Yesterday, Sunday October 19th I gave Toronto Wildlife Centre a hand by picking up some local city birds and setting them free. I know some will scoff at the idea of helping out Pigeons and Starlings, but they serve a purpose like all living things do; whether you see them as Hawk food, clean up crews of our food waste or perhaps beautiful creatures in their own way. Whatever. All I know I was happy to help.
The Starling was very local to our home and he was gone out of sight in seconds upon release. The Pigeon on the other hand is what this blog is about. It was a touching release even setting aside my admiration for these birds thanks to my hand feeding flock at home.
When I picked up the birds at TWC, Julia, one of the main people at the front desk, kinda like a coordinator for the centre, gave me some specifics with the Pigeon. He has a flock and she wanted to ensure he got home to them and not released elsewhere. She showed me the city map on the wall and explained about a shopping mall where he was picked up that has a small population of the birds hanging around. This location wasn't too from TWC.
The Pigeon was very quiet in his box through the ride unlike many of the other birds who fuss and fight the whole way.
I get to the mall parking lot and started my search for his family. It was looking pretty desolate upon arrival and no birds were seen on the ground. So I started to look up and soon found them atop the west side entrance to this mall. There must have been 30+ birds sitting up there together taking in the sun.
I open up the back of the truck and bring his carrier out.
The bird doesn't move.
I open up the carrier and he sits there within, just looking at me.
Now this is all quite new to me. I've released 19 birds prior to him and the Starling, and this is the first bird that did not burst out of the carrier to get away; although all others were migratory songbirds. Did he tune into my fondness for his species and felt comfortable? Ha ha! Ya, right! Nope, he was too scared to leave his comfy safe house.
I decided to put his carrier up on roof of the truck so he could have a better view of the mall across the parking lot and hopefully spot his family sitting up top.
He still wasn't taking in the thought of leaving after a couple minutes. Note, I wasn't blocking his view or acting as a barrier watching him... I moved to the side and waited for him to take in what was going on. Of course I would peek over his way every now and then to see what he was doing. I used my mobile phone to take these photos.
I think he really liked his blanket and felt safe with it. It was then I decided that perhaps it was time to take his blanket away from him. He wasn't liking that very much and started to vocalize to me as I removed it. And here I thought only little kids had safety blankets!
Now blanket-less. What will he do?
It wasn't much longer after that when he ventured out of the box.
He sat on the roof of the truck for another 5 seconds maybe and then he flew off. I watched him go over the cars in the lot, gain height and make his way to the spot where all his buds were. He was up there in no time, did a little hover over them until he found a spot to land with the crew.
And then it was over. He was home. All his fears and wonders of what was going on vanished. Life carried on once again from where it left off before he got hurt.
It was a great release. The mystery on how this was going to play out for both him and I; and in the end he made it home to his flock. There was no wondering if he found them. I didn't just leave him in the parking lot and said "see ya!" He settled in with his family and I left with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.