A red-winged blackbird swooped down and pecked Andrea Whetsell in Lincoln Park Zoo last summer.
So perhaps her bird radar is a little twitchier than most.
“I literally just saw him!” Whetsell said Thursday. “In my mind, I’m like, something is off. It was not scared of anything.”
A lot of people have seen “him,” by which she meant a huge pigeon that has recently taken up residence in Welles Park. The Giant Hungarian House Pigeon, about twice the size of the common city variety, has been seen clawing the dirt under the park’s merry-go-round — and hanging out nearby with the other less-showy pigeons.
“I was like, I hope it doesn’t poop on my head,” said Whetsell, 40, who lives in nearby Ravenswood.
Pigeon experts say there is nothing to fear from this domestic bird — likely a show pigeon that someone released, much like they would an unwanted dog or cat.
“When we find domestic fancy pigeons, 99% of the time they are dumped,” said Chava Sonnier, president of the nonprofit, all-volunteer Great Lakes Pigeon Rescue.
Sonnier, a former Chicago resident now living in Washington, D.C., has had volunteers out three times this week trying to capture the pigeon.
“Everyone keeps having basically the same experience,” Sonnier said. “The bird comes close, but then flies off.”
A domestic pigeon is kind of an odd duck. When they find themselves outside, they often try to get back inside.
“We’ll get a call from a Walgreens employee: ‘Oh my gosh, this bleeding pigeon just walked in and won’t leave!’” Sonnier said.
After repeated attempts, the pigeon was finally caught Thursday afternoon.
A volunteer rescued the bird by getting it close to a flock of city pigeons who live at the park, according to Sonnier. Then, the volunteer fed the flock before walking around them and “picking the pigeon up.”
An initial assessment shows the pigeon “appears to be healthy, other than being lost and hungry.”
“They are constantly scanning the sky. They have exceptional eyesight,” Sonnier said.
Not so for the domestic variety. On Thursday, a red-tailed hawk swooped down to the ground on the periphery of the playground area, sending half a dozen pigeons flapping off in a panic. The Giant Hungarian wasn’t among them, but if it had been, the hawk likely would have spotted it.
“They stand out to a hawk. It’s like they are wearing a reflective vest,” Sonnier said.
The pigeon will stay with the rescue until it finds the right adopted home.