Fifty the pigeon is named for the book, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” because he’s got a lot of gray feathers, along with some eye-catching, iridescent purple and green.
Fifty got his name this spring after he adopted a local businessman with a granola habit.
Ketchikan’s weather in May was beautiful, with lots of sunshine and record-low rainfall. So, Trinkets owner Todd Phillips spent a lot of time that month hanging out on the sidewalk outside his downtown shop, often snacking on granola.
And then this pigeon shows up. Phillips gives him some granola, and a new friendship begins.
“Every day, he started coming here,” he said. “Then, slowly but surely, he would fly up onto my counter space, walk over, say hi to me, I’d give him food, and before you know it,
he had me trained very well.
Phillips set up a special perch for Fifty inside the shop, puts out fresh water every day, and bought special bird seed, which Fifty was busily pecking at a couple feet away from where we were talking.
“It’s supposed to be the filet mignon of bird food, so he’s eating very, very well,” Phillips said. “(He) looks good, as you can see; beautiful eyes.”
Phillips says he started doing research on pigeons, and has learned quite a bit about the species. For example, they were used during World War I and II to carry information across enemy lines.
“Also, they use more of their brain than any other bird,” he said. “They’re the smartest of the birds. And, the other thing is, when they drink water, you have to have at least an inch deep of water, because they take it through their nostrils.”
Phillips says he hopes to train Fifty to go back and forth between downtown Ketchikan and the Last Frontier, a restaurant that Phillips owns about 11 miles north of town. Trinkets is open only during the summer tourist season, and Phillips wants to continue taking care of Fifty.
So, once Fifty is a little more comfortable getting handled – he only recently perched on Phillips’ arm – Phillips wants to get the bird into a crate and then take him out to the restaurant.
“You let him go, he’ll circle your area like three or four times, then he’ll come right back to
Trinkets,” Phillips said.
Pigeons do have a natural homing instinct, and studies have shown that they can find their way home from hundreds of miles away.
Phillips says it’s fun to have Fifty in the shop, although his sudden appearances through
the open doors can surprise customers.
“He’ll make this grand entrance, even if there are people here, and come flying in and just land on the showcase,” Phillips said, laughing. “It’s like: ‘Here’s Fifty!’”