By Rick Schubert, Director
Why do we bother to rehabilitate non-native wildlife species like pigeons?
The rock dove, or "rodo" as we call it here, or pigeon to most people, is a common patient at the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center. Although they're a highly adaptable and incredibly tough species, they are still brought to us when they're poisoned, shot, abused, hit by cars, caught by cats, and stuck on glue traps. They're not native to North America; they were brought here by Europeans and have since proliferated in urban areas throughout the United States.
But you can read about the natural history of pigeons elsewhere...we do not need to reiterate it here. What we are here to talk about is why we love them, why they matter, and why we treat them at our wildlife center.
Wildlife rehabbers do not make a difference in wildlife populations, nor do we try to, any more than a paramedic saving a human life matters to the population of 7.5 billion people on planet Earth, it is infinitesimally negligible. However, to the person whom that paramedic saved, it makes all the difference in the world. You save a life because it needs saving, and because life matters, and because compassion matters. When a person has the compassion to step out of our narcissistic, dehumanized world to help a suffering life form, be it an endangered piping plover or a common rock dove, we are here to affirm and validate that behavior, and hope they teach it and pass it on to their children. As with anything else, including humans, if you look at them in terms of populations and statistics, you get a skewed, partial picture. When you hold a hurt individual in your hands and see in its eyes, you see more into the truth of things.
Oh yes, and we really dig pigeons. They're here in North America because of humans, it's not their fault. We can't un-ring that bell now, we can only learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them. We caused the extinction of the passenger pigeon a century ago--that's on us. Then we caused the proliferation of the rock dove--that's on us too. But when you get to know these birds, and their unique personalities, the endless variation in their individual colors, and most of all their gritty toughness, you cannot help but love and respect them. They remind me most of all of our home town of Philadelphia: scrappy, tough survivors, but with an unexpected beauty, and depth, and complexity. Can you dig it?