Saving A Pigeon With Broken Legs

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - September 30, 2009
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Nature has a way of weeding out weak organisms. In fact a famous scientist named Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection. In a nutshell, this theory states that those individuals with good genes survive and those with not-so-good genes don’t survive. There may be some truth to this theory in nature, but in the concrete jungle things are different. In the city, the rules change and even the strong sometimes don’t flourish. As a veterinarian I witness this every day as animals get hurt when they collide with civilization.

One day when walking from our car to my in-laws’ house, my wife spotted an injured pigeon sitting in the driveway. I assured her that it would be fine and to just let it rest where it lay. You see, I had a long day at the office and I just wanted to go inside and relax. My wife gave me a look, you know, the kind that wives give their husbands when the husbands aren’t listening. She asked me how I could tell the pigeon would be fine without even examining it. Hmm, she got me. For a split second I debated about extolling the virtues that allowed a veterinarian to assess an animal from a distance, but we’ve been married too long. She would see right through my “cow dung,” if you know what I mean.


I sluggishly walked over to the injured bird and gently picked it up. Within minutes I discovered that the pigeon had two broken legs. I then went over what it would take to fix the little one, but before I could finish my wife ushered me into the house so I could get started. I tried to explain to her the hours of supportive care that would be needed but stopped short as she gave me another “look.” Do mothers teach this look to their daughters or does it come naturally? Will my daughter learn this “look” and ultimately use it on me too? I shuddered at the thought, then contemplated how to help our little feathered friend.

Surgery to fix the legs would be challenging due to the size of the bones and difficulty of the procedure, so I proceeded to place a tape splint on both legs to immobilize each fracture. The pigeon seemed weak and dehydrated so I hand fed him for a few days before he started to eat on his own. Vitamin supplements were included in his diet along with a healthy dose of calcium to aid in mending his fractured legs. We named him Petey, and after five weeks of diligent care he was completely healed.

We released him where we found him and celebrated when he flew to meet his neighborhood friends. Funny, prior to then I never realized just how many pigeons were in the area. I counted at least 50. After the release, an onlooking neighbor asked what we were doing. We explained what transpired over the previous five weeks and happily shared our success. The neighbor didn’t seem pleased at all and suggested that we put any future injured birds “to sleep” because there were far too many wild pigeons in the neighborhood. I looked to my wife then replied to the fellow, “These animals have a right to live like you and me.”

Civilization encroaches on wildlife everyday and we often view these creatures as pests. The last I checked, I think they were here first. As veterinarians we took an oath to help these animals though there are times our resolve is tested. Petey was one of the lucky ones as he tangled with civilization and survived to tell the tale.

As we strolled into the house, my wife gave me a hug and said “Thanks, honey.”

Life can be challenging when you live on the wild side but very rewarding indeed.

Pet tips:

If you find an injured animal, seek help at a local shelter or call your veterinarian. If they are not able to help you, they may be able to point you in the right direction.

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