'The early bird gets the bookworm' - Rescue dove to visit libraries across Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 16:50 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:16 27 May 2019
They're not considered to be the cuddliest of pets, but one woman is adamant that garden birds are some of the most wonderful companions you could wish for.
Jo Bulik, who runs Pudge's Flock, an Ipswich-based pigeon rescue and rehabilitation centre, nurtured her pet dove Olive when he lost his way and became exhausted and malnourished after being released as part of a wedding ceremony.
Following a full recovery, Olive now enjoys life as a domesticated dove, with many happy days spent pottering around town on Miss Bulik's shoulder.
In fact, Olive is so good with people that he has been invited to join his owner on several visits to Suffolk's libraries - where the pair can spread the word about the benefits of befriending birds, and how to care for poorly pigeons.
They first visited Gainsborough Community Library together, where Olive proved a hit with the locals.
"I realised how much of an impact he has on people," Miss Bulik said.
"I decided to use this as a way of informing people about how amazing pigeons are.
"They are lovely. Olive has got his own little cute personality.
"He's the most lovable thing - if he sees I am unwell he will come down and comfort me. He sits on my lap, he'll cuddle into my neck and preen my face.
"Every one of them has their own little way of connecting with you."
She added that Olive is a very intelligent little bird, with the ability to take a great selfie.
"He will tilt his head to one side and he will legitimately pose for the camera," she said.
They now have plans to visit a pop-up library at the Suffolk Show, and are in the process of setting a date for a trip to Ipswich Public Library.
'They are very loyal'
In addition to spreading the word about how to identify and care for sick garden birds, Miss Bulik said she hopes to correct nasty stereotypes surrounding pigeons - which are often written off as pests or vermin.
"They do have a very calming, therapeutic effect," she said.
"When they pick a human, they will not leave your side. They are very loyal."
Olive has even helped Miss Bulik deal with her own anxiety, especially in public spaces.
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"I suffer from anxiety and he has helped me deal with crowds and connect with people," she said.
"I decided to take him out with me wherever I went."
It's also possible to teach some birds commands, such as stepping on and off their owner's hand and coming when called.
A new bird sanctuary in Ipswich?
While she loves caring for sick and injured birds, Miss Bulik said her hobby comes at a cost.
With between five and 10 fledgelings through the door each week, in addition to three to four adults every fortnight, treatment can be expensive.
"I do mainly spend my own money looking after them," she said.
"I get donations - like small food donations. I also have a local vet that is absolutely amazing. They have cheap treatment for wild birds."
Miss Bulik said the cost would be dramatically reduced if people were better educated about which birds need caring for.
She said many well-intentioned animal lovers wrongly believe young birds are injured, simply because they cannot fly.
"People mistake fledgelings for those that are injured," she said.
"I'll have to look after them and take on the responsibilities of the mother."
She now has her sights set on a brand new sanctuary on the outskirts of Ipswich, which should make her job much easier.
"It is costly but I hope we can get it," she said.
While she's not a trained vet, Miss Bulik has years of experience hand-rearing and treating birds.
She founded the not-for-profit rescue centre in early 2018 after rescuing her very first pigeon, Pudge, who had contracted paramyxovirus (PMV) and was partially paralysed.
She will be at the Suffolk Show with Olive between noon and 4pm on Thursday, May 30. They will visit the pop up library, but will also spend time walking around the grounds.
Anyone keen to donate to the sanctuary fund can do so by visiting the rescue group's GoFundMe page.
Olive is also on Instagram at @olivethedove.