Suni Saint-Cyr crouches in front of Madawaska PIgeon, explaining how he found the bird with the broken wing just before a major nor'easter in February. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — Suni Saint-Cyr, 10, was walking by his garage on a wintery morning when he heard a rustling on the ground. There, with its feathers fluffed up to shield itself from the weather, was a light gray pigeon with a broken wing.

He took it in that day, sheltering it from a looming nor’easter that blustered through Madawaska on Feb. 1. After help from Saint-Cyr’s family, neighbors and the expert care of rehabilitation center Avian Haven, the bird was finally released back to its flock on March 25.

What would become a two-month-long rescue mission began with a basket full of blankets in Saint-Cyr’s and his mother Naomi Cyr’s garage.

Once the pigeon was comfortable, the two began to search for expert care. One of Cyr’s first calls was to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, but it lacked the resources to respond to the call. They even gave Cyr instructions on how to put the bird out of its misery should they be unable to save the animal.

From left: Madawaska PIgeon flies out of its carrier and toward its flock after six weeks apart; Suni Saint-Cyr opens the door of the carrier to release Madawaska Pigeon after six weeks of rehab helped it heal its broken wing. Credit: Hannah Catlin | St. John Valley Times

“That’s when I was like, ‘Oh no, we’re really on our own’,” Cyr said.

The family wasn’t ready to give up, though. They called on neighbors Jackie and Edward Levasseur for help. The Levasseurs have been feeding Madawaska’s pigeons during the winter for several years, and know the ins and outs of the flock. They were able to provide a carrier to keep the bird in as well as feed.

“Life is life whether it’s a chicken or a crow. Who are we to say eh, an eagle has more value,” Cyr said. That’s not cool.”

After searching some more, Cyr got in contact with Avian Haven, which is based downstate in Freedom. It was a long shot, but the center volunteered to help save the injured pigeon.

Then a life-saving relay race began. After the family spent four days caring for the bird in Madawaska, Cyr’s brother Aaron Cyr, drove it to Presque Isle to meet a local volunteer who would care for the pigeon until Avian Haven could arrange transportation.

“Instead of carrier pigeon, he was the pigeon carrier,” Naomi Cyr joked.

Edward Levasseur explains ‘The Squadron’s’ feeding habits to Aaron Cyr. He estimated nearly 40 birds came to feast earlier that morning. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

Then, the bird spent six weeks rehabilitating with the experts. Avian Haven is one of the largest rehabilitation centers in New England, caring for roughly 2,500 birds every year. The pigeon Saint-Cyr rescued had multiple fractures based at its wingtip and struggled with infection on top of that.

“That fracture, to be honest, was a bit of a long shot but we gave it our all and ultimately we were successful,” Avian Haven co-founder Diane Winn said. “It should do just fine [upon release].”

Meanwhile, Cyr called every week to check up on the bird they had begun to call Madawaska Pigeon.

After the end of bird rehab, and another relay to get Madawaska Pigeon up north again, Saint-Cyr, his mother, his uncle and Edward Levasseur huddled on Levasseur’s porch waiting for the opportune moment to release the bird back to its flock.

According to Levasseur — who affectionately calls this flock ‘The Squadron’ — the first bird to arrive was a scout. It perched at the top of a nearby utility pole, scoping out the seed Levasseur had scattered in the driveway.

From left: Without hesitation, Madawaska pigeon rejoined its flock, perched on a utility lines. Its newly healed wing carried it out of its carrier with ease; ‘The Squadron’ roosts in front of Edward and Jackie Levasseur’s house, waiting for a safe moment to feast on the seeds scattered in the driveway. Credit: Hannah Catlin | St. John Valley Times

Then, it disappeared, only to return a few short minutes later with the rest of the flock. As birds began to gather on the line, Madawaska Pigeon began to get restless in its carrier, even grabbing onto the tiny bars at the front with its small talons.

Deciding that was a clear sign, Suni Saint-Cyr and his mother squatted on the front steps and opened the door. After barely a moment of hesitation, the pigeon flew out, immediately rejoining its family on the wires.

Suni Saint-Cyr watches the pigeons feast in the driveway from inside Levasseur’s porch. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

“That was my reward,” Levasseur remarked as he watched the bird perch happily on the line.

Saint-Cyr beamed while his mom gushed at the outcome: after weeks and weeks, the bird was finally home.

“I feel happy and good for it because it hasn’t been with its family for a very long time,” Suni Saint-Cyr said.

Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.