Not a Mammal Monday: Pigeon Circus

Sometimes, a person who considers herself an animal lover ends up in awkward situations, at even the most unlikely times. While I normally avail myself to mammals in need of help, this past Friday I ended up offering assistance to a different species entirely. In retrospect, I should have written about this incident the day it happened and titled it “Feathered Fridays,” but you know what they say about hindsight.

The whole thing started when I overheard a colleague asking for help in the school office. I don’t have classes on Friday afternoons right now, so I stepped in and offered to help out. My colleague was minding his own business, working away in his otherwise empty science lab, when two events occurred almost simultaneously.

One: the clouds outside opened in a gushing June downpour. This is not unusual, particularly this year, which I am tempted to dub the year of the ark. We even had a rare tornado warning last week.

Two: a pair of pigeons darted into his second floor classroom through an open window to escape the deluge. This is incredibly strange. I’ve been at the school seven years and this is the first time I’ve heard of a bird sneaking in. Factor in that there were two pigeons, and the whole thing just got weirder.

I’m not the kind of person who wants to cuddle birds. We’ve more than established over the course of this blog that I am more into furry creatures (see The Electrician) than those of the feathered variety. I am, however, always up for a mild adventure and always willing to help an animal if I can. Besides, lots of the jokes flying between staff members had dead pigeons as punchlines, so I stepped in as the nearest animal advocate. While I don’t think anyone on my staff would have actually harmed the birds, I felt better as part of the action. I may have also had an inkling the events would make a good blog post.

I grabbed a tablecloth from the staff room and met my fellow teacher in the science lab. There were the pigeons, hanging out on top of some kid’s diorama (which was unrecoverable and has likely been sanitized by fire) and making pigeon sounds with funny looks on their birdie faces. Both pigeons were deep grey, although one had purple highlights and the other wore green.

Catching agitated pigeons is not easy. I had no idea until one was within arms’ reach how big pigeons actually are. Seriously, they were like a pair of small chickens, probably because they’d been living the good life on scraps of students’ lunches. I’m not afraid of birds, but a wildly flapping pigeon creates a lot of wind and a heap of noise: it’s more intimidating than I bargained for.

Our first idea, which involved encouraging the pigeons toward the open windows with clapping hands and statements about the ideal directions to bank, failed miserably. We got one pigeon, the bigger one with the ratty tail feathers, headed toward the window, but as soon as he attempted to perch on the inward tilting window frame, the old hinges let go and the window frame smashed into the bookcase below. After that the pigeon decided he felt safest perched atop a lighting fixture, and his lady friend decided to join him.

I soon named the pigeons, as I tend to do. It seemed that given the standoff in which they were embroiled, Bonnie and Clyde were appropriate handles for our cooing guests. Please note that, unlike their namesakes, no bullets were used to rid our school of Bonnie and Clyde. It was, however, jokingly suggested as a solution by some.

Once it was clear Bonnie and Clyde had no intentions of returning to lower surfaces, I hatched another plan. I visited a friend at school who always has snacks in her classroom and borrowed four soda crackers. My idea was to scatter bits of cracker across the floor, toss the tablecloth over a bird when it landed to partake of the feast, and carry my bewildered poultry prize to freedom. Sadly, for the first time in the history of pigeon kind, our feathered invaders showed no interest in eating human food scattered across the ground. The just looked at one another, ruffled up their feathers, and made pigeon noises. Me making “nummy nummy” sounds didn’t help much, I’m afraid.

Every now and then, one or both pigeons flapped a lap around the lab, usually culminating in a failed attempt to exit by smashing into the glass blocks above the open windows. Irritated birds seem to poop more than happy ones, so every pass of the pigeons became like a video game called either “Bombs Away” or “Dump Dodger.” The carnage was both laughable and depressing. Our pigeons also made pigeon sounds in flight with every pass, so it was a symphony of whirring coos, frustrated flaps, and vigorous plops.

After giving Bonnie and Clyde a break to catch their breaths and smooth down their feathers, and after the head custodian was called in to assist, we acquired a number of metresticks and began sheparding the birds back toward the windows. Whether Bonnie and Clyde were so dumb that they didn’t understand our attempts to set them free or they looked at the ongoing downpour and decided they’d rather stay inside where it was warm and dry, they were having none of it. I made several attempts with my tablecloth turned rogue bird net, but missed every time. Angry pigeons are surprisingly fast.

Finally, poor Bonnie made a hail Mary dive for the nearest open window, but missed by eight inches and collided with the glass blocks instead. She stumbled along the bookcase, shaking her head and burbling. I tried to grab her but she flapped just out of my reach, clearly still stunned by her impact with the wall. My colleagues hollered to be careful, since Bonnie was sure to peck me. I wrestle angry geriatric dogs: I am not afraid of a pigeon peck. Next, I tried the tablecloth, which landed over her just right, allowing me to grab her gently in the fabric with both hands, lean outside the nearest open window, and deposit her gently on the brick ledge outside. She looked confused for a moment, then flapped off over the parking lot, pooping away.

I’ll take a moment here to mention that I have no idea which pigeon was male and which was female. Heck, for all I know it was just a girls’ night out. Suffice it to say a person does not willingly look up at a pigeon as it flaps and poops overhead, lest she lose the use of her eyes. I don’t think I could even tell the gender of a bird, really. I just named them for the sake of not calling them “hey, you!”

Without his mate, Clyde became much more frantic. He flapped back and forth across the room, landing on things that were never designed to hold a large, belligerent creature, releasing more droppings than I ever imagined one bird could produce. If pigeons can cuss, I’m sure his language would have been blush-worthy. By some avian miracle, Clyde eventually landed near the window through which I escorted his mate, turned to give us a dirty bird look, and hopped outside into the rain.

See, I promised you a happy ending. I’m not sure how pleased the custodian was who got the call to bring a large bucket of disinfectant up to the science lab was, however.

With the good animal karma I’ve been earning lately, excellent things should be coming my way: maybe I’m building my way toward an excellent adoptive home for Charlie Bear, right?

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