Pigeon pair land a pair of pigeon people

Ethel and Skylar the pigeons in a carrier being held by Kyle and Naomi
After being adopted, Ethel and Skylar are living in a pigeon paradise and getting comfortable snuggling up to their new people.
By Sarah Thornton

Ethel and Skylar are known for being a little shy when it comes to people. At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, they loved socializing with their feathery friends, flapping from perch to perch, playing and preening and splashing together in the communal water buckets. But when Wild Friends caregivers or volunteers came through the aviary, the two were quite content to hang back and watch while their more outgoing friends flocked forward for attention.

They were definitely curious about their human visitors, observing the interactions from a distance. They were just a bit more hesitant to join in — a bit more reserved. In the right circumstances, caregivers believed, the cautious couple could come out of their collective shell. So when Naomi Owens and her partner, Kyle, came looking for new additions to their own small pigeon squad, caregivers knew just who to suggest. “They recommended Ethel and Skylar to us based off the pigeons we already had and our home environment,” Naomi says. “And then we came in to meet them, and we fell in love instantly.”

And with time to settle in and people-savvy pigeon pals to lead the way, the timid twosome have indeed started warming up to their new perches — er, people.

A double date with new feathery friends

While Ethel and Skylar had been happy with their roost and many roommates at the Sanctuary, their new home was pretty much a pigeon paradise. “We have a condo, and they have free rein to just fly about,” Naomi explains. “We have a lot of perches that we have put up in the house, on top of bookshelves or on top of dressers, and they spend a lot of time flying between the various perches just having fun.” (And if you find yourself wondering about the cleanup routine, well, there are things called “pigeon pants” that are exactly what they sound like, and they help a whole lot.)

They also have an all-you-can-eat buffet set up in the kitchen just for the birds, with bowls full of different scrumptious samples that they are free to hop between at their leisure. But even with so much to explore and enjoy, the big highlight for Ethel and Skylar were their new feathery family members, Merry and Pippin.

[A love story: Former racing pigeons cross finish line to retirement]

Naomi says they did introductions slowly over the first couple of days, but the two pairs of pigeons bonded almost immediately — especially Ethel and Pippin, the lovely ladies of the bunch. “Ethel really took to Pippin,” says Naomi. “They were instant pigeon best friends, and Ethel would follow her everywhere around the house.” Of course, following their new friends around often meant getting closer to the household’s humans, as Merry and Pippin love cuddling up with their people and cooing the day away.

It was a little easier for Ethel. At some point before coming to the Sanctuary, she had had another home. So as her new BFF, Pippin, snuggled up with Naomi and Kyle, Ethel would scoot closer and closer until she was perched on the back of the couch, as close as she could get.

Skylar, on the other hand, kept his distance a bit longer. He’d been found not far from where Ethel was picked up, with an injured wing that kept him from flying but no band to suggest he’d once had people of his own. He couldn’t be released back out into the world. But pigeons, as a domesticated species, are similar to cats (and not just because they both purr); those outside populations aren’t really wild, just unsocialized. Some feral pigeons, like feral felines, are happy to move in with humans when given the chance.

This, it would turn out, was Skylar’s chance. As his other half, Ethel, finally took that first tentative step onto the opposite shoulder from Pippin, Skylar wasn’t about to be left out. Birds of a feather and all that.

Pigeons in paradise

“I’m happy they got along with our other pigeons very quickly. I’m happy they seem to be comfortable with us and with their environment,” Naomi says. “It just feels really good to see them being pigeons.”

And part of being pigeons, of course, is nesting. Lots and lots of nesting. The feathery foursome take string, wrappers, receipts, and anything else they can find loose around the house and set up wherever their whims (and wings) take them. Mostly, that’s high places like bookshelves and cabinets. But sometimes, it’s in more surprising locations.

Skylar always wants to bring his building supplies to the pantry. It’s nice and enclosed and dark, and any time the door is open he tries to sneak in. As you can imagine, however, a pantry pad isn’t the most ideal from his peoples’ perspective — funny as it may be to go in for a bag of chips and find a pigeon peeking back at you.

[Personable pigeon with a unique beak]

In fact, Skylar really does seem to like inconvenient nesting nooks. When denied his pantry, he decided to move under the bed. “That was fun because you’d wake up in the morning and you’d try to stand up and, you know, pigeons can be very territorial of their nests,” laughs Naomi. “So Skylar would come out from under the bed and just start pecking at your ankles, doing his little ‘coo’ sounds.”

For the most part, though, life in pigeon paradise is pretty chill. They go outside on the patio (as long as they’re wearing their harnesses) and spend most of their time simply lounging around. They haven’t left behind the joys of the communal water bucket either. When Naomi takes a bath, the pigeons are right there splashing around with her.

“I feel like they’re living the life of luxury,” Naomi says. “I work from home, so having chill, mostly quiet, friendly birds to come spend time with me is great. You’ll have one on your shoulder, one on your head, the other ones either nesting or loafing around. It’s wonderful.”

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