Hands off Larry Bird, MSPCA declares
Although no one knows the origin of his flight, a diminutive Island visitor has become a regular at Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta Restaurant in Oak Bluffs. He flew in about two weeks ago, and restaurant owner Jimmy Cipolla said he's been coming for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ever since.
And although it's the height of the summer tourist season, Mr. Cipolla is so impressed with this loyal patron that he lets him dine without a reservation. Not bad for a bird that Mr. Cipolla describes as a "pi-chicken," a half-pigeon, half-chicken.
"About two weeks ago, this bird started hanging around the restaurant, perching on the rail," Mr. Cipolla recalled. The bird was brought to his attention by Lucas Do Carmo, one of the restaurant's kitchen staff.
Larry Bird rests on the ledge by Jimmy Seas. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mystified by the bird's arrival, Mr. Cipolla surmised, "Maybe global warming brought it over."
Although he claimed the bird "put in an order for carbonara," he said Mr. Do Carmo started putting bread and water out for the bird instead.
The two men decided to give the pi-chicken a celebrity name, "Larry Bird," to go with his "exotic-looking" appearance.
Apparently enjoying the chance to strut his stuff along the restaurant's railing, Larry fans out his grey and white tail feathers in a perpetual, proud display. His ruffled foot feathers resemble spats, and his upturned head feathers look like a bad attempt at a comb-over on a crew-cut.
Although not timid when dining, according to Mr. Cipolla, Larry became camera-shy Tuesday when a Times photographer came by, perhaps mistaking him for paparazzi. Vern Laux, The Times "Bird News" columnist, was able to identify Larry from one of the photos as an ornamental racing pigeon.
Earlier this week, after observing Larry Bird make one of his carb stops, a restaurant-goer concerned about his well-being reported him for being "out of bounds" to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). After her phone call, the HSUS wildlife facility on Cape Cod notified Ron Whitney, shelter manager for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), and asked if he could do something to help the bird.
Mr. Whitney paid Larry Bird a visit at Jimmy Seas Tuesday and determined that although he is not wild, he is not banded, like most racing pigeons.
Mr. Whitney talked to the restaurant staff, explaining that putting food out might not be a good idea because an all-you-can-eat buffet provides Larry with no incentive to leave. "Well, keep your eye on him, and if it looks like he's in failing health, we'll help out," he said.
Later, Mr. Do Carmo told his boss that Mr. Whitney asked him half-jokingly, "You aren't planning to eat that bird, are you?" Luckily, aged squab was not on the menu as the daily special.
Guessing at the reason for Larry's Island visit, Mr. Whitney suspects he may have been led astray by a flock of racing pigeons out of Fall River, who might have ditched him after a joy ride over the Atlantic. No one has called to report a missing bird, he said.
Now that the MSPCA decided not to bench Larry, he can continue to dine at Jimmy Seas or seek shelter from his celebrity status under the deck of the nearby Nashua House.
Mr. Cipolla said he and Mr. Do Carmo will keep an eagle eye on him (maybe that's not a good term to use around a pigeon) and make sure he's okay.
"He's fine," assured Mr. Cipolla, "Actually, he's put on a few ounces."
Maybe Larry Bird is "carb-loading" to bulk up for his flight back home.