Once again the cocoanut telegraph had its wires crossed.
Last week, the island was abuzz with news that another tourist has succumbed to the local lifestyle and taken to spending her time in bars.
A homing pigeon was hanging out at Eddie Teach’s. Word had it the same bird that took up residence 10 days earlier at the home of Carol and Bob Holton.
Two weeks ago, Bob was sitting in the sun reading when a pigeon landed on his chair. This surprised him.
“What are you doing there?” he asked the bird.
The pigeon responded by flying into the wall of the Holtons’ house. When he went to look for her, Bob Holton found “Pidgie” walking around under his deck.
Bob and Carol tried to feed the bird crackers and unpopped popcorn but she refused. “We figured she had a delicate palate,” he said.
The Holtons noticed Pidgie wore a yellow band on one leg and blue on the other. Research on the internet informed them the bird was an athlete; a homing pigeon.
After much cajoling, Carol was able to pick Pidgie up and read the numbers on her band. The Holtons called a telephone number they found there and reached Mario in Chicago.
“I told him, we knew these birds could fly a thousand miles but this is ridiculous,” Bob said.
Mario said he sold Pidgie to another pigeon enthusiast in Tampa, a scant 260 miles from the island as the pigeon flies. He advised the Holtons to feed Pidgie seed and whole grains, and that when she recovered, she would fly home.
Carol and Bob took a real fancy to the bird which apparently could not fly. They furnished a room for her under the house with a box lined with blankets and trays of seed and water.
Pidgie spent her nights inside with the door closed, and her days hanging around the yard. Gradually she recovered her ability to fly and took to spending time in a pine tree overlooking the Holtons’ deck.
“She even made friends with a mourning dove,” said Carol. “She and her little dove friend would fly down and eat seed.”
She started disappearing for periods of time during the day and one day took off and made a long circle out over the bay. The next day she was gone.
Then word came that Pidgie was spending her afternoons at Eddie Teach’s. The Holtons went in search of her with no luck.
She was also spotted in the Plantation.
On Sunday, April 21, Bob and Carol finally managed to hook up with the Eddie Teach’s pigeon and Bob smelled a rat.
The bar bird was much tamer than his Pidgie and Bob told Carol, “That’s not the same bird.”
At first Carol was skeptical but then noticed the pair of ankle bands worn by the bar bird, blue and green, didn’t appear to be the same as the pair worn by Pidgie, yellow and blue.
The new bird has become a regular visitor at her favorite watering hole and owner Vickie Frost said she plans to build a coop to keep it safe from predators.
“Most pirates have a parrot,” said bartender James Frost. “We have a pigeon.”
He said when he arrives at work each morning, the pigeon is waiting for a package of crackers and spends her days walking from table to table or perched on the television set.
During the severe storm on April 14, James Frost said that as he lowered the walls around the bar, the pigeon watched from the porch and then dove under the last panel “Indiana Jones style” to wait out the weather inside.
The Frosts have purchased seed to make sure their pigeon has a balanced diet.
As to Pidgie, she is probably home in Tampa by now. Both pigeons are likely to be members of a flight released for an April 13 race in Louisville, Ky. Louisville is 800 miles north of Tampa and Franklin County lies directly in between the two cities.
Turns out, the climate in Tampa’s suburbs is ideal for pigeons and pigeon fanciers. Tampa is home to the Gulfcoast Homing Club, the largest pigeon club in the US with 200 members and an 89-member ladies auxiliary. They purchase more than 28,000 bird bands annually and have their own scholarship fund, partly paid for with an annual chili cook-off.
Homing pigeons are domesticated rock pigeons bred to return home over very long distances. In nature, they mate for life and use their talent for navigation to find their nest and mate. How pigeons find their way home is unknown but scientists suspect it may have to do with ultra low sound frequencies.
Birds have flown more than 1,000 miles during races and can achieve speeds of almost 60 mph. They have been used a couriers since pre-Christian times and continued to be used for military purposes through World War II.
According to the National Pigeon Association (NPA), all domesticated pigeons are banded. Domestic pigeons, like racing pigeons, are incapable of supporting themselves in the wild. Without a proper diet, they develop internal ulcers and die of starvation. If you find a banded pigeon that seems to be in distress, feed it and give it water.
The NPA website says, “Most lost birds are hungry and thirsty. Water is extremely important for pigeons. Since pigeons drink by suction, any water container you provide should be at least 1 inch deep. Shallow cups or bowls with some weight to them work best but any open container will work. A thirsty bird may drink immediately, and it may not. Strange surroundings, fear, injury, or other animals in the household may intimidate or distract the bird from drinking. Dehydration is the biggest danger to a lost pigeon and just like humans; this condition can make the bird a bit less than itself. Lost domesticated birds may be so exhausted, they don’t even realize that water is in front of them, especially since the water container you are providing is different from the one they have used their entire life. A good trick to make the bird aware of the water you have presented is to make a slight splashing sound with your finger. Birds are very familiar with the sound of water and this is one of the best ways for you to help identify your gift. If a bird looks really exhausted, Gatorade or other commercial sports drink may be added to the water.
Pigeons are grain eaters. The most readily available food source is a commercial blend of wild birdseed mixed with popcorn. Additionally, raw dried grain such as uncooked rice, pearled barley, split pea, or canary seed, make a good additive to the above mix or may be fed separately. All grains should be fed raw.”
To locate the owner, visit www.npausa.com