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White Dove Dies Despite Concerted Efforts



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White doves have been a symbol for holiness, peace, and purity for centuries; yet these birds are suffering a dark fate at the hands of humans, including one bird found locally.

Ceremonies celebrating the lives of loved ones — weddings, funerals, commemorative services — have a tradition of releasing doves.

What people believe to be a harmless practice has proven time and again to put these animals’ lives in harm’s way.

Doves are of the Columbidae bird family, making them the same as pigeons. Throughout the world, there are nearly 300 dove/pigeon species that vary in coloring.

Homing Pigeons are used in dove releases by companies that train the animals to fly back to a predetermined spot.

While some are able to return home successfully, others perish untimely deaths due to being lost and unable to forage for food on their own or by getting hit by cars. They are also vulnerable to being attacked and/or eaten by predators, such as hawks, ravens, seagulls, cats, rats, and raccoons.

“Because of their pure white color, these birds can be easily targeted by predators,” the online news source The Dodo reported last December in their article, “What Can Really Happen To ‘Wedding Doves’ After They Fly Away.”

Elizabeth Young, founder and executive director of Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions, explained, “[Breeders] also cull/kill or discard the pigeon babies that hatch with color splashes rather than all white.”

Lost Bird

A dove releasing was most likely the circumstance surrounding the recent rescue of a white dove seeking refuge in town.

Sandy Hook resident Marie Rojo was leaving her home on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 21, when she noticed a pure white bird outside.

“I just thought it had landed on our property and didn’t think anything was wrong with it,” she said.

When she returned home that night, she was shocked to see it was still there and had moved itself under her brother-in-law’s truck.

Not wanting any predators to get it, the two tried to scoop it out from under the vehicle but were unable to. They left water for it with the hopes it would hydrate and fly off when it was ready.

“When I got up to go to work, I saw it was against my garage door,” Ms Rojo said.

She grew concerned that something was wrong and that the bird could not fly. Her brother-in-law left water and breadcrumbs, while she reached out to a friend in town to get the names of local wildlife representatives.

Despite multiple phone calls and texts, she was unable to find someone to come out and take the bird.

On Friday, she contacted her neighbor, Angela Thill, knowing she was an animal lover and might have other leads. Ms Thill gave her the name of another wildlife rehabilitator, but again the efforts came up short.

While Ms Rojo was at work that day, Ms Thill went over to check on the bird and, sure enough, the dove was in the same spot.

“The bird was sitting by the garage door, kind of cowering,” Ms Thill said. “It wasn’t moving. I walked right up to it.”

When she saw the bird was in such bleak condition, she decided to call Newtown Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason to find out what to do.

Ms Mason recommended they bring the dove to her at the Brian J. Silverlieb Animal Care and Control Center, at 21 Old Farm Road.

Ms Rojo’s husband, Ed, supplied a cardboard box, and Ms Thill was able to pick up the bird with ease and place it inside the container.

In Ms Thill’s hands, the bird felt like it weighed nothing. It was breathing, and she remained hopeful for its survival.

She enlisted the help of her daughter to hold the box during the drive, and upon arriving to the Brian J. Silverlieb Animal Care and Control Center, Ms Mason assessed that the bird needed immediate medical care.

“It was very dehydrated, and it seemed like it wasn’t eating. It was laying on its side,” Ms Mason recalled. “The bird didn’t seem hurt, it just seemed more starving or dehydrated.”

The dove was brought to Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals, 119 Mt Pleasant Road, which has veterinarians trained to help birds and exotic animals.

In the past, Ms Mason has dealt with Homing Pigeons, as people in town raise them and they tend to attract the attention of passersby who call her thinking the birds are sick.

Also, just last year, the shelter had a dove up for adoption, and its adopter told the staff about the horrors of dove releases that are still happening today.

While dove releasing is a common scenario for finding pure white doves in the wild, another possibility is that someone had the bird as a pet and decided to dump it when they no longer wanted it.

On August 30, Ms Mason said that after reaching out to Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals that day, they informed her that the bird did not make it.

A representative of Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals told The Newtown Bee that the bird is believed to have died due to some sort of trauma and that it passed away soon after it came in.

Ms Mason said in addition to dehydration being a possible cause of death, the bird could have also ingested outdoor poisons that humans leave out for mice and rats to eat, which commonly poisons other animals, too.

To avoid the death of more birds, Ms Mason recommends that people read the labels of pest deterrents/yard sprays and choose natural solutions that do not harm wildlife.

Also, instead of releasing doves at ceremonies, she says an alternative is to throw bird seed, which can help animals instead of hurting them.

If you see a bird that is in need of help, contact the Brian J. Silverlieb Animal Care and Control Center at 203-426-6900; or contact Wildlife in Crisis at 203-544-991 and by e-mail at wildlifeincrisis@snet.net. Wildlife in Crisis, 44 Indian Valley Road, Weston, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife preservation and land conservation. To learn more about how to help birds in need, visit wildlifeincrisis.org.

Slumped against the side of a garage door in Sandy Hook, a pure white dove — presumed to have been ceremonially released — gets rescued thanks to the help of local residents. The bird passed away soon after being taken to Mt Pleasant Hospital for Animals that day. —Angela Thill photo
On August 23, the Newtown Animal Control Shelter posted a photo of Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason with the white dove that read, “When you get doves to release at your wedding, they get hurt, lost, and killed. They have no survival skills. This poor dove is going to the vet, hope he makes [it]. Throw bird seed instead!” —Newtown Animal Control Shelter photo
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