SIKESTON - Wanted: one pigeon hole. Or a birdhouse with a pigeon-sized hole.
Staff at the Sikeston Area Humane Society have recently acquired a pigeon, but not a homing pigeon. It's more of a won't-go-home pigeon.
"He was brought in to us last month after one of the storms," said Lanette Baker, director of the humane society. "He doesn't want to go anywhere. We turned him loose a couple of times; he just hangs around the front door. He decided he likes it here I guess."
Baker said a friend brought him to the animal shelter about three or four weeks ago.
"He was young - he looked full-sized but didn't have his flying feathers yet," she said. "He apparently had been knocked out of a tree during a storm."
It wasn't the first time the Humane Society has rehabilitated a wild animal. "We've had ducks, we've had raccoons, baby barn owls," Baker said. "Lots of times we'll call the conservation department especially if it's a native bird or animal. With a pigeon, it wasn't going to be that long before he would be able to fly so we just kept him here in a cage."
Unsure of whether it was a he or she, staff decided to call him "Pidge."
Pidge was successfully restored to health after a couple of weeks and even matured. "His adult feathers fully came in last week," Baker said. "He is flying - he's not doing a great job of it but he can fly."
Staff has as yet been unable to reach the local conservation agent, Leother Branch, for advice but thought they knew what to do. "Usually with birds you just release them," Baker said. "We had baby wood ducks for awhile. We released them into a pond."
They have been somewhat less successful in sending Pidge on his way. "We took him outside yesterday and opened up the cage," Baker said.
Unlike other winged clients, when Pidge was released he just kind of hung around out front. When staff attempt to shoo him away, he just circles the building and comes back. During one attempt to run him off he landed on an employee's head.
The Humane Society's staff have placed some food and water out for Pidge, although his preference is for something other than pigeon feed. "He actually likes cat food better than his food," Baker said.
Despite his taste for cat chow, Humane Society staff have not been indulging him. "He needs to look for food on his own," Baker said.
Although Pidge won't let most people touch him, "he's inquisitive about what we're doing - he checks us out," Baker said. "He walks in the back and checks out the dogs."
Pidge was also fascinated by the air-conditioning repairman, Baker said. "He couldn't believe it didn't fly off - it just kind of watched him for awhile," she said.
From Sesame Street's Bert to ancient messenger services, many people have hailed pigeons as coo birds to have around.
According to Frank Mosca's guide to caring for lost pigeons on the American Racing Pigeon Union's Web site, "Pigeons make fun pets. Many will become extremely attached to you - and you to them. There are many fine books on the market which will help you become a responsible pigeon owner."
Mosca wrote that while pigeons are "one of the most fun animals alive," before adopting a found pigeon as a pet you should check to make sure there isn't a band on its leg to use in tracing its owner.
As for Pidge, "we're going to see if someone can donate a bird house, set it up out front for him," Baker said.
On the Net:
American Racing Pigeon Union: http://www.pigeon.org