A May reminder of what Wild Things Sanctuary wildlife heroes have achieved, lives they've saved, and dreams they dream!
The Month of the Rock Dove
     What's so great about Rock Doves? These doves, also known as "pigeons" populate our cities in droves, are an invasive species from Europe, and when found in large groups often make quite a mess. People call them pests. But did you know that Rock Doves posses superior cognitive abilities and have even been trained to discriminate between paintings by Picasso & Monet and cubist & impressionist  paintings (Watanabe et al. 1995)? And not only that, but further research by the same scientists found that pigeons have such finely tuned powers of discrimination that if pigeons and human college students undergo the same training, their performance is comparable in distinguishing Van Gough and Chagall paintings. These birds also possess superb spatial intelligence and can recognize and use visual landmarks and the geometry of surfaces for orientation and spatial searches. Pigeons recognize objects despite changes in view and if the object is just slightly changed they will notice the changes. These birds have been shown to be capable of higher-order relational learning and can figuratively to travel back in time to recover memories of past events (episodic memory). Currently scientists are researching whether these animals can go forward in time to predict and plan for future events. Rock dove pairs are monogamous and often stay together for life, reinforcing their bond with cooing and mating displays. They show empathy towards pigeons in distress and will even try to relieve the suffering of another individual.

     Wild Things has been fortunate enough to have had 3 Rock Doves with us over the last month. "Irving Berlin," as named by his finders (see picture below) was found face down in a snow bank back in November. This young bird was starving due to a crop (a pouch off the throat where food is stored) infection. He did well, but it was too cold to release him by the time he got better. He stayed at Wild Things for the winter and within a week learned which cage was his, and so he was allowed time to fly around all day, returning to his cage for food and rests. During the last of his 4 months at Wild Things he started becoming friendly with humans and always wanted to sit on your shoulder or head, even when we were examining other patients. We all grew attached to him, but knew that his real place was in the wild with other Rock Doves. In the middle of April Irving was transferred to another rehabilitator with a small pigeon colony. This colony was started with a few unreleasable birds who become foster parents for many babies who now come and go as they please. Apparently Irving still likes saying hello to people, but also has many pigeon friends now too. We really miss him and his good morning greetings!

    But within 24 hours of finding Irving a new home, Baby pigeon arrived (see picture below). I was driving down the busiest street in Ithaca, the first in a long line of traffic and a crow was in the middle of my lane pecking at something. As I got closer, the crow flew away, but the thing in the road kept was a baby pigeon! In an instant I stopped, redirected traffic, grabbed Baby pigeon and we jumped back in the car. Some might say I unfairly took the crows breakfast, but it would have been squished by cars anyway...and in a moment like that you just go on instinct rather than reason. Baby pigeon had minor injuries and is doing fantastically well. She does not like staying in her nest at all, and I'm sure that is how she found her way out of her original nest in the first place, before being found by the crow. She is a lovely little bird with almost all white plumage, a rarity in our area. Unlike other birds, baby pigeons do not open their mouths and wait for their parents to pop food in their mouths. They drink "crop milk" by putting their beaks into their parents’ crops and sucking it down with a straw-like action. Baby pigeon also had a crop full of seeds, so amazingly her parents were also feeding her seeds at a young age  (~1-2 weeks when she was found). She loves to cuddle and is warm and plump. And I think she will be flying within the next week.

     And 24 hours after Baby arrived, Badass Homing Pigeon came to Wild Things (see picture below). This fine fellow, who is almost a pale blue in color, kept following some people into their house. When they looked outside they saw a hawk looming over their driveway, and so kept the pigeon for a few days and then brought him to Wild Things. I was fully expecting a wild pigeon who would be ready to be released, but when I opened the box I knew that this was not a true wild bird, but something rather special. He did not have an identifying band on his leg, so I cannot locate where he came from, but pictures sent to experts confirm that he is a Racing Homing pigeon who probably got lost. Apparently you can release them and they will find their way home, but this guy was already lost once and I am unsure if I really want to risk his safety in this way. Plus he is a great model for Baby pigeon who can spend time with him and learn that she is a Rock Dove, not a human. He has ended up with his moniker, because he truly is a "badass"! He will bat you with his wings and bite you if you get too close, and he struts around like he is the King of Wild Things. He has taken a fancy to Baby pigeon, sometimes a bit too much (!), and I think that they are both glad to have the company.

     Homing pigeons were bred from wild pigeons. Wild birds have a strong innate homing ability and "Homers" were bread to find their way home over extremely long distances. Racing homing pigeons have flown over 1000miles to find their way homes and over moderate distances of about 500miles their average speed is about 50mph, though top racing birds have been recorded to fly up to 110mph over shorter, 100mile distances. It is not entirely clear how they navigate, though it is hypothesized that they use magnetic, olfactory and visual cues. Homing pigeons who are used to carry messages are called "carrier pigeons," and have been used for over 3000years to deliver messages. Carrier pigeons are still employed in remote areas and have been used extensively during wars, even being awarded heroic service awards in some countries. Recently, a South African IT company challenged their country's largest internet provider's downloading speeds against a racing homing pigeon. The young bird, armed with a 4GB memory stick, took just over an hour to carry the data 50miles. Downloading the memory stick took about another hour and all f the information was received in under 2 hours and 7 minutes. In the same amount of time, only 4% of data was able to be transferred using the internet provider's services. perhaps, it will be useful to keep Badass Homer around to deliver any important Wild Things messages! In the meantime, we are happy to provide a sanctuary for these wonderful birds!
(Picture at top shows Baby pigeon in foreground with Badass watching her. Irving is flapping his lovely wings in the upper left corner).

Stella Bella says THANK YOU!

 May wildlife tip!

When gardening watch out for bunny nests and baby bunnies. These little ones are often victims of lawnmowers and weeding. See the WTS website for more information!

Help build an aviary for Wild Things!

Wild Things needs a big aviary where birds can fly.

At present birds like this sick Red Tail hawk must be transferred once they are well to other rehabilitators for flight testing as we do not have a big enough flight cage. 

This places additional stress on the animals and more work on other rehabilitators.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to help these animals stretch their wings and return to the skies!


Mission Statement
Wild Things Sanctuary (WTS) is dedicated to helping native wildlife through rescuing and rehabilitating debilitated and orphaned/displaced animals until they are ready for release back into the wild. Eventually, WTS is also aiming to provide a sanctuary for non-releasable native animals.

WTS is also committed to improving the well-being of wildlife through public education; focusing on how humans can sagely and peacefully coexist with native wildlife, and on wildlife’s importance to man and the environment.

Tiny Guy:
getting bigger!

So many people have asked about Tiny Guy, the first baby of 2011.

He's doing great! He has also been joined by 10 other baby squirrels and is thrilled to have brothers and sisters. He loves to tackle them and roll around. They are a bit smaller, so he has learned to be very gentle.

Above is a picture of Tiny Guy at about 6 weeks, and below he about 8 weeks playing with a piece of hay he found next to a bunny's cage.

"Badass Homer"

"Irving Berlin"
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