Target: Owner of the Waccatee Zoo, Kathleen Futrell
Goal: Demand that birds are kept in adequately sized cages and nourished frequently to prevent them from pecking and plucking fellow birds’ feathers
Patrons at the Waccatee Zoo in South Carolina reported seeing a white pigeon pluck a fellow pigeon’s feathers, leaving its back completely bare. According to ornithological experts, this type of behavior is typical of birds that are malnourished or overcrowded. Luckily, the plucked bird survived, but employees at the zoo shrugged this practice off as a normal occurrence.
PETA originally reported this incident, including vivid photos which “depict a bird who was being stripped almost bald of her feathers.” When PETA contacted the zoo’s owner, she responded by saying this act is common among mating birds. Actually, pecking and plucking among birds can point to deficiencies in nutrition, bullying (i.e. the “pecking order”), or overcrowding. In fact, in extreme cases such as this, pecking could be considered borderline cannibalistic.
If this feather pecking hints at bullying or overcrowding, the Waccatee Zoo simply needs to house its birds in roomier areas. However, where the serious issue of cannibalism is involved, the zoo must take careful steps to ensure that birds are being fed regularly and closely monitored. When feed is scarce, pigeons and other birds often resort to plucking each other’s feathers and sometimes consuming skin. Not only is this behavior hazardous, it is contagious. According to the online research website Extension, “Poultry have a tendency to imitate each other, so when one member of the flock begins aggressive pecking, others will follow suit.”
Because pecking is a learned behavior, this poses a serious health risk among all birds that reside there, not just the pigeons. Sign the petition below to demand the zoo’s owner house birds in adequately spaced living quarters, and that employees regularly feed and monitor all birds in the zoo.
Dear Ms. Futrell,
As the owner of the Waccatee Zoo, you are the primary caretaker for all the creatures who reside there. Your policies have the potential to preserve animals and ensure their welfare for years to come. With this in mind, I find it shocking to hear of the feather pecking that is occurring among your pigeon population. Equally surprising is the fact that you have shrugged off this seriously hazardous incident and deemed it “common.”
According to PETA, one pigeon “was being violently plucked and pecked at by a cagemate” until much of its back and head were bare. In addition to the reports, PETA included explicit photos of the action as it took place. Though the plucked pigeon survived, it is heartbreaking to hear of the indifference among you and your staff regarding this incident.
Ornithological experts say feather pecking can indicate insufficient nutrition, overcrowding, or bullying among birds. While the first two issues can be resolved with regular feeding schedules and roomier living quarters, the last issue is of very high concern. The aggressive act of pecking is a learned behavior and will likely spread among the flock. If left unchecked, pecking may even lead to cannibalism among all of your birds, not just the pigeons.
In light of this information, I urge you to house your birds in spacious areas, feed them frequently, and separate dominant birds from passive ones. Please take the necessary steps to discourage this destructive, contagious behavior.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: JoelZimmer via Wikimedia Commons