Charlie Metcalfe follows the fate of one that got away – a very lucky young pigeon
Leonid Dementiev was spending a quiet day with his girlfriend when they decided to stroll to their local grocer. They were chatting in the South London sunshine when a crow dived from the heavens to the ground in front of them.
Clasped in its talons was a baby pigeon, which the crow abandoned on the pavement.
The pigeon was weak, covered in blood, and looked to be around two or three weeks old.
“We really didn’t know what to do because I’ve never cared for a baby bird before. It can be very difficult because they need lots of attention and feeding,” said Leonid, a Russian-born jeweller.
The crow circled overhead, apparently waiting for the right moment to dive in and reclaim its prey. “I knew that if we left him there, the crow would definitely eat him. It just didn’t sit right with me,” Leonid said.
Despite having no previous animal care experience, the pair decided to take the injured bird home.
Once there, they worried it would not make it through the night. But the compassionate couple concocted a “baby food” mix of oats, water, nuts, and honey blended into a paste.
They fed the baby bird by hand, using a small plastic syringe. It bedded down that night in a cardboard manger of hay from Leonid’s studio.
For a while he avoided giving the bird a name for fear of disappointment if it died. That did not last long. “Buddie” became the pigeon’s name.
Leonid was desperate to find somewhere more permanent for Buddie because he would have to go back to work the following Monday. He could not afford not to after suffering a financial hit when suppliers closed their doors at the start of the pandemic.
But, after calling several local animal rescue centres, he realised that they were either shut or rejecting new rescues during lockdown.
He spread the word through the Next Door social media app and a local with prior bird care experience, marketeer and poet Maria Grech, offered to take Buddie in. Having rescued her first pigeon when she was nine years old, Maria had the experience to look after the bird.
“Leonid did an amazing job keeping him alive when he was so young and delicate,” she said. “My job has really just been to finish hand weaning him and growing his confidence.”
Buddie recently took flight for the first time in Maria’s cat-proof back garden; a sign of recovery.
The baby pigeon is now convalescencing in Maria and her partner James’ Balham home with their baby Hector and their dog Brixton.
To read Maria’s poem inspired by Buddie, visit A pigeon by any other name.