Destination unknown: Woman tries to help lost homing pigeon

David Riley

Blown off course or lost on what was apparently a 600-mile flight, the pilot made an emergency landing on the sidewalk outside a local day spa.

That's where, three days ago, Danielle Bucchieri found the aviator -- a brightly colored pigeon.

Struck by the blue identification band around the bird's leg and its lack of fear, Bucchieri, who works at Profilo Wellness Center, took it home.

She has since traced the bird to a Rhode Island club that races pigeons -- most recently from Sandusky, Ohio, back to their homes in New England. But she's still searching for the bird's rightful owner.

"I figure we'll just keep her here until she finds her home," Bucchieri said.

Bucchieri, a day spa manager and esthetician, said the pigeon seemed depressed -- slumped over, its head down.

"I was just concerned if she wandered into the parking lot or some mean-spirited kids came along ... she clearly wasn't afraid of people," she said. "She clearly wasn't a wild bird."

So Bucchieri scooped up the bird and carried it inside. Few of her co-workers batted an eye.

"I've rescued other birds and animals before," she said. "So they were like, 'We're not really surprised you caught a pigeon.' "

Bucchieri said her mother once said if a wild elephant turned up in need of a helping hand, her daughter would probably volunteer.

A few months ago, she tried to rehabilitate a bird stunned by a car. Over the years, she's come to the aid of wounded chipmunks, mice, birds and other small animals. As a child, she worked with lost and abused dogs, and she grew up with parakeets and cockatiels.

So Bucchieri knew what to do with a lost pigeon. She tucked the bird in a box, called her 12-year-old daughter at their Northborough home and asked her to prepare a bird cage.

Bucchieri then took a lunch break, brought the bird home and phoned Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, giving them the number on the pigeon's band.

Tufts traced the tracking number to the Rhode Island Racing Pigeon Club based in Attleboro. Tufts passed along a number of the apparent owner, but the phone was disconnected, Bucchieri said.

She's since exchanged phone calls with the club's secretary and has tried several other people who might be the bird's owner, but with no luck yet.

Jeff Costa, president of the racing club, said he hadn't spoken to Bucchieri yet but would be happy to try to track down the pigeon's owner.

The American Racing Pigeon Union says the birds can race anywhere from 100 to 600 miles. Pigeons are often traced with bands, and people who find lost birds can sometimes track down the owner through one of the national pigeon racing organizations, the union said.

It's often unnecessary, however; after a couple days of rest, food and water, most homing pigeons are able to find their way home, the group said.

Costa said his club's pigeons rarely get lost, but it happens once in a while. People often catch and return the birds, he said.

The group has about 60 members, and Costa said he has about as many pigeons.

"When we go out and we train them, we meet people and a lot of people are interested to hear about it," Costa said.

Bucchieri said she planned to contact Costa. In the meantime, after reading up on pigeons, she got the bird the proper type of feed. It's been eating and drinking water.

"She's just really sweet," Bucchieri said. "She lets us hold her and pet her, and she walks around the apartment."

Bucchieri and her daughter, Bella, have nicknamed the pigeon Stella.

There's only one problem with the bird's temporary home.

"I'm actually highly allergic to birds," Bucchieri said. "I'm allergic to pretty much everything, but I just love animals, especially if they're in need."

Anyone claiming the bird can find contact information for the Rhode Island Racing Pigeon Club at http://members.cox.net/mbloft.

MetroWest Daily News writer David Riley can be reached at 508-626-3919 or driley@cnc.com.