Judy and the pigeon

By David Delloso


Former Racing Pigeon “Charles” sitting in an outdoor enclosure built by Bird Rehabilitator Judy Rice. Photo courtesy of Judy Rice

On a rainy August afternoon, a landscaping crew in Ridley Park was visited by a pigeon.

Upon realizing the pigeon was injured, the crew attempted to help him.

“Get Charles out of the truck” said one landscaper, naming the bird on the spot.

After contacting local vet clinics, they were redirected to the Tri-state Bird Rescue of New Castle.

The administrative assistant then suggested they call Judy Rice, a graduate of the University of Oregon and former mathematics professor at Villanova University.

Rice is a leader in pigeon rehabilitation and operates out of her Chester County home. She began to rehabilitate birds at the Tri-state Bird Rescue, specializing in diagnosing and restoring pigeons.

Rice became a staff member at the rescue, but eventually returned to volunteer work after becoming displeased with some of their policies.

She informed the crew that Charles was an already domesticated bird, but he was more than likely used in racing, an organized gambling game.

“Pigeon races can be very long and lead to exhaustion, permanent body damage and commonly death to birds,” Rice said.

Rice advocates against the racing because of her experiences in caring for birds. She appreciates the qualities each breed possess outside of racing.

But, Rice soon discovered that Charles is not of average descent. In her quest to find Charles’ owner, several handlers offered to upwards of several hundred dollars pay for the bird.

“Most flyers will not take the time to trace the bird down,” Rice said. “Charles has had three offers, which is very unusual.”

Charles suffered an injury to his breast from a race. Under Rice’s care, he is expected to make a full recovery.

Rice funds her own operation and has devoted her free time to helping birds that fall victim to the sport. For birds like Charles, people like Rice are key to survival.

Rice would like to see people who fly these birds to take the time to learn each bird individually before allowing it to fly away on the chances it may return.

“I see them as them and I do my best to treat [each] fairly,” Rice said. ”Each bird is a beautiful, unique existence.”

Rice hopes readers may see a bird and wonder where he originated, his breeding line and/or country of origin. She urges to always approach an animal you are unsure of with curiosity and a want to understand. Rice believes people who are new to birds could find they may discover a love for them as she does.

Today, Rice is attending to the bird found in Ridley Park. After some miscommunication, Charles’ owner, Dennis, has declined the returning of him for financial reasons, thus leaving him orphaned.

Nevertheless, under Rice’s care, Charles is expected to make a full recovery and be moved to Chenoa Manor, a sanctuary in Avondale, Pa., owned by former veterenarian Robert Teti.

Rice believes Charles will be met with open arms, and clucks, as birds and chickens reside there. Charles may not be going home, but has a new family.

Contact David Delloso at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu