays, but our hope never dims.