Monday, May 9, 2011

Beaks McGraw

After some negotiation the other day, Beaks and I came to an agreement about whether I could take a portrait of her to put on my blog. She was finally persuaded after I told her she would be famous. Turns out pigeons are as fond of the limelight as reality tv contestants. So we tried a few photos and she tested her best angle and a few poses. She was at first not too sure of the camera and eyed it nervously and considered whether she should slap the camera up a bit to teach it who is boss, but decided against it.

So how did Beaks end up with her name? Well, sometime before 7am on Tuesday the 19th of April, Beaks and another unknown pigeon had a fight. In pigeon fights they often go for the beak and hang on tight so as to swing the other pigeon around. I think what happened with Beaks as she somehow got swung so hard that her lower beak snapped off. So I woke up to find a shocked and bleeding pigeon, puddles of blood all over my balcony and a bunch of other pigeons wondering what happened and trying to look innocent. Before I could get a good look at Beaks, she shook off the blood and flew off. I saw her later that day when I took this photo:

Amazingly, she was still trying to eat despite not being able to pick up food. She stopped dripping blood a few hours later, but was spitting blood for a day or two later. I thought she would simply die from shock overnight. That night the temperatures dropped below zero and we had a hail storm. But next morning she was back with the rest of the flock looking for food. As she couldn't eat by herself I extended a hand of bread to her. At first she simply run away from me. But two days later she was hungry enough to try. Several hours of cold fingers later we managed to work out a system. So we have a routine now. Water soaked whole wheat bread in the morning (half a slice!) because she also can't drink properly (pigeons suck up water through thier beaks like a straw). Then I have a little container of seeds and lentils and peas for her in the afternoon. She's a messy eater though:

Seed carnage! And, not on any terms am I to take away the container before she is done or I get a slapping (she grunts and slaps me with her wing when she is not happy). Pigeons also slap lower rank pigeons away from food (I guess I'm a lower rank pigeon to her!). I've started to grunt back at her though :P

Regardless of weather, Beaks comes to visit for breakfast. I get very cold fingers.

If you look closely in this picture Beaks has her eyes shut and she is licking her chops. Pigeon tongues are long and thin and seem to be partly retractable. Beaks uses hers for grabbing hold of seeds now she has no lower beak. The injury seems to be healing nicely. She is also now able to eat a bit on her own. My aim is to ensure she can eat well enough to feed by herself by the time I have to leave Montreal, but I don't know how possible that is.

Beaks looking demure and kind.

Beaks trying the head to one side 'kawaii' look

Beaks brings the whole family to visit. Just before her injury she laid two eggs and hatched two chicks. Fortunately dad 'Chubbs' was able to step in with feeding the little ones after Beaks was injured. Chubbs is in the middle ground of the photo, Beaks in front and the chick's behind Chubbs. Apparently pigeons share parenting responsibilities and marry for life. Though, I must say that Chubbs has made more than a few passes at other females in the last few weeks and shortly after the injury was ignoring Beaks quite a lot. Though to his credit, he did bring her back to see me after the injury, perhaps knowing I could help. Since then he as stuck by her (and eaten by her without pushing...well, not pushing much) and has been very snuggly these last few days. Chubbs may have plans for another set of chicks before the summer is out...

Anyway, I've named the two chicks Ariel (after the little mermaid, as she has big eyes and is very cute) and Spotty (cause she has lots of white spots on her tummy). I've no idea of course if the chicks are male or female, so Ariel could be Arthur for all I know. The chicks have big eyes and big beaks like they haven't grown into them yet. They also have paler feet and legs than the parents. They are growing fast though and learning the ways of the pigeon world. Spotty is now pushing with the rest of the adults for food and even chased Lady Grey the other day! (Lady Grey fought back and pecked Spotty behind the ear, to make sure Spotty learned her lesson). The chicks still chirp though rather than coo. Which is very lovely.

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