The mother flew away, leav­ing us with a prob­lem — what do you do with baby pi­geons? They were too small to even bar­be­cue

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

the evenings, she would come back down and feed them again, and seemed per­fectly happy to let us do the rest of the car­ing and so the rou­tine be­gan — the mother would wake us up, I’d put the box con­tain­ing Jack and Vera (an ob­vi­ous choice of names, I know) in the back gar­den, she’d do her thing and re­turn to her perch.

I only had to walk past the box and the two pi­geons would start to chirp madly and look up with open mouths. Had I just become a fa­ther fig­ure for a cou­ple of feral birds?

Vera was the braver of the two, and when I’d put them on the deck­ing, would al­ways walk fur­ther than the more timid Jack.

They had taken to wad­dling around and ex­plor­ing the back gar­den, and had even grown used to the sight of our dog, a res­cue ter­rier, sniff­ing around after them, even though he was more cu­ri­ous than ag­gres­sive — some­thing which makes him a lovely dog, if not a great ter­rier.

It’s amaz­ing what a few weeks of pi­geon-rais­ing can do to you. Hav­ing ini­tially joked about bar­be­cu­ing them, I stopped bar­be­cu­ing en­tirely.

After all, cook­ing a chicken in full view of two baby birds just seemed sick. I also started pay­ing at­ten­tion to the other birds in our area — and just how threat­en­ing crows and seag­ulls must seem when you’re as small as Jack and Vera were.

Flocks of birds seemed to gather on our roof, and even the neigh­bours be­gan to com­ment. But we didn’t care. Jack and Vera were go­ing to get at least a fight­ing chance.

They had, by now, be­gun to fly a lit­tle. By that I mean, they would fly out of their box as far as the back door where they’d make as much noise as pos­si­ble un­til we let them in.

My God, were these mil­len­nial pi­geons? Would Jack and Vera never leave? As the wife pointed out, they were on to a good thing and they knew it. Vera was the favourite. She had more moxy than her brother. She was more in­de­pen­dent and ad­ven­tur­ous, while he just went and hid be­hind the bins. And then it hap­pened. I brought the dog out for a walk and when I re­turned, there was one ter­ri­fied pi­geon shak­ing un­der the bed­ding, sur­rounded by blood and feath­ers. Vera had met a grisly end, while Jack, the sen­si­ble lit­tle cow­ard, had man­aged to hide and sur­vive.

We never saw what took Vera, but it must have been a seag­ull. This was a sur­gi­cal strike.

A few days later, Jack started to fly and fol­lowed his mother up to the top of the roof, where they perch as wel­come guests to this day. With­out them, I’d never have paid any at­ten­tion to the di­ver­sity of wildlife in an ur­ban hous­ing es­tate, and I would never have re­alised the drama of na­ture, in all its tooth and claw, that oc­curs in front of us ev­ery day.

It’s amaz­ing what you see when you de­cide to look...

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