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Care for a lost homing pigeon

How to Care for Lost Pigeons
By: Frank Mosca

What to do if you find a lost pigeon ?

Most lost birds are hungry and thirsty. Water is necessary before all else. Since pigeons drink by suction, any water container should be at least 1 in. (2.5 cm) deep. An open container, i.e., a dish, an old margarine container tub, etc., is best. While a thirsty bird may drink immediately, it also may not. A bird which has gone without water for a while is sometimes a bit less than itself. It may be so exhausted, it doesn't even realize that water is in front of it, especially if the water container you use is different from what it is familiar with. A trick I've often used is to trickle a few drops of water from on high into the container to make a splashing sound. When they hear that, most birds will invariably head to drink. If a bird looks really exhausted, Gatorade or other proprietary sports drink may be added to the water. A teaspoon or two per cup (250 ml) of water will help replenish electrolytes.

Pigeons are grain eaters. While park pigeons will eat bread, most domestic birds have been raised on a multi-grain mixture and have never seen a slice of it. In fact, they would likely ignore it as possible food. Instead of bread, you might try feeding them something else from around the house. Popcorn (maize), rice, split peas, barley, buckwheat (kasha), canary seed, etc., are all good first options to feed a lost bird with. THESE GRAINS SHOULD NOT BE COOKED OR POPPED BUT FED RAW. Water should also be provided since pigeons normally drink immediately after eating.

What Should I Keep It In ?
Any container that a dog or cat can't get into will be fine. An old bird cage will hold the pigeon for a day or so with no problem, as will a cardboard box - a screen on top of such a box is better than simply closing the flaps since there will then be enough light for the bird to see to eat and drink.

Finding the bird's owner
the bird has a band on its leg, the owner can sometimes be traced through one of the national pigeon organizations. However, this is often not even necessary. After twenty-four to forty-eight hours rest with food and water, most homing pigeons are more than capable of finding their way home on their own. Simply release the bird in an area free of wires or other obstacles and it will usually head home immediately. NEVER try to attach a note to the owner by rubber banding it to the bird's leg. This cuts off the leg's blood circulation and often leads to gangrene and amputation of the limb.

What if it won't go home ?
Many birds can be traced to their owner by the numbered band (ring) on their leg. In North America, homing pigeons normally carry bands with a combination of the year plus the initials:

AU -- American Racing Pigeon Union
IF -- Internation Federation
C.U. -- Canadian Racing Pigeon Union
Outside of North America, racing homers can be traced through the national racing club of the country of origin.

Non-homing pigeons:
There are ONLY 200 breeds of pigeon. Some fly very well, some don't. Those which carry a band marked with NPA National Pigeon Association can sometimes be tracked to the owner. Many, however, can not because these bands are also sold through feedstores and other outlets where permanent records are not kept.
If the bird carries a band with other letters than those listed above for racing homers or for NPA banded birds, it may be privately banded or belong to someone who has banded with a specialty club band. Your local feed store often knows many of the pigeon breeders close to you and can often refer you to one of them. Such individuals often know of local club secretaries who may be able to help you.

I Want to Keep the Bird. It's Cute !
Because these Homing Pigeons are protected by most state laws and because their owners care for them, every attempt should be made to locate the owner... However.
If the pigeon you have is un banded (no way to trace the owner), or, if, after searching, and not finding the owner, you decide you'd like to keep the pigeon as a pet, by all means do so. Pigeons make fun pets. Many will become extremely attached to you - and you to them. There are many fine books on the market which will help you become a responsible pigeon owner.

Just remember a few basics:
1) Clean water, feed, and mineral grit (available at most feed stores).
2) Pigeons must have dry surroundings, they're not ducks. They love a bath, but whatever you keep them in must normally be bone dry.
3) Enjoy one of the most fun animals alive.
4) Send for a free information packet from the American Racing Pigeon Union.

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