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Racing pigeons pick Pittsburgh woman's yard for rest

It's as if they're homing in on her.

For the third time in a year, an exhausted racing pigeon fell to earth in Cheryl Mosco's Lawrenceville front yard well short of the finish line.

Good choice, because Mosco is a pigeon fancier of the highest degree.

Not only does she regularly bring injured pigeons to the Wildlife Center in Verona, but she has a MySpace.com site dedicated to pigeons, spends her lunch breaks Downtown tossing crumbs to the flocks in Mellon Square, and she keeps four pet pigeons.

"They're really very gentle birds," Mosco said Wednesday on her front porch while holding Caesar, the latest homing pigeon to drop in. "And they're attracted to humans."

OK -- but why are they so keenly attracted to her?

"That's a really good question," Mosco said. "I don't know."

She named the bird that arrived Monday night Caesar. He apparently was released during a weekend 9/11 memorial pigeon race, but failed to make it home.

Jim Petruzzi, Mosco's husband, was talking to a neighbor when the bird landed with a thud in the front yard next to the couple's bird bath.

"He stumbled a few times," Petruzzi said.

Thinking the pigeon was hurt, Petruzzi grabbed a birdcage from the house and picked up Caesar -- who was eating from a bird feeder set among a set of ceramic ducks in the front yard -- put him in the cage and fed him.

"He was really calm," Petruzzi said. "He didn't struggle at all."

Of course not. Racing pigeons seem to adore Mosco's place.

Last year, a racing pigeon from St. Louis plopped down in her front yard, Mosco said. She took the bird in, read the band attached to its leg and contacted the owner. But the owner didn't call back, so Mosco kept the pigeon.

Last month, a pigeon from Ohio dropped in. This time, when contacted by Mosco, the owner retrieved his bird.

On Monday, Mosco read the letters WTCM on the band, meaning the pigeon participated in the World Trade Center Memorial race from Virginia to New York. She called the Bronx Pigeon Club and talked to a man named Joe.

"He said to let him rest, feed him, and then release him in three days," Mosco said. "He said he'll find his way home."

Karen Clifton, executive director of the American Racing Pigeon Union in Oklahoma City, agreed, saying that few homing pigeons ever get lost.

"It's more than likely that it got chased off-track by a predator," Clifton said. "Or it could have just stopped to rest, like the others."

Mosco said she will try to find the owner and arrange a way to ship the bird home, she said. She is uncomfortable with releasing Caesar -- who appears fully recovered -- because there are many hawks in Pittsburgh.

If the owner no longer wants Caesar, Mosco said, she might adopt him. Her other pigeons are named Red, Fred, Myrtle and Molly.

"Pigeons just seem to take to her," said Jill Argall, the Verona Wildlife Center director. "I don't know why certain people attract pigeons, but she certainly does. She's the Pigeon Lady."

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