A lost homing pigeon living rough on the streets of Levin was to be reunited with its owner last night.
"Pidgee" turned up in a backstreet alleyway in Levin last Friday, his attractive blue-grey plumage attracting the attention of staff at neighbouring businesses on their way to and from work.
The lost bird had been hiding out in a shelter near Levin Paper Plus since. Staff there had made sure the bird had water and crumbs to eat, but were initially loathe to try to catch it.
Attempts had been made to find the owner and a post on social media with photographs had been viewed extensively, however it was difficult to get close enough to decipher the numbers and letters on a green tag around his right foot.
The green tag was called a life ring.
Dawn Brown was one of a team that works at the Post Office at Levin Paper Plus who were all becoming increasingly concerned for the safety of Pidgee.
Fearing harm to Pidgee, when the chance came to catch him on Wednesday morning Dawn took it.
"Him" is a term to be used loosely, as the sex of Pidgee is yet to be revealed.
By contacting Pigeon Racing New Zealand, it was discovered that the codes on Pidgee's life ring showed he was registered to the Manawatū club
Dawn had made arrangements to transport him to the club and was driving Pidgee there herself last night.
"It just so happened I've got the day off," she said.
In the meantime, Dawn was taking great care of Pidgee. He was in a cage with water and seed and had a blanket to keep him calm.
Her two cats - Lilly and Lilo - were being kept well away.
"He's settled down and is quite relaxed now. He was a bit cross to begin with when we caught him," she said yesterday.
Dawn and the team at Paper Plus had no idea of knowing where Pidgee had come from or why he decided to stop at the back of their shop.
"Maybe he was dehydrated, it has been so hot," she said.
While little is known about Pidgee's racing prowess, pedigree pigeons were worth huge money in some parts of the world.
One pigeon sold for a record-breaking US$1.9 million in China in November last year, making it the most that a racing pigeon has ever been sold for.
Meanwhile, Pigeon Racing New Zealand had a page on its website detailing exactly what to do with a found 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 2.5 cm deep," the website said.
"The container should be heavy enough not to be knocked over. A half preserving jar is most suitable for this purpose although a dish, an old margarine tub, etc. can be used. 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 realise that water is in front of it, especially if the water container you use is different from what it is familiar with. A trick 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."
What should I feed?
"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, cage bird seed, etc., are all good first options to feed a lost bird with."
"If you have some soup mix available, this is a good substitute as this contains most of the grains that pigeons generally eat. 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 plus provide plenty of ventilation."
"Once caught, the usually tired and hungry pigeon should be kept in a secure place away from cats etc."
Finding the bird's owner
Please report lost pigeons by sending the details to email@example.com.
"When reporting the found pigeon it is important to give all the details from the life ring of the bird. There will be a Club Code, Year, and Number, these are all needed to enable the owner to be traced and contacted."
"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."
Please include the following in your email:
Your Phone Number
Your Street Address including Town/City
Pigeon Ring Details (see above - please advise Club Code, Year and Number on ring)
Details of condition of bird
"There are more than 200 breeds of pigeon. Some fly very well, some don't. Those which carry a life ring can usually be tracked to the owner."