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Rhinestone Vest-Wearing Pigeon Reunited With Family

Olive, a pet pigeon now famous for wearing a bedazzled vest, was reunited with her family in Phoenix, on Tuesday, after nearly two weeks.
Jody Kieran
Fallen Feathers
Olive, a pet pigeon now famous for wearing a bedazzled vest, was reunited with her family in Phoenix, on Tuesday, after nearly two weeks.

As many readers may be brining, trussing or spatchcocking turkeys in advance of Thanksgiving, we have a different kind of bird story for you. One of a well dressed, bedazzled pigeon who appears to have gone on the bird equivalent of a rumspringa.

Olive, a pet pigeon who has now become famous for strutting around in a handmade rhinestone-studded vest, took advantage of an outing with her adoptive mother, Marlette Fernando, in Phoenix, on Nov. 7, and for the first time in its life, flew away from home.

After getting out of the car — apparently, Olive really enjoys riding shotgun — the gray pigeon circled the house a few times then took off, Fernando said in a statement.

The family was devastated. There were tears, hand wringing and a search party. Her husband Norman, a man of letters, wrote a poem:

"My throat closed, heart, dropped, I confess

Dark the sense of loss I possess..."

Four days later Olive landed, a little worse for wear, in Glendale — about 10 miles from home — where a woman turned the bird over, nestled in a box, to Fallen Feathers rescue center on Nov. 11.

"When I opened the box and saw it I let out a huge laugh," Jody Kieran, who owns the shelter, told NPR.

A normal day at Fallen Feathers might include performing surgery on a duck with a hook caught in its delicate neck — or mending an owl's broken wing. But coming across a decked-out pigeon wearing a rhinestone flight suit?

"I've never seen anything like this, and I've been doing this for 20 years," she told NPR.

Two things were immediately obvious to her: First, the bird belonged to someone who showered her with love. Second, she was likely a teenage bird. "They kind of rebel at that age, and that's probably why she decided to go off on her big adventure," Kieran explained.

Other things she noticed were that "her feathers were beat up very badly" and the bird was very hungry. "She clearly doesn't know how to be a wild bird. I'm sure she was looking for food in a bowl."

Kieran said in most "lost bird cases," it's highly unusual to bring owner and pet back together. She figured she would likely have to put Olive, whom she'd begun to call Liberace for obvious reasons, up for adoption. Luckily, a Facebook post had gone viral and the Internet masses, followed by an onslaught of media coverage, took up the cause.

Pictures of the bird in her flamboyant regalia pinged their way across Arizona and the globe. Eventually a friend of Fernando's read about the bird online and on Tuesday, mom and pigeon were reunited.

Kieran described the scene: "Olive was a little nervous at first, but within a few minutes she was all snuggled up with her mom."

The reunion was delightful, and it also brought some answers. Namely: the story behind the blingy suit.

It turns out it's practical. It "serves as a diaper [that] we change twice daily," Fernando explained. The flashy additions reflect Olive's proclivity for sparkly objects, which Fernando said the bird collects and deposits in an unknown location.

Since returning home, Olive's ornate vest has gotten an upgrade. Fernando has replaced missing stones — lost on Olive's mysterious fly-about — with Swarovski crystals, and the two have made several television appearances together.

"It's such a beautiful story, especially at this time of year," she sighed. "We're all so tired of sad stories and depressing news. We needed a happy ending."


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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.