King pigeons are 'not savvy,' experts say in plea against releasing rescued birds into the wild

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Why you shouldn't rescue pigeons then free them into the wild
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Animal advocates are warning that if you "rescue" pigeons from a butcher shop, they need to become pets. Here's why they won't last in the wild:

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Spend time at Oakland Animal Services, you expect to see cats and dogs, but the presence of eight white pigeons may surprise you.

Not Elizabeth Young, however.

"They were not raised to be handled. They were raised to be butchered," she said.

Elizabeth runs a nonprofit called Palomacy, dedicated to King Pigeons. At five weeks, they look big, fat, and mature.

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"They butcher them at four weeks. It is the maximum size to tenderness ratio," Elizabeth shared.

Already, it appears that the pigeons up for adoption in Oakland are survivors. They're also a small symptom of a large recurring problem.

"This is the third group of birds we have had all year," said Ben Winkelblack, who speaks for the shelter.

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Think about it like bunnies at Easter or black kittens at Halloween, except that people release these birds all year long as cheap replacements for doves or homing pigeons, or else buy them while still alive in butcher shops, hoping to save their lives.

Someone set free this latest flock of birds at Shoreline Park in Alameda, which appears to be a benign environment. That is not the case, however, for pigeons with no survival skills.

"I think the people who release them don't realize they die a bad death and are eaten alive," said Elizabeth.

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Cats prey on them, along with dogs and other birds. Because King pigeons have been bred domestically for generations, it leaves them defenseless.

"These are not the savvy pigeons you see downtown," said Ben Winkelblack.

"I mean if you are going to rescue these guys, take them home. They make amazing pets," added Elizabeth.

Hence, these latest birds are up for adoption in Oakland and Elizabeth's San Francisco-based non-profit. They have foster homes across the bay area, and 190 birds as of today.

"They suffer a lot getting eaten alive," said Elizabeth.

"Is that worse than being butchered?" we asked.

"I think so. I mean, neither one is great," she said.

It's a sad case of the best intentions leading to the worst of outcomes, much too often.