Phoenix’s Story

Written by Cathy Kendall

Phoenix came to us on August 12, 2009. I rather reluctantly agreed to pick him up from San Jose Animal Care and Services. I had just lost my favorite pet pigeon to egg yolk peritonitis, had ninety other pigeons and thirteen ringneck doves already in my care, plus eight cage birds. To be honest, the last thing I needed or wanted at that point was another bird to take care of. He was described simply as a "brown dove." I was to foster him until an adopter could be found.

When I got to the shelter they were very busy and the clerk found a record of a dove coming in but she wasn’t sure what had become of him. She let me go to the bird room and look, but there were no doves there. She checked again and surmised the dove had been sent to the Wildlife Center. So I called the Wildlife Center and they told me that yes, they had taken a domestic dove from SJACS on July 22nd, ironically the day my Luke had died. It was getting late in the day by then so I told them I would pick up the dove the following day.

When I arrived at the Wildlife Center the volunteer who helped me was very happy to hear I was taking the dove. He told me, "It’s a little bald." That turned out to be quite an understatement. I looked at the dove with dismay. Though obviously a ringneck and not a mourning dove, he lacked the characteristic dark "ring" on his neck. That’s because he had no feathers from the back of his head to the tip of his tail. His back was completely naked; he didn’t even have wing coverts and his preen gland was clearly visible. The feathers he did have were in very poor condition: brittle, yellowish with a stringy appearance. But he was bright-eyed, alert and calm.


The paperwork told me little of his history, but he had been treated at the Center for trichomoniasis and coccidia. My best guess is that he was kept in a crowded, dirty cage, fed inadequately and was relentlessly picked on by other doves. I know from experience that ringnecks are territorial and can be cruel when overcrowded.

My teenage son said, "Mom, that poor bird looks like he’s half cooked." I’m afraid he did look that way. The ointment I put on his back made his skin even darker and it had a disturbingly "roasted" appearance. So I named him "Phoenix", like the mythical bird that rose renewed from the ashes. My hope was that our Phoenix would "rise from the ashes" too, with bright new feathers.

Phoenix was vocal from the start, but his coo is unlike that of any other ringneck dove I’ve ever heard. His voice has a quavery, raspy quality to it; a coo from the depth of the earth, from ancient days. He sounds like an old, old bird and I suspect that’s exactly what he is. I had him thoroughly checked by an avian vet and tested for aspergillosis and infections (he had neither) because he sounded so raspy. It is just his unique voice. He sounds like a rooster crowing in slow motion. Because of Phoenix’s age and his bare back I didn’t have the heart to relocate him and we decided to keep him even though we technically didn’t have room for more doves


With good nutrition Phoenix slowly began to grow new feathers. He finally got his neck ring back and grew feathers on his shoulders. He also grew feathers on top of his tail, so it’s now covered. And he molted—the tattered, yellowish feathers he had when we got him were replaced with beautiful, soft ivory-colored feathers. But he still has a large bare patch on his back. Because of this, I can’t put him outside for fear he’ll get too cold. I purchased a large cage for him. He was joined by a companion in November, a dove I kept from a group of fosters. She’s a beautiful orange ringneck we named "Sedona." Phoenix is quite taken with her and he coo-bows to her nearly all day long. So far she is less than impressed. But Phoenix doesn’t give up and I’m pretty sure that’s why he’s made it to this point.

There is something in Phoenix’s dark red eyes, a wisdom you don’t often associate with doves. He listens calmly and regards me intently when I talk to him. I wish he could speak because I’m sure has many stories to tell.

  • Phoenix
  • Phoenix

MickaCoo has many doves in need of adoption, as do many Bay Area animal shelters