On Sunday, when the hurricane had passed, after strolling the grounds of Saint John the Divine to check on the peacocks, I continued east to Morningside Park. A downed tree completely blocked the 110th Street staircase:
The rain had been too much for it, and it had just toppled over from its roots:
The water in the little pond was as high as I’ve seen it:
A flotilla of more than 40 ducks swam about:
One or two dozed:
A few preened and nibbled at mites:
Two turtles swam near the water’s edge, looking for hand-outs, ducking under when I tried to snap a photo. Animals in the park seemed hungry after waiting out the storm. One squirrel dove straight inside a garbage can, then perched on the rim.
Robins fluttered through the trees on the hill, while sparrows foraged near the ball fields
A small flock of pigeons pecked hungrily in the grass
and one dark pigeon huddled behind a bench, clearly ill or injured.
I wondered whether I should do something to help it. I had tried once before to get help for a sick pigeon, but was shunted from one agency to another. All the while, I was standing in the rain on a street corner and worrying about being late for the theater. As far as I can tell, the city doesn’t help pigeons, because, as feral animals (once domesticated and now wild), they are considered neither pets nor wildlife and as non-natives, they are not a protected species. I abandoned the bird that day, and did the same on Sunday. But I’m not entirely comfortable with my decision, and have decided I need to formulate a personal policy, both compassionate and rational, on when, and how, to intervene with injured or ill animals.
Yesterday, I happened to pass the future home of The Wild Bird Fund.
The Wild Bird Fund is a non-profit organization that helps to save birds and wildlife in New York City.
Surprisingly, NYC is the only major city in the United States that doesn’t yet have a wildlife rehabilitation center, although it has its share of extraordinarily dedicated and skilled rehabilitators.
I crossed Columbus Avenue to Animal General Hospital, where Wild Bird Fund is currently housed, and asked the receptionist if the Fund helped pigeons.
“Of course,” she replied. “Pigeons are their star client.”
So if you find a bird in need, call Wild Bird Fund at 646-306-2862. Until their own home is ready, the rehabilitators are working out of Animal General on the west side of Columbus Avenue at 87th Street. They see wild bird cases by appointment only on Monday – Friday from 1- 3 PM. Their clients include owls, swans, kingfishers, ducks, hawks and, of course, pigeons. They welcome donations.
Please comment to share your own experiences and thoughts on when, and how, to intervene with wild (or feral) animals. And check back soon for follow-up posts on the subject.