Nineteen Days Wild – Urban Nests

This comical tale began with a photograph and a text from my brother, Charlie. The message simply read,

‘Deja vu?’

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Five years ago, almost to the day, I walked out onto my balcony to find a scattering of sticks on the floor. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then I noticed that they were forming a trail which led underneath the lid of my BBQ, which I had left leant against the wall. I carefully lifted the lid to find a well constructed nest underneath, containing one small white egg. Back then I wasn’t much of a birder, but I was fascinated by the nest all the same. I decided to start a video diary, which you can see here: Pigeon Diary. In the wild, pigeons make their nests on cliffs. In urban areas, where better than a balcony?!

Sadly the nest was attacked one day and the eggs (by then there was another) were gobbled up, although by what, I don’t know. Watching the nesting pigeons’ behaviour was fascinating. I was a student back then and therefore had plenty of time to study them, instead of my books. I watched as both parents took turns sitting on the nest. I conducted experiments to find the birds’ favourite food. Pigeons, being semi tame through thousands of years of domestication, make excellent study animals.

Fast forward five years and you can imagine how excited I was to receive news that Charlie’s olive tree was now a nursery for two tiny white eggs and a pair of very handsome pigeons. Both parents had all their wings, feathers, eyes and legs… a rarity for the pigeons of Peckham.

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If it were me who had a balcony nest, I’d have been tweeting about it non stop… but not my brother. Since that first picture, I’d not heard a word about it, and so had forgotten that the nest existed.

This morning I received another message,

‘The pigeon chicks have hatched. They’re hideous!’ 

Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? They are far from the usual fluffy chicks we see on Springwatch. They are scraggly little things with coarse yellow fuzz over bright pink wrinkly skin. But it is the beak that is most peculiar. When I arrived, one of the parents was sat on top of the nestlings, keeping them warm. As I approached the olive tree, it moved off them without any fuss and stood beside them, keeping a watchful eye.

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Such strange looking things. I gave the mum (presumably) some bread crumbs as a thankyou and we left them alone while we went and ate our weight in Taiwanese food. When we returned, the parents had swapped over… although it took us a little while to notice.

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It takes pigeons about a month before they’re ready to fledge. After the hatchling stage they go through two more stages before they fly away; a squab and a peeper. I can’t wait to see the weirdness that these little fuzzballs bring with them.

This is urban wildlife at its best.


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Will

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