A warning before I begin: this may be the strangest blog post I've ever written. It's not about politics, or sports, or rock and roll. It's about... pigeons. It all started the other day. I was taking a break from working on my syllabi for the upcoming semester, and I came downstairs to the living room. As I looking out the window at the bird feeder (lots of sparrows, grackles, a cardinal or two, and the occasional woodpecker), something caught my eye-- a single multi-colored pigeon on the lawn.
Now, I'm sure I am not alone in saying I'm not fond of pigeons. Yes, they're intelligent, and they mate for life, but they also tend to make a mess wherever they go; and if you feed one of them, suddenly you have twenty more wanting to be fed. Pigeons on the lawn aren't unusual-- they come in to get the seeds that fall to the ground. But this pigeon was behaving oddly. It wasn't eating or walking the way pigeons usually do. In fact, it was walking as if it couldn't balance. When I looked more closely, it was obvious why-- one of the pigeon's wings was broken.
At some point, the pigeon vanished, and I didn't think any more about it, but the next day, there it was again and it didn't look any better. But when it went out near the seeds on the ground, two larger pigeons attacked it. I had never seen this before: I had witnessed males pecking each other as they tried to show dominance, but this was two pigeons jumping on the wounded pigeon and knocking it over. And they left it there, on its back, unable to right itself.
I wasn't sure what to do, but watching it struggle, I knew I couldn't just leave it like that, so I turned it right-side up. It slowly walked under the porch, and there it stayed, as if it knew that was a safe place. Every now and then, it comes out from under the porch, but it can't walk very well yet. So, my husband and I have put a little bowl of water and a little bowl of birdseed nearby. This morning, the pigeon looked a little better. I have no idea if it will recover, but somehow, I felt I ought to make it comfortable, for however long it has left.
Maybe that seems silly, but I guess it really bothered me to see those two pigeons bullying the injured bird and leaving it to die. Okay fine, in nature, those things happen. But it still didn't feel right to just do nothing. My hope is the bird will recover, although I don't know if its wing will heal up. For now, it seems comfortable, safe from predators (and bullies). Meanwhile, I wonder if my husband and I did the right thing. I know some websites say that when you see an injured animal, you should just leave it there, and a few others say to rescue it. I don't particularly want a pet pigeon, thanks, but I do want to see this one have a chance to live.
Because I'm a teacher of ethics, I keep thinking that we shouldn't just show compassion to other humans; we should show compassion to animals too. And while this may seem like a small, and possibly silly incident, not worthy of a blog post, I've been thinking about it for several days now, as I watch the pigeon seeming to improve. Is what I did compassionate, or was it foolish? You tell me.